Candice Rialson

'Cutie' B-movie actress


Candice Ann Rialson, actress: born Santa Monica, California 18 December 1951; married; died Palmdale, California 31 March 2006.

A flaxen-haired beauty with come-hither blue eyes, the B-movie actress Candice Rialson lit up drive-in movie screens with her appearances in exploitation films such as Pets (titled Submission in the UK), Candy Stripe Nurses, Summer School Teachers and Mama's Dirty Girls (all 1974). She also had a few parts in mainstream movies, most notably as the art student who says "I'll do anything for a good grade" to Dr Jonathan Hemlock, the lecturer and occasional hired assassin played by Clint Eastwood in The Eiger Sanction, the 1975 action thriller he also directed.

The following year, Rialson appeared in the Mel Brooks near-silent slapstick comedy Silent Movie as well as Logan's Run, the sci-fi film directed by Michael Anderson. Her girl-next-door good looks made her a natural for guest roles in TV series such as Shaft (1974, based on the blaxploitation classic), the All In The Family spin-off sitcom Maude (1975), Switch (1975), Fantasy Island (1978) and TV movies like The Girl on the Late, Late Show (1974), where she acted opposite the film noir legend Gloria Grahame (who was cast as an actress who has disappeared from the public eye).

Rialson's career and life seemed to mirror the plot of this TV film, as well as the premise of Hollywood Boulevard (1976), the Tinseltown satire directed by Allan Arkush and Joe Dante and produced by Roger Corman, in which she starred as the starlet Candy Hope. The film marked Arkush and Dante's promotion from the trailer department and was made for a bet on Corman's usual $50,000 budget, which explains why it was set in the world of B-movies and incorporated excerpts from other films produced by Corman, like Big Bad Mama, Death Race 2000 and The Big Doll House.

At the end of the Seventies, Rialson vanished from view after a few more memorable appearances, in Stunts (aka Who Is Killing The Stuntmen?), Moonshine County Express and Chatterbox (all from 1977). In Chatterbox, directed by Tom DeSimone and featuring music by Neil Sedaka, she famously played Penny, a girl with a talking, singing vagina. It is sometimes tagged one of the "world's worst films".

Although never reluctant to take her clothes off, Rialson was always more "cutie" than sleazy, but she became so notorious for her B-movie work that mainstream directors hesitated to hire her, other than to play roles like the "second blonde girl" who whispers "I'm always hot" to John Huston in the conspiracy thriller Winter Kills (1979), her last film outing.

Born in Santa Monica, California in 1951, Rialson won the title of Miss Hermosa Beach aged 18 and made her film début as "Girl In Bikini" in The Gay Deceivers (1969), Bruce Kessler's draft-dodging farce. Five years later, she was back in a bikini in Mama's Dirty Girls, the first of the five films she made in 1974; she played Becky, one of the three murderous daughters of Mama Love - Gloria Grahame again.

Rialson retired from acting in 1980, but left an indelible impression on Seventies teenagers. The B-movie connoisseur turned film-maker Quentin Tarantino claimed that Candice Rialson was the inspiration for Melanie Ralston, the character played by Bridget Fonda in his 1997 film Jackie Brown.

In 1993, the journalist Ari Bass tracked Rialson down and profiled her in Femme Fatales [sic] magazine. He revealed that, far from having become another Hollywood casualty, she was now a wife and mother.

Surprisingly, in this 24-hour media age, none of the fans who had discovered her charms in the mid-Seventies knew of Rialson's death at the end of March, until last weekend, when the internet and blogs suddenly buzzed with news of her demise.

Pierre Perrone

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