Saturday, 30 August 2008
As far as 1975 was concerned sex film actress Heather Deeley was too good to be true, a mixture of cute looks, a good actress and exhibitionist who was openly bisexual and performed in hardcore scenes in most of her films. Heather appeared in five films in that year alone, kitted up in a French maid’s uniform she heated up the screen in the threesome centerpiece to Joe McGrath’s raunchy mini-movie Girls Come First, did sexy bit parts in Secrets of a Superstud and I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight, while her performance as a bi-sexual flirt in Erotic Inferno showed promise as an actress. Capping the year off by graduating to leading lady status with the starring role in Derek Ford’s Sex Express a.k.a. Diversions, Heather proved herself to be the raunchiest of Britain’s Sex Queens by taking on everything that kinky Wife Swappers auteur Derek Ford could throw at her. And she did all this in the space of twelve months.
Heather Deeley was born in 1956 in Suffolk, and educated at Bury St Edmunds Grammar School for Girls and West Suffolk College of Further Education in the early 1970s. A male school friend recalls “She used to sit on my lap in the common room at break times, we laughed a lot together, our relationship never went beyond the occasional kiss though (much to my dismay at the time). My best pal back then was Dave from Haverhill, I introduced her to him and they went out for a while, which upset me of course”. In between her studies Heather regularly attended gigs by the band Status Quo at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge, spending time with the band backstage on several occasions.
Heather was 'discovered' and put into films by the agent and sometimes casting director Alan Selwyn. Curiously right up until his death in 2002 Selwyn maintained that “Heather Deeley” was a stage name, but that she answered to that name in her pre-actress schooldays makes it seem likely that Selwyn was mistaken and that Heather Deeley was indeed her birth name “Heather Deeley was either her real name or she had already changed it at the age of 15 or 16” her school friend remarks “which I very much doubt”. Erotic Inferno would be the first film to really give Heather something to do as an actress, in a sub-plot concerning a pair of lesbian stable girls Heather plays opposite Mary Maxted (shortly before she adopted the name Mary Millington). Deeley’s character is a wild, bi-sexual flirt who catches the lustful eye of most of the film’s male characters, much to the annoyance of her possessive girlfriend (Maxted/Millington) who is being driven up the wall by Deeley’s sexual zig-zagging.
Cornering Deeley in a stable the slimy Martin (played by future Emmerdale actor Chris Chittell) feeds her the immortal chat-up line ‘the smell of horses drives me crazy’ which Heather rebukes with ‘in that case you’re not my type’. After spending the day sleeping around with the men, Deeley runs back to Millington, hops in the shower then emerges proclaiming ‘I want to feel as good as I smell’, which presumably means not smelling of men…or horses. Putting aside the slightly distracting faux pas of both actresses being dubbed, Erotic Inferno offers Heather her biggest exposure at the time while brief appearances from a sour faced Millington shooting dirty looks at her male co-stars are a jarring contrast to her later onscreen persona. For all of Millington’s peeved expressions, scenes of the two women embracing and making love make up virtually all of Erotic Inferno’s genuinely caring and tender moments. A subversive touch for a film that often seems to get as carried away on male dominance kicks as its macho protagonists.
Erotic Inferno also has the dubious honour of being one of the few British sex films to have been viewed by moral reformer Lord Longford, who saw the film and two others to gain “first hand experience” of sex films in order to then morally condemn them. Cinema X magazine praised Deeley’s performance as an "AC/DC minx" in the film as “electric”, sadly Lord Longford’s opinion of her acting is not recorded. Secrets of a Superstud was shot at Twickenham Film Studios, a worker for Kay Labs, which processed the film recalls “up to its theatrical release it was called "Custer's Thirteen." I worked at the lab that processed the release prints -- Kay Labs at Highbury, North London -- at the time, and printed dozens of copies of the film, including the roll of hardcore for the American and (presumably) Scandinavian market. Kay Labs was bought out by MGM sometime in the early 80s -- after I left the company and moved to the United States -- and became Metrocolour. This eventually went out of business."
Diversions/Sex Express gave Heather her most lengthy and notorious role. Heather plays a prisoner traveling by train, accompanied by two guards, a woman (Jacky Rigby) whom she is handcuffed to, and a man (Derek Martin). Bored by staring out of the window at fields and dreary suburbs Heather starts dreaming up a series of wild sexual fantasies, most of which involve her fellow train passengers. In the first one she is being chased around a barn by a poetic longhaired stud, who seems more interested in apples than our heroine. Giving up on Heather’s game of hide and seek he gives a long, utterly ridiculous speech about apples. Before Heather comes out of her hiding place to have sex with him (‘look at me I’m a bloody woman not an apple’), he is even considering making it with a bunch of apples arranged in a female form, what a berk! Afterwards he admits his fruity monologue was just a ruse so she’d fuck him. She responds by throwing a crate of apples over him.
The second fantasy scenario, inspired by one of Heather’s fellow travelers leering at her while reading a ‘Vampirella’ comic is the one that made Diversions infamous. In this Heather plays a wartime nurse is what appears to be Vietnam recreated by a bunch of extras in soldiers uniforms riding down an Essex country lane. Treating an injured patient in the back of a medical truck, Nurse Heather is set upon by a bunch of mean looking soldiers who shoot her patient to death in slow motion then proceed to gang-rape her over a jeep. The experience leaves her totally deranged to the extent that back in London she takes to picking up one night stands and murdering them. Timothy Blackstone (a smirking perennial of 1970’s hardcore loops) and Heather make love on a couch, but the sex only triggers Heather’s memory back to the gang rape. She produces a dagger and stabs Blackstone in the back, Timmy drops to the floor dead. Heather starts masturbating with the murder weapon, then without missing a beat cuts off the now dead Blackstone’s penis and begins licking and sucking it. After having a shower to get rid of all the blood, she buries his body while dressed up in S&M leather gear.
When we next see Deeley she’s driving around London looking for another no good man to put six feet under. (This sequence also allowed Ford the chance to shoot some great night time footage of Piccadilly Circus in its 1970’s heyday). Heather spots a man walking the streets who is dressed like a magician and beckons him into the car. Back at her place Heather repeats her sex/snuff act but this time the dagger just bounces out of the man on top. Heather looks up to discover she’s having sex with a fang toothed vampire who proceeds to bite her on the neck. Proving that you really do meet all sorts in Piccadilly Circus after dark.
The third fantasy scene is a more typical Commuter Husbands era Ford sex farce. Heather’s phone number has been mistakenly printed on a prostitute’s card- a familiar sight to users of London phone-boxes. As a result she keeps getting obscene phone calls from pervs looking for ‘Miss Whiplash’ and ‘Large Chest for Sale’. A man starts knocking on her door and shouting that he’s here about ‘the advert’. Heather’s ready to give him a piece of her mind, but on opening the door the man turns out to be such a good looker she decides to play out the role of a prostitute for the afternoon. Only later laying in bed next to her trick does it dawn on Heather that the advert he was talking about was a flat-for-rent one not a girl-for-rent one. Humiliated she sobs, but the man turns out to be a decent guy after all and suggests the two of them could share the flat together as lovers.
Back onboard the ‘Sex Express’, Heather scans the miserable faces of her fellow passengers in the hope one of them will inspire another fantasy. A ticket collector opening the door of her carriage proves the touch of inspiration she needed and suddenly she is daydreaming he is a Nazi pointing a gun at her head. The sequence then dissolves into a fantasy scene that finds Heather at the mercy of two male Nazis and their female superior during WW2. The Nazis verbally and physically terrorize Heather forcing her to perform oral sex on a rifle then to cap off this degenerate display urinate in her face (a faked scene, that was cut from the American prints, but made it into the German video release). Next Heather is being put into bondage in what looks like a stable. The male Nazis strip her while the silent female superior (who in the ‘real world’ is the woman Heather is handcuffed to on the train) runs a knife over Heather’s body to both victim and victimizer’s evident satisfaction. The two women then make love, while the men just hover around in the background- reduced to voyeurs peeking in. Given the nasty, torture vibe that runs through this sequence, its almost a relief to find it terminates with a consensual bi-sexual threesome.
The next and final fantasy borrows its set up from 1973’s horror opus From Beyond the Grave. Heather buys a vintage camera from a sinister brick-a-brack shop, takes it home, then for a laugh does some nude poses in front of the antique. Later she is awaked by voices then faints when she discovers the ghost of a randy Victorian photographer (Tony Kenyon) developing nude pictures of her in the bathroom. When she regains consciousness Heather finds herself on a couch kitted up in Victorian clothes and Kenyon-complete with that crazy giant moustache he wore in Erotic Inferno-is merrily snapping away with the camera. Deeley and Kenyon get it on, and a ghost parlourmaid joins in the fun tickling Kenyon’s bum with a feather duster. Kenyon in his funniest sex film performance goofs around wriggling his moustache and pulling silent movie like exaggerated faces of pleasure. Throughout the threesome Tone wears an ear to ear grin as may be expected from a man who has found a legitimate way of being the focus of sexual attention from two actresses half his age.
The sound of handcuffs being undone wakes Heather up from her daydreams, the train journey has come to an end. In the film’s big twist Heather is revealed to be a prison guard handcuffed to a prisoner rather than the other way round. While her captive is taken away Heather homes in on a male passenger who she hopes will inspire many more fantasies.
Diversions, or rather “Sex Express” received a minor release in the UK, it was panned by The Monthly Film Bulletin who considered it ‘awesomely silly’ (though in fairness the MFB panned most British sex films), even the generally more sympathetic Cinema Blue were disappointed by what they considered more “mild than wild” filmmaking. If such opinions give the impression Britain’s critics were watching a very different film to the one described above- that is because to a degree they were. Ford made two versions of the film- Diversions the seen overseas only 87 minute version and Sex Express a truncated 50 minute British release version- which omits the Nazi sequence and tones down the vampire segment’s violence. The significant difference between the two variants is that at 50 minutes Sex Express was a softcore film, while Diversions expands the film into hardcore and has Deeley, Blackstone, Kenyon et al acting out all the sex scenes for real. It seems that whereas late 60s Ford films like Groupie Girl had harder material inserted by foreign distributors, by the early seventies Ford had quietly cut out the middle man and began shooting the hardcore himself. It goes without saying that the longer, complete version of the film with all its kinks on show made more of an impact overseas than the watered down domestic version. Smuggled out the country the hardcore version of this and The Sexplorer sold like ‘hot cakes’ at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival, and Diversions ended up being nominated for ‘Best Foreign Film’ by the Adult Film Association of America. A year later the film had its American premiere at what had been one of New York’s first adult film houses. The cinema in the East Side/Kip’s Bay area was located-bizarrely as it may sound- in the middle of mini-mall type complex. That is where Bill Landis, the writer of the legendary exploitation film zine Sleazoid Express, saw the film and many years later could still recall the audiences’ stunned reaction. Hats off to Derek Ford, it was no easy task to shock an audience in the decadent world of mid-seventies NYC.
At the time Diversions was made it was as if Ford had become one of the publicly respectable but privately thrill-seeking characters from his own film ‘The Wife Swappers’. On the surface Ford was a middle-aged, socially quiet man with a wife, children and a brother who held the position of a London magistrate. Offering sound-bites to magazines like Cinema X, Ford claimed ‘as for the old wrestle between the sheets, the two bare backs writhing in the sheets bit, they’re boring scenes to shoot and I find them extremely boring to watch on the screen’. Ford’s filmmaking exploits weren’t exactly unknown in Maldon Essex where he lived at the time. Locals would occasionally end up as extras in harmless spectacles like Felicity Devonshire playing a woman who gets married in cement for Whats Up Nurse. Any scenes that hinted at the true pornographic nature of Ford’s films were however shot in hush, hush conditions at Ford’s home or at a house he rented in nearby Beeleigh (incidentally Diversions is a ‘Blackwater Film Production’, Blackwater being a river that runs through Beeleigh). The u/c version of Diversions tells you just what was going on behind those closed doors and its contents paint a rather different picture of Ford, with hardcore scenes imaginatively and erotically shot as apposed to the work of someone who finds pornography ‘boring’. Whereas Ford was safe in the knowledge that these hardcore scenes would never be seen in the UK-thus allowing him to maintain his ‘reluctant pornographer’ façade-, the filming and processing of this footage was still a legal question mark as far as the law was concerned. Despite full knowledge of the scandal that could have erupted had he been found out, this didn’t stop Ford from pursuing all manner of taboo avenues with Diversions. It’s as if Ford didn’t know when to stop, finding in Heather Deeley a willing bi-sexual porno extremist ready to play out all the things he had to suppress in his other films. Diversions is actually one of the few mid-seventies Ford films not to touch on Ford’s obsessions with swinging, dare parties and people living double lives, though it could be argued the film itself is the byproduct of all of these.
By the year’s end Heather was being dubbed Britain’s next big sex symbol, on account of her more than competent acting and lack of inhibitions. Heather was also pictured in Page 3 of The Sun, her school friend recalls “Before I left England I remember seeing her on Page 3 of the Sun diving topless into a swimming pool during some heat wave in in England (Headline something like Gorgeous Heather Deeley knows how to cool off"), I can also remember telling my sister, "I used to go out with her" at the time which was somewhat exaggerated”.
“Honesty, I can only be derogatory about the films I’ve made, Sex Express is the one I dislike the most” Heather told Cinema X in November 1975 “now that I’ve gained confidence -due to Derek Ford and Sex Express- I want to find out if I’m capable of advancement as an actress, maybe small TV roles, straight films”, unfortunately Sex Express would prove to be less the end of the beginning of Heather‘s career, and more the beginning of the end. Blame for Heather’s decline would appear to rest heavily on the shoulders of her boyfriend at the time, likely to have been a drug dealer, if not a gangster, Heather’s boyfriend certainly seems to have been fond of using claims to be “connected” to London’s gangland scene as a threatening device. Through him she developed an addiction to cocaine and began to gain a reputation for being unreliable. Next up was a role in Tudor Gates’ 1976 sex comedy Intimate Games, a film with the novelty of casting several big name sex film actresses “together for the first time”. Its telling of Heather’s growing popularity that she receives equal billing to the likes of Suzy Mandel, Anna Bergman and Felicity Devonshire on the films poster, but also maybe evidence of her unreliable reputation that while Suzy, Anna and Felicity get there own story arcs during the film, Heather disappears from the film early on, only later reappearing for the memorable final where the sight of her bosom drives George “Wexford” Baker mad and he has to be carried off foaming at the mouth. In Heather’s final film 1977’s Fiona Richmond vehicle Hardcore she is relegated to a bit part, soon after Heather was penciled in to play Suzy Mandel’s sister, in the US hardcore film Blonde Ambition (filmed in 1977, released 1980), directed by John and Lem Amero. Suzy recalled Heather being cast in the film, but when Suzy arrived on set (after a short vacation in Florida), found the role was being recast. Heather’s role ‘Candy Kane’ would eventually be played by an American actress billed under the name Dory Devon, who boasted a impeccable British accent. It seems that everything had been going smoothly - with Heather successfully auditioning for the role in London and set to fly out to NYC- when John Amero received an abusive phone call from Heather’s boyfriend angrily proclaiming that he wouldn’t allow Heather to do the film and was preventing her from leaving. Amero then spoke to Heather herself, who was clearly upset and at a loss over what to do, claiming her boyfriend had criminal connections. Amero decided it would be best to let her go and recast the role, rather than have Heather cross this man, exit Heather, enter Dory Devon. Amero is of the opinion that Heather’s boyfriend was “a real gangster, underworld character”. While Blonde Ambition was a troubled production, and as a result sat on the shelf for a number of years, the film that emerged is now regarded as a cult classic from the porno chic era and provided Suzy with one of her best, and funniest, film roles. For Heather it was undoubtedly a missed opportunity. According to David McGillivray’s book Doing Rude Things, after her 1977 disappearance from the film world Heather was briefly sighted working in a Soho peep show. (McGillivray elaborated on this recently “somebody who worked with her told me Heather Deeley was in a peep show… and on Charlie”). Apart from that no-one has heard from her in over thirty years and the question, “Whatever happened to Heather Deeley?” remains unanswered to this day. In his book McGillivray dubs her one of the casualties of British sex films: “Heather Deeley had a meteoric career lasting two years, was washed up at the age of 21, and is now completely forgotten.”
