13 February, 2007

Barbara McNair: Death of a Singer...

and actress. Probably first and foremost a Jazz singer she performed a soulful rendition of the song heard at the opening and closing of Jess Franco's 99 WOMEN (1968) and, of course, was featured doing several vocal performances while playing the singer who witnessed the tragic fate of James Darren in VENUS IN FURS (1969). She also appeared on the Broadway stage, hosted her own US TV variety show, and continued to perform live, in films and on CD through 2006 until she lost her battle with cancer on Febuary 4, 2007. Her last CD was ironcially titled "Here's To Life."

Her film career also included the controversial X rated crime melodrama "IF HE HOLLERS, LET HIM GO...", which resulted in a PLAYBOY spread right before she got her prominent role in the also X rated VIF. She also appeared as a nun in Elvis Presley's last dramatic film, CHANGE OF HABIT. Appearing as a participant in an interracial romance in a Jess Franco film, as a nun opposite Elvis Presley and [as an African-American woman in a pre Black Power era] hosting a TV show pretty much made 1969 her big year. The rest of her personal and professional life was marked by probably more downs than ups but she kept on working.

She certainly makes an impression as both an actress and vocalist in VENUS IN FURS, the only film I've seen her in. I can still see and hear her singing the title song in the mirror surrounded by the Manfred Mann group and finally breaking up in almost metaphysical laughter at VIF's delirious musical climax.

For more information on her life, career and films [including a VIF screenshot] go to her website: www.barbaramcnair.com

I wasn't aware of her passing until yesterday. Most of the online obits I've been able to find omit mention of VENUS IN FURS.

Thanks to Michael Orlando Yaccarino.

(c) Robert Monell, 2007


Anonymous said...

I loved Barbara McNair. What a special lady she was. When she came to SF to sing for a few days, i would pick her up and we woul;d have great fun just shopping. She stayed with my Dr friends and he wou;d always have a party for her. I'll never forget her and the sweet lady that she really was inside and out. My heart goes out to her husband Charlie, he is a great guy as well.

Robert Monell said...

Laurie Anne, thanks for your personal memories of Barbara McNair. Have you seen her in VENUS IN FURS? She certainly seemed to have led a full life. And welcome to the Jess Franco blog.