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Rix Roundtree-Harrison

  March 16, 2010

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Life Is Music
Get Us Out From Under, Wonder Woman
By: Rix Roundtree-Harrison

In widescreen, with Technicolor and stereophonic sound, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer made the finest Hollywood musicals of the 1950’s. As excellent as these films are they can’t begin to compare with the real life musical extravaganzas that make up our own personal lives. Our lives are journeys filled with music. The music flows from radios, cars, family & friend gatherings, offices, schools, stores, movies, airports, bus & train stations and that stereo inside your head. The times of your life, the best, the worse, the marvelous and the mundane, are stories woven into a musical soundtrack, because as the Ritchie Family sang, “Life Is Music”

Life Is Music:
Get Us Out From Under, Wonder Woman
by Rix Roundtree-Harrison

While trapped in my house due to an avalanche of snow dumped on me by the “Blizzard of 2010,” the most awful thing that could happen happened. No I was not without electricity; no I didn't run out of food, it was so much worse than that. The weight of the snow snapped the outside cable line from my house to the telephone pole and I was without cable television for five looooong days.

During this dreadful period I played lots of music. I listened to the europop of ABBA, the jazz of Louis Prima, the italo of T.M.-Joy and the soulful sounds of Otis Redding. But it was disco diva Donna Summer who received the most play during those long endless days without television.
Over and over again I played Ms. Summer's melancholy "Winter Melody" as it seemed perfect for poor snowbound me. I desperately yearned for my winter nightmare to come to an end, so naturally I endlessly played Donna’s bright and uplifting "Spring Affair.”

My television is not digital and I don't have a converter box, so I had absolutely no TV, and man did I suffer. I called my sister crying the blues and she told me about the web site Hulu where you could watch television shows and movies for free.
I went to the Hulu site and found a wide variety of movie and televisions shows there. Among them was Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman. In trying to decide what to watch I discovered that Wonder Woman's first season took place during the 1940's and World War II. In the first season she fought the evil of the Axis powers. This came as a surprise to me as I only remembered Wonder Woman fighting crime in the present day. I was thrilled to discover this and decided I'd watch the WWII era Wonder Woman as there were dozens of episodes to watch that I had never seen before.

While watching Wonder Woman I was impressed at the number of times she repeatedly sent messages to all woman be they ally or foe. The messages were, take pride in yourself, you are powerful, age has nothing to do with your vitality and intelligence, and most important of all, let nothing stop you from being all you could be. As Wonder Woman advocated the power of women I had a memory flash.
Once when I was about eight years old and my little brother Ronnie was five or six, my mom had us both in her lap reading us a story. I can't remember what the story was about, but I do remember that Tommy Roe’s pop song “Sweet Pea” bounced from the radio while she read.
Mom abruptly stopped reading, looked at us lovingly yet strangely and said, "You are so lucky to have been born boys. Being boys there is nothing in the world you can't do. You can go anywhere, you can do anything, you are so fortunate."
Well being eight years old I didn't have a clue as to what this chick was talking about. I just stared at her and thought "Mommy is having one of her strange moments."
As I grew older I thought of that moment many times and I couldn't understand why my mom thought that way. I wondered why she didn't feel as I did, that my bright, intelligent and capable sisters could do anything or go anywhere too. Why did she feel that my sisters were less fortunate to have been born girls?
After all, my mom became an adult in the 60's, the era of civil rights, woman's rights, black power, etc. This was a period when most people were in agreement, speaking in a unified voice that everyone, men and women, whether black, white, brown, yellow etc were all equal and could do and be anything.
After giving it more thought I realized that though my mother had reached adulthood in the 60’s, her formative years were during an oppressive time for woman, when many women believed their lot in life was to be housekeeper, wife and mother.
My mother's formative years were the 1940's and ironically it was December 1941, a couple years after my mom's birth, that the first issue of the Woman Women comic book hit the streets. Wonder Woman, she was not the typical woman of this period; here was a powerful woman who could do anything and go anywhere.

