Those exotic ‘desert’ beautiesBy Behn Cervantes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
I used to find movies about the desert exotic. As an imaginative kid, I loved the excitement that they promised. To my young mind, Africa and the Middle East were interesting because of those hot, waterless places—which I associated with Maria Montez.
So, I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that we had similar locations in Northern Luzon. In fact, the late Fernando Poe Jr. smartly utilized the “photogenic” deserts of Ilocos in his films, like the “Panday” series.
Ronnie loved those locations because they were far from the distracting hustle and bustle of Manila. After he “discovered” them, other directors also began heading North, including Ishmael Bernal for “Himala.”
I started loving those desert locales because of the music from beloved operettas like “My Desert Song” and “One Alone.” I also enjoyed Douglas Fairbanks’ “Four Feathers” and Montez’s exotic starrers with her Asian costars, like Sabu and Turhan Bey.
Maria had beauty and sex appeal, and the fighting skill of a liberated woman. So, I grieved when she died tragically. It was reported that she dozed off while taking a tub bath and drowned. When her husband, French actor Jean Pierre Aumont, remarried Marissa Pavan, the twin sister of Pier Angeli, I hated his new wife so much!
I especially loved “Desert Song,” because Gordon McRae and Kathryn Grayson sang with such feeling and vocal power. They transported viewers to another world!
I liked the color and (inferred) sexiness of Montez’s exotic movies. When women danced in them, their bellies were exposed. Maria was often cast as a hot-blooded Latin seductress, dressed in fanciful costumes and sparkling jewelry. She starred in such adventure flicks as “Arabian Nights,” “Cobra Woman,” “Wildcat,” “Sudan” and “The Exile.”
Maria was followed by Yvonne de Carlo and Debra Paget (“Broken Arrow”). The latter danced well and looked good in a sarong—but, after movies like “Demetrius and the Gladiators,” she disappeared from the Hollywood scene.
She reportedly fell in love with and married a maimed stunt man—and dedicated her life to caring for him!
Recent Stories:Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.