The Perfect Obit

The actress Yvette Vickers has died. She starred in two 1950s horror cult films: “Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman” and “Attack of the Giant Leaches.” She was a Playboy Playmate, had an affair with Cary Grant and a 15-year relationship with Jim Hutton, who played Ellery Queen in the TV series of the same name.

“Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman” is one of those movies that is so terrible it’s perversely good. Vickers played the town slut seducing a married man. The jealous wife somehow gets tangled up with an alien from outer space who immediately turns her into a fifty-foot woman wearing a very skimpy outfit. The giant of a wife can now seek revenge and does. Vickers dies in the movie. The same exact scenario happens in “Attack of the Giant Leaches”, except she’s killed by enormous bloodsuckers.

In the Los Angeles Times obituary of Vickers, she is quoted as saying, “I did want to play other kinds of parts and to go on into bigger pictures . . . but these things just eluded me.”

A neighbor, Susan Savage, also an actress, found Yvette Vickers’ mummified body in her Benedict Canyon home. The space heater was still on and she may have been dead for as long as a year. According to the obituary, Savage noticed that Vickers’ “mailbox [was] filled with old letters.” Savage went on to say, “She kept to herself, had friends and seemed like an independent spirit. To the end, she still got cards and letters from all over the world requesting photos.” Other residents on the street said they had not seen Vickers since last summer.

In an email to the Los Angeles Times, Alan K. Rode, film historian, wrote that Vickers “proved to have the perfect look for a 1950s drive-in films, along with episodic television.”

According to the obit, “Vickers was married at least twice and had no immediate survivors.”

This is one of the best obituaries I have read in a long time. It unintentionally captures the perfect Hollywood story. Yes, this sad, even humiliating plot has been told many times, but it still fascinates me. Little gems abound. Vickers was found in a mummified state. She ended as she began in the horror genre. Her next-door neighbor is also an actress who refers to Vickers, in a very Hollywood way, as a “free spirit.” Meaning she was a lonely old woman and nobody thought enough about the woman to check on her until a year later.

The obituary writer states, “ . . . but for a time she was better know for her 15-year relationship with Jim Hutton and her affair with Cary Grant.” Stardom did not rub off on her. The men she did marry are not named in her obituary probably because they were not famous.

The film historian tromps in and puts Vickers right back where she never wanted to be in the first place: “ . . . she had the perfect look for 1950s drive-in films . . .”

I was teenager when I first saw “Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman.” And I remember giggling with my girlfriends during the movie. But the image of a woman, played by Allison Hayes, who could be so powerful and threatening stayed with me. Yvette Vickers, who played the home wrecker (there were many such roles in the 1950s), didn’t.

Listing what Vickers might think were her failures, this obit is riddled with Hollywood cruelty. Yvette Vickers’ mummified body, warmed by a space heater, is an example of how quickly they forget.

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