Barbara Hale does a great femme fatale!

I saw a 1956 crime movie over the weekend on TCM called The Houston Story. It was vaguely entertaining but mostly mediocre, a half-baked drama of a mobster wannabe played by Gene Barry. But it had two memorable elements in it: Edward Arnold as a chuckling mob kingpin, and Barbara Hale as a platinum-haired nightclub thrush and femme fatale.

This is one of my concepts of the perfect woman.

I kinda remember Barbara Hale from playing Della Street, the Gal Friday on the old Perry Mason show with Raymond Burr in the 50s and 60s…but actually I don’t remember that show very well because while I was growing up I was more interested in the Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Ben Casey, and 12 O’Clock High and magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland and giant comic book creatures like Fin Fang Foom. But I loved Barbara as a naughty minx in this movie when I saw it last night in my current state of maturation as a 57-year-old connoisseur of noirishly deceptive doxies. Yes, my eyes have been opened to an actress whose other works I must readily explore.

Barbara sings the same song in The Houston Story that made Rita Hayworth famous in Gilda a decade earlier, “Put the Blame on Mame,” and Barb’s equally sexy in a sultrier, more “MILFy” kind of way.

This is from the trailer for The Houston Story.

This is from the trailer for The Houston Story.

I don’t know if Miss Hale really sang the song or it was dubbed, but the camera stays on her in closeup the whole time, and her facial expressions, and the way she moves her mouth and the way the light flatters her gorgeous cheekbones, made it something I’m glad I recorded on the DVR. If you get to see this movie when it shows up again on TCM, watch how she moves her lips on the word “boys” in the lyric, “Put the blame on Mame, boys…”

In her other scenes in the flick, she really brings the tough babe to rich life with everything from the smallest furrowing of her brow to the freshening of her lipstick. What a dame!

Looking her up on the web after seeing the movie, I found some of these shots at a great tribute site called Big Dave’s Barbara Hale Annex. I also read somewhere else that she may have been a model back in the 1940s for the famed pinup calendar painter Gil Elvgren, the creator of timeless works like this (which can be found at the fine site Pinup Files).

It's a sad day when a grown man envies a cocker spaniel...

It's a sad day when a grown man envies a cocker spaniel...

Well, with Barb’s stems and that wholesome but saucy face, I can sure believe that Elvgren, who was to pinups what Michelangelo was to ceilings, would have loved her!

With women like this on their side, how could our soldiers NOT have beaten the Axis?

With women like this on their side, how could our World War 2 soldiers NOT have beaten the Axis?

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’ve always wondered if Barbara Hale sung Put the Blame on Mame herself or not. It sure sounds like her voice, so if she didn’t, the studio managed to pick an excellent dub.

    Modeling for Elvgren is one of those other things I’d like to get better proof of than mere mentions. She did work as a model though and definitely posed for Frush for example (at least till 1947): http://www.thepinupfiles.com/frush/FRUSH_19.jpg
    “Wholesome and saucy” pretty much nails it in this picture I think. :)

  2. Thanks for your comment and liking this post, DM! I checked out your blog, it looks very cool and when I have a little time during the holiday I look forward to reading more.

    That Frush pinup is beautiful! Thanks for the link. And you’re right, it would be great to see some Elvgren picture that was definitely based on Miss Hale or reference photos of her.

    Check out my other blog Erotica is My Trade too (just click on my name), I occasionally write about pinups there as well, and classic movies. In fact, one of my recent posts is about “horny time traveling” in Times Square.

    Have a nice holiday and thanks again for reading.–Irv O. Neil aka The Horny Time Traveler

  3. My husband & I love waching Ms. Hale in the old Perry Mason eposodes from the 59′s & 60′s

  4. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Michael and Patricia! Much appreciated! Barbara Hale is terrific indeed.

  5. I have been watch Barbara for many years, she was one of the great beauties of the 50s, and a fine actress too.


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