Monday, 14 January 2019

Happy Birthday, Caroline Munro!

Back in the mid-70s, on an advertising hoarding in Corby, I saw my first ad for Lamb’s Navy Rum and fell instantly in love with the model on it.  She had a pretty face, long dark hair and her wet-suit was zipped to her belly.  A little while later, with some school-mates, I went to see The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad and there she was, my first crush!  Later still, Dad took me to see The Spy Who Loved Me and there was the Lamb’s Navy Rum girl, pouty and pretty and trying to kill Bond.

That woman was, of course, Caroline Munro and as she celebrates her 70th birthday, here's a little appreciation.
Caroline Jane Munro was born on 16th January 1949 in Windsor, the daughter of a solicitor.  She grew up in Rottingdean, near Brighton and attended a Catholic Convent School, where she sang in the church choir.

Her original intention was to be an artist and she attended art school in Brighton.  “I wasn’t very good,” she said in interview.  “A friend at the college was studying photography and he needed somebody to photograph and he asked me. Unbeknownst to me, he sent the photographs to a big newspaper in London. The fashion photographer, David Bailey, was conducting a photo contest and my picture won.”

Caroline had won The Evening News’ ‘Face Of The Year’ content, which led to her modelling for Vogue magazine at the age of 17.  David Bailey cast her in his film G G Passion (1966) and she moved to London to pursue modelling, becoming a cover girl for fashion and TV adverts.  She also recorded backing vocals for a record, Tar And Cement, in the company of Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker.  A small part, as a voluptuous Guard Girl in Casino Royale (1967), led to a one-year contract with Paramount Pictures, who cast her as Richard Widmark's daughter in A Talent for Loving (1969).  During the making of the film she met her first husband, actor/musician Judd Hamilton and they married in 1970.
In 1969, she began a lucrative 10-year professional relationship that garnered her a lot of attention.  “I am remembered most as the calendar girl for Lambs Navy Rum,” she writes on her website.  The adverts - featuring Caroline looking feisty in a variety of scenarios - were plastered all over the UK, appearing in magazines, on billboards and even drip mats in pubs.
Sir James Carreras, of Hammer Films, saw her on a billboard outside Victoria Station in London and invited her for a screentest, quickly putting her under contract (she was the only actress to ever officially sign with the studio).  She first appeared as Vincent Price’s dead wife in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), before playing an early victim to the Count in Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972).
Dracula A.D. 1972
She was offered the lead role in Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971) but turned it down because of the required nudity and she kept that stance throughout her career, even refusing a lucrative offer from Playboy magazine.  “I’m not prudish,” she said in a 2007 interview, “and people can do what they want.  Just for me, it was a personal choice, it’s something I didn’t want to do. Plus, I think it’s more ‘what you don’t see’ that’s more interesting.  For me, it’s nice to have a little mystery.  Maybe I’m an old-fashioned girl, a little bit, anyway!”  Her Hammer contract was fulfilled with Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (1974), in which she played the barefoot gypsy girl Carla.  It was originally intended to become a long-running series but the huge success of The Exorcist (1973) effectively killed the low-budget horror market Hammer called their own.  She was offered the lead role in Vampirella (it was never made) but turned it down because of the nudity required.
Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter
Brian Clemens, who’d written and directed Captain Kronos, helped her get the role of Margiana, the slave girl in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), for which he wrote the screenplay.  The experience of working on the film and especially with Ray Harryhausen, was a good one - “it was lovely,” she said in interview, “like work-out-of-work and I was very lucky to have done that.”  She is now a Trustee of the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation.
The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad
She also appeared in I Don't Want to Be Born (1975), At the Earth's Core (1976) with Peter Cushing and Doug McClure and The New Avengers episode The Angels of Death (1977), notable for a fight between Caroline and Joanna Lumley's Purdey.
As a nurse in The New Avengers
At The Earth's Core
Caroline’s highest profile role was as Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), the bikini-clad henchwoman of Karl Stromberg who is also the helicopter pilot trying to kill Bond in his Lotus Esprit (whilst tipping him what I consider to be the sexiest wink in cinema).

The Spy Who Loved Me
In order to take the Bond film, she turned down the role of Ursa (which went to Sarah Douglas) in Superman (1978).  Following the global success of the film, she was offered roles in Force 10 From Navarone (1978) and The World Is Full Of Married Men (1979), both of which she turned down because of the nudity required.
Starcrash
Caroline continued to work through the 1970s and 1980s, mostly in British and European horror and science fiction films.  She took the lead role in Starcrash (1979), made her first American film with Maniac (1980) and followed that up with The Last Horror Film (1982) which was produced by her husband Judd Hamilton.  Their marriage broke down in 1982 and, after turning down a role in the US daytime soap The Bold And The Beautiful (“I didn’t want to move abroad”), she became a hostess on the British gameshow 3-2-1 (“I never guessed any of the riddles,” she told The Guardian in 2002, “but then neither did Ted”) and appeared in rock videos with Adam Ant (Goody Two Shoes) and Meatloaf (If You Really Want To).  Moving back to film, she appeared in Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984), Slaughter High (1986) (which was produced by her new partner, George Dugdale and suffered from having thirtysomething actors play teens) Paul Naschy's Howl of the Devil (1987), Jess Franco's Faceless (1988) and Demons 6: De Profundis (1989), which would be her last major film appearance.

She married Dugdale in 1990 and retired from acting to raise her two daughters.  “I took a long time off to have my girls,” she said in interview.  “I had [them] late and in that time everything changes and, of course, you’re not offered the roles.  I took, really, ten years off.”
Caroline, Dude and me, the NEC, November 2011
After making more films in 1990s and beyond, she became a regular on the convention circuit and remains very popular today.  I was lucky enough, with Dude, to meet her at the Birmingham NEC for the Memorabilia fair in November 2011 (which I wrote about here).  Awe-struck in her presence, Dude filled the gap when she said “hello” and they started talking to each other.  I did manage to tell her how much of an honour it was to meet her (I thought telling her she'd been my crush since I was 7 might be out-of-order) and she was lovely, chatting easily to both of us and posing for a photograph (her suggestion, when she noticed my camera).  It might have taken me a long time but I did end up, however briefly, with my arm around Caroline Munro and she was as lovely as I could have ever hoped.

"The career was wonderful. I never sought anything, really, I never pursued anything. I was not ambitious. It came to me."
- Caroline Munro

as Stella Star in Starcrash




Taken in Sardinia, during the shooting of The Spy Who Loved Me, 1976

My prized autograph - Dude suggested I get the picture of Caroline with Roger Moore but I chose this one...




Happy birthday, Caroline!

sources:
MI6-Hq: Caroline Munro
xojane.com - Caroline Munro
Interview with Caroline Munro (2007) at An Actors Notebook
Caroline Munro Official Website
Dark Side Magazine - Hammer Glamour: Caroline Munro
The Horror Princess: Caroline Munro by Mark Iveson
My blogpost about meeting Caroline
Wikipedia

6 comments:

  1. A fantastic tribute, there, Mark. There are times when I read your posts and feel we are kindred spirits. We really must meet up properly some time.

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  2. Wonderful post! Though I knew a few bits and pieces here, this is incredible. I had completely missed that Caroline was originally earmarked to play Ursa in Superman II as well! First thing I've read that's made me smile like this all day.

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  3. Wow. This has made me want to watch CAPTAIN KRONOS again. And drink Lamb's Navy Rum.

    ReplyDelete