Thursday, 16 December 2010
I was going through old Life magazines online, when I came across this article about a 1948 film called Mr Peabody and the Mermaid. The actress who played the mermaid, Ann Blyth, had to have a custom-made mermaid tail created for her, which cost $18,000 (US$163,000 today)!
Blyth was just 20 when this film was shot, but she had already had several roles in musical films, and also played Veda Pierce, the scheming daughter of Joan Crawford in the 1945 film Mildred Pierce, when she was 17. (Click on the article to see it big enough to read).
A plaster cast was taken of Blyth's legs, and the tail took 14 weeks to make. Each scale was hand-sculpted by Bud Westmore, the makeup and special effects man at Universal.
Blythe wore a waterproofed wig that would look good in the underwater scenes.
The plot of the film is similar to the 1984 film Splash, starring Daryl Hannah as a mermaid. Arthur Peabody is going through a mid-life crisis as he approaches his 50th birthday. While out fishing, he reels in a beautiful mermaid, whom he calls Lenore. He takes her home, and hides her in a bubble bath from his wife, who merely thinks Lenore is a big fish, but she suspects him of having an affair with a singer.
I found this great photo of Blyth being poured into her tail on Dr Macro's High Quality Movie Scans, and there are more images from the film there. I love her hair in this photo, it reminds me of Traci Lord's hair in Cry Baby, but with an even more exaggerated round fringe.
And look what I found, Traci Lords posed as a very 80s mermaid! I bet her tail didn't cost $18,000.