Remembering Yvonne Monlaur (1939-2017)

Yvonne Monlaur, left, Steve Vertlieb, center, Veronica Carlson, right

By Steve Vertlieb: Yvonne Monlaur was the young, fabulously lovely, sweetly innocent French actress who co-starred with Peter Cushing in Hammer Films’ classic vampire thriller Brides Of Dracula (1960), directed by Terence Fisher, and appeared opposite Christopher Lee in Hammer’s Terror of the Tongs (1961).

She was a sweet, gentle lady who cherished her fans, and was ever grateful for the opportunities that she’d been given. Yvonne, and dear friend Veronica Carlson introduced me from the stage when I presented the posthumous “Laemmle” life achievement award to Bernard Herrmann (accepted by his daughter, Dorothy) at the wonderful Fanex monster film convention in Crystal City, Virginia in 2000.

She was always the most gracious, kind, and humble actress that you’d ever wish to meet. Yvonne passed away, sadly, this past week on Tuesday, April 18th, at age 77. Her gentle presence will be missed by all of us who frequented these events, but her radiant beauty and generosity of spirit will live on in her many screen appearances, as well as in the joyful memories of those of us fortunate enough to have met, and known her. May God rest her tender soul.

Pixel Scroll 7/17

Praise, complaints and tales of derring-didn’t fill the Scroll today.

(1) George Barr, Fan Guest of Honor at MidAmeriCon, the 1976 Worldcon, unexpectedly popped up in a soft-sell blog entry for PR firm Signal Hill, “Science Fiction Illustrator Finds Home”

Barr’s art, often marked by a distinctive watercolor-over-ballpoint pen technique, illustrated science fiction magazines for decades, including the covers of “Amazing Stories,” “Fantastic Stories” and “If.” Barr also brought books to life through his work with publishers like DAW Books and Ace Books.

Prior to compiling this impressive resume, Barr did a great deal of free work for “fanzines,” non-professional publications popular in the science fiction world. Not only did it help build his portfolio, but it was a way to get his illustrations out, he says. The work even earned him a Hugo Award for best fan artist at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1968.

Barr earned these achievements with only one formal art course under his belt. Though he says he learned a lot about color, harmony and composition, the emphasis on commercial art did not play toward his interests. The freedom of the fantasy genre spoke to him most, he says.

“There was absolutely nothing you could imagine that could not occur,” says Barr of the genre. “You can conceivably be drawing anything that ever existed or might.”

Barr is 78 and has good things to say about the retirement community where he lives.

(2) Was the late Christopher Lee’s illustrious war record a complete fabrication? The Daily Mail writer who penned Lee’s obituary is now deconstructing his claims.

Until the end of the war, the man who would be Dracula served with the air force as an intelligence officer, briefing and debriefing pilots, and liaising with other units.

It was during this time that he claimed to have served in some way with the Long Range Desert Group and the SAS.

As Gavin Mortimer has shown, there is simply no evidence to support this. Lee may have worked alongside these units in some way, but he was emphatically not a part of them.

‘Lee didn’t exactly lie,’ says Mortimer. ‘But he did lead us on, encouraging us to believe [his job] had involved more derring-do than it actually did.’

In an interview he gave to Belgian television to promote Lord Of The Rings, Lee claimed also to have served with a small special forces organisation called No 1 Demolition Squadron, better known as Popski’s Private Army (PPA) after its charismatic leader Major Vladimir Peniakoff.

Like the Long Range Desert Group and the SAS, the PPA was a raiding and reconnaissance unit, and its exploits are venerated by many.

Again, there is no hard evidence to support Lee’s claim that he worked with the PPA.

(3) It’s not so much the complaints about Comic-Con that drew me to Heidi MacDonald’s roundup of what the convention’s critics had to say, but what she revealed in passing about the support other cons give to fans with disabilities, which far exceeds anything I see at the cons I attend:

There were many complaints about Hall H this year as always. Was it different? Not sure. I do know at least one person told me he got in and found many empty seats inside while a huge line was still waiting to get in, but that could be due to safety measures for crowd control. I would like to draw your attention to this post by Nick Eskey on the Talk Back panel and the subsequent comment threads as it deals with disabled attendees and the line wait. While to some hearing a fellow complain about not having a place to plug in his CPAP machine while waiting for Hall H may seem the height of folly, but you know, physically challenged fans have the same right to experience whatever it is they want out of Hall H as anyone else.

