Friday, 12 September 2008

The Fabulous Suzy Mandel

Jacqueline Ann Elaine Jefcoate, better known as Suzy Mandel is an ex-actress and model best known for her roles in 1970’s British sex comedies like Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976), Come Play with Me (1977), The Playbirds (1978) and for her appearances on The Benny Hill Show.

Born March 6th 1953 in London, Suzy grew up on the Isle of Sheppey and latter in Epping Essex and then Woodford Essex and Buckhurst Hill Essex. After graduating from The London Modeling Academy in 1968, she began her career as a coat model then worked in modeling lingerie winning such prestigious awards as Miss Teenage London, Miss Benson and Hedges and Miss TV Times (broadcast on UK television on 14/06/1974 and presented by Hughie Green). Her modeling career also included appearances as a Page 3 girl in The Sun, as well as one of the earliest “Mirror Girls” in the Daily Mirror, at a time when The Mirror still carried glamour pictures on Page 3. Her acting career in British sex comedies began in 1976, with her first film Intimate Games, which was seen by Benny Hill who then cast her in his The Benny Hill Show. She appears in multiple roles in two episodes of the 1977 series (broadcast in the UK 26/01/1977 and 23/03/1977).

the many faces of suzy: from the benny hill show

Of Hill and Jackie Wright’s famous ‘head slapping’ routine, Suzy recently told Gram Pontante’s website "Jackie Wright was a chain smoker and he would often hide his cigarette in his mouth or behind his back during scenes. In fact, you could often see a little plume of smoke rising behind him if you looked close enough. Benny would slap his head to fan the smoke away." Aside from the Hill shows, Suzy also featured in numerous television productions of this period, as well as comedy sketches in shows by Dick Emery, Marty Feldman, Eric Idle and Basil Brush.

In films Suzy quickly became a firm favorite of both British sex film directors and audiences alike and was soon receiving equal billing to Mary Millington, the UK’s biggest sex symbol of the 1970s. As well as appearing with Mary Millington in two films, Suzy was also present when the infamous topless picture of Mary was taken at 10 Downing Street. In which Mary while posing for a picture with a policeman outside Number Ten, unzipped her top, exposing her breasts, much to the surprise of Suzy, the photographer George Richardson (who took the picture anyway) and the policeman in question (who tried to confiscate the reel of film). According to Simon Sheridan’s biography of Millington “For this stunt Mary was conditionally discharged and bound over to keep the peace” . Mary and Suzy’s film Come Play With Me still stands as the longest-running film in British movie history, and ran continuously at the Moulin Cinema in London's West End from 1977 to 1981. In a publicity stunt for the second year anniversary of the film’s opening, both Suzy and Mary posed in lingerie on the Moulin cinema’s marquee. Sadly only a few months later Millington committed suicide aged just 33, Suzy remarked to me that Mary’s death was “extraordinarily sad”.

During her career in British sex comedies Suzy also had her own cartoon strip “The Adventures of Suzy Mandel” that appeared in the pages of Whitehouse magazine, modeled for the UK poster of the film Pussy Talk (despite the fact that she doesn’t actually appear in the film itself), and had a racehorse named after her.

In Los Angeles in 1981 she married wealthy British film financer Stanley Margolis, who had ties with Tigon British Film Productions the company that released some of Suzy’s best known films, and would later co-produce the 1993 film True Romance. Suzy had already been living in Los Angeles for some time, in 1979 she attended the world famous Lee Strasberg Institute in LA for one year studying acting and voice, as well as studying with the well known voice and dialect coach Robert Easton. Suzy also continued working appearing in films like The Private Eyes (1981), Mistress of the Apes, as well as a walk-on in TV’s The Love Boat. She also appeared in the hardcore film Blonde Ambition (a.k.a. Can I Come Again) which was shot in NY in 1977, but only released in 1980. Scripted under the title “White Tie and Tails” Blonde Ambition saw Suzy cast as Sugar Cane, who makes up one half of a talent-less British vaudevillian duo who have somehow found their way to performing at a rundown saloon in Coyote Fang, Wyoming. Candy Kane (Dory Devon) has the brain cells, while Sugar Kane has the squeaky voice and one-liners, together they are…. spectacularly bad. Their awful stage act consisting of bumping into each other level choreography, and tuneless wailing of a song that ends with them proclaiming "up yours" to a clap free response. Seeking the big time the Kanes hop foot it to NYC, where among other things they become implicated in the disappearance of a priceless brooch, and embark on a film career culminating in them appearing in a porn remake of Gone With the Wind.

Directed by the eccentric Amero Brothers, the role entailed Suzy to strip while ice-skating, impersonate a drag queen, play the tuba and perform in hardcore scenes- however it should be noted that she used a body double for the latter. While Blonde Ambition took several years to emerge, the film has gone on to be something of a cult classic, Time Out praised Suzy’s performance as a “pyrogenic half-pint”, claiming “Mandel has all the dumb-puckering ingenuousness of early Monroe”. Blonde Ambition was not Suzy’s first encounter with hardcore, previously in 1975 she had made a fleeting non-sex appearance in Health Farm, a hardcore short directed by John Lindsay.

