Wednesday, June 22, 2016
façade: Mimsy Farmer
Deceptively all-American and wholesome-looking, Farmer shrewdly subverted her first major role - as the assertive Claris Coleman in Delmer Daves' "Spencer's Mountain" in 1963 - by playing it with a shockingly candid sexuality and idiosyncratic line readings that made everything sound, well, dirty. If Warners was grooming her to be Natalie Wood's successor - and it's apparent that the studio was - you can appreciate both its reasoning and its misjudgment. She didn't wait. Farmer used her debut to undercut the powers.
A couple year's later, she did the same thing in Harvey Hart's "Bus Riley's Back in Town" (1965), nominally written by William Inge but credited to "Walter Gage" after the studio decided to showcase Ann-Margret, enlarging her role. That was good. Apparently, no one paid any attention to Farmer who got in under the radar and, again, quietly and effectively stole the film - and reduced Ann-Margret - in a matter of a handful of scenes.
Then came the biker flicks for Farmer, the most memorable for me being 1967's "Hot Rod to Hell," starring Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain, before she headed to Europe where she made the drug-laden "More" for Barbet Schroeder in 1969. The film was written by the former New York Times movie critic, Eugene Archer, with Farmer responsible for "additional dialogue." "More" was the head film of its time, Farmer became the darling of the Croisette and she pretty much stayed in Europe, returning to the United States for some occasional TV work.
Her most popular film during this time was Dario Argent's horror film, "Four Flies on Grey Velvet"/"4 mosche di velluto grigio"(1971), which expanded beyond art houses to become a mainstream hit here.
Although seen only sporadically here over the past five decades, Farmer managed to make about 50 films, just about all of them in Europe. In retrospect, she seems like a not unpleasant mirage, an image that now seems at once blurred and vivid. I miss her and regret that I didn't have the time, energy or inclination to keep up with her unusual career. Thank heaven for film, video and DVD. I can always create my own Mimsy Farmer Film Festival which, in addition to the titles already mentioned, would naturally include those three biker films - "Riot on the Sunset Strip," "Devil's Angels" and "The Wild Racers."
Now, whatever happened to another singular actress, Kaki Hunter?
Note in Passing: Check out Dave Kehr's comments on the DVD release of "Hot Rods to Hell" in his 2007 essay for The New York Times.