As luck would have it, it’s a Tuesday. I was alerted to Tuesday Weld‘s 70th by Michelle Dean‘s entry at Flavorwire today, in which she writes: “She is probably best described as a proto-Lohan. Like Lindsay, she started out her career as a child star of Hollywood and occasionally Broadway. She then cemented her celebrity (and changed her name from Susan) with a popular sitcom called The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, where she played the most avaricious of Dobie’s many love interests, talking endlessly about the kind of money her ideal lover you had to have…. Her sexuality, however, was what really kept people interested in Weld, and they’d shamelessly comment on it to the press. ‘From the rear,’ said a cameraman quoted in a Washington Post and Times Herald profile, ‘she looks like Jane Mansfield’s kid sister.’ At the time he said this she was, just so we’re clear, 15 years old. All those rumors you hear about the golden days of child stardom when people felt less okay about leering fall apart in Tuesday Weld coverage.”
Two years ago, American Girl: Tuesday Weld, a retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center guest-curated by Nick Pinkerton and Nicolas Rapold, gave Alt Screen, edited by self-declared “Tuesday Weld super-fans,” an opportunity to go wild. The centerpiece of their celebration was a typically marvelous appreciation by Dan Callahan, who wrote: “As an actress, Weld is famous for having not starred in Lolita (1962) and Bonnie and Clyde (1967), two films she turned down because she sensed that they would be successful. After an early career in movies with titles like Sex Kittens Go To College (1960), Weld gravitated toward more subterranean endeavors like Henry Jaglom’s uninhibitedly self-indulgent A Safe Place (1971). ‘No actress was ever so good in so many bad films,’ said her friend and Lord Love a Duck (1966) co-star Roddy McDowell. It seems clear that Weld often deliberately chose weird, iffy film projects over more conventionally promising or respectable ones, and this urge led to a cult following. Though she looked like a placid blond of that era, like Sandra Dee, Carol Lynley or Yvette Mimieux, it took only a few moments of watching her on screen to see that Weld was more perverted and more cerebral, a Mimieux who’d confronted the abyss.”
Alt Screen also directed us to a piece Melissa Anderson contributed to a 2007 issue of Film Comment: “If you were to imagine a celluloid ancestor to Mulholland Drive’s Diane Selwyn, she’d probably look a lot like Maria Wyeth, the heroine of Frank Perry’s acerbic Play It As It Lays, a 1972 film based on Joan Didion’s merciless second novel, published two years earlier. Brilliantly played by Tuesday Weld, Maria is rapidly unraveling, as is her marriage to her director husband, Carter Lang (Adam Roarke). Carter has previously directed her in both a vérité short, barking bullying off-camera questions (‘Did you ever want to ball your father? (Ambien) ’), and an acid-rock biker movie called Angel Beach. As Carter prepares to shoot his next movie in the desert, Maria—which rhymes with ‘pariah’—drifts through a succession of ghoulish Hollywood parties and hotel-room assignations with producers from the East Coast, always returning to the driver’s seat of her banana-yellow Corvette. Speeding along the freeway provides Maria with her only moments of pleasure. She hasn’t worked for at least a year.”
Weld’s performance in Play It As It Lays won her a Golden Globe nomination. She scored an Oscar nomination for Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1978), an Emmy for The Winter of Our Discontent (1983), and a BAFTA for Once Upon a Time in America (1984). To really celebrate this Tuesday, though, turn to Pretty Poison (1968), or at least to Alt Screen‘s roundup on it, wherein you’ll find Kim Morgan: “God I love Tuesday Weld… Lord Love a Duck, Wild in the Country, The Cincinnati Kid, Play it as it Lays, Thief and on and on… But my favorite Weld performance? As Sue Ann Stepanek in Pretty Poison… the definitive Tuesday Weld movie. Playing the beautiful but deadly high-school majorette to Anthony Perkins twitchy, creepy fire-starter, she is the deliciously deviant underbelly of America’s heartland.”
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