Lost, Lonely and Vicious (1958)