Its tempting to leave things on such a dramatic note, but the internet throws up, if not an answer to the “Whatever Happened to” question, an intriguing footnote. A ‘Heather Deeley’ registered an account with a well known website in 2003. Background information given on this site, checks out and suggests this to be “the” Heather Deeley, and is evidence that she is alive and well. Tellingly however, her details on this site contains no references to her career as an actress or her saucy past, perhaps Heather prefers it that way. Like the heroine of Cool It Carol maybe she had a revelatory moment and realized the lifestyle she was leading was not for her and went back home to a life of obscurity, never looking back. Heather Deeley’s story remains something of a jigsaw puzzle, one with many of the pieces still missing, and a dark, disturbing picture emerging from what can be pieced together, we can only endorse her school friends thought “I really hope she managed to sort her life out”.
Unreleased/ Uncompleted Films (or a missing session and Heather’s uncompleted orgasm”)
During her exhaustive workload of 1975, Heather also appeared in a film called Pink Orgasm, which was never completed. In it Heather was cast to play several roles including the wife of a character played by Victor Spinetti and Eve (as in Adam and Eve). The film also starred Julia Bond, Steve Amber and US porn actor Harry Reems. With the exception of Spinetti most of the cast were seasoned hardcore performers, indicating that the film would have been also filmed in a harder version for export. Bob Godfrey was to have provided X-rated cartoon inserts for the film and the film would have also used music by the band Aphrodite’s Child. Ultimately director David Grant lost interest in completing the film, although several minutes of material was shown to the press in 1975 and the film was written up in Cinema X magazine (vol8, no5), which also published several stills from the film.
Recently it has been discovered that two sequences shot for Pink Orgasm were included in a compilation video called 'Who Bears Sins' that Grant put together in 1987.
Synopsis from the 'British Girls Adult Film Database'
“Heather Deeley plays two roles -
* Eve, who tries to persuade Adam to take a bite of an apple. He steadfastly resists until she finally says 'Well, how about a fuck then?' to which he replies 'Now you're talking'.
* The wife of Victor Spinetti, who gets off by him going out to a phone box to make heavy breathing phone calls to her, but on this particular evening they've forgotten they've made an appointment with a life insurance salesman who arrives just after Spinetti has left, but before he has managed to ring up. She invites him in and he sits next to her on the couch. The phone rings and the dirty phone call (actually just a jumble of indistinguishable words in a rough accent) begins. She undoes her top and begins to get turned on. The salesman notices, asks if he can help, she lets him and they end up having sex (simulated here, but they could easily have shot another scene with another bloke without Spinetti knowing). She dresses hurriedly when she hears the sound of hubby returning."
In addition the British Film Institute credits Deeley with appearing in a film called The Session (1974). “The adventures of a harassed photographer, his girlfriend and his two models on a boat trip” the film which also stars Ava Cadell and Andee Cromarty, was previewed in Cinema X magazine (vol 7, no 6) and a photo of Deeley from the film used on the magazine's cover.
Chronologically The Session would appear to have been Heather’s first film and was the brainchild of two photographers Mike Bergman and Tony King, the latter also playing the films male lead. According to Cinema X “both guys are looking to films as an added outlet for their creativity….their futures hang on their movie”. Unfortunately for the duo The Session never saw the light of day. A later issue of Cinema X would claim the film had been banned by the censor “for, apparently, having no story”, the BBFC’s database however shows no listing for The Session, indicting that this mysterious film was neither submitted or banned by them.
Heather Deeley: magazine appearances
* Continental Film Review July. 1975 Vol 22. No 9. "Girls Come First"
* Continental Film Review August 1975 Vol 22. No 10. "Sex Express"
* Cinema X Magazine 1975 Vol 7. No 6. "The Session"
* Cinema X Magazine Sept 1975 Vol 7. No 7. “Lord Longford’s Selection: Erotic Inferno”
* Cinema X Magazine 1975 Vol 7. No 9. "Sex Express/Girls Come First/Birth of a British Sex Star"
* Continental Film Review 1976 Vol 23. No 10. "Intimate Games"
* Cinema X Magazine Dec. 1976 Vol 8. No 4. "Deeley: Britain's top X-girl's Intimate Games"
* The Sun 1976? "“Gorgeous Heather Deeley knows how to cool off"
* Cinema X Magazine Jan 1977 Vol.8 No.5 “Pink Orgasm”
* Mayfair Magazine 1977? Vol.? No.? "Heather Deeley" (photos taken from Hardcore (1977))
Special thanks to Suzy Mandel, David McGillivray and the late Bill Landis for their help with this article, and to Benson Hurst for providing me with John Amero’s insights into Heather and Blonde Ambition.
Friday, 29 August 2008
George Harrison Marks (6 August 1926 - 27 June 1997) was a British glamour photo
grapher at the height of his productivity from the mid 1950s to the mid 1970s.
A heavy drinker with a vivid imagination, Marks was not always the most reliable of source for information, especially about his own life, later admitting that his 1967 biography “The Naked Truth About Harrison Marks” was a hodge-podge of fact and fiction.
“George Harrison Marks collects women like other men collect porcelain, paintings, cigarette coupons or trading stamps” claimed the book’s blurb.
Marks came into this world at 4:30pm on Friday the 6th of August 1926, in Tottenham North London, his father Moss Marks, nicknamed “Mossy”, had seen action in WW1 suffering a horrific mustard gas attack, after the war Mossy tried to get into show business, eventually finding work as an actor’s agent. Marks’ family were a tight knit Jewish community under the control of a domineering Aunt, a woman dubbed within the family circle “Sergeant Major”. Marks’ most happy childhood memories were the Sunday trips to the local variety club that his father was a member of, and where the young Marks could sit at the feet of passing music hall acts, memorizing their routines religiously in order to later re-enact them for family members. Marks liked to emphasize (and more than likely exaggerate) the fact that his family had a show business background, even claiming in later years to be distantly related to blackface comedian G.H. Elliott, who Marks had seen as a kid and much to his mother’s horror, later tried to emulate by daubing himself in indelible ink.
Tragedy would strike the family in 1930, when Mossy died prematurely as a result of the mustard gas inhalation (Marks rewrites his father’s death in “Naked Truth” claiming he died from pneumonia). Marks was left devastated by his father’s death. School was a chore to be endured, but mostly just avoided, it was during his schooldays however that Marks would form a lifelong friendship with Stuart Samuels, who over the years would play a variety of roles in Mark’s life from music hall co-star, to general manager of Marks’ studio, to helping cover up Marks’ marital infidelities. Marks and Stuart also hung out with other local boys, including future double act Mike and Bernie Winters, although Bernie “became something of a hindrance, and we would contrive numerous ways to lose him if he tagged along with us”.
The teenage Marks and Stuart decided to go into business together, embarking on many farcical get rich quick schemes, the first and surely most unglamorous being stealing shit left behind by horses, and attempting to sell it to the locals as manure. When this failed Marks decided to use the cart that he and Stuart had used for shit shifting, to sell rides to their school friends, an idea that predictably resulted in a queue of angry parents knocking on the Marks family’s door to complain.
Marks childhood wasn’t all comedy capers though “I was brought up at a time of the most frightening anti-Semitism, Black Shirts everywhere and that fucking man Mosley holding meetings outside Hackney Town Hall of a Saturday night. We used to go to the Hackney Empire and my mother had to walk three-quarters of a mile round to avoid that fucking mob and she wasn’t even Jewish. ” Comedy was their only defense “you made them laugh and they’d leave you alone. We made them laugh, but me, I’d rather have put a bomb under them.”
When WW2 came, a 13 year old Marks sought escape from the worry of German invasion, and school attendance officers, by working as a projectionist’s assistant at the Regal Cinema, Wembley. From there Marks went on to work as a tea boy at a local film studio, eventually graduating to even more menial jobs like a clapper boy. Marks claimed to have received tuition in filmmaking from George “Percy” Mumford, a near blind cameraman “really, I shouldn’t have been doing half the things I did, but the war was on and staff was short.”
At 17 Marks discovered the opposite sex, and much to his family’s surprise married Diana Bugsgang, a woman several years his senior. It was around this time that Stuart Samuels came back into Marks life, Marks version of how he and Stuart Samuels became a double act has it that the pair were enjoying a night out in their local pub, where their joke telling, banjo playing and lively banter was overheard by an agent who suggested a career on the stage and gave them his card. On a whim, they took him up on the offer and soon made their stage debut at the bottom end of a variety bill at the Granville Theatre in Walham Green. Their hastily put together routine, which aside from a pinch of original material, was mostly stolen from other performers, was something they learned to perfect in the trial by fire experience of appearing in front of a demanding music hall audience “the difference between entertaining a gang of friends at a party and keeping a fee paying audience happy for eighty minutes is the difference between two worlds, and bridging the gap between the two can only be done with a lot of experience and heartache.”
In his biography Marks describes the music hall life in vivid, but unsentimental terms, as a life of crummy digs, constant traveling, and where younger acts like himself and Norman Wisdom attempted to establish themselves in the business, while sozzled old timers like Frank Randall and Tod Slaughter appeared drunk on stage nightly, and those sober enough to realize it could see that TV and nudie revues were about to bring the curtain down on this ancient form of entertainment. Marks and Stuart finally called it a day in Hull in 1951, afterwards Marks went solo attempting to gain work as a theatrical photographer, but was soon skint again.
Marks finally got a job taking portrait shots of Norman Wisdom while Wisdom was appearing at the Prince of Wales theatre in Bernard Delfont’s “Paris to Piccadilly”, a British version of Folies Bergere, and a sort of predecessor to Paul Raymond’s saucy stage farces. At the time Wisdom was perfecting his so-called “Gump” persona, ultimately Paris to Piccadilly would lead him on the road to success after many years on the road as a struggling comedian, for Marks too the production would have life changing effects, when taking pin-up type shots of the Prince of Wales’ showgirls Marks met, and fell deeply in love with a showgirl girl named Pamela Green. (Green later recalled that “quite allot of nudity” was featured in the show, “so one day I simply walked in and asked if they required any nude showgirls”.) At the time Green was in the process of separating from her violent, drunken first husband Guy Hillier, and although Marks could offer her little financially, she soon moved in with him, sharing his bed, at least until Marks fell behind with the payments and the bed shop repossessed it. Marks himself was a free agent, having drifted apart from Diana Bugsgang, and he and Green soon developed a deep bond, Marks described the pair of them as being almost “telepathic”.
Bernard Delfont was impressed by Marks work, and soon more commissions came Marks way, allowing him to photograph some of the biggest names in show business including Jack Benny, Nat King Cole and Laurel and Hardy. There were a few oddballs as well like the crazy drag act who made Marks wait two hours while he got into costume, then emerged wearing gloves, a suspender belt, stockings and little else “he had the sagging breasts of a middle aged woman and below the genitals of a very well developed man”. While Danny Kaye sniped at Marks “you sure must be a stinking lousy photographer” during a second sitting, after Kaye’s cranky demeanor had caused Marks to botch the first. Marks most proudest achievement as a theatrical photographer was taking pictures of Bela Lugosi during the actor’s British tour as Dracula in 1951. Marks admired Lugosi greatly, and sat through matinee and evening performances of Dracula in order to soak up the atmosphere he would later try and capture in photographs “it was an astonishing performance, when he made his entrance through the French windows upstage it was fantastic and dramatic… he really looked as if he had just flown down from his castle”. The Hungarian actor wasn’t without his eccentricities though, which included going into a trance like state before performances, while on another occasion Marks had been speaking to the star for around half an hour when Lugosi suddenly blurted out “vat is dis man sayinck? I don’t oonderstant von word of it”. Marks’ celebrity portraits were often done in conduction with interviews -conducted by Pam- with his film star subjects. Pam’s friend, the film critic Peter Noble would help them out by getting Marks’ pictures and Green’s writing printed in the variety of publications that Noble wrote for.
By this time Marks and Green had moved into a studio located on Gerrard Street. It was a move that would put Marks and Green right at the heart of 1950s Soho, a pre-Wolfenden Act era where prostitutes walked the streets, and where some of the most vicious gangland fighting London had ever seen would be played out. It was not uncommon for Marks to spot a bloody corpse lying in the gutter on his way to the studio, corpses that would mysterious disappear by the time a policeman came along.
Adding to the carnage was the fact that Marks’ studio was located above a drinking haunt that had been taken over by the mob, and where bottle and fist fights were the order of the day, wisely Marks invested in a steel reinforced door and a sword for his protection.
One of Marks’ most dangerous and out of control acquaintances was a former bouncer Marks refers to in his biography as “My Slasher Friend”. Understandably, Marks kept My Slasher Friend’s real name out of the book, though a likely suspect is Billy Hill, the self-proclaimed “Boss of Britain’s Underworld”, who ran protection rackets in the West End and whose trademark was carving the letter ‘V’ into the faces of rival gangsters. An MO that matches Marks’ recollections of My Slasher Friend’s handywork ,“I’ve seen some of the people he had cut up, he really mutilated them in a matter of seconds”. Whatever his real identity might have been My Slasher Friend was undoubtedly fond of Marks, and would regularly question whether anyone had annoyed or crossed Marks that week, quickly followed by matter of fact offers to mutilate or murder them. The majority of their conversations would end in goodbyes followed by My Slasher Friend asking “sure there’s no one you need fixing, Mr. George?”. Once Marks and Stuart Samuels were enjoying a drink in a pub when My Slasher Friend turned up with his usual routine, Marks joked that Stuart was starting to annoy him, at which point My Slasher Friend lunged at Stuart without realizing Marks was having a joke, Stuart probably didn’t find it too funny either.
It was in this seedy, violent environment that Marks and Green would effectively birth the glamour industry in Britain. As well as her stint as a showgirl, Green had been modeling nude, for both life classes and photographers, since she was sixteen (at the time needing her fathers written permission for such work), and suggested Marks try his hand at shooting some tasteful nude shots of her. “Up until that time there were two or three very well known photographers who specialized in nude work" recalled GHM "One was a bloke called Roy, then there was John Everard and Walter Bird. All their stuff was like love-locked-out through a mist. I photographed these girls as I saw them, with flesh and goose pimples- the lot.” The earliest documentation of Marks’ glamour photography his estate can find is “Pamela”, a 1955 hardback photo book of a brunette Pam, published by Luxor Press, further examples of his earlier glamour work turn up in the August and Autumn 1956 editions of “Carnival”, and the October 1956 edition of "Fiesta" (no relation to the later top-shelf magazine of that name).
