BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT: MARILYN MASON RETURNS TO THE SCREEN WITH MODEL RULES
Interview by Tom Lisanti
Actress Marlyn Mason, best remembered as Elvis’ leading lady
in The Trouble with Girls (1969) and James Franciscus’ trusty
assistant/companion on TV’s Longstreet (1971-72), has come out of a
self-imposed 10-year retirement to star in Model Rules (2008) a short
film directed by Ray Robison that she also produced and wrote on location in
Medford, Oregon where she has been residing these past few years. In it
she plays an aging artist's model who envisages being with one of the men
The movie came from an idea Marlyn had after researching
what it took to become a real life artist’s model back in 2004. She
shelved the proposal but when a friend suggested she enter a Fiction Writing
contest, a former writing partner, comedian Vince Valenzuela, reminded her
about becoming an artist’s model and thought that would make a better story.
Warmly received, Model Rules was accepted into The
Rhode Island Int'l Film Festival (Aug. 5 - 10) and the Los Angeles Int'l Short
Festival (Aug. 15 - 21). If you live in any of those cities go see it! Click
here to access the web site
chock full of production stills.
With her big blue-green eyes and button nose, Marlyn Mason
(no connection to rock star Marilyn Manson, thank you) was an unconventional
beauty who had the talent to play comedy and drama to good effect. Being
an extremely versatile performer, she was a much sought after TV actress
playing a variety of roles on all the top series from the Sixties through the
Eighties but made the most impression on spy fans with her guest stints on I
Spy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible, and Matt
Helm. Mason also proved to be a more than competent singer and dancer
on two TV musical specials with Robert Goulet (Brigadoon and Carousel)
and on Broadway in How Now Dow Jones. Her singing and dancing
prowess was finally put to good use on the big screen when she won her lead
role opposite Elvis. Two years later, a daring Marlyn bared more than her
talent as the older woman who seduces one of her husband’s students (Kristoffer
Tabori) in the youth-oriented comedy, Making It (1971) and then
played the neighbor who falls for Hal Holbrook unaware that he is gay in the
groundbreaking TV movie That Certain Summer (1972). Her last
credit prior to Model Rules was the TV movie Fifteen and Pregnant
How long did it take you to write Model Rules?
When I finished our conversation [with Vince Valenzuela], I
turned on the computer, stared at it and forty-five minutes later had written a
488 word piece that I titled Model Rules. Had it not been for
Vince's reminding me of my idea it would not exist today and I would not
be enjoying a surge in my otherwise slumbering career. Not bad at 68!
So how did it go from short story to short film?
My neighbor Janet Jamieson loved it, which encouraged me to
send it to a local film maker, Ray Robison. He called and said "I
want to do this". "Me, too", I replied. And so began
the life of Model Rules. Ray brought together twenty-one
volunteers to act as artists and crew.
So you never actually worked as an artist’s model while
No, so I found artist Robert M. Paulmenn who suggested
I do a posing session before filming. Afterwards he said,
"I can't teach you anything. You're a
natural"! That was an enormous ego feed for this old
broad! Needing several real artists for visual purposes Robert was delighted to
be cast along with artist Greeley Welles and sculptor Michael Isaacson.
How long did it take to shoot?
It took us two days and one evening to film. The Rogue
Gallery in Medford, Oregon gave us the space and art equipment
to use, which saved us a good amount. Half of the movie is shot in my own
little hut, also in Medford.
Marlyn on the set with Ray Robison
Did the movie turn out as you envisioned?
When I put Model Rules into the hands of Ray Robison
I told him it was his to do with as he wished. I would not
interfere. He welcomed suggestions and mine were less than few. I
became the actress, doing as I was asked, never looking at the monitor.
Weeks later when Ray showed me the rough cut I was stunned. With Director
of Photography, Kenn Christenson, Ray put together exactly what I had pictured
when I created the story. Ray also found exquisite pieces by
composers Kevin MacLeod and Justin R. Durban. It was just good luck that
Ray and I were on the same wave length visually and that Kenn was able to
translate what we wanted, a French art film, of sorts. And wouldn’t
you know, my “natural” talents are now put to good use; on occasion I’m asked
to pose for nude workshops!
Read more about Marlyn Mason’s movie and TV career in my
book Drive-in Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-Movie Starlets of the Sixties.