Hazel Court, R.I.P.

Hazel Court, the so-called “Scream Queen” who just passed away, will remain forever alive on DVD, where her films for Roger Corman and others are readily available, as are many of her TV appearances during her ’50s and ’60s heyday.

Among the latter were her guest spots on thriller-anthology show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, though only one is on DVD to date. That’s “The Crocodile Case,” a murder mystery from the latter half of Hitch’s third TV season. The series lasted seven seasons, and Universal has issued full-season box sets of the first three so far.

A bewitching beauty, Court also appeared on such staples as The Twilight Zone and Bonanza, and she also can be found on DVDs for such vintage series as The Wild Wild West (Season Two) and Gidget (its first and only season).

Her WWW episode, “The Night of the Returning Dead,” is an odd story with marquee casting that also included Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. The latter plays a ranch worker who’s treated uncomfortably rudely — that is, in racist ways — even by Robert Conrad’s James West, until we thankfully learn that, don’t worry, it’s a ruse, and the men are in cahoots. In short, this was mid-’60s “we’re all brothers” storytelling for a time when racial tensions were high.

Among Court’s horror film treasures, I’d have to pick The Masque of the Red Death and Premature Burial as favorites, both from Corman. Happily, you can get those two together on an MGM “Midnite Movies” double feature DVD, where the short flicks appear on the same disc.

While playing a wicked woman in Red Death, Court’s more innocent female co-star was Jane Asher, an actress who at the time was dating Paul McCartney — who even visited the set. Perhaps “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” works with the Beatles, too.

My own personal role in that game is through Robert Altman’s Ready to Wear (aka Pret-a-Portet), in which I played a fashion-press extra at the Cort Romney (Richard Grant) fashion show, held in a chateau in the country outside Paris. (The clothes were actually by Vivienne Westwood.) For two days on the set, I sat behind Sophia Loren and to the side of Lauren Bacall, Stephen Rea and Rupert Everett. Anyway, Julia Roberts also was in that film (though not on the set during my two days of the shoot, unlike then-husband Lyle Lovett), and she was in Flatliners, and so was Kevin Bacon. So there — two degrees of separation between Kevin and ol’ Bruce.

But I digress. Whether related somehow to the Beatles or to such greats as Jack Nicholson (The Raven), Court was a star in her own right, and she will be missed.

Hazel Court was 82.


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