Both Carnival and Fiesta were the work of Gennet Press, a Birkenhead based publisher that welcomed submissions by profession photographers- like Marks and Russell Gay- and amateurs alike. Fiesta even ran a monthly competition between the two sets of photographers, that saw readers asked to pick their favourite picture from that month’s issue of the magazine with a fifty pound prize for the winning photographer. On the quiet it would seem the magazine secretly favoured the pros, given that the magazine’s articles on photography (written by Russell Gay) and further photographic advice dished out in the letters page come across as a subtle way of asking the amateur photographers to try and up their game. Elsewhere articles on female lingerie and exercise techniques aimed at women, hint that as well as the amateur photographers, the magazine didn’t think their models were (quite literally) up to shape either. “After all, no amount of skilful make-up can give impact to a photographer if the model lacks health and vitality” bitched the editorial.
No such complaints were forthcoming over Marks or Russell Gay’s photographs, nor their choice of models, with both photographers’ work given pride of place in the magazine’s scant colour pages. As with the 1955 Luxor book, Marks’ Fiesta photographs showcase a short haired, brunette Pamela Green who is barely recognizable from her later beach blonde appearances. Marks was also selling photographs overseas, and first became aware he was making a name for himself when a German publisher -who had bought some photographs from him for a book- offered him a 100 pound bonus in return for using Marks’ name on the book’s cover “I thought that if he was willing to pay for my name, it must be worth more than that.”
While still freelancing for magazines, Marks had already started to go it alone, and towards the end of 1956 was advertising pin-up and figure stills for sale from his studio, as well as what appears to be his first attempt at self-publishing with a booklet illustrated by over 100 of his glamour photographs, the initial building blocks of the Harrison Marks empire.
Eschewing banks, and thus making their earnings invisible to “The Tax Bastards” as GHM liked to refer to them, Marks and Green kept all their profits during this period in a drawer, and tried their best to not dip into this private account. Sometime in 1957 Green decided to finally have a count-up which revealed the pair had around 1,000 pounds stuffed in the drawer, enough to start up their own magazine, the result was the now legendary “Kamera”, a modest pocket sized magazine of nudes, that would change both their lives forever.
Going to the press in April 1957, and hitting the country’s newsstands around June, Kamera was an overnight sensation selling its print run of 15,000 copies in a matter of days, followed by reprint after reprint “until the arms all but fell off the printing press”. Compared to magazines like Fiesta, which even at its most risqué never showed more than the odd bare behind and a see thru top, Kamera really delivered the goods, with female nudity on display pretty much cover to cover, the Marks and Green team’s quality photography, along with their creative use of sets, props and costumes, set a new, high standard in nude photography, giving them an immediate edge over the no-frills approach of the competition. Marks applied the same methodology to his glamour work as he had done as a theatrical photographer, coaxing the personality out of his subjects and trying to capture it all on camera. While a step up from the Cheesecake mags in terms of explicitness, the stranglehold of 1950’s repression and censorship didn’t entirely escape Kamera. The portrayal of Marks himself within the pages of the early Kamera issues now seems rather self-consciously serious and respectable, with Marks coming across like a scholarly, professor type who refers to his pictures as “nude studies”, and in his editorials is prone to such goatee stroking poetic statements as “purely by interpretation of the artist, a model can be made to appear as a Venus, capturing every point in classical beauty of the human form”, all a far cry from the sweary, former music hall act he really was, or the sort of saucy humour he would later wed nudity to in his work. Most famously the majority of the Kamera models were asked to shave their pubic hair, with Pam allocated the tedious task of airbrushing out any still visible pubes, or god forbid genitalia, from the published versions of the photos. Its possible that an entire generation of men, experiencing the female body for the first time through Kamera, were bamboozled by Pam’s handywork into thinking that women actually had nothing of interest between their legs, and boy were they in for a shock when they encountered the real thing !!! “For some reason pubic hair on women was considered de trop” GHM bemoaned in later years “we had those dreadful, touched up black and white shots of girls looking quite unearthy at the tops of their thighs, as if every girl was covered over with a kind of sexual mist”. Those in know could however obtain original, un-airbrushed, 10x8 stills of Marks’ photos which were sold through the magazine, but only if they knew the magic word and specially requested “unretouched” versions of the photos in their order, without that phrase the customer would merely receive the standard magazine versions of the photos. Overseas, the unretouched versions of his pictures were more freely circulated, and would regularly turn up in Danish magazines like 'Studio' and 'Play-Girl'.
Airbrushed fannies or not, such was Kamera’s continued success that by the early 60s the magazine boasted a loyal staff of around seventeen “around me, I have grouped a staff, not so much working on an employer/employee basis, but as good friends working together for the good of the magazine”, wrote Marks in Kamera no.21 “as such, each have become perfectionists in their jobs. The feminine side of my staff are in key positions and when an issue is ready for printing, the ‘mock up’ is passed around and comments are appreciated.” Its no wonder Marks’ female staff wanted a say in the magazine since- if we’re to believe Marks’ editorials- most of them were moonlighting as models for the magazine as well. The contents of Kamera no.22 feature the Kamera staff as nature intended with office girls Wynn, Jill and Jean plus dispatch girl Carol, the subjects of that issues nudes. The men who worked for Marks were never asked to go nude of course, but occasionally turn up in the magazine as comic relief often sporting false noses, paintbrush sized mustaches and funny hats. A picture of this wacky bunch, immortalized in The Naked Truth about Harrison Marks, more resembles the Bonzo Dog Band than any photographic studio staff, and is captioned by Marks “you don’t have to be mad to work for me, but it helps.” Rounding off the Kamera ensemble was one Henry James Guy, described by Amateur Cine World as “a suitably benevolent grey-haired father figure”, who began as Marks’ sales manager before moving up in the ranks to general manager. For all of the motley ensemble that GHM had built up around him, Kamera’s most important figure, and indeed its figurehead, remained Pamela Green herself, who managed to increase her popularity by adopting a variety of disguises and alter-egos within the magazine, these included sultry gypsy Princess Sonmar Harriks, a blacked up ‘south sea siren’ and most famous of all the saucy French redhead Rita Landre. Taking a method acting approach to the work Pam completely immersed herself in her characters, creating elaborate back stories for them (Rita had formerly worked as a trapeze artist “so you could never get hold of her”) and referring to them as third persons. The end results were often startling, especially the contrast between Pam’s normal blonde, sun loving, bombshell persona and the fiery looking, lingerie clad, red haired Rita who inevitably would be photographed against a backdrop of a mock Parisian back alley. “I’m more erotic in my fantasies when I’m posing as someone other than myself” Green later told Men Only magazine “I think of things as Rita that would never enter Pamela’s mind”. Its hard to believe Rita and Pam were one in the same person, yet this piece of trickery was all achieved with merely a wig, a change of costume and some imaginative set direction. “Very, very few of our thousands of customers ever saw through Pam’s disguises” remarked GHM in 1960 “they just wrote saying how much they appreciated my latest model, and what a flair I had for picking different girls who somehow looked so delightfully the same.”
Though history gives much of the credit for Kamera to Marks, a peek into the workings of the magazine suggests Green was its driving force, lending her face and body to the magazine, as well as designing the sets and costumes, retouching the photos, and selecting the other models, some of whom had been sent by Paul Raymond. “Pam set me up, she started it all, in many ways I owe much to her” acknowledged Marks in his biography, in which he also refers to her as his “anchor rock”.
Having previously led a bohemian lifestyle, it was around this time that Marks’ playboy persona started to emerge, he spent the money that was rolling in from Kamera like crazy buying clothes, fast cars and yachts, while lavishing Pam with expensive jewelry and furs. At the height of his wealth, Marks also owned not one, but three Rolls-Royces
“I must have been a cunt of the first order. What did I want with three?” Pam was soon on her way to being recognized as Britain’s most famous nude model, and naturally the sight of the glamorous blonde being driven around in a Cadillac by a goateed, cigar chomping Svengali looking type who took pictures of nude women for a living, turned heads and generated tabloid interest.
As Marks and Green’s fame grew, and their names became synonymous with glamour photography, they began to gain exposure outside of their own magazines, Practical Photography Magazine was on hand to document a Marks photo session in the early 1960s, when they accompanied Marks, Green, another model and their studio manager to a shoot at Littlehampton Sands, in West Sussex. Such a location shoot required meticulous planning, with Marks making sure the beach area was sufficiently isolated to keep the general public from getting an eyeful, and checking the long range weather forecasts on a daily basis, before giving Practical Photography the ok phone call “we shoot on Thursday”, and loading up his trusted, metal backed wooden case with the tools of his trade, namely a Hasselblad Camera, several Rolleiflexes and an assortment of Ilford film rolls, plate holders, filters and lens hoods.
Once Marks got down to business, Practical Photography found him to be one of the fastest photographers they had ever encountered, forever changing his positions and angles, taking photographs from above his head right down to sand level, “often his shooting poses are as interesting as the models” they noted, going on to claim Marks in action resembled a human tripod. Marks oversaw an atmosphere of ‘unhurried efficacy’ during the shoot, alternating Pam with the other model, taking care not to tire either, checking that the weather wasn’t giving them an attack of the goosebumps and offering them direct, but polite posing instructions, ending with the image maker’s trademark instruction “hold it now”. Marks was even gentlemanly enough to roll up his trousers to test the water, before allowing Pam to pose along the edge of the surf.
“He knew what he wanted, he knew how to get it, and he was never at a loss for a pose, a suggestion, or an encouraging remark” wrote Practical Photography, whose article encouraged budding photographers to follow Marks’ techniques, and no doubt resulted in a few of them dragging their missus off to the coast the following weekend in the hope she might turn out to be the next Pamela Green.
Outdoor photo sessions didn’t always go so smoothly though, as Pamela Green recalled in 1960 “once, sunning ourselves on Brighton beach when not many folk were about, he said ‘quick, get your clothes off and into the sea’. I did so, and he had no sooner set up his camera when a stranger strolled up, George rushed into the sea, gripped me by the shoulders and pushed me under. A curious reaction when you consider he has sent thousands of nude shots of me all over the place”. Green had to endure four dunkings before the coast was clear: “sometimes it can be a dog’s life”.
Kamera soon developed into a cottage industry of further magazines, postcards and calendars (which alone shifted 50,000 copies in 1960), as well as exhibitions of his work held at the 4 Gerrard Street studio (admission price 5 shillings). “Its quite fantastic, I’ve never known it so good” Marks excitedly told the press, who in turn dubbed Marks and his competitors success a “peek-a-boom”. Marks also set up a subsidiary company, Gaffinia LTD, to distribute French glamour magazines, as well as acting as the British distributor of the coffee table books of French publisher Jean Jacques Pauvert, including several volumes of ‘L’Erotisme Au Cinema’, and the original French version of Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon. A lover of animals, in particular felines, in the early stages of his career Marks also had a sideline photographing cats, and provided the photographs for the book Cats’s Company (1960). “He was an excellent photographer of nudes,” Tony Tenser remarked to John Hamilton in a 1998 interview, “but he also excelled in photographs of cats, that were much more beautiful than some of his nudes”. Another of Marks’ sidelines was providing record labels like Gala with cheesecake shots to go on their record covers, with a semi-nude Marks girl pictured on the cover no doubt helping sell many a record by no-body artists.
Despite Green at one stage changing her name to Pamela Harrison Marks by deed poll, the couple were never married, but throughout their relationship pretended otherwise, presenting themselves as just an average, cozy suburban husband and wife away from their less than ordinary line of work. “Pin-Ups have paid off, George has his pipe and slippers in our lovely place in Hampstead” Green told the Empire News and Sunday Chronicle Newspaper in January 1960 “sometimes at home he says dreamily ‘Darling, you are my favourite model’- but heaven help me if he doesn’t get his favourite dinner- steak and kidney pud”. Whatever the reason for the illusion that they were husband and wife, Marks and Green’s “marriage” quickly became a talking point for the press. After all what wife allows her husband to photograph hundreds of nude women? -a question that was posed by many magazine articles of the day- the revelation that it was Green who had the idea for Kamera in the first place, as well as being the one who often procured the models for the magazine, further fuelled public interest in the pair. Besides Pamela Green, Marks most popular models from this period were probably June Palmer, Paula Page and Margaret Nolan, who had originally began modeling for him under her real name then reverted to a glamour name ‘Vicky Kennedy’, then returned to being Margaret Nolan again for more mainstream Carry on and James Bond films as well as theatre and TV work, notably in ''Steptoe and Son''. Margaret Nolan may have had a longer career in mainstream films and Tv than many of her contemporaries, but enough Kamera models went on to do film bit parts to at least justify the claim in Kamera no.24 that “many prominent film agents and producers are readers of Kamera, and we are proud of the facts that in some cases this magazine has been the instigator on the first steps of discovery.” Rosa Domaille appeared in several B movies and Carry on Up the Khyber under the name Eve Eden, while Hammer films, always on the lookout to cast buxom tavern wenches in their period horror films, hired more than there fare share of Kamera models including Caron Gardner (Evil of Frankenstein), and Marie Deveraux, real name Pat Sutcliffe, who had bit parts in The Pirates of Blood River, The Brides of Dracula, and a larger role as a femme fatale presiding over tortures in their infamously sadistic 1959 film The Stranglers of Bombay. As Hammer director Terence Fisher was fond of saying "No man ever looks at Marie once". Once these Kamera birds had flown the nest in search of film stardom, not all were happy to remain associated with Kamera, as Marks later recalled to Cinema X magazine “one blonde model of mine phoned me up one night to ask me to stop using her nude shots in the magazine now that she was a film star. She had made about three films at the time. Been seen on the screen for a total of no more than seven or eight minutes, and even been nude for five of them.”
Surrounded by so many beautiful women it was perhaps inevitabe that Marks’ private life continued to be the source of much press and public speculation. Despite Marks claims to be married to Pamela Green, amusingly off the mark rumours began circulating that he was in fact a “pansie and a raving queer”, something that forced Marks into admitting to having had affairs with several of his models, though he was quick to equally downplay a seedy casting couch image, claiming that these were “deep emotional affairs” and that “I work with them so closely, its only natural. The conditions we work under are probably ripe for an affair”. In later years Marks was more candid about his personal life during this period “I used to fuck anything that moved”.