This is that guy that only slept 16 hours and needed his CPAP machine. You apparently only caught part of what I was saying, which is, that if they had not removed the outlets I could have used my CPAP machine and slept outside just fine. Besides that, however, you missed the point completely which is not everyone with disabilities can sleep outside. Because of that they should be given special consideration for their placement in line. What other convention gives ADA this sort of consideration? Try Emerald City Comic Con and PAX Prime, both in Seattle and both allow ADA to ALWAYS be first in line. Try DragonCon in Atlanta, where ADA have volunteers that will guide them through the convention, hold their spot in line and generally assist them in whatever way needed. I was on the BoD for OkCon and we bent over backwards to assist our ADA. Maybe because we had people on the board with disabilities.

And there’s even more in the Nick Eskey post she links to.

(4) On the other hand, fans are responding skeptically to a blogger’s complaint to SDCC management that the nine-year-old Who fan in his party was traumatized by the horror-oriented displays near the items they went to see. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the complaint myself. As the parent of a 13-year-old, I have discovered my former ideas of what’s okay for kids were pretty out-of-touch.

I attended SDCC this year as part of a larger group. One of our party, a nine-year-old, is a HUGE Whovian (we are a large Whovian family), so the first day at the convention we immediately made our way to the BBC America booth for Doctor Who merchandise, photo ops, and chatting with the BBC America representatives onsite about Doctor Who and upcoming events. We found that the booth was sandwiched between a booth for AMC’s The Walking Dead and Starz’s upcoming series Ash vs Evil Dead. Though problematic on its own, we were extra upset to find that both horror booths had their walls covered in TVs playing, on loop, terrifying clips of zombie horror (The Walking Dead) and absurdly gory violence (Ash vs Evil Dead), of which the latter’s level of violence I, even as a 24 year old man, actively avoid because it’s an anxiety trigger to me.

That night our 9 year-old woke up screaming with nightmares about zombies attacking her, and the next day she burst into tears when we tried to enter the con floor (despite the fact that we were far from the horror booths). For the rest of the con, while we were able to get her onto the con floor without a meltdown, we had to make a wide berth around the BBC America booth because of its proximity to the Walking Dead and Ash vs Evil Dead booths, which was secondarily upsetting for her because she was previously extremely excited to be near the Doctor Who things (especially the TARDIS set up at the Hollywood Sci-Fi Museum booth, also placed next to the Ash vs Evil Dead booth – she wanted to take her photo with the TARDIS so badly).

…Thank you so much for all that you do to organize and present this convention every year. Beyond this, we had very little issues with the rest of the con and overall had a great time. It’s simply unfortunate that the experience was marred by the emotional trauma inadvertently caused to our child stemming from the placement of BBC America’s booth between two of the biggest horror booths at the convention.

(5) John King Tarpinian says Mystery & Imagination Bookshop in Glendale is getting a lot of people wanting to buy reading copies of To Kill a Mockingbird, which led to a surprising discovery. “They are running out of paperback reading copies. A good customer says she wants a copy, the bookshop has one paperback left but Malcolm remembers that Christine paid $2 for a 40th anniversary hardback the other day and figures he’d be nice by offering it to the customer for $5 when she comes in. Malcolm, as is his habit, opens the book to discover it is SIGNED by Harper Lee. This is how a $2 book becomes a $1000 book.”

 

(6) While analyzing how the Hugos fit into contemporary fandom, Karl-Johan Norén points out that everyone thinks he/she is at the center of fandom.

(Ur-)Fandom came to Sweden in the 1950s. In the early 70s Tolkien societies evolved here from it, in many ways similar to SCA in the United States. The ties between the Tolkien societies and fandom in Sweden are still strong, and we can mingle relatively easily. However, media fandom, cosplay, LARP, and lots of other stuff were direct imports from the United States. Here the cultural differences are much larger and more profound. Partly this is because of the direct import, partly this is because Swedish fandom after the disastrous feuds of the 80s closed in on itself and very much focused on the core of discussing science fiction as books.