I took what my mom said to me and my brother as gospel. When I grew up I went out into the world and did anything and went everywhere (hey, if mom said it, it must be true, right?). I joined the military, went to college, I changed jobs like changing clothes (and held jobs from coast to coast).
There were periods when I didn’t work at all; I just traveled the country, going from one exciting state to another. My sister called me a vagabond, but I was not, I just wanted to see America, and mom had told me that I could.
But you know this may play into why I’m so skinny. I spent all my time doing all I could, the military, working, attending college, running around the country; I never had time to eat properly. So naturally I ate lots of fast food. I’m sure a lot of the fast food I ate had been genetically engineered, came from cloned animals, and contained hormonal additives. The mad scientist created food I consumed probably accelerated my metabolic rate sending it into warp drive, causing me to burn off calories faster than I could inhale them, making me unable to gain weight.
So thanks to burger joints and modern science I have to listen to “What’s happenin' beanpole?” “Yo’ toothpick,” or “Rick, long time no see, maaan, you still aint no bigger than a ________ (insert your favorite, I’ve heard ‘em all)

Okay, back to Wonder Woman. While watching these episodes of Wonder Woman on Hulu, I had another memory flash. I remembered reading somewhere that Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman television show had been admired and adored by women. When it was discussed it was mentioned with reverence and pride. It was a show held in high esteem as many women (and men) felt that Wonder Women had been an influential role model for women and girls.
One day, quite by accident, I discovered this to be true as I witnessed a sampling of this influence for myself. I was pulling my car into the driveway at my mom’s house, “I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl)” by Instant Funk was playing on the car radio. I saw these three little neighborhood kids in our yard, one girl and two boys.
The girl's parents had just bought her some Wonder Woman toy bracelets and she wanted to play "bullets and bracelets" with the neighbor boys. Excited by her new toys, and obviously not thinking clearly, the little girl asked the little boys to throw rocks at her and like Wonder Woman deflecting bullets with her bracelets she would deflect those rocks with her magic Wonder Woman bracelets.
I thought, "No she didn't? Bad idea little girl."
Well the little boys didn't have to be asked twice and picked up gravel from our driveway and began throwing the tiny stones at the girl. The rocks struck the little girl everywhere on her body except the toy magic bracelets on her wrists. To make matters worse, it was summer so she was dressed in short sleeves and shorts. Her exposed skin was now covered in tiny red bruises.
The little girl danced and jumped up and down while screaming "YOUCH!" "OUCH!" "OOWWW!" "OOOOH!" Her magic bracelets could not stop the rocks flung by the little boys from pelting her torso and exposed arms and legs. The magic bracelets were failing miserably.
Knowing that this was not the brightest of ideas I had wanted to stop it before began. But the sight of this little girl screaming due to the painful sting of rocks colliding with her skin while trying to hop and jump out of the line of fire of the hard flung pebbles, was too hilarious for words, I began to laugh hysterically.
Rolling on the ground in gut-busting laughter I tried yelling to the two little boys to stop, but I couldn't get the words out. While having spasms of laughter I crawled up to the little boys and insisted that they, "Stop it, can't you see that those rocks are hurting her?"
One little boy tried to answer, "But she told us to....."
I stood, composed myself and cut the little boy off in mid sentence. "I know what she told you, but stop it. Those rocks hurt. Would you want someone throwing rocks at you?"
The second little boy tried to speak. "But she said......."
I cut him off as well. "I know what she said, but cut it out, or I'll tell your mothers."
The little boys ceased throwing rocks and gave me a nasty look. One mumbled as he walked away, "Who is he buttin' in our business?"
I went to the little girl and asked "Are you okay?"
The little girl jerked away from me and she too gave me a nasty look whose message was unmistakable, "Mind your own business!" I don't know if she was pissed at me because I laughed at her, or took too long to stop the madness, or for interfering, either way, she went off in a huff.
I would have loved to be at the little girl's house when she tried to explain all those bruises to her mother. I don’t know how a parent would react when handed that situation, but I imagine that it would be unintentionally hilarious. There are so many ways it could play out, for example this-
“Baby, how did you get all those bruises?” Her alarmed mother would ask.
“The boys next door threw rocks at me.”
“They threw rocks at you? Why?” The concerned mother asks.
Innocently the little girl answers “I told them to.”
“YOU, YOU TOLD THEM TO THROW ROCKS AT YOU!!! Lord help me, I have brought a crazy child into this world. It must be from her father’s side of the family.
Yeah Lynda Carter, your Wonder Woman was an influential role model in ways you couldn't even imagine.