In 1958, as an offshoot of his magazines, Marks began making short films for the 8mm market of his models undressing and posing topless, popularly known as “glamour home movies”. A recent episode of BBC’s Balderdash and Piffle programme even attributed the earliest use of the word “glamour” as a euphemism for nude modeling/photography to Marks’ 1958 publicity materials. “Somebody suggested it to me, and I thought it was a good idea, which of course it was. The market was vast because all photographic shops stocked these things- Dixons were my main customer. We started off making 50 foot shorts, then I decided to do 70s, 100s, and 200s, which were 20 minutes long. Originally they were black and white, then we went big and went into colour. It was a big thing in those days.” The 8mm films sold like hot cakes, Henry James Guy, then acting as Marks’ sales manager was duly dispatched to the midlands where he sold over 800 copies of the films to distributors in just five days, driving from there to the East Coast he managed to shift an equal amount the following week before -suitably exhausted - returning to the Kamera offices in London only to discover four hundred pounds worth of extra orders had come in from the Midlands. One of Marks’ most popular 8mm glamour films was The Window Dresser (1961), starring Pamela Green as a cat burglar who hides from the law by posing as a lingerie shop dummy. Marks does a character turn as the shop’s exaggeratedly gay owner, but the short’s obvious raison d’etre remained Pam’s show stopping shop window striptease. Clips from the Window Dresser were used in a 1964 piece on the glamour film scene in the Rediffusion programme “This Week” . These clips showed Pamela Green fully naked, footage possibly broadcast in error, and the ensuing controversy resulted in Green having to defend the 8mm film on Radio’s Woman’s Hour. After a judge threw out an obscenity charge against The Window Dresser (according to legend remarking “I’ll buy a copy for my son, case dismissed”), Marks continued to make more 8mm glamour films throughout the 1960s. GHM had the advantage of already being a big film fan, boasting a bookshelf that heaved from the weight of tomes on the early talkies, Charlie Chaplin and horror films, influences he’d draw on and pay homage to in his glamour films, while also offering a tip of the cap to his own music hall background in the “little stories” he would devise for his 8mm films, as well as the occasional bit parts he would write for himself and Stuart Samuels. A forgotten hero in Marks’ early glamour films is Tony Roberts, a talented set designer who stopped by Marks studio one day to fix some sash cords, and ended up staying to design Egyptian Pyramids, Gypsy Camps, Chinese Gardens and Haunted Houses for nude models to cavort around. Along with Marks’ music hall influences, Tony's amazing sets gave Marks product some originality in the fairly limited format of the early glamour film. Tony became Marks’ right hand man and one of the few people Marks completely trusted.
Of the more notable 8mm glamour films, “Witches Brew” (1960) features Pamela Green as a Witch casting spells and a brief appearance by Marks as her hunchback assistant. “Model Entry” (1965) sees a cat burglar breaking into Marks’ studio, then stripping and leaving him her address. “Danger Girl” stars June Palmer as a stripping secret agent who is put into bondage by a Russian Spy, only for her to break free and throw him onto a circular saw in the grisly finale. A few of Marks glamour films had horror themes as well, The Four Poster (1964) sees Marks play a hunchback trying to kill Margaret Nolan during her stay in a spooky hotel, while two decades before A Nightmare on Elm Street, Marks shot “Flesh and Fantasie” (1961) in which June Palmer is menaced in her dreams by bogeyman Stuart Samuels, sporting a nifty Dracula style cape. Flesh and Fantasie was filmed at an actual manor house called ‘Ewhurst’ in North London, which was a popular location for glamour photographers throughout the 60s and used several more times by Marks before it was finally bulldozed in 1970. Marks even managed to persuade Doris Clifford, the elderly wife of the manor house’s owner, to play a non-nude bit part in Flesh and Fantasie’s “it was all a dream, or was it?” climax.
An even more ancient star, one who was wrapped in bandages, was dusted off for "The Mummy" (1966) in which a randy mummy rises from his tomb to play peeping tom, or should that be peeping mummy to several topless lovelies. The nude star of the film, 60s glamour girl Teri Martine, recalls “I met George via the June Palmer Model Agency, about 1966. We dated for a while. I went on location with him several times to Cornwall and Devon along with many other famous models. The Mummy was a fun and scary movie, I was a slave girl and I get caught by the Mummy and laid on a slab. I recall being very scared as the Guy playing the mummy role was so realistic. Tina McGowan was also in that same scene with me, also playing the role of a slave girl. The Mummy gets knifed by one of the pharaohs who saves me!”. In an even more macabre vein is “Perchance to Scream” (1967) in which Marks model Jane Paul is transported to a medieval torture chamber where Stuart Samuels plays an evil inquisitor who sentences topless women to be whipped and beheaded by a masked executioner.
Marks by no means had the 8mm glamour film market to himself with other filmmakers like Arthur Howell, Stanley Long and Pete Walker as well as anonymous companies with names like Herald and Windmill films also producing a large amount of glamour films during this period . In retrospect its tempting to view Long and Walker’s 8mm glamour films as a “stopgap” to the mainstream feature films that figured later on in their careers, with the early glamour films hardly being representative of their later work, particularly Walkers. With Marks on the other hand, the glamour films often feel like his own little fantasy world and lay the groundwork for the “girls and gags” nature of his work. Like that other great saucy clown Benny Hill, Marks would rarely stray from the same formula, even it if got more explicit as the years went on.
In the wake of the success of the glamour films Marks also produced a series of slapstick comedies also sold via the photographic shops and magazines that were the outlet for his adult work. As well as directing these films he also appeared as one of the main actors. Titles like ''Uncle's Tea Party'', ''Defective Detectives'', ''High Diddle Fiddle'', "Badlands Bigheads", ''Dizzy Decorators'' and ''Musical Maniacs'' were founded in the music hall and classic silent comedy traditions but were less successful than his girlie films and suffered from the competition from the real thing i.e. the Chaplin Keaton Lloyd classics that he paid homage to and which provided most of the package film releases of the day. “The films sold quite well initially but repeat orders failed to come in” noted the magazine Amateur Cine World in their November 1965 issue “and the experiment is said to have cost him something in the region of £3000”. Further embarrassment awaited when Marks was invited as a guest on the BBC’s Tonight programme, and after running a clip from one of the comedy films, the less than impressed host Kenneth Alsop turned round to Marks and asked “what was funny about that?”.
Marks feature films as a director were Naked as Nature Intended (1961), The Chimney Sweeps (his only non-sex film, 1963), The Naked World of Harrison Marks (1965), Pattern of Evil (1967), The Nine Ages of Nakedness (1969) and Come Play With Me (1977).
Naked as Nature Intended was the brainchild of Tony Tenser and Michael Klinger a pair of canny Jewish businessmen from the East End. A master of publicity Tenser had honed his showmanship skills working as head of publicity for Miracle films, a popular distributor, before hooking up with Klinger, a former strip club manager with an ambition on becoming a movie mogul. Between them they had discovered a loophole in the law that allowed them to show uncensored European and American sex films under club conditions, and thus had opened up the Compton Cinema Club, one of the first membership only cinema clubs in Britain.
Tenser and Klinger were keen to get into film production, and the exploitation savvy Tenser had his eye on the burgeoning nudist film genre, which had already spawned Traveling Light, directed by authentic nudist Michael Keating, and other less credible productions like Charles Saunders’ Nudist Paradise and Michael Winner’s Some Like It Cool. Klinger had first met Marks several years earlier when Marks had been hired to photograph several of Klinger’s strippers, and Tenser and Klinger correctly thought that having London’s most notorious photographer and his pin-up girlfriend as director and star would give their production the edge in a crowded nudist market. Marks was initially unsure about directing a feature film until Tenser and Klinger took him to their cinema club and showed him a typical example of the sort of tacky sex film they were playing, after which Marks vowed “if I couldn’t make better (films) than those then I would give the whole racket up”.
For Marks’ core audience Naked as Nature Intended’s big appeal lay in seeing their favourite A5 sized fantasy figures projected as giant sized living, breathing nudes on the silver screen, a famous shot on a beach opens the film with Pamela Green taking a slow walk towards the camera with a towel to protect her modesty. Pam looks every bit the blonde goddess who has just emerged from the sea, an effect undiminished by the obviously breezy British weather. Equally memorable is Marks’ directing credit, which plays over a shot of the debuting feature film director puffing away on a cigarette on the same windy beach. Shot under the title “Cornish Holiday”, the bulk of the film offers up just that, with Pam cast as a Windmill girl, who along with Marks models Petrina Forsyth and Jackie Salt, travel around Cornwall in Petrina’s American Buick. The film gives the impression the crew just filmed whatever attractions they came across as the girls venture around the Minack Open Air Theatre in Porthcurno, Stonehenge, and various seaside towns, with narration that sounds suspiciously like its been quickly transcribed from tourist brochures with a few corny lines from Marks’ music hall days thrown in for good measure “that reminds me of that definition, even a girl who can’t add up can certainly distract”.
To liven things up Stuart Samuels appears in a variety of wigs and funny mustache guises throughout the film playing a series of bumbling authority figures the girls encounter. After around 40 minutes of travelogue and Stuart Samuels falling over, the audience’s patience is finally rewarded when the girls innocently trespass onto a nudist beach and are converted to the cause, soon deciding that “there is nothing shocking about enjoying the feeling of complete physical freedom that nudity brings”, a philosophy they put to the test by sunbathing, gardening and playing table tennis in the nude. To give the film some censor appeasing credibility Marks shot this section of the film in a genuine nudist camp, Spielplatz Sun Club owned by a bearded old codger named Charles Macaskie. Macaskie and his wife even have bit parts in the film, welcoming Pam and the girls into the nudist camp fold. Macaskie and his wife were elderly and out of shape, but then the difference between those who are the genuine nudists in the film, and those who are especially brought in nude models sticks out as obvious as a hard-on in Spielplatz.
Naked as Nature Intended was as badly reviewed as any other nudist film, but was still a massive hit when it opened in November 1961 at the Cameo Moulin cinema in Windmill Street “there were queues along both pavements, one stretching down to Shaftsbury Avenue”. In a curiously mainstream nod the Cameo Moulin’s marquee for the film can be spotted in the opening credits of The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963), a reference explained by the fact that that film’s star Anthony Newley was a friend of Marks, while its director Kenneth Hughes had been photographed by Marks, back when Marks was making his living as a theatrical photographer, and Hughes was a budding actor.
True to his reputation Tenser devised a fantastic campaign for Naked as Nature Intended billing it as “the greatest nudist film ever”, while capitalizing on the fame of its director and star by billing Green as the “Queen of the Pin-Ups and Marks the “King of the Camera”. The publicity seems to have gone to Marks’ head a bit “they came because my name is so well established in this field- and for no other reason.” he claimed. Unfortunately Naked as Nature Intended would seem to have been the source of some bitterness for its main participants, Pamela Green later spoke disdainfully of Tony Tenser, Jackie Salt’s boyfriend complained she had been underpaid in comparison to the other girls and Marks himself claimed to have been “screwed for about 113, 600”, a curious statement given the film was such a huge success.
By the time of Naked as Nature Intended’s release Green and Marks’ romance had come to an end. In his biography Marks sites a plethora of reasons for the break up, was it Pam’s jealously of the other models?, was it the money that came between them? was it that Pam didn’t want children?, or was it his difficulties with having the same woman in both his private and professional life?, Marks doesn’t seem so sure himself. Other sources suggests she left because of his drinking, either way their telepathic link had been broken, although as a business partner in Kamera, Green continued to model and supervise the magazine as well as appearing in Marks films, and Marks resisted My Slasher Friend’s offers to have her killed.
1963’s The Chimney Sweeps which Marks produced and starred in, was devised as a comedy vehicle for himself and Stuart Samuels as well as a chance to put their old routine on screen. Several other characters from Marks’ musical hall past were also cast in the film, which sees two chimney sweeps (Marks and Samuels under heavy theatrical make-up) foil the plans of two comic gangsters, even Pamela Green did a cameo in the film, which required her to be buried under around eight sacks of soot, and blown up along with a piano. The lack of any nudity however, meant The Chimney Sweeps was hardly going to equal the success of Naked as Nature Intended, and it remains one of the least seen of Marks films, though recently unearthed evidence suggests the film played as far a field as Sweden where it popped up as the bottom half of a double bill with an old Laurel and Hardy film, a pairing Marks would no doubt have approved of. One rumour has it that the film was specially shot as a second feature in order to con money out of the Eady tax fund of the time, which gave a percentage of the box office takings back to the filmmakers if one half of a cinema programme was British.
Free of Green’s influence, Marks drank, womanized and partied hard during this period. A private joke between himself and Stuart Samuels was that the more Marks partied the older Stuart, who in contrast led a sober existence, appeared to get. Stuart suggested that like the picture in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, he was aging on Marks behalf, indeed captured on film during this period Samuels looks more like a reanimated cadaver than a one-time music hall comic.
The second Mrs. Harrison Marks blew into his life sometime in 1964, Vivienne Warren remains perhaps the most complex, fascinating character in Marks’ story, even if she only puts in the briefest of appearances. Vivienne had previously made her presence felt on the glamour modeling circuit by appearing on the cover of Spick magazine, a shoot for Parade and a few 8mm glamour films including Russell Gay’s “Form in Abstract”. She’d been recommended to Marks by a model agent friend, and insisted on being paid to come to his studio, whether he wanted to use her or not. Things got off to a shaky start when she arrived on one of Marks’ so-called “Hangover Days”, when he’d arrive in his office still recovering from the night before and ask his secretary not to forward on any visitors or phone calls. Still Vivienne demanded to be seen, intrigued by her attitude, Marks finally stumbled bleary eyed out of his office and was immediately taken by her beauty. Sobering up on the spot, soon he’d be snapping nude shots of her in his office, completely enraptured by her. Vivienne was soon gracing the pages of Kamera and Solo, and was even persuaded to play a nude Martian in the sci-fi themed 8mm glamour film “Visit from Venus” (1964) and headline her own self-titled 8mm film “Vivienne Warren” (1963). A simple nude posing affair, the eponymous Vivienne Warren 8mm film sees Vivienne undressing, sprawling nude on a bed and idly flicking through the pages of “Vera”, a 1962 book about the actress Vera Day that Marks had photographed and published.
Possessing little of a pizzazz of many of Marks’ models, Vivienne looks bored throughout. Tellingly Vivienne had little interest in the business, or pursuing a modeling career after meeting Marks. “Vivienne was not a very good model” Marks noted in his biography “she simply had no time for it, she didn’t like it at all and that was it”.
Vivienne was cool, analytical, and had an other worldly quality about her, to the degree that one of Marks’ friends compared her to a Midwich Cuckoo, a reference to John Wyndham’s novel about “children of a village who were created by beings from outer space”, later adapted for the screen as Village of the Damned. They married in November of that year, in an age twist on Marks’ first marriage to an older woman, she was 17 at the time and he 35. Despite her tender age Vivienne did her best to play the domestic housewife, insisting on Marks investing in a virtual library of cook books. For all her best efforts, Vivienne, who had been raised in an orphanage, remained a fiercely independent spirit, an attitude that clashed with Marks who’d grown use to getting his own way. Theirs was, as he described it, “a devastating, traumatic and searing love”, only a few months into the marriage both parties were heading for a nervous breakdown. After a brief reconciliation Vivienne could take no more and coolly and calmly walked away from the marriage. Later Marks admitted his dictatorial streak had been a major problem in the marriage, a lesion he’d learn from, but too late to save that relationship.
After his split with Vivienne, Marks drowned his sorrows drinking heavily while holidaying on the continent before returning to London and devoting all his energy into making his next film.