Put another way, the splinter lines within all the various off-shoots, special fandoms, and so are much easier to see here in Sweden. But the same tendencies are very much present in the United States, I imagine.

Another thing which has happened, from the 90s forward, is that the Internet has made it much easier to set up special interest groups that can gain critical size and connectivity. Baen’s Bar is one early such example, but there are many more nowadays.

So which of these disparate groups do the label “fandom” belong to nowadays? All of them. However, there is a tendency to use the word “fandom” as a shorthand for “the specific fannish group that I happen to be a member of”. I believe this is especially true within “core” fandom, the one that evolved around the pulp magazines in the 20s and 30s, with a primary interest in written science fiction. Historically, I think that movement can claim having first dibs on the label, but it helps to remember that fandom nowadays is much bigger and diverse than “core” fandom is.

(7) And as a kind of postscript, here are John Scalzi’s, Cheryl Morgan’s and Fred Kiesche’s tweets inspired by the report Michael Z. Williamson is voting No Award in every Hugo category.

Bill Warren: An Appreciation of Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee and  Bill Warren in late 1960s, in home theater of Milt Larsen.

Christopher Lee and Bill Warren in late 1960s, at the in-home theater of Milt Larsen.

By Bill Warren: Christopher Lee died last Sunday; no cause has yet been given, but he was 93 years old and in poor health. Almost anything might have carried him away.

He worked hard at avoiding being labeled a horror star, because he didn’t want to be considered only a horror star. But he really was the last of that very small group of fine actors who were primarily known for their horror movies. I think he knew that. He did know Boris Karloff; not only were they in a couple of movies together, but early on, Lee was in an episode of Karloff’s Colonel March of Scotland Yard series. And they lived in adjacent homes in London. He was also friendly with Vincent Price — they loved making each other laugh — and downright adored Peter Cushing, with whom he costarred in many movies. He said that he amused Cushing by doing voices from Warner Bros. cartoons; Cushing did too, but also did Jimmy Durante.

But he did make movies of all kinds — he played Mycroft Holmes in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (he’s the only actor who played both Holmes brothers — and Sir Henry Baskerville as well). He was Rochefort in Richard Lester’s Musketeer movies, and loved making them. He occasionally sang in movies including his The Wicker Man, and the odd Aussie The Return of Captain Invincible; late in life, he did a few heavy metal albums. He was an indelible Dracula, of course, but also was Frankenstein’s Monster, Rasputin, the Mummy and Fu Manchu. And he was The Man With The Golden Gun in a Roger Moore 007 adventure, as well as being Ian Fleming’s cousin. He also met J.R.R. Tolkien, and was Saruman in the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies. He was Count Dooku in a couple of Star Wars movies, and remained stubbornly unaware that he was cast in those because Peter Jackson and George Lucas were fans of his Hammer horrors. So were Joe Dante and John Landis, who both cast him in movies — Dante’s was Gremlins 2, in which Lee got to be (somewhat stiffly) funny.

He once corrected the sound of someone being stabbed in the back in a Rings movie — he knew what it really sounded like, from personal experience in WWII. He rarely spoke of what he actually did in the war, but he was fluent in French, German and Italian…

He was a very good actor, but his inherent tendency toward pomposity often intruded. But he was graceful — an expert fencer, for one thing, with a finger permanently bent from a duel with Errol Flynn — and had a magnificent, recognizable baritone voice. He was, like so many actors, a shy man who became an actor partly to avoid being himself. He was also egotistical, another common trait of actors, but this was not intrusive. He was generous and kind, open to his fans (but wary of them in herds), intelligent, and could be very funny. As with Vincent Price, he and Bob Bloch loved making each other laugh.

I met him (and Bloch) in the late 1960s; in person, he tended to be poker-faced and serious, but not solemn. We corresponded for a while, mostly about Peter Cushing. I interviewed him several times. I liked him.

He made movies all over the world. He once privately lamented that while the world grieved when Peter Cushing died, his death wouldn’t produce the same reaction. He was wrong.

Christopher Lee and Bill Warren on the set of Gremlins 2 (about 1990).

Christopher Lee and Bill Warren on the set of Gremlins 2.