Suzy’s stateside career continued into the 1980s with national TV commercials for Kawasaki, Toyota and Nissan. Suzy performed her own stunts for the Toyota commercial as well as in a commercial for Red Mountain Coffee which was filmed in Sedona, Arizona by a British crew, most of whom had previously worked on the film Chariots of Fire. Suzy also appeared in several American TV pilots, including “All Nonsense Network News” starring Garry Owens, “We're Making It” starring Peter Lawford and Larry Storch and "Sunset Strip" starring The Unknown Comic. However Suzy eventually moved behind the scenes, working on the horror comedy Dead Men Don't Die (1991) starring Elliot Gould and co-producing Love Bites, starring Adam Ant, in 1993. She and Margolis divorced the following year.

In 1996 Suzy revealed in the British Newspaper The People (in an article entitled “Ex-Hill’s Angel Suzy is a real Angel of Mercy”), that she had quit showbiz to work as a Nurse caring for people dying from AIDS after several of her friends had died due to the disease. “The stunning blonde, who often dressed as a saucy nurse, is now wearing a real nurse's uniform to care for dying patients” claimed the article. Suzy was awarded a full scholarship to become a LVN and to study at the world famous Cedars-Sinai Hospital in LA. In 2006 she returned to producing, working with Adult Video director Jennifer James on a series entitled ‘Inside Erotica’ and was subsequently spotted at several adult industry socials. However the pilot was never picked up and the two no longer have any association.

A delightful woman, who is happy to reminisce about her career. Suzy was recently interviewed by the Benny Hill fansite "Benny’s Place" and by writer and film historian Simon Sheridan for the liner notes of the upcoming UK DVD release of Intimate Games (1976) due out on September the 22nd 2008. She currently resides in Arizona, USA.

“Big Hugs”, to the lovely Miss Mandel herself, for her help with this article.

Acting Roles

* The Lotus Eaters (TV show, BBC 1973)
* Miss TV Times (TV show, LWT 1974) ... Herself/Contestant
* Dial M for Murder (TV show, BBC 1974)
* Monty Python (1974) uncredited as German girl in episode “Michael Ellis”
*Churchill’s People (TV show, BBC 1970s)
* The Girls of Slender Means (TV show, BBC 1975)
* Play of the Month: King Lear (TV show, BBC 1975)
* The Fight Against Slavery (TV show, BBC 1975)
* Health Farm (hardcore short 1975) ... 2nd Girl
* Within These Walls (TV show, LWT, extra in three episodes “Getting Out”, “Prison Cat” and “The Good Life”, 1975)
* Rutland Weekend Television (TV show, BBC 1975 episode “Rutland Weekend Whistle Test” in sketch “A Penny for your Warts”)

with Neil Innes and Henry Woolf in Rutland Weeked Television

* The Best of Marty (TV show 1970s)
* The Generation Game (TV show, BBC 1970s)
* The Basil Brush Show (TV show, BBC 1970s)
* Intimate Games (1976) ... Erica
* Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976) ... Mrs Hargreaves

* Rentaghost (TV show, BBC 1970s)
* What’s on Next (TV show, Thames, 1976)
* Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (TV show, BBC 1970s)
* The Benny Hill Show (TV show, Thames 1977) ... Various Roles

* The Dick Emery Show (TV show, BBC 1977) ... Dawn, the biker chick
* Z-Cars (TV show, BBC 1970s)
* Van der Valk (TV show, 1970s)
* Target (TV show, BBC 1970s)
* Jackanory Playhouse (TV show, 1970s)
* George Sands (TV show, 1970s)
* Nice Day Tomorrow (TV show, 1970s)
* The Liver Birds (TV show, BBC 1970s)
* The Sweeney (TV show, Thames 1970s)
* Rock Follies (TV show, Thames 1970s)
* The Barry Humphries Show (TV show, BBC 1977)
* The World of Pam Ayres (TV show, LWT 1977)
* The XYY Man (TV show, Granada 1970s)
* The Other One (TV show, BBC 1970s)
* Play of the Month: The Country Wife (TV show, BBC 1977)
* Mr. Big (TV show, BBC 1977)
* Play of the Month: The Ambassadors (TV show, BBC 1977)
* Get Some In! (TV show, BBC 1977) ... Non-responsive W.A.A.F
* Come Play with Me (1977) ... Rena
* Over Exposed (1977) (unreleased)
* The Playbirds (1978) ... Lena
* Adventures of a Plumber’s Mate (1978) ... First Tennis Girl

 Pennies from Heaven (TV show, BBC, 1978)
* You’re Driving Me Crazy (1979) ... Anthea
* Mistress of the Apes (1979) ... Secretary
* The Love Boat (TV show, ABC 1980) ... Trina
* Blonde Ambition (hardcore 1980, filmed 1977) ... Sugar Cane
* The Private Eyes (1981) ... Hilda
* The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)
* Things Are Tough All Over (1982)
* Kawasaki (TV Commercial, 1980s)
* Toyota (TV Commercial, 1980s)
* Nissan (TV Commercial, 1980s)
* Red Mountain Coffee (TV Commercial, 1980s)
* We're Making It (TV show, series regular, 1980s)
* Sunset Strip (TV show, series regular, 1980s)
* All Nonsense Network News (TV show, series regular/opera reporter, 1980s)
* Love Bites (1993)

1 comment:

Dee said...

I went to school with Jackie and have been trying to get in touch with her for years. If anyone knows how to contact her please ask her to find me on facebook. Dee Richmond (Deirdre). I have family in CA and would love to meet up with her for a long awaited catch up. I live in North Norfolk UK. If anyone can help, please let me know.