Purporting to lift the lid on Marks life and business, 1965's The Naked World of Harrison Marks opens with Marks starting the day in a typical fashion, waking up and immediately getting on the blower to various big breasted models to arrange photo shoots. Probably at the height of his success here, Marks isn’t afraid to be flash, picking up June Palmer in his Rolls Royce in the opening credits, while at the same modeling a bespectacled, bohemian appearance. “It would be wrong to think of Harrison Marks as a man who spends his days focusing on beautiful women” argues Valentine Dyall’s narrator, somewhat unconvincingly given amount of time the film dedicates to Marks snapping away at nudes either in his studio or on location (until rain stops play). Just to show there is more to the man than boobs however we get to see Marks judging a beauty contest and making an 8mm children’s film, with himself and Stuart Samuels as pirates. There are also “fantasy” scenes in which members of the public imagine what Marks’ life must be like, which also provides a good excuse for Marks to dress up as a playboy, a gangster, Toulouse-Lautrec and a camp film director, whatever the situation though, naked women rarely seem to be far away. “I indulged my own ego a bit” he later remarked “it was a fucked up version of Harrison Marks as people thought they wanted to see him”. Some of Marks’ best remembered models from the era, Pamela Green, Cleo Simmons and the aforementioned June Palmer all contribute cameos. Also putting in a brief appearance in the film was a young actress/model called Toni Burnett, who caught Marks’ eye, by the end of the film Toni and Marks were very much in love “she puts up with my lunatic ways and my day dreams” he wrote “she makes me happy, and I make her happy. Really for the first time in my life I am as happy as an ordinary, average person”.
As well as The Naked World of Harrison Marks, Toni also fleetingly appears in the 1960s version of Casino Royale, and if Marks is to be believed was also a prolific stuntwoman. “She used to crash cars into brick walls at 70 mph until I stopped her” he later remarked “I thought to myself, I‘ve either got to marry her or she‘ll kill herself”. GHM and Toni would go onto have a child, a daughter, Josephine Deborah Harrison Marks born the 15th of November 1967 and Toni would belatedly become the third Mrs. Harrison Marks in September 1973.
Naked World ends on a surprisingly sinister note with Marks having a nightmare, where he meets a hooded ghoul in a graveyard, sees himself (quite literally) digging his own grave and finds himself in a dungeon surrounded by chained-up nude women, their crime? modeling for Harrison Marks. Marks is then put on trial for leading a “worthless life” before being dragged away by the nude women to be drowned.
Teri Martine: “I remember George taking me to see the preview of The Naked World of Harrison Marks we were no sooner in our seats and George fell asleep and was snoring so loud I had to wake him up!!! fond memories of the one and only George.”
The Naked World of Harrison Marks disposed of the need to justify nudity by pretending to be nudist propaganda, and as a result the film was initially banned by the censor but swiftly passed by numerous local councils (the BBFC eventually passed the film with cuts in 1968).
After making The Naked World of Harrison Marks, Marks hooked up with Robert Hartford-Davis, the director of exploitation wonders like Corruption and The Yellow Teddybears. Between them they came up with a plan to move to Hollywood where Hartford-Davis would direct films and Marks would star in and produce them. Their first Hollywood film was going to be a Mondo Cane variant entitled “A Climate of Lunacy”, but while Hartford-Davis would finally end up directing films in Hollywood in the early Seventies, A Climate of Lunacy never materialized and Marks imagined future as the toast of Hollywood couldn’t have been more wrong.
1967's Pattern of Evil a.k.a. Fornicon aka Blue Perfume, a heavy S&M film written by the American novelist Lawrence Sanders, which features scenes of murder and Monique Devereaux whipping Marks regular Howard 'Vanderhorn' Nelson in a torture chamber was shot for american backers and never shown in the UK. Marks implied in several interviews over the years that the film was financed by the criminal element. “Halfway through the filming, in walked a guy in a loud blue checked suit. He looked to me like a music hall comic. I asked my agent ‘Is he in showbiz?, he looks like a comic’ He said ‘Yea, he’s a really funny guy he’s got a gun in his pocket and he’s with the mob’.”
Marks other work for the American market at this time involved him selling photo shoots to Swank magazine. Which were set up in those pre-email days by a complex number of cables forwarded to and between Marks, his American agent, and Swank’s New York based publishers and contact sheets being sent to Swank for their approval to commence with an entire shoot. One of the shoots this resulted from such transactions was a 1967 one featuring a bewigged Italian model called Franca Martelli (later re-christened ‘Sissi Mississippi’) posing in Pattern of Evil’s dungeon set.
Marks was selling so much material -new and old- to Swank that a whole issue of Swank’s sister publication ‘Glamor Photography’ was dedicated to Marks and his work, complete with articles on his life, photographic tips and advice on how to make money from glamour photography- which belied Marks’ shaky financial position at the time. “Now in his early 40s, handsome, talented, mustachioed… he is in danger of becoming a legend of his own lifetime” claimed one of glamor photography’s somewhat sycophantic articles “his private life titillates the movie-art-theatrical crowd on two continents” continued the article which must have done wonders for Marks’ ego…assuming of course that he didn’t just write it himself.
By this time Marks had relocated his operation from his Gerrard Street studio, to a former territorial army hall turned glamour studio in Saffron Hill; “a grim and grotty mews that lies behind Farringdon Road, near King’s Cross Station” according to Titbits magazine, although they conceded that GHM’s new studio formed “an oasis of glamour in a desert of warehouses and factories with dismal, sooty windows”.
Marks’ life story, at least his version of it, seemed tailor made for Titbits magazine’s sensationalist sensibilities, and their 1968 series of articles on him, predictably entitled “Harrison Marks: The Bare Truth”, portrayed his story equally as an everyman fantasy of being surrounded by, and photographing, the world’s most beautiful women (“he lives in a world thousands of red-blooded men would give anything to invade”) and a rags to riches tale of a former “film studio tea boy” who now lives a jet-set lifestyle of Mediterranean yachting holidays and multiple Rolls-Royces.
Marks of course did little to discourage such mythologizing of himself, feeding Titbits’ Vernon Gibbs all manner of outrageous tales of being invited to life off a titled lady, kinky fan mail and turning down a photo session with 50’s pin-up Sabrina, due to her alleged bad timekeeping. “Sabrina isn’t big enough to keep me waiting” claimed Marks in a quote Titbits plastered over a cleavage spilling photo of the actress/model. Marks also repeats a claim from his 1967 biography of being offered, and refusing, a fortune to make blue movies for the owner of a West End chain of bookshops.
After more than a decade of such publicity, the public’s mental image of Marks as a man who photographed bare breasts for a living had firmly set. “I suppose I regretted being typecast a bit, I had a screenplay I wrote, a heavily dramatic feature, but no one would take Harrison Marks seriously with a dramatic feature. They’d say ‘go and do one like the last one with lots of girls and laughs’. I thought fuck it that’s what they want, that’s what they get.” With big screen outings taking up much of his time and creativity, Marks' publishing arm had greatly diminished by this point, with both flagship Marks magazines ‘Kamera’ and ‘Solo’ having ceased publication in 1968, replaced by sporadically published one shot magazines. Such was Marks apathy towards the publishing game that he was even selling his work to rival publishers like Russell Gay whose 1967 publication ‘Feline’, and ‘The Fabulous Monique Deveraux’, a one shot magazine from 1969, featured nude photos predominantly taken by Marks. “George suddenly seemed to lose all interest in the business and the efficiency declined” remembered Pamela Green “we got terribly behind with orders, publication dates of our magazines became hopelessly erratic, and I realized I was fighting a losing battle.” Marks spent 15 months making The Nine Ages of Nakedness, which like The Naked World of Harrison Marks was GHM indulging his ego a bit, playing himself and several of his fictional ancestors. Unfortunately putting all his eggs into this one basket would prove disastrous, when he was ripped off over VAT on the film by a trusted business partner. This begat, a particularly turbulent time in the early seventies when he was made bankrupt (in September 1970), was the subject of an obscenity trial at the Old Bailey (in 1971) and his drinking began to become more heavy.
Ironically a segment of The Nine Ages of Nakedness had ended with Marks’ alter-ego ‘The Great Marko’ being brought up before a crooked Judge (Cardew Robinson) on obscenity charges. Marks’ knight in shining armor during this period was Jerry Lorden, a songwriter for The Shadows by trade and a partner of one of Marks’ models. It was Jerry who tracked Marks down to a flat in Saint John’s Wood where Marks had been living, and effectively drinking himself to death after Toni kicked him out of the house. Somehow Jerry managed to put his friend’s private life and business back together again. With no offers to make further features films forthcoming, Marks made ends meet during this period by continuing to shoot short films for the 8mm market and releasing them via his Maximus Films company.
Based out of Marks’ Farringdon studio, Maximus was run on a ‘film club’ basis, meaning that punters would have to sign up for membership before purchasing the films, mirroring the way membership only sex cinemas were run at the time. While his earlier 8mm films largely consisted of nothing more explicit than the models posing topless, late sixties titles like Apartment 69, Elle, Bob and Elizabeth, Worker’s Playtime, Touch Tongue, The Girl Upstairs, The Wrong Habit and The Amorous Masseur were generally soft core sex affairs. Getting in on the action himself, Marks played the male lead in his own soft core short “Amour” made in November 1966. Supposedly influenced by the Nuevelle Vague style of filmmaking, Amour is said to depict a couples emotions during lovemaking. Marks’ female co-star in the film was latter day Kamera model Caroline Coon, who modeled for Marks to pay her way through art school and is now better known for her associations with the underground and later punk scene, “the Jackie Onassis of the underground” Marks’ dubbed her a few years after making the film. The Nuevelle Vague influences, upfront sexual theme, and Marks’ casting of himself in a sexual role suggest Amour was a far from usual Marks’ production, making it all the more frustrating that the film is so difficult to see these days and ranks as one of the more elusive of his 8mm films.
Marks had been eager to shoot soft porn material ever since the Window Dresser case, much to the distain of Pamela Green, who dissolved their business partnership in 1967. “He was fond of good living and a drink or two, and he wanted to go onto soft porn” Green recalled in 1995 “there was this one film where he was dressed as a dirty old man and he’s creeping round Piccadilly Circus, then you see him in bed with this girl”. Marks found the casts for many of these films through Ann Walker, a former model of his, who had progressed from being a Kamera cover girl to working as a casting agent. Elle, Bob and Elizabeth merely shows three hippies fucking, and ends with a close-up of a newspaper headline concerning Lord Longford attending a performance of Hair; “Lord Porn sees nude musical Hair”, which presumably amused Marks, who wasn’t a fan of Longford or his female equivalent Mary Whitehouse. “What a terrible duo” Marks told Fiesta magazine “in my opinion Longford’s a menace… hes collected a group of people who seem to be biased to start with. I feel like getting a committee together for the other side, for the permissive society”. In a way this is exactly what Marks was going with the Maximus films, which depicted and mirrored the more liberated attitude to sex of the early seventies, and the films themselves were being militantly billed in advertisements at the time as tools of “the 8mm sexual revolution”. As well as the hippie sex scene of Elle, Bob and Elizabeth the Maximus films also depicted the world of swinging suburbia. Marks’ Worker’s Playtime- which comes across as a sort of Ray Cooney farce with explicit sex- centres around a husband cheating on his wife with their au pair, and lots of running around naked trying to hide the au pair when his wife returns home unexpectedly. In the male wish fulfillment ending the husband gets caught out but finds that wifey is happy to join the au pair and her husband in a threesome, and the film signs off with him giving a blokish wink to the camera. A longhaired, cravat sporting Marks also shows up for a Hitchcock like cameo in Workers Playtime, appearing briefly as a passerby trying to help the wife find her house keys. Not unlike the crumpet chaser hero of Worker’s Playtime, Marks himself was juggling home life as a married man and father, with the promiscuous lifestyle on offer to a pornographer. Personally Marks admitted to still being “a raver, but I’ve quietened down allot now”, and claimed Toni was good enough to turn a blind eye to his habit of fucking his models, thus allowing GHM to have his cake and eat it, quiet literally. He mentioned to Fiesta magazine about having recently gone down on an actress during the making of a Maximus short, in order to capture her reaction on film “I dug doing it, and later that day I went back to her flat and screwed her again”. Such admissions would have been considered scandalous a few years previously, but the permissive attitude of the early 70s allowed Marks to be more candid about his womanizing. At the same time Marks acknowledged that all this new found sexual freedom, tended to be a one-sided affair “I’ve still got the old double standard” he told Fiesta magazine “if I ever found out that my wife had gone out and got stuffed by someone, the whole world would come down”.
Marks might have romantically sung Toni’s praises in interviews and his 1967 biography, others however saw their union as another example of his unfortunate characteristic for hooking up with- and marrying- women who treated him badly. Toni liked her drink and was known for being incredibly bitchy and unpleasant towards other women, glamour models especially, often making cheap remarks about their looks and figures while they were in earshot.
Even so Toni wasn’t above making money off up and coming models, offering to put them in contact with important industry figures- such as Knave and Mayfair shutterbug Ed Alexander- in return for a 10% commission fee on any future gigs the model got with Alexander. Toni was one tough cookie. “George had a genius for becomingly seriously involved with women who were unsuitable for him” recalled one former acquaintance “(he and Toni) must have made a very strange couple and often I wondered how well Josie would cope with eccentric parents.”
Marks admitted that many people must buy the Maximus films “for a giggle”, but at the same time seems to have genuinely believed these films could do some good by providing enlightenment to the sexually repressed. One Maximus short 'The Ecstasy of Oral Love', even adopts a pseudo-sex education front, showing a couple frantically licking each other, ending with some relatively graphic oral sex scenes which are inter-cut with supposedly socially redeeming title cards issuing advice to ‘young married couples’.
The Maximus films were advertised in Continental Film Review magazine, from October 1969, and throughout 1970. An early title “The Casting Couch” sees Marks’ skinny, anorectic looking male lead from The Ecstasy of Oral Love playing a randy photographer who when not using his studio as a love nest is whisking his models away for more of the same at “Ye Olde Halfway Inn”. In the twist ending the photographer is shocked to spot one of his earlier conquests checking into the Halfway Inn for a dirty weekend of her own, with an old codger for company (played in an exaggerated fashion by a young actor wearing a beard and using a cane.) The early Maximus productions are also unique among Marks’ film for having settings and characters reappear from film to film, with Ye Olde Halfway Inn used for more malarkey in Maximus films, and the fake old codger and his dolly bird companion making, bare-assed return appearances in “Cue for Two”.
With full disclosure from the female cast, simulated sex and blowjobs, The Casting Couch illustrates how far Marks was pushing the boundaries, compared to the simple striptease films he was making a few years earlier, and sees GHM actively playing up the sort of casting couch scenarios, he had tried to distance himself from in the mid-sixties. “There are going to be a lot of court cases and allot of people are going to get knocked” Marks noted of the 8mm sex film industry, ironically just before his own obscenity trial at the Old Bailey “there are going to be lots of heads rolling, probably mine amongst them”.
For all the troubles they caused The Maximus films did also provide some notable discoveries as well. Sue Bond, later in sitcoms and The Benny Hill Show, began her career in Marks soft core sex shorts of this period. These films included the bizarre "Hot Teddy" in which Sue has sex with a large cuddly teddy bear; "First You See It" (released on 8mm in Germany, under the title “Hot Sex-Spook”), features Sue as a naked fantasy woman who appears and disappears in the hero's bathroom, bedroom, dining room etc, while "Coitus - An Experience in Motion and Emotion", a sort of sequel to The Ecstasy of Oral Love adopts a Pseudo sex education approach in order to show Sue and a male partner indulging in a variety of sexual positions.
Today Mrs. Bond, who suffers from selective amnesia when it comes to the more saucier aspects of her career, claims never to have met Marks and refuses to acknowledge the existence of these films. Marks’ short 'The Naked Face' (late 60’s/early 70s) gave some early exposure to Nicola Austine, a ubiquitous nude model/actress in the 1970s thanks to regular appearances in films, Titbits magazine and Top of the Pops record covers. While the Collinson Twins (Mary Collinson and Madeleine Collinson- “a couple of very beautiful birds, lovely girls” according to Marks) had appeared as saucy maids in the period dress Maximus short 'Halfway Inn', prior to starring in Hammer’s Twins of Evil.
