I love Tuesday Weld. I'm going to sound melodramatic and swoony Tiny Tim here but, I love her so much it almost hurts. Lord Love a Duck, Wild in the Country, The Cincinnati Kid, Play It as It Lays, Who'll Stop the Rain, A Safe Place, I Walk the Line, Once Upon a Time in America, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Thief and on and on.
But one of my favorite Weld performances is her Sue Ann Stepanek in Noel Black's Pretty Poison. As I wrote for an MSN piece on angry teen girls in movies: "The gorgeous, iconic Tuesday Weld is the queen of precocious teenage girls and one of the sexiest in the history of cinema. So hilarious and subversive in Lord Love a Duck (watch the sweater scene and… oh my goodness what year was that film made?) and the girl who almost played Lolita over that other precocious sexpot, Sue Lyon, Weld was, in her youth, all the more powerful for tapping into her evil side. Pretty Poison is her showcase."
As I have written in the past at Sunset Gun (and extended on here), playing the beautiful but deadly high-school majorette to Anthony Perkins' twitchy, creepy fire-starter, Weld is the deliciously deviant underbelly of America's heartland. Where pretty blonde high school girls are supposed to be good but, we know better. Where the older, supposedly controlling and dangerous nutjob (Perkins) ends up the one manipulated and screwed over. The 1968 picture wasn't as popular upon release (too sexually disturbing? Too strange? Too much of a guilty turn on?), it's achieved cult status since and deservedly so.
With its violence, pitch black comedy and erotic viciousness (watch Weld commit murder only to be filled with carnal copulating bloodlust) the picture is wonderfully transgressive and deeply strange. And Weld... she is charming, scary, beautiful and sickly erotic. It's a daring performance by a young actress unafraid of scaring those who desire her; an actress intelligent enough to know her kinkiness will also thrill men and women. Perhaps, especially women. “Let’s do something exciting” says Weld’s seventeen-year-old. Exciting is one word for what she does with all this gleeful evil.
Nick Cave had to have been inspired by Pretty Poison. Cave's pretty, murderous "Millhaven" teen with yellow hair she's always "a-combing" is something of a Sue Ann: "Since I was no bigger than a weavil, they've been saying I was evil, that if bad was a boot that I'd fit it. That I'm a wicked young lady, but I've been trying hard lately. Oh fuck it! I'm a monster! I admit it!" Thinking that Weld may have influenced Cave -- that is exciting. And so is even thinking about the now reclusive Tuesday Weld.
Happy Birthday to the gorgeous, edgy, one-of-a-kind talent Weld. And, as she turns 70 it naturally falls on a Tuesday. And even better, the day Pretty Poison's Perkins fell for her: "I met you on Monday, fell in love with you on Tuesday, Wednesday I was unfaithful, Thursday we killed a guy together. How about that for a crazy week, Sue Ann?"