Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hollywood Suicide #2: Pina Pellicer

During her brief run on the screen, Pina Pellicer was more well-known in Mexico and Europe than the US. Daughter of an affluent Mexico City lawyer, niece to a famous modernist poet, and sister to a tele-novela actress, Josefina Yolanda Pellicer López de Llergo had art--not to mention a wicked long name--in her blood. But then, the old world leisure class often had art in its blood (and time on its hands).

She first appeared in a Mexican production of Macario, released in 1960, the Academy's runner-up for best foreign film for that year. That Macario came first for Pina Pellicer was Marlon Brando's fault. She'd already had a role in One-Eyed Jacks, the weird transitional western that Brando commandeered from director Stanley Kubrick and writers Sam Peckinpah and Rod Serling. It began production in '58. However, as Brando's ego sent director & writers packin, and the enfant terrible took over, work on the film slowed. The new actor/director shot more and more film, release dates got postponed, and the picture didn't hit theaters until '61.

In One-Eyed Jacks--which also stars Karl Malden, Slim Pickens, Timothoy Carey, Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson, and Larry Duran--Pina plays Luisa, adopted daughter of former thief turned scum-bucket sherriff Dad Longworth (Malden). As part of his revenge on Longworth for an old doublecross back in their bank robbing days, the outlaw Rio (Brando), cons the pretty step-daughter out of her virtue. Here's a clip.

Wish I could find a clip of one of the film's finer moments, when Dad's evil deputy Lon (Pickens), tips him to Luisa's new condition. "She came in this morning," he whispers, "A-lookin' kinda messy." As compensation for my failure to find this clip, I offer Timothy Carey's scene (if there's a bad movie with Tim Carey, I never saw it), the one with the classic "Get up, you tub-o-guts!" line.

So what happened to Pina Pellicer? Was her 1964 suicide, in Mexico City, at age 30, another case of life imitating art? (All that art in the blood.) Some like to interpret from the storyline in One-Eyed Jacks that Pina and Brando had their own real-life case of unrequited love. Leading man snubbed leading lady, etc., etc. But she died several years after her brush with the big man. Maybe she had a vision of the future, and it showed her The Island of Dr. Moreau. Other rumors claimed that she wasn't hung up on Brando at all, but that she was bugged by the the same sort of difficulties that beset Montgomery Clift, and the resulting depression made Pina Pellicer take that early bow.


Mr Twang said...

Nice piece on this fascinating actress, and one of my favorite films. Does anybody know where to find a good print of "Jacks"? Since it fell into the public domain "Jacks" is widely available but in ghastly form. Waiting for the Criterion folks to give it a shot. Thanks.

Unknown said...

You can find One Eyed Jacks complete to watch for free,
I think it is one of the best westerns ever made.

Bob Pomeroy said...

Y'know, I can't recall where or when or in what form I first watched 'One Eyed Jacks'--I would guess it was on VHS. Such a great cast, Ben Johnson, Tim Carey, Slim Pickens, and of course Pina Pellicer. And the bad guy gets away in the end!

Anonymous said...

Pina was a lesbian according to Brando's long-time secretary. She mentions this in her book when discussing the production of the film. Apparently, a break up with a woman left Pina depressed which led to her suicide.

Anonymous said...

Pina Pellicer in One-Eyed Jacks gives one of the greatest female performances ever filmed. That's not overstatement. It's heartbreaking. She's so vulnerable, real, and inside the role. The girl could really turn it on. She holds her own with Brando in a way no other woman ever did except maybe Anna Magnani in The Fugitive Kind. Suicide is not surprising for someone whose emotions were obviously so close to the surface. For those who look at great films as a legitimate form of real life, this one's a must.