Someone who also encountered Marks around this time was actor/musician Emmett Hennessy, who played the lead in two of Marks’ 8mm films, the first one being Aphrodisia (a.k.a. Man of Many Parts) which “was actually filmed in his house , probably early 70's, but could be late 60's. It had a crime theme, I was the hero, a sort of James Bond character, it must have had dialogue because I remember my adversaries character was named Baron Von Vanderhorn. He ( Harrison) lived in a plush home in a very posh part of London, maybe Swiss Cottage or St Johns Wood. I remember he had a coloured maid who wore a white maids outfit, quite unusual for England in that era. He was obviously quite well off. I believe there was a wife and maybe kids in the home. He smoked the mandatory cigar and drove a fancy car, maybe a Jaguar.”
Unbeknownst to the actors/actresses who appeared in the Maximus films, Marks would also publish stills taken during their making in short lived magazines like Impact 70, under the guise of the film stills being ‘romantic photo stories’ without getting their permission or issuing further payment. “What he used to do, the sly old dog, was click away with his camera while we were doing those small movies and then publish, without any further payment or permission.” remembers Emmett “That activity actually cost me a good job, as I had a weekly gig for years on top of the pops as a stand in during the day for rehearsals and a crowd controller during the show. Saw all the great stars of the time up close. Then apparently, unbeknownst to us, Harrison put out one of those booklets, with some shots of me and one or two other stand in's who had been involved, and some malicious person saw it and drew it to the attention of the producers who promptly fired us, a great loss at the time.” Emmett is pictured on the cover of Impact 70, getting to grips with a Marks model, but up until recently had no idea about being the magazine’s coverboy “I guess the shot on the cover was maybe one of the photos back then, God knows how many more are inside the book.” The editorial notes of Impact 70- which features the Collinsons in stills taken from Halfway Inn and Sue Bond in stills taken from First You See It- ironically state “neither said photos nor words used to describe them are meant to depict the actual conduct or personality of the models”. “The next time I worked for him I believe I was either late '74 or early '75” Emmett recalls “This time we went on location out in the country and he drove me and my "co star" out in his sports car. I was all tanned and my hair was long and sun bleached totally blonde and I had grown a beard, so I was just right for his needs. I played a truck driver, who I suppose picks up a sexy hitchhiker and I seem to remember all the action takes place in the back of the truck. I actually saw (the film ) on sale in a shop window at the time. I remember the cover had a shot of me, probably shirtless in the back of the truck with the girl in my arms, I think we were standing up. I wish now I had bought it, it would be good for a laugh. I do remember him as being a regular down to earth guy, although he obviously knew his market”
With bankruptcy casting its shadow over GHM, his early 70s activities appear to have mainly consisted of selling older material, and shooting new material, for third party companies. Russell Gay bought the rights to some of Marks’ photos and Maximus films, and at some point Marks sold several more of his 8mm girlie films to TNT Publications a.k.a. Gresham Books, who who advertised them for sale through their magazine “Witchcraft”, an occult themed sex magazine, in 1971. Impact 70 itself is credited to Roydock Books LTD, and printed by Litho Productions, two companies whose other stable of publications included X-Films, swingers’ magazines Open and Intro Natural News, and Eros (‘the most, frank, daring, lesbian type magazine yet produced’.) Roydock and Litho also teamed up with Marks for a little known second incarnation of Kamera, published either in 1969 or 1970. Billed as “Kamera- New Edition”, the magazine actually had more in common with Impact 70, and consists mainly of stills taken from GHM’s more recent 8mm sex films as well as photos of 9 Ages of Nakedness starlets Monique Deveraux and Eve Davis. There are a few nods to the original Kamera however, in the form of old, now un-retouched, photos of Marie Deveraux and June Palmer, as well as “Liz” a piece of erotic fiction about a runaway who ends up as a glamour model in London and working for nudie photographer “Mr.Wilkins” whose description bears an uncanny resemblance to GHM himself (“a big bloke with fuzz on his face, he wasn’t bad looking, a bit old, but not bad”). Despite a frosty first meeting where Wilkins annoys her by telling her she’ll have to shave her pubic hair in order to appear in his magazine, Wilkins eventually finds favour when he makes Liz the focus of a western themed photo shoot and even invites her for a night on the town, it all sounds suspiciously like a real life anecdote from the Kamera heyday in the late 50s, since as the all new Kamera proves, models no longer had to shave in order to get into “Mr.Wilkin’s” magazines. Magazines that had sprung up and supplanted Marks’ titles on the top shelf, occasionally offered Marks cash to reprint his older material. During the 1970s both Knave and Fiesta ran Marks’ Kamera era material in nostalgia themed articles that seemed a curiosity amidst Knave and Fiesta’s more upfront, 70s style explicitness, but were nevertheless complimentary, praising Marks’ use of light and shade in his early pictures of Pamela Green and June Palmer, and portraying Marks as something of the elder statesman in the history of British glamour photography.
Others were eager to lay their hands on Marks’ material for more muck raking purposes, such as when Club International ran an “expose” on Sue Bond, reprinting snaps Marks had taken of her during the making of First You See It, giving Sue -who had been courting a family audience with her appearances in sitcoms and pantomimes- an unwelcome reminder of her humble, pornographic, beginnings.
In the mid seventies Marks had begun selling explicit photo sets to porn publisher David Sullivan’s top shelf magazines, such as “Latent Lesbian Fantasy” featuring Cosey Fanni Tutti, which appeared in the first issue of Sullivan’s Ladybirds magazine in August 1976. Several more photos of Marks’ made their appearance in Whitehouse number 30, for the magazine’s regular “Whitehouse’s Stage-By-Stage Guide To Sex” series of articles, which used the same sex education pretense which Marks himself had for The Ecstasy of Oral Love. The Marks photos that ran in that issue are blatantly hardcore, albeit with black dots added to mask sexual penetration. On the quiet Marks bemoaned the fact that much of the artistry had gone out of glamour photography, but begrudgingly went with the times, providing Sullivan with the sort of spread legged, gynecologically fixated photos that his magazines were well known for.
As with Impact 70, several of the Marks’ photo shoots that appeared in Sullivan’s magazines were actually just stills taken from his recent 8mm sex films and recycled as erotic photo stories, although whether Sullivan was aware of this is unclear. He certainly should have been, since Marks had also sold Sullivan the rights to some of his 8mm sex films as well, and adverts by Kelerfern (a Sullivan mail order company) carried Marks directed sex shorts like ''Hole in One'', ''Nymphomania'', ''King Muff'' and ''Doctor Sex'' for sale around this period. Sullivan is also believed to have been behind a mysterious company calling itself the “Ultimate Film Club”, who advertised in the back pages of magazines like Cinema Blue and Sullivan's own Playbirds, and sold several of Marks’ late 60s/early 70s Maximus films. The Ultimate Film Club was based out of an Essex P.O. Box, but claimed to have bases in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Hamburg. The descriptions of the Marks films they were selling left little to the imagination, Santa’s Coming stars “the biggest Father Christmas you have ever seen”, Anna’s Manor is a “tale of rape and lust”, The Danish Maid “features a 9 ½” male- interesting point for the ladies”, while the blurb for Goodnight Nurse claims “see the girls in complete nurses uniform sexually arouse their patient- and his response. His 8” weapon soon whips into action”. The Danish Maid was in fact a remake of an older Marks 8mm film called The French Maid (1961), in which a chap orders a maid from a newspaper, falls asleep and dreams of a sexy girl, only to be woken up by a maid who turns out to be anything but. The Danish Maid adds soft core sex to the proceedings and a variation on the joke punch line; in The French Maid the real maid turns out to be a old, unattractive woman, while in The Danish Maid it turns out to be a man in drag who arrives at the luckless protagonists door. As well as mail order, The Ultimate Film Club claimed these films could be also be purchased at the pornshop of their “London Agents”, G&B Books based at 130 Godwin Road in London, which was in fact yet another company run by David Sullivan. Sullivan also used the same address for his companies "Subdean Publishing" (in 1972) and “K.G Imports” which advertised in the same magazines and claimed to offer “Hard Scandinavian” magazines.
A further Kelerfern Advert for Marks films available on super 8mm, that appeared in Rustler Vol. 3 No 3 (circa 1978), also listed for sale the titles; ''Inferno'', ''Lesson For Lolita'', ''Blow Job'', ''Pussy Lovers'', ''Sex Crazy'', ''Morning Lust'', ''Any Way You Like'', ''Cum Lay with Me'', ''Hot Ass'', ''Gym Slip Rampage'' and ''Bottoms Up!''. A more historically important Marks film, that was shot for his Maximus company circa 1974, but later sold by Kelerfern was Sex is My Business (a.k.a. Sex Shop), notable for starring a pre-fame Mary Millington. Sex is My Business was shot late on a Saturday night at a sex shop, located on London’s Coventry Street. The storyline concerns a powerful aphrodisiac being dropped by a customer, whose potency renders the shops’ staff and customers sex crazy. Millington is the films main focus of attention, playing a member of staff who drags a customer into the back room for some multi-position sex, thoughtfully turning on the shops CCTV camera so others can watch. Marks’ third wife Toni, also has a small, non-sex role in the film. Harrison Marks’ involvement in the film was not well known, and was only discovered when a super 8mm print of the film was privately transferred to DVD in 2008. Curiously Marks claimed never to have worked with Millington prior to making Come Play With Me in 1977, and he would appear to have forgotten about making the film.
The “Blue” Period
While the Marks films offered in UK porn magazines throughout the 1970s appear to have been softcore, and their pornographic nature greatly exaggerated by the Ads (a familiar trait of David Sullivan), Marks had begun dabbling in more explicit material, the extent of which has rarely been acknowledged. Now how much can we acknowledge here, hmmm, it is possible that Marks filmed hardcore very earlier on in cloak and dagger circumstances, and that these films involved one of his more “famous” models. Marks’ estate claim he first directed porn in the summer of 1967 “for a German businessman”, however the earliest hardcore films of his that have managed to resurface date from the early seventies, when he began making hardcore versions of his own Maximus short films which were released overseas on the Color Climax and Tabu labels. “Unaccustomed as I Am”, a black and white Maximus short starring Marks’ buxom Israeli discovery Clyda Rosen, for instance, was also filmed in a colour hardcore version called Die Lollos (a.k.a The Customs). The two versions of these films were generally filmed on alternate weeks, with the hardcore colour version usually shot a week before the soft black and white one. Marks had a peculiar repertory company for his hardcore films, which included big bust models like Clyda Rosen and Nicky Stanton for the female leads. Ex-bodybuilder Howard “Vanderhorn” Nelson in non-sex character parts, usually wearing elaborate disguises so people wouldn’t recognize him. A diminutive man with long ginger hair, who played one of the hippies in Die Lollos and other bit parts, who was the boyfriend of one of Marks’ models and like Howard only ever did non-sex roles. The regular male lead in Marks hardcore films was a well endowed actor who later had a legit role in the BBC’s TV adaptation of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
Not everyone who knocked on Marks’ door would turn out to be superstud material; “George once told me we had to get up as he was expecting a dishy male model for an audition” remembered his girlfriend at the time “I leapt out of bed and hastily applied make up expecting a tall dark handsome hunk. I was very disillusioned to be greeted by a pale skinny young guy with blond hair and a washed out appearance. Perhaps his assets were concealed by his underwear.”
“From what he said by the 70's he was mainly making films for other people ie the hardcore stuff for Color Climax and the stuff he made for people like KTC” explains filmmaker Peter Mason “he downplayed his involvement with hardcore when I spoke to him and wasn't proud of his conviction”. While Marks later claimed in interviews ‘not to remember’ the names of his hardcore films, some titles are however now known including Dolly Mixture (1973) a horror themed short sex film featuring a Frankenstein like mad professor.
Dolly Mixture begins with the professors’ assistant creeping around the prof’s lab and contemplating his collection of dolls, you suspect had this character been given a name you suspect it would probably be ‘Igor’. A hunchback, he sports ghost face make-up, glue on facial scars and long hair, and looks not unlike a zombified Ginger Baker. The lab is also home to a reanimated severed hand which is trapped inside a glass jar (that old hand from under the table gag) as well as the Professors’ lifeless female creation (Clyda Rosen) who is stark naked on a slab. The Professor walks in on the hunchback fondling her breasts (the actor inadvertently smearing Clyda’s boobs with his white make-up!!!), so shoos him away. It transpires the Prof also shares the hunchback’s doll fetish, and is rarely seen without a doll made up as a bride who he confides in and kisses. Enter a young insurance clerk, who turns up to provide the professor with an assessment and gets a guided tour of his house. Strangely the clerk doesn’t seem phased by all the dolls, including a huge doll house in the professors’ front room, or the nude, large breasted Israeli woman in his lab. While the clerk goes about ‘assessing’ Clyda the professor creeps over to some electronic device, turns a switch which brings Clyda to life, pretty soon she’s bouncing all over the bewildered clerk. It seems that the Professor has some kind of mental hold over both Clyda and the Clerk via the dolls, at least thats what you can gather by the shots of wind-up dolls whose sexual actions match their human counterparts. Dolly Mixture is all hot stuff, with Clyda and the Clerk going through a karma sutra amount of positions on the professors orders with even the hunchback joining in at one point. At the end, directing all this good sex proves too much for the Professor who accidentally blows himself up in a puff of smoke and Clyda and the Clerk run away. The intriguing final shot reveals the dead professor has turned into a doll, complete with clown’s make-up, while his beloved bride doll takes on human characteristics before vanishing. Dolly Mixture more than lives up to expectations as a amalgamation of British horror and blue movie. The big surprise here, given Marks’ music hall comedy background, is that we’re not just talking sub-Carry on Screaming comedy horror here, but attempts at a genuinely unsettling atmosphere with the final doll/professor twist and some of the creepiest use of stuffed toys since The Sinful Dwarf. The fairly elaborate plot and imaginative mad professor set are also unusual touches for a blue movie.
Dolly Mixture was shot in a hardcore version (known in Germany as “Vor Geilheit Kochen”, roughly translated “Boiling from Hornyness”) and then a softcore one. The male lead in the soft version of Dolly Mixture was “Short Jack Gold” (*pseudonym) who had begun acting for Marks in 1972 after answering an advert Marks had placed in Time Out magazine "it was shot in Black & White and was a "soft" version of a H/C version shot a couple of weeks earlier. I wasn't in the H/C shoot, but halfway through our shoot, Clyda got a bit carried away and allowed full sex. She was that hot!".