As I continued on with another episode of Wonder Woman I found myself still snickering at my memory of the little girl’s bullets and bracelets moment. This led to another memory of another kids encounter.
My friend Kerri and I decided to play hooky from work and spend the day at the amusement park, Paramount’s Kings Dominion. Once there we thought the first thing we wanted to do was languish about in the water park's Lazy River before tackling killer roller coasters.
The Lazy River is a narrow man-made river that snakes though a large section of the amusement park in which you lazily and slowly float along on bright yellow inner tubes.
As the brilliant sun beamed down on us we were relaxed doing nothing stressful or strenuous. As Kerri and I talked our feet lazily splashed the river's waters while our hands leisurely caressed its waves. It was heaven, all we needed was a mint julep or a strawberry margarita and it would have been perfect.
Then these three little obnoxious towheaded boys entered the Lazy River. The three little brats ruined the relaxed ambiance as they were deliberately and violently splashing about in the water creating mini tsunamis.
One of these waves struck Kerri and I and I turned and gave the boys the evil eye. My mouth opened to chastise them, but before the words could come out one of the boys looked at me and fearlessly said, "If you didn't want to get wet, you shouldn’t' have come in here."
The little boy had most effectively stifled me. My unspoken words never left my voice box as I thought "You know what? He’s got a point there. This would be an argument that I couldn't possibly win."
I looked at the little boys’ defiant stares thought about what one of them had said and burst out with laughter. My laughter was infectious and caused the three little boys to explode with laughter. The three little boys, Kerri and I had the waves of the normally tranquil Lazy River embroiled with frenzied happy splashing and the music of laughter.

Back to the present and Wonder Woman. I remembered that Wonder Woman was so popular that a band had sort of named themselves after her, and released a record that was a tribute to her. The band was called the Wonderland Disco Band, and their record was a disco version of the Wonder Woman television theme called of course, "Wonder Woman.”
This disco-tized version of the Wonder Woman TV show theme was pretty nice. Other than being disco-fied the only difference was that instead of a male singing lead like on the TV theme song there was a soulful female siren singing lead on the disco version.

Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman was different from the superhero's we find in our movie multiplexes today. She was not complex, or angst ridden about her super powers. She didn't exude strength and power; she wasn't brash or violent and she wasn’t full of herself. She was just like some nice person from your job, the nice girl next door, or a kind school crossing guard who just happen to have super powers. She was confident and secure in who she was, but she didn't think herself better than anyone else.
She didn't take pleasure in fighting as she tossed automobiles out of her way, and tossed bad guys in jail with the same amount of disdain. She seemed to have one focus, stopping crime; she was more like a police officer in a (small) red, white and blue suit just doing her job.
She championed the power of women; she told woman (good or evil) that you are just as good as any man and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. That was when I understood the meaning of the lines “get us out from under" and "all the world is waiting for you and the power you possess," from her theme song.
Peggy Lee sang "I'm A Woman," one look at Lynda Carter in that Wonder Woman outfit and that’s obvious. But though she dressed in the skimpy outfit she was not sexualized, she was professional, graceful, gracious and stylist, Tom Jones said it best, "She's A Lady."
On film, Wonder Woman still seems to take second place to the male superheroes as Wonder Woman's Hollywood output has thus far consisted only of Lynda Carter's 70's television show. She did not have the 1940's and 50's serials like Superman and Bat-Man, and she has not had the present day big budget blockbuster films, like Spiderman and Iron Man. It seems that just like in the past, change and progress takes time in Hollywood and I’ve never understood this.

I have always felt that the movie industry failed us as a society. Movies are fantasy and make believe, even a film based on a true story is embellished and not totally real, in fact it isn’t real.
Movies by virtue of what they are (unreal) had the power to dispel stereotypes. But in the early days of filmmaking (and sometimes today) they perpetuated them. Just as change takes place slowly in the real world it also comes about slowly in the reel world, and it shouldn’t. Because of its unreality film has the power to make people think out of the box and see other possibilities. Film should be at the forefront with the dialog of societal (and personal) change for the better.
African, Latino, and Asian Americans played mostly servant roles in film prior to World War II, while the Joan Crawfords and Clark Gables of film danced, partied and had a grand ole frivolous time.
I know that African, Latino and Asian Americans in the 1920’s 30’s got all dolled up on a Friday or Saturday night in sharp pressed suits and shimmering gowns and went out on the town to danced, partied and had grand ole frivolous times too, but you never saw this portrayal on film.
It was post World War II when Hollywood began to work on changing stereotypes. In the 40’s and 50’s things began to change as along came Anna Mae Wong, Lena Horne, Katy Jurado, Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Ricardo Montalbán, and Harry Belafonte.
Another change the 50’s brought about was with the women in my favorite film genre, the 1950's science fiction B movie.

