Pretty Poison

By 1968, Tuesday Weld was becoming a little tired of playing the eternal nymphet. At age 25, she was still cast as the precocious adolescent, but this time around, with a difference. Under the baby-doll exterior lurked a heart of pure evil.

Tuesday was brilliant in several offbeat movies, such as “Pretty Poison,” the film for which she is best known–but the one she really dislikes. “Don’t talk to me about it,” she has said, “I couldn’t bear Noel Black (the director) even speaking to me. When he said ‘Good morning,’ it destroyed my day.” Tuesday claimed to have learned more from the old Dobie Gillis TV shows than from “Pretty Poison.”

With a script by Lorenzo Semple Jr., based on the novel She Let Him Continue, “Pretty Poison” co-starred Anthony Perkins in his usual Psycho-like psychopathic role. Nonetheless, over the years, the movie has become an underground classic.

The plot has Perkins’ Dennis, a young man just released from prison for arson (and accidentally incinerating his aunt), convincing Tuesday that he’s a CIA agent who needs her help in foiling a Communist plot in her town. But it turns out that Tuesday’s character, Sue Ann Stepanek, is miles ahead of Dennis. In this film, Sue Ann gleefully pumps her own mother full of lead, bumps off someone else, and pins it all on Dennis, who’s strangely still stuck with admiration for her sang-froid audacity.

At its initial release, “Pretty Poison” was not commercially successful. It was not until some critics praised Tuesday’s performance that the film acquired a cult status. Film magazine Sight and Sound observed: “It is Tuesday Weld who dominates the film as surely as she does her weaker partner. Her gradual transformation from the seemingly innocent high-school girl into the cool killer and demanding sex-machine of the later reels is very convincing.”

It’s easy to see from this film why Tuesday was Warren Beatty’s first choice for Bonnie Parker in “Bonnie and Clyde.” Her innocent face masked a limitless capacity for murder and mayhem. Consensus among critics held that Bonnie Parker the role made Faye Dunaway the star, but that Tuesday Weld would have made the role. Is there a greater compliment for an actress

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