Short Jack Gold’s first meeting with Harrison Marks in January 1972, would prove a memorable introduction to the world of GHM, with Short Jack Gold turning up at Marks studio in Faulkner`s Alley just off Cowcross St in Farringdon, and being greeted by the sight of two gigging, mini skirted dolly birds leaving Marks’ studio, followed by the great man himself drunkenly calling after them " lovely darlings.. see you next week". Marks cited too much competition in the soft core, glamour photography realm as the reason he was now making more explicit material, and preferred to shoot his clandestine hardcore films in his studio, which at that moment was being transformed into a French Bistro set by Tony Roberts. On the set of his first Marks film -entitled “Bistro Bordello”- Short Jack Gold encountered the often mundane world of porno filmmaking with lots of doing nothing moments while waiting for Marks to reload the film and set up the next scene, mixed in with the immediate pressure on the male actors to get it up and go into sex the moment Marks yelled for “action”. Several of the other actors, despite being veterans of London’s insular hardcore scene, were having problems maintaining an erection, and just to add to the chaos Robert’s set also included several crates of wine which started to disappear as the shoot went on, “god knows how much booze they (the crew) drank” Marks later recalled, although in all likelyhood he probably polished off a few bottles himself.
Bistro Bordello, sometimes referred to as “A Night at the Bistro Bordello”, and released in Germany in a hardcore version called “Zum Knutschkeller”, evolved around an innocuous British couple -one half of which was played by Howard “Vanderhorn” Nelson - dining out at a French Bistro, and somehow remaining unaware that the other customers are indulging in an orgy around them. Marks himself has a cameo as the bistro’s drunk head waiter. Present in the female cast were the two dolly birds Short Jack Gold had encountered leaving Marks studio, as well as a shapely Hungarian model who is now a world famous sexologist. Marks had many tall tales to tell about the making of Bistro Bordello including a story about him hiring a professional accordionist to sit around the set and play music to get the cast in the mood, which, funny as it sounds is all nonsense, since Short Jack Gold -who appeared in both hard and soft versions of the film- remembered the cast were simply fucking to a backing track. Still Marks was very proud of Bistro Bordello, claiming “when I saw the rushes, I thought, fucking hell, this looks like it was shot in 1938” and went on to compare the film to the work of Rene Clair. The behind the scenes snapshot Short Jack Gold provided me with, which depicts Marks shooting a threesome with his bolex camera and Mr. Gold with his head between a woman’s legs, doesn’t exactly scream a Rene Clair influence to me, but maybe I should reserve judgment till if/when the film resurfaces.
It was around this time that journalist Dave Elliott sought out Marks for an article about the 8mm film scene entitled “8mm home movies- from pin-up to porn” that appeared in the October 1973 issue of Verve, a little known men’s magazine. Other parties involved in this 8mm overview included Pauline Whooley who had appeared in John Lindsay blue films and his film The Pornbrokers, and a female journalist who purported to have appeared in a blue film in order to write up the experience for the magazine. While Pauline Whooley was happy to be portrayed as “one of the new generation of sexually free young women unafraid to admit their bisexuality and a liking for a free life style”, Marks perhaps wary over his 1971 conviction was reluctant to be associated with pornography and instead emphasized the comedic nature of his productions “the type of film that we make is for entertainment mostly. Most of the stuff we shoot has got a comedy slant, its sexy and erotic but that’s my business”. Marks also mentioned to Elliott that he was in negotiations with a very large company (that he wouldn’t name) to shoot material on videotape, a format then in its infancy, and accurately predicted the future importance video would have on the film industry.
For Verve magazine’s survey on 8mm films Marks supplied writer Brian Waltham with a copy of Anna’s Manor, a soft core short Marks later sold to David Sullivan, while watching the film Waltham was convinced he had seen a brief shot of the lead actor’s erection, or “a flash of wallop” as Waltham put it, and watched the film several times over for conformation, one time even using a magnifying glass (“I crept towards the screen prepared mentally for the shocking sight”.) When this too proved to be inconclusive Waltham took to placing the 8mm film under a microscope for a more detailed analysis, and eventually had to be reassured by Marks that he had imagined it all. Needless to say had Marks supplied Waltham with a copy of “Die Lusterne Grafin”, the hardcore version of Anna’s Manor he’d shot for German distribution, Waltham wouldn’t have needed a microscope to detect the presence of "wallop".
Other hardcore Marks shorts include, ''Autograph Hunter'', ''Tea and Crumpet'', “The Happy Nurses”, (a hardcore version of Goodnight Nurse), ''The Tunnel of Love'', "Blonde Hair”,
“Golden Bank”, “Barmaid Pleasures”, "Duty Free'', “London Lust” ''Big N' Busty'', ''Cockpit Cunts'' (aka Aviator), ''Arabian Knights'' and ''Busty Baller'' (1979). Autograph Hunter is Marks’ hardcore spin on Groupie Girl/Permissive type films in which Clyda Rosen and a blonde friend break into the house of rock star Randy Tool in pursuit of more than just his John Hancock. Howard Nelson once again does a non-sex part as Randy’s roadie, wearing huge Elton John glasses and a blonde wig so people wouldn’t realize it was him. A particularly hilarious moment comes when Howard, who was built like a brick shithouse, has to feign putting some effort into holding back the extremely non-threatening 4’11 Clyda from the famous rockstar. In the joke punch line Clyda and her friend take a snapshot of a shagged out Randy and send it to a newspaper who somewhat unlikely publish the full frontal shot the next day. London Lust, filmed for Color Climax in 1977, casts porn actor Timothy Blackstone as a horny photographer, taking nude snaps of, and then fucking, the models who have answered his advert in “The Stage” newspaper. True to its title, GHM throws in allot of local scenery, as Blackstone’s latest model makes her way through St John’s Wood train station and Trafalgar Square, on her way to an encounter with Timmy’s bolex. GHM shot London Lust during December at his wife Toni’s flat in St. John’s Wood, inadvertently capturing several family photos, including one of their daughter Josie, on film. At the time of filming Toni had dressed the flat with Christmas decorations and a tree, lending an unintentionally festive feel to London Lust. Busty Baller, another Color Climax production, was shot in an apartment overlooking Bond Street Station in Oxford Street, and features Nicky Stanton seducing a passing Window Cleaner, who ends up filling more than just his bucket.
An a.k.a. title for the film “Busty Ballerina” gives Nicky’s character an occupation, not that there is any evidence of this in the film. A soft version of the film called ''Busty Ravers'' was also made as a free gift for the porn magazine 'Peaches'.
The infamous ''Arabian Knights'' (also filmed for Color Climax in 1979) is notable for featuring the only known hardcore performance of Jada Smith (later known as Rosemary England) and for starring mainstream actor Milton Reid in a non-sex role.
Short Jack Gold recalls “It was shot in winter 1979, at the Hotel Julius Caesar in Queens Gardens in Bayswater. It took two days to shoot, and was famous for the fact that a few of the girls who stayed at the hotel trashed their rooms, and abused a member of staff who, as a result, tipped of the press as to what was going on. A well known newspaper planted a reporter on the roof of the hotel who was able via a spyhole to observe all that was going on. The next weekend it was headline news and I think GHM ultimately had a court case to answer. It was actually snowing outside whilst we were filming , so it felt a bit strange acting as if we were in a desert oasis. GHM was pretty pissed throughout the whole thing, which is why it took two days to complete. Ah Happy days..…". Unfortunately the bad publicity caused by the Sunday People’s expose on the film meant Arabian Knights would turn out to be Milton Reid’s last film, ostracized by the film community, he never acted again.
COME PLAY WITH ME
In between all this blue movie malarkey came Marks’ final feature film, and his most successful and famous. Marks had written Come Play With Me’s script in 1970 not long after The Nine Ages of Nakedness, but it was to remain on the shelf in the ensuing years of bankruptcy, obscenity trials and heavy drinking. It was ironically a late night drinking session with a certain David Sullivan that caused the script to be dusted off.
“George was a great entertainer he was a bit of a drunk really, but he was good fun” David Sullivan remarked in the 2005 documentary ''Oo-Err Missus'', “he said to me: "I’ve got this old script I’ve had for years", I said: "give us a look George" and within three weeks we were shooting it”.
Sullivan saw Come Play With Me as a chance to turn his then-girlfriend and magazine cover girl Mary Millington into a film star, as well as an opportunity for some cross-media marketing. Sullivan’s magazines like Playbirds and Whitehouse are seen/referenced throughout the film, but it was with promoting the film through his magazines that Sullivan really came into his own. Months before the film's release Sullivan’s readers were promised Come Play with Me would be ‘the British Deep Throat''’ and would ‘make Linda Lovelace look like Noddy. To add credibility to these claims, photo shoots that were only a few shades away from hardcore were published in Sullivan’s magazines and claimed to be stills from the upcoming film, whereas in fact they bare little resemblance to anything in Come Play With Me. A fixture in these photo shoots was hardcore actor Timothy Blackstone, sometimes billed in the articles as “Randy Buck, Esquire”. In spite of this exposure Blackstone does not appear in the actual film.
The hype for Come Play with Me also spread to the letter pages of Sullivan’s magazine, a fan letter of dubious authenticity (as it refers to scenes that don’t appear in the film) from “Bert U” to Mary Millington in Whitehouse, no.27 claims “Dear Mary, I must congratulate you on your film Come Play with Me, I found it screamingly funny and very sexy as well…I loved every randy moment… everyone was so natural, and Henry McGhee (sic) as the PM was superb.”
The letter also goes on to falsely claim that the actor Roy Kinnear appears in the film and that “(Roy) looked like a Roman Emperor in the swimming pool scene. I‘ll bet it took him all his time to keep his towel on during rehearsals for the film… it looked to me, Mary, as though you were fucked rigid during the film”.
While Millington’s popularity and Sullivan’s relentless publicity campaign are without doubt what made the film a success, Come Play with Me remains a peculiarly Harrison Marks concoction, with Marks’ background as a photographer of nudes, his love of old-style British music hall comedy, and his heavy drinking adding much to the film's overall character. As comic counterfeiters Cornelius Clapworthy and his sidekick Maurice Kelly, Marks and Alfie Bass resemble a baggy pants comedy double act from the music hall days, the pair even sleep together in the same bed à la'' Morecambe and Wise. Marks also throws in a song-and-dance routine “It’s Great to be Here”, performed by Marks, Bass, and a group of sexy nurses. “George was in a bit of a time warp, he forgot at times that it was a sex film he was making,” commented Sullivan, “he thought he was making some vaudeville comedy… I thought it was a weird old film”.
Much of the glamour in the film was provided by nude models popular in Sullivan’s top-shelf magazines at the time (Millington, Pat Astley, Penny Chisholm), as well as more mainstream comedy actresses like Ingmar Bergman’s daughter Anna Bergman, Sue Longhurst and Suzy Mandel from the Benny Hill Show. Lower down the cast list, actresses like Lisa Taylor, Sonia Svenburger, Suzette Sangalo Bond, all had blue movie backgrounds.
Come Play With Me was filmed during the winter months of 1976. The main setting Bovington Manor was in reality the Weston Manor Hotel near Oxford (Their website perhaps unsurprisingly makes no reference to it being the location of one of the most famous British sex comedies of the 1970s.) Due to work commitments Suzy Mandel was absent from the scene that introduces the girls traveling to Bovington Manor onboard a coach (she was in fact taping a Benny Hill episode at the time).
After seeing a rough cut of the film Sullivan and representatives of the distributor Tigon thought the film needed more nudity as well as more Mary Millington so several additional scenes - including Mary’s big scene with Howard Nelson - were filmed. The ‘add on’ nature of these scenes to the narrative is sometimes apparent.
Several hardcore porn scenes were also shot for Come Play With Me. These would have appeared towards the end of the film, however in the event all traces of actual hardcore sex were cut from these scenes in the pre-release stage and the explicit footage went AWOL soon after. “For real” were the lesbian scene between Mary Millington and Penny Chisholm, as well as the heterosexual sex scenes between Lisa Taylor and Derek Aylward, Suzette Sangalo Bond and an unknown male, and Sonia Svenberger and Gordon Hickman. Marks even posed for a photo with a naked Derek Aylward and Lisa Taylor, in-between shooting their hardcore bedroom scene. A particularly memorable shot that sees Marks sporting an ear to ear grin, and Aylward a similarly smiling but slightly exhausted expression as well as a cigarette in one hand and his erection in the other, a quick break from what seems like a physically demanding romp with Miss Taylor. This image, along with several other near hardcore photos of Aylward and Taylor’s sex scene were later used to promote the film in Sullivan’s “Private” magazine, in that typically exaggerated Sullivan fashion the accompanying blurb describes Marks as if he were some kind of renegade porn king who had “virtually withdrawn from the British market because of his total disagreement with the ludicrous censorship laws that exist in Britain… he has been producing hardcore films for Germany BUT now with the recent reduction in censorship in Britain he has returned… George deserves your support for trying to give you the sort of film which 99% of the public want”.
Unfortunately with all the hardcore footage cut from the film, never to see the light of day, only the pictorials published in Sullivan magazines, and Penny Chisholm’s “flushed” beetroot colored expression during her sex scene with Mary, now give a hint of these scenes’ explicit origins.
Making Come Play With Me had taken its toll on Marks “I suppose I bit off more than I could chew. I wrote it, directed it, acted in it. I crawled off the set the last day so drained. I said to myself ‘if this is what its all about forget it’. But once a ham, always a ham.”
The profits from Come Play With Me should have been a nice nest egg for Marks, but in a typically bad business decision had sold his 25% share in the film in exchange for a one off payment believing Come Play With Me would have limited shelf life, and wound up losing a fortune when it played for years then went on to do further business on video. In spite of this Marks quickly wrote the script to a follow up film ‘The Reluctant Pornographer’, which like Come Play With Me would have featured Mary Millington in a support role. The Reluctant Pornographer concerned “a top glamour photographer who gets involved in shooting a sex film. Its autobiographical- I’ve taken all the outrageously funny things that have happened in 25 years and its going to blow the porn cinema sky high. Very funny script. ” Unfortunately David Sullivan, wary of the increased budget needed to film The Reluctant Pornographer, instead optioned The Playbirds as his next film, and elevated Come Play With Me’s co-producer Willy Roe to the director’s chair, leaving Marks and the Reluctant Pornographer out in the cold. A further attempt was made to finance the film in 1984, but by that time the market for that type of film no longer existed and Mary Millington was dead.
Despite her limited acting ability, Marks genuinely liked Mary Millington (“She was a sweet girl, a lovely kid”) and was deeply distressed about her death. Given his own troubles in the past with ‘the tax bastards’ he firmly believed that the Inland Revenue had hounded her to suicide. Marks was also one of many to openly criticize John M East’s tasteless tribute film ‘Mary Millington’s True Blue Confessions’ upon its release in 1980. “Most of us who worked with her were terribly saddened by what happened and starting to see all this stuff was not on” he recalled “they got hold of a girl who looked much like her and had her lying in a coffin which was a bit sick. Not a bit sick, very sick”.
The Millington tribute films and magazines further added to the bitter aftertaste of GHM’s dealings with David Sullivan. Privately Marks had disliked playing second fiddle to Sullivan during his time as a Sullivan magazine photographer and Come Play With Me director. Marks regarded Sullivan as an upstart and resented both his success and lifestyle- , even David’s love of junk food was attackable- “he gets out of bed, orders steaks for breakfast, then follows that with a box of chocolates” Marks complained to friends about Sullivan. It became a sore point that Sullivan had made a fortune out of a film Marks had laboured so hard on.
SPANKING IS MY BUSINESS
Towards the end of the 1970s George and Toni had split up. Toni continued to live at her St. John’s Wood flat and became involved with a man named Arthur whose presence aggravated Marks and whose extravagant, diamond studded identity bracelets rivaled even GHM’s love of all things bling bling. With GHM out of the picture Toni and her new boyfriend would make their own attempts at shooting an 8mm soft core sex film at the St. John’s Wood flat.