Legendary myths, tell fictitious tales, of heroic courageous men of 1950's sci-fi films, who would have to continuously save the hapless, helpless, females of the '50's sci-fi films from deadly giant deep-sea monsters, human hating aliens from the far reaches of outer space, and brilliant scientists tinged with madness.
As I've become enamored and mesmerized by the sci-fi films of the 50's, I've discovered that these women are themselves fiction, and cannot be found in the many 50's sci-fi films I've watched. The women in the 50's sci-fi films I've seen are courageous, intelligent, humorous, determined and brave. They are Cold War heroines whose roots and formation began, in the hellfire of World War II.

The reality of World War II, and the quasi-reality of 1940’s war films, was pivotal to the creation of the '50's sci-fi film female. In film as in real life, men went off to fight the horrific oppression of Nazism. Many of the women of WWII era films did their part for the war effort by taking on the jobs and responsibilities left behind by the men, who went off, to battle.
But not all women remained on the home front; some women, like the men, craved a more hands on role in the defeating the Axis powers, and wanted to contribute much more than just the selling of war bonds. Thus many women in the 40's real world and reel world went to the battlefields by becoming field nurses, or joining the Women's Army Corps (WACS), the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES) and the Woman Air Force Service Pilots (WASP).
Others, by simply being in the wrong place at the right time, were thrust into combat situations. But be it by choice, or by fate, the women of WWII films courageously and unflinchingly, did whatever it would take to stop the onslaught of the Axis war machine.

Never has there been so spellbinding a vision as that of the beautiful Irene Dunne in the 1943 film, A Guy Named Joe. Irene is a civilian pilot who steals a US bomber, and flies it to a Japanese ammunitions depot that US intelligence has targeted for destruction.
As she approaches the depot, a barrage of Japanese anti-aircraft fire illuminates the night sky around her. With the grace and skill of a seasoned combat flyer, she brilliantly weaves her aircraft through the anti-aircraft fire, never taking a hit.
She successfully unloads her payload of bombs on her target and single handedly destroys the enemy's ammo dump.
A stellar cast that includes, Margaret Sullivan, Joan Blondell, Marsha Hunt and Ella Raines are the stalwart nurses of the 1943 film, Cry Havoc. These women would not allow anything stop them from giving medical attention to wounded US soldiers. When the Japanese attack Bataan from the air, one of them mans an anti-aircraft gun and proudly brings down one of the Japanese fighter planes.
No matter the situation, their dedication to the wounded US soldiers goes on unceasingly until they are finally captured by the Japanese who force them on their final journey into the annals of history by way of, the Bataan Death March.
Then there is the lovely Veronica Lake, coiffed with her legendary peek-a-boo blonde bob and dressed in Army fatigues that hide a deadly secret weapon. Lodged in her bosom is a live grenade (if the Carol Burnett Show didn't do a comic spoof on this, she should have).
Roni heroically sacrifices herself by surrendering herself to a platoon of Japanese soldiers who had “captured” the blonde….ah….bombshell (LOL! I couldn’t resist), never realizing that she had them right where she wanted them. Ms. Lake then blew herself to bits taking the Japanese soldiers with her buying time for her comrades to escape, in the 1943 classic, So Proudly We Hail.
These A list female stars of WWII pictures, were the prototypes that would be used to create the 1950's woman of, the sci-fi B picture.

The post World War II women of sci-fi would no longer be the pre-war screamers and fainters, and no longer was she simply just the vapid eyed girlfriend of the courageous hero.
The 1950’s sci-fi woman wasn't immobilized by fear and didn't quiver in the face of danger; she was an intelligent, brave, determined and essential scientist, journalist, astronaut, secretary, assistant, professor, student, wife, daughter, or single mother.
For most of the populace the coming of giant monsters, be they arachnid, crustacean, extraterrestrial, prehistoric, atomic, or reptilian would mean its time to run for your life. The 50's sci-fi film female hit the screen running, but not from the dangers; she was running to see what role she could play in keeping the world safe from atomic age mutated insects, creatures from the bottom of the sea, radioactive dinosaurs, and flying saucers from outer space, piloted by, visitors, from another world.

