Cinema Retro columnist Tom Lisanti co-authored (with Louis Paul) the book "Femme Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1962-1973" for McFarland publishers. The book has just been issued in a softcover edition, revised and updated. Here is Tom Lisanti's story behind the creation of the book.
It was a long time coming, fifteen years in fact, but McFarland
and Company finally released a soft cover edition of the very popular and
well-received Film Fatales: Women in
Espionage Film & Television, 1962-1973 by Louis Paul and myself. The
book profiles 107 dazzling women (Ursula Andress, Raquel Welch, Dahlia Lavi,
Carol Lynley, Elke Sommer, and Sharon Tate, among them) who worked in the
swinging sixties spy genre on the big and small screens. Some include interviews
with these sexy spy gals. This new edition contains some profile revisions and
updates and a few new photos.
The idea for this book was all Louis Paul’s. We worked together
at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and became friends.
Louis is an expert on European spy movies, giallos, thrillers, etc. from the
sixties and seventies. He had a side video business and produced a fanzine
called Blood Times. I had been interviewing sixties actresses for
magazine articles and culled them for a book that was called Fantasy
Femmes of Sixties Cinema. While I was finishing it up, Louis suggested we
do a book on sixties spy girls. There were books on just the Bond Girls but we
thought we'd go beyond that to also include actresses from the Matt Helm, Derek
Flint, and Euro spy movies. And we also decided to include actresses who worked
in TV spy shows like The Man fromU.N.C.L.E., I
Spy, The Avengers, It Takes a Thief , etc. At
the last minute I pulled quotes from some of my interviewees on their spy
films/TV shows destined for my first book and saved for Film Fatales.
Robert Vaughn and Donna Michelle in the Man From U.N.C.L.E. feature film "One Spy Too Many" (1966).
We felt that the book would reach a nice size audience because spy films have remained so popular due to James Bond. It is 2017 and they still are making Bond movies. It seems never ending and moviegoers just love the escapism. The affection for the 1960s Bond movies extends to the copycat films (Matt Helm, Derek Flint, Harry Palmer, Diabolik, etc.) and TV shows of the day. They all employed handsome debonair leading men, adventure, romance, diabolical villains, picturesque scenery, and some of the most beautiful actresses from Hollywood and Europe. The spy girls in particular remained popular because this genre gave them different type characters to play. A number of the actresses are exceptional and in some cases their characters are more memorable than the hero. In the book the roles are broken down into four distinct types: the helpful spy/secret agent/operative; the innocent caught up in the chicanery; the bad girl-turned-good; and the unrepentant villainess/femme fatale/assassin. This is why fans love their spy girls because of the varied facets found in this genre.
Jill St. John in the 1971 James Bond film "Diamonds Are Forever".
We stuck to the "starlets' of the day, but did allow Doris Day to sneak in. As you would expect Bond girls such as Ursula Andress, Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton, Daniela Bianchi, Luciana Paluzzi, Claudine Auger, Karin Dor (our cover girl), Mie Hama, and Jill St. John are included plus interviews with Barbara Bouchet from Casino Royale, Lana Wood from Diamonds Are Forever, and Gloria Hendry from Live and Let Die. Also included are actresses from the Derek Flint and Matt Helm spy spoofs including interviewee Jean Hale, Gila Golan, Beverly Adams, Ann-Margret, Stella Stevens, Nancy Kwan, and Tina Louise. Euro spy babes are not to be forgotten and included are Senta Berger, Monica Vitti, Sylva Koscina, Erika Blanc, Dominique Boschero, Helen Chanel, Margaret Lee, Helga Line, and Sylvia Solar.
Most of the interviews are with actresses who worked on the small screen spy program in the U.S. One of the most popular was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and we talked with series regular Sharyn Hillyer who played Wanda plus guest stars Kathy Kersh, Sue Ane Langdon, Arlene Martel, Marlyn Mason, Diane McBain, Tura Satana, Irene Tsu, and Celeste Yarnall. Some of these gals plus interviewees Eileen O’Neill, Francine York, and BarBara Luna popped up on other TV spy shows including The Wild Wild West, Amos Burke – Secret Agent, and It Takes a Thief. TV leading ladies are here such as Stefanie Powers from The Girl from U.N.CL.E., Barbara Feldon from Get Smart, Anne Francis from Honey West; and Barbara Bain and Lynda Day George from Mission: Impossible. Again the foreign ladies were not left out with Bond Girl Diana Rigg from The Avengers, Rosemary Nicols from Department S, and Nyree Dawn Porter form The Protectors.
Each profile features the actress’ spy genre credits with plot and character descriptions plus a general bio highlighting their more notable movies and a partial filmography. Profiles of the actresses interviewed contain their candid comments and anecdotes about their spy movies and TV shows, the people they worked with, and their feelings about acting in the spy genre.
Louis Paul is a the author of a number of books including two other McFarland publications Italian Horror Film Directors and Tales from the Cult Film Trenches.
Tom Lisanti is the author of 9 books on sixties Hollywood including his most recent McFarland publication Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1973 and the upcoming Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies from BearManor Media.