On set Toni orchestrated an atmosphere of fear and loathing. “Toni fancied herself as a woman who could manipulate others and scare them into working as slaves” remembers one onlooker “her attitude and manner of talking to others was unpleasant”. Toni’s ill-treatment of the people around her is a likely reason for the resultant footage coming out so badly, with her attitude hardly encouraging the cast and crew to do their best for her. Toni also appeared delusional, telling others how she believed this gig would lead her to a successful film directing career. GHM later heard that Toni’s porno footage was so bad that it actually ended up being junked and her film never saw the light of day.
Marks himself had relocated to a flat in Red Lion Square and in Spring 1979 begun a relationship with a young glamour model called Louise Sinclair. “I became his lover aged 19” she remembers “and when he telephoned my mother would jokingly say "granddad is on the phone”. GHM would introduce Louise to his friends like Milton Reid, as his mistress even though he had split with Toni around a year earlier. Due to Marks’ girth- notable even when in the company of the barrel shaped Reid- and his penchant for striped shirts Louise jokingly told GHM he looked like a deckchair on legs. “I wasn't diplomatic” she recalls “as I was only 18 when I met George”.
For a young glamour model, life with a much older, alcoholic lover could be a drama sometimes, such as when in a hungover panic Marks ordered Louise to help him clean up the flat, and try and empty and ashtrays and hide the vodka bottles, as he had got wind that Toni was planning on turning up. Louise was nursing a heavy cold at the time, and after a row with him left the flat. When Toni finally did arrive GHM was in such a state that she took temporary custody of his Burmese cats, fearing he was too drunk to care for him.
GHM later apologized to Louise for the incident, and showed a more caring side when, after Louise had spent an exhaustive day working as a crew member on Toni’s never to be seen porno films, she returned to the Red Lion Square flat to discover George had prepared a meal and bath for her. “George was eccentric, amusing but ultimately somewhat afraid of deep intimacy with women” admits Louise “he often compared my figure to that of Pamela Green. However by this time he was no Casanova as drinking had affected his virility. His amusing personality was his biggest asset to a young woman interested in having fun and aware that the relationship would go nowhere.”
If truth be known Marks’ final hardcore films for Color Climax, Cockpit Cunts, Busty Baller and Big N’ Busty were tired affairs, successful only as pornography by numbers, and lack the mirth and creativity that distinguished his early 70s Clyda Rosen vehicles. “George was going through a fairly quiet period at that point and seemed to enjoy most of his spare time lounging around the flat, playing with his cats and drinking vodka“ remembers Louise, who eventually split with him after he relocated to Stanford Hill and she became involved in another relationship “in retrospect I would suspect he was quite depressed as he couldn't see a clear direction and he got bored doing the blue films.” A new direction was needed, and fortunately one would soon land on GHM’s lap when
in the late 1970’s Marks was hired as a photographer for Janus magazine- which specialized in spanking material- before taking a more editorial position. “All the characters in the book game used this pub and I got quite friendly with the lads who published a very popular spanking magazine called Janus. The chap who founded the Janus magazine was an old fella called Van Ocker. He was getting on a bit- in his 70s- and he was ill. The fellas that owned the magazine had no idea how to put a magazine together and didn’t particularly care. As long as it made money that was it. Anyway one day Van Ocker snuffed it. And I was in the pub listening to these guys say ‘what are we going to do’, then they said ‘hang on, George was in the publishing game for years’.” Peter Mason takes up the story “he got the job at Janus because he had run mags before and was doing some work for them. He relaunched it as "New" Janus.” Marks even managed to get his bodybuilder friend Howard Nelson on the front cover of New Janus issue two (as a “spanking milkman”) and also began making short films on the subject for the 8mm market. Two of the earliest appear to have been ''Rawhide'', starring Come Play with Me’s Lisa Taylor and Sonia Svenberger and sold by Kelerfern circa 1977, in which according to the ad “the ageing headmaster really gives two naughty schoolgirls some punishment”, and ''Late for School'' copyrighted 'Janus Publications 1977' which was also the subject of a photo article in Janus (Vol.7, No.9) and Spanking Special (No.2, Martinet publications). Marks then made a series of 8mm spanking films, all of which feature the word ‘lesson’ in the title. These were ''The Nurses’ Lesson'', ''The School Lesson'', ''The Gym Lesson'', ''The Prefect’s Lesson'' and ''The Riding Lesson''. The most comic of the “lessons” films, The Nurses Lesson stars Come Play With Me porn actor Gordon Hickman as a sickly patent initially seen contemplating what at first seems like a massive erection but is quickly revealed to be a bottle of wine hidden under the bed sheets. In a cheeky nod to Carry On Nurse, a nurse then accidentally sticks a daffodil up his arse, causing the enraged patient to go on a spanking rampage. The School Lesson, features veteran film and television actor Ken Parry as a headmaster who canes two schoolgirls after catching them in a compromising position. The film was also the subject of a photo article in Janus (Vol.8, No.12) which featured a still of Parry spanking a girl on the cover. One critic later remarked that during the caning scenes Parry appeared “to be in grave danger of a heart attack”.
Parry’s involvement in Marks’ spanking material is somewhat perplexing given that he had a ‘legit’ TV career at the time, something that could easily have been compromised should a newspaper journalist have picked up on the films and decided to do a tabloid expose on him (a fate that befell Milton Reid). Parry was also gay, which would seem to rule out these appearances being sexually motivated. Curiously when the “Lesson” films were re-released on video in the 1990s, the publicity material erroneously credited actor Willoughby Goddard, best known for the 1950’s ITC Show ‘The Adventures of William Tell’, as playing Parry’s role in The School Lesson.
By 1979 Marks had been made full time editor of Janus, and continued to make 8mm spanking films including ‘Rear Attack’, released by himself, and ‘Warden’s End’ and ‘Slaves of Mistress Monique’ for the Janus people. Warden’s End is a self-referencing piece, with Marks name-checked in the dialogue and the Janus shop used as a filming location. Linzi Drew plays a traffic warden attempting to give the blokish, Janus shop assistant a ticket. Following him into the shop she is initially intrigued by all the spanking magazines on display, and persuaded to do an audition for him with predictably bottom smacking results. At the end of the audition Linzi decides however that she’d prefer to continue slapping tickets on cars, than being slapped herself; “I’ve had enough of this, and I’ve had enough of you” she complains to the shop assistant “I’d rather be a traffic warden”.
Seeing the revenue being generated by his spanking films and photo-shoots, in 1982 Marks jumped ship to set up his own magazine ''Kane'' on the same subject. Kane first appeared on the top shelf in September 1982, with a hefty cover price of five pounds, at a time when most top shelf publications retailed for around £1.50, but for once Marks had found an audience willing to pay that little bit extra to see their fantasies brought to life. Corporal punishment would now become Marks’ big theme for the final act of his career. “Just about that time the video market started to blossom and I started to get letters from readers asking if videos were available. I thought I had better get into this as well”. Making the transition from 8mm to videotape in 1984, Marks first video production was “The Cane and Mr. Abel” starring Linzi Drew. With a friend and business associate handling the camerawork and the editing, Marks would go onto make around 80 videos of this nature with titles like ''Five of the Best'' (1988), "When the Cat’s Away" (late 80s), "Room at the Bottom" (198?),"Three Cases to Answer For" (early 90s), "Rawhide in Rotherhithe" (early 90s), "The Spanking Academy of Dr. Blunt'' (1992), ''Schoolgirl Fannies on Fire'' (1994), "A Wacking in a Winter Wonderland (19??)", ''Spanked Senseless'' (1995) and ''Stinging Stewardesses'' (1996). By the mid-1980s Marks had -quite literally- returned to his roots, and was living in his family home, 23 Wellington Avenue, located in the predominately Jewish area of Stamford Hill in North London. The house had become vacant following his mother’s death and Marks had initially planned to only live there for a year in order to avoid paying capital gains tax, but moved by the house’s history (“I have a deep conviction and knowledge that my life is centered on this space”) instead turned it into his home and studio HQ, working from the same room he had been born in, and that his father had died in. Behind its modest exterior on a quiet, tree lined road, the interior of 23 Wellington Avenue would gradually take on the appearance of a museum of Marks’ career. “You step inside and your in my world” is how Marks described the place, the walls of which were covered with signed photographs of stars of yesteryear, and stills immortalizing Marks’ various roles in The Nine Ages of Nakedness, the perfect backdrop to Marks’ regular dinner parties that included showbiz pal guests such as the Winters brothers and Max Wall. The corporal punishment theme of his business would also make its presence felt in Chez Harrison Marks, which by the 1990s boasted a hallway full of spanking themed erotic artwork and a copper plaque on the door emblazoned with the word Kane. Previously Marks line of work had caused him problems, in 1972 he’d been evicted from his Faulkners Alley studio after the landlord objected to 8mm sex films being produced on the premises, thankfully for Marks the residents of Stamford Hill were more understanding about having a spanking magazine magnate in their midst. “When Kane got going he got involved in running spanking parties which made most of his money apparently” remarks Peter Mason “the early issues of Kane have some pictures from those events."
With the BBFC’s James Ferman adamantly refusing to pass spanking material for video release -Marks’ own Warden’s End and several similar titles had all been banned when his ex-employers Janus submitted them for classification in 1987- Marks’ own videos bypassed the BBFC and were released without certificates. Despite this technically being illegal, curiously GHM never had his collar felt over his videos. "I asked GHM how he got away with putting out uncertificated videos in the days when the BBFC wouldn’t pass that sort of thing" remembers Peter Mason "he implied that the numerous Judges that subscribed to Kane might have something to do with his immunity but I think thats a bit dubious. I don't know how reliable his memory was and he was often pissed. In fact his interview for the doing rude things shoot (the 1995 BBC documentary on British sex films) had to be done twice as he was too far gone first time round.” Models who Marks photographed for Kane over the years included the aforementioned Linzi Drew (in the photo story “Meter Maid” that appeared in Kane No.9) and Vicki Scott. Unable to resist being in front of the camera for long, Marks made regular appearances in his videos and magazines, developing a “spanking granddad” persona in videos like A Matter of Discipline. While in “Country Cousins” (late 80s), Marks puts in a hammy performance (complete with dodgy Eastern European accent) as a music teacher hired to teach Liz Leather how to play the keyboard. After they share some “funny cigarettes” Liz strips and demand a spanking from a willing Marks. Eventually the true nature of their lesions is discovered by the local vicar who throws Marks out and takes over the spankings. Vida Garman also had the dubious honor of being spanked by Marks himself in the pages of Kane. Marks took a similarly “hands on” approach for Teresa May’s appearance in Kane no.61, with Marks pictured groping the glamour model’s breasts, appearing visibly intoxicated and even donning his old Come Play With Me wig for several of the photos (Teresa’s sole memory of Marks “He was a creep!”). According to his official website Marks' spanking material “kept him in booze and cigarettes and an acceptable degree of comfort for the rest of his life". As with the 8mm striptease films and ''Naked As Nature Intended'', the spanking videos clearly existed solely for the purpose of titillation yet at the same time adopted an asexual stance, bringing Marks career curiously full circle.
After decades of heavy drinking, chain smoking, romancing and photographing beautiful women, Marks finally passed away at 6pm, on the 27th of June 1997, officially it was cancer that got him in the end, although his daughter Josie later remarked “it was a bit of a toss up between bone cancer and liver cirrhosis, really it was whichever got him first, he wanted to go as Errol Flynn with liver cirrhosis”. Before his death Marks had laid down plans for one final production, one in which he’d play the lead role. Billed as “George Harrison Marks’ Final Performance in Two Acts”, Marks’ funeral took place on Friday, July the 4th 1997, accompanied by the most expletive ridden funeral programme you’re ever likely to see, whose cover depicted Marks on stage complete with top hat, cane and cape receiving an ovation and flowers from an appreciative audience, in an illustration drawn specially for the occasion by video era porn actress turned erotic artist Paula Meadows, now known as Lynn Paula Russell.
Act One took place at Golders Green crematorium, where renditions of old time music hall songs were the order of the day “I want ‘em all laughin’ when they leave - so make ’em sing ‘The Toothbrush Song’ and ‘Any Old Iron’” Marks had directed. Act Two saw the mourners converge on local watering hole, The Old Bull and Bush, where Marks had instructed further sing-a-longs and of course lots of drinking “I want ‘em all to get pissed and I’ll join ‘em in sprit- as f***in’ usual- and make sure they buy their own f***in’ drinks”.
The scattering of Marks’ ashes would turn out to be his final practical joke, a friend had suggested St. John’s Wood Synagogue as the most appropriate place for the ceremony, but Marks sensing some mischief could be had with his remains was adamant they should be scattered, without permission, at either St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey with a special request to “make sure to get some behind Sir Henry Irving” if the latter was chosen. Despite reservations from his estate, in the event Marks got his wish, and it seems that various parts of St. Paul’s Cathedral was his final, unofficial, resting place. Drinking, music hall songs, swearing and some possibly not legal activity in a Cathedral, Marks certainly made sure his farewell performance would be one his friends and family wouldn’t forget in a hurry.
After the curtain came down, what photographic and film work of Marks that he still owned was inherited by business associate Peter B. Fairbrass who currently runs the official Harrison Marks website, while Josie Harrison Marks took over the editing of Kane. Toni Burnett now resides in Australia. Howard 'Vanderhorn' Nelson was found dead at his home in Lambeth, South London on the 7th of December, 2007. According to the Met “the Coroner was satisfied that there was nothing suspicious about his death and that he had died of natural causes”. The police then made enquiries to trace Howard's family, but to date, have not found any immediate, surviving relatives. Pamela Green passed away on Friday 7th May 2010 at the age of 81, in October of that year several of her 8mm glamour films received a special screening by the Yarmouth Branch of the Women’s Institute which Green had been a member of. "We'll show the two 'tamest' first” remarked a WI spokeswoman “and leave it up to the ladies if they want to watch more".
The British Russ Meyer
Marks was in many ways the British equivalent of Russ Meyer. While Marks was never the filmmaker that Meyer was, both made their names as photographers, both had an obsession for large breasted women ("big tits sell" was a Marks maxim), and both would eventually become a byword for a certain form of erotica that has since passed into history. “I may moan about the business and wish I had stayed on the boards” said GHM reflecting on his life in the early 1970s “but really I’ve had some great times and some gorgeous birds. Sometimes I may wish I had done something different but I’ve lived my life, really lived it, and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Special thanks to Emmett Hennessey, Suzy Mandel, Peter Mason, Teresa May, Short Jack Gold, Teri Martine and Louise S. Sinclair for their help with this article. GHM quoted from: Kamera No.21, Empire News and Sunday Chronicle (January 16th, 1960), The Naked Truth About Harrison Marks (1967, Colonna Press), Titbits (3rd August, 1968), Fiesta Vol.5 No.11 (circa, 1972), Verve No.2 (October, 1973), The New Color Climax No.29 (circa 1977), Club International Vol.14, No.1 (1985), Video World (April/May 1997). Josie Harrison Marks quoted from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfR-NFwK9mY I originally wrote several small sections of the article for Wikipedia, which are reproduced here under the GNU Free Documentation License. Did you ever know/work with George Harrison Marks? If so please get in touch, I’d love to hear your side of the story. Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org