The 50's sci-fi female wouldn't have dreamed of not being a part of the action, danger, and excitement, and wasn't about to be pushed around, or left behind.
James Arness, as an FBI agent tells Joan Weldon's character, Dr. Patricia Medford (my personal favorite), that she cannot join them in their search for mammoth man eating ants because she's a woman, and it's too dangerous.
In a fine bit of acting that reminded me of Sigourney Weaver's Ripley in the film Aliens, Dr. Pat bristles with anger; her face says to him "I don’t have time for your chauvinistic foolishness." Her words make it clear to the FBI agent that, not only is she going, she's leading the search for Them, because he would have no clue of how to find and destroy the monstrous mutations without her.
James Whitmore as a State Trooper who had wisely kept his mouth shut, silently gives the stifled Arness an "I guess she told you" look. The G-man reluctantly zips it and the three get on with the business of saving the world.
Alix Talton's portrayal of ambitious reporter Marjorie Blaine does not wait to be invited on The Deadly Mantis adventure, she invites herself as her "nose for news" tells her that this is the story of the year.
William Hopper, who plays the world renown scientist Dr. Ned Jackson, is about to embark on a secret mission to the North Pole when he encounters Marge at the door. He spies her luggage behind her and asks, "Where are you going?" She answers him with a look that says, "Oh come now brilliant scientist, surely you can deduce where I'm going?" She tells him, "I'm going with you."
As Marge walks off she tells Dr. Jackson, one of the biggest scientific brains in the world, to bring her luggage.
Photo journalist Audrey Ames, played by Peggy Castle, asks the military to allow her to join them in solving the mystery of the disappearance of a small town. At first her request is denied until they realize that she is "the” Audrey Ames, whose sterling reputation for service in post war Germany and the Korean War allows her to be the first, and only, non military person to view the decimated town which could mark, The Beginning of the End of human existence by a horde of giant locust.

Anything but beautiful backdrops, these ladies were essential to the storytelling. It was the demented Dr. Carrington’s beautiful assistant Nikki, played by Margaret Sheridan, whose matter of fact response of "Boil it" to the question posed by reporter Ned Scott, "What do you do with a vegetable?" that led to the use of an arc of electricity to destroy, The Thing From Another World.
Everyone thought that, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms was a figment of Paul Christian's imagination. But thanks to Lee Hunter (played by Paula Raymond), and her background in paleontology, this prehistoric beast was identified as a real, and serious, threat.
It Came From Beneath the Sea to fill the world with terror. The US Navy relied on the expertise of Marine biologist Professor Lesley Joyce, played by Faith Domerque, to deduce what "It" is, and to find a way to destroy it.
Patricia Neal played the widowed working single mom Helen Benson, who was mesmerized by Klaatu the sage, visitor from another world. She saved him from certain death at the hands of the savage and uncivilized earth people by uttering the unforgettable words, "Klaatu Brada Nikto" to the menacing, and indestructible robot, Gort. This action not only saved the life of the unearthly visitor, but saved her frightened planet as well, on The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Forget the sleep inducing 2008 remake that starred Keanu Reeves, check out the 1951 original, its top notch and filled with suspense.
As a runaway planet hurls towards the earth, Barbara Rush's mathematician Joyce Hendron, the daughter of a famous scientist, helps construct a space ship that would rocket a small group of survivors to a new planet, just minutes before the earth is destroyed, When Worlds Collide.

Though brave and strong, these women weren't made of stone; as courageous as they were they were human, and did, know fear. But even when afraid they handled frightening situations with courage, and sometimes this courage is tempered with a touch of sarcastic humor.
In the classic When Worlds Collide, a frightened Joyce Hendron states to Richard Derr, "I haven't the courage to face the end of the world," well she underestimated herself. As frightened as she was, Joyce Hendron conquered her fears, and helped prepare the survivors of this collision of worlds, for life on a new planet, instilling within them, hope and courage.
Though she feared the mutated giant locust, Audrey Ames was not about to abandon Peter Graves and leave him alone to face the marauding man-eating horde. If this was indeed to be, The Beginning of the End, she would stay with him until they found a way to stop the creatures, or stay with him, until the end.
Though frightened of the man-eating Thing From Another World scientist assistant Nikki asks with sarcasm spiced with a touch of humor, "Are we going to have visitors from other worlds, other planets, dropping in on us? Do we have to return the call?" My take on what Nikki said is this: Attention alien monsters everywhere, don’t call us, we’ll call you. So if we don't send you an engraved invitation don't come dropping by our planet, especially if you are just looking for a quick meal.....and we are the meal.

One would think that with an assortment of horrific monsters, such as a, Tarantula, The Black Scorpion, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Mole People, The Giant Claw, and The Man From Planet X on the loose, the 50's sci-fi woman would have her hands full with no time for romance. But red-hot romantic sparks did indeed fly between the women, and men, of 50's sci-fi.
Hard hearted Professor Lesley Joyce (Faith Domerque) made it clear to quintessential 50's military male Kenneth Tobey in It Came From Beneath the Sea, that just because she kissed him did not mean she wanted to marry him, be told what to do, and give up her career. These two had some serious arguments about the roles man and woman should play. He was the a-typical 50's male and wanted her to be the submissive woman and she was not feeling it. Their personal battle of the sexes made for some pretty interesting viewing.
In The Deadly Mantis, Alix Talton's character, the vivacious reporter Marge Blaine, arrives at a military base located in the northern Polar Regions. She has an entire base of military men willingly, at her beck, and call (it doesn’t hurt that she just happens to be the only woman there, so she has like no competition). She ends up romanced by an infatuated Colonel, and scoops the story of the year.
In the case of Paul Christian and Paula Raymond in, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, we witness their mutual attraction blossom out of their mutual admiration and respect of each others, chosen fields, of expertise.
They are alone in her apartment trying to figure out how to stop a runaway rampaging dinosaur. Suddenly their eyes lock and paleontologist she says, "How uncomplicated the past was," and nuclear physicist he counters with, "And how bright the future can be." The electricity of palpable sexual tension passes between their eyes and it crackles through the television screen. Are they going unite in a passionate kiss, will they tear each others clothes off....what? They become uncomfortable, I become uncomfortable watching them…it’s incredible. It becomes too much and she breaks eye contact with him, looks away and says breathlessly “lets come back to the present.” I'm fanning myself and concur, “Yes lets! With just looks you two have steamed up the TV screen…you need to stop…but man, was that a great scene!"
Of all the couples of 50’s sci-fi films Paul and Paula are my favorite…I’m telling you, they have the chemistry thing going on…big time!
In a bizarre twist, Helen Benson's (Patricia Neal) romance with fiancé Hugh Marlowe completely collapses on the frightening day, the earth stood still. Helen has come to realize that she has developed feelings for the "spaceman." She discovers that this man from another planet has more moral fortitude, integrity, and strength of character, than her selfish, thoughtless earthman lover. You see, her fiancé turned in the spaceman to the US Army, not for national security, but for recognition, fame and dough.
Even more bizarre enter Gloria Talbot, who is horrified to learn, I Married A Monster From Outer Space. She is even more astounded to learn, that the space monster has developed romantic feelings for her.
As the defeated and dying space monster pours his heart out to her, he explains that he came to conquer the earth, but unexpectedly fell in love with her. He has never encountered anything like this love business, its powerful stuff, and it has the poor thing all mixed up inside.
Gloria gives the monster from outer space an unsympathetic look that said, "Oh please, sparemethedrama, and just Die Monster Die!” I felt sorry for the poor rejected space monster, I really did.
Then there’s mathematician Joyce Hendron of When Worlds Collide; I have a problem with Joyce, here’s why. Okay, the world is coming to an end, and Joyce is helping build the spaceship that will rocket survivors to safety. But while doing this the troubled woman goes to her father with, “Dad I’m in love with two guys, which one do I choose?”
I’m thinking, “Aaaaaaah, excuse me darlin’, but the world is coming to an end, don’t you think brilliant mathematician you and your brilliant scientist dad have more pressing issues to deal with?”
But she wouldn’t let it go, she stressed over it (Oh which one do I choose? Oh how can I make such a decision? I love them both, oh me, oh my) I’m thinking “Girl get a grip, pick a man, do eanie meanie minie moe, get on the rocket ship, blast off and go!…you are pluckin’ my nerves with this foolishness.”
Maybe I should cut Joyce some slack, after all soul man William Bell sang "Trying To Love Two" aint easy to do." I imagine it's especially difficult when your world is about to be smashed to atoms.

Now of all the 1950's sci-fi women, Joan Taylor of The Earth vs. the Flying Saucers comes closest to being the weak ineffectual girlfriend/wife. She isn’t annoying as she doesn’t scream and faint, she is just sort of unnecessary, as she doesn’t do too much of anything except support the male lead Hugh Marlow.
I don't know if it was a move to make up for it, but the year after The Earth vs. the Flying Saucers' release Joan starred in the 1957 western War Drums.
I caught War Drums on the Encore Westerns channel just a day or two before the Blizzard of 2010 hit. I had never seen it before and I kid you not, it has got to be the wildest western I have ever seen.
Here is Joan, a white woman, playing Riva, a Latina who has a Mexican, white and Apache man in love with her, each wanting to claim her for his own.
She; and I emphasize, “she,” chooses the Apache Chief for a mate. Then after she chooses him she tells him that she has no intention of being his run-of-the mill wife (actually they use the offensive term “squaw”), cooking, weaving and making babies, uh uh, not her, she will be his equal partner, and be by his side as a hunter and a warrior.
All the tribe hates this uppity woman, after all, who does she think she is to come in here and thumb her nose at Native American tradition? But she succeeds with her goal and becomes a hunter and warrior; she even makes war against the Whites right along side of the male Indian braves.
Now all the tribe adores her, including the other Native American women who hated her initially, and why not, she’s a hunter, a gatherer, a fighter, and a fierce war paint wearing, death dealing warrior.….she's a wonder!
The star of War Drums is suppose to be Lex Barker (a former film Tarzan), who plays the Apache Chief, but it's obvious that the movie belongs to Miss Joan. The War Drums movie poster validates this as it has a large stoic but glamorous picture of Joan Taylor in her Apache garb, letting loose a deadly arrow from her taut bow. The large over-the-top all caps lettering screams out, "WHITE WARRIOR WOMAN" (I guess they forgot that she’s playing a Latina in the film).
It all reminds me of the 1982 film Victor Victoria, you know, where Julie Andrews plays a woman, pretending to be a man, pretending to be a woman. Well with War Drums Joan Taylor is a white woman, pretending to be a Latina, who does an amazing metamorphosis into a Native American…it’s just all way too much.
War Drums is the wildest most unrealistic action packed mess I’ve ever seen, and I must admit, it was enthralling entertainment. I was riveted to my TV screen and enjoyed every over-the-top unbelievable minute of it. I wanna see it again, only it isn't available on Netflix (yet) as no DVD has ever been released.

Whether they were trying to navigate a romance during trying times, or fighting their own fears, the fabulous females of 50's sci-fi films didn't need to be saved or protected, they were too busy saving, and protecting, our world from the terrors of a new, atomic, age.
From Aliens Ellen Ripley, to Van Helsing’s Anna Valerious, to Alien vs. Predator's Alexa Woods, Underworld’s Selene, any Milla Jovovich film, to the brave heroines of the Final Destination films, the wonder women of 21st century sci-fi films owe a great debt to Alix Talton, Joan Weldon, Margaret Sheridan, Paula Raymond, Joan Taylor, Barbara Rush, Patricia Neal, Mara Corday, Julia Adams, June Kenny, Faith Domerque, Peggy Castle, Gloria Talbot, Lola Albright, Beverly Garland and a host of other fabulous 50's sci-fi women.
The brave, tough, courageous demeanor of the movie screen's 21st century woman can be traced directly back to their mid 20th century sisters who like them, do not need to be saved or protected. They are too busy saving, and protecting our world from the dangers of a new, technology driven, terrorism filled age.
Though not superheroes, the women of today's films are wonders just the same. They do Wonder Woman proud as in their films they live up to the values Wonder Woman espouses. You're an influential wonder, Wonder Woman.

Before I end I must say that it is Lynda Carter, not Wonder Woman that I must give thanks to. It was during a low point in my life when I was watching television and just happen to catch a television interview of Ms. Carter.
She said something that could have been scripted for the wise immortal Amazon Wonder Woman, but this unscripted advice came from the very mortal Lynda Carter. She said "When you do the right things, the right things happen.”
At first I pooh-poohed her pearl of wisdom that obviously came from experience and called it "rubbish." Then one day, tired of fighting the tide, I remembered what Lynda Carter had said and began doing the right things, and guess what, the right things did indeed happen. Turns out that she was right.....thank you Lynda Carter, you‘re a wonder.

© 2010 Rix Roundtree-Harrison

 Written By:  

 Rix Roundtree-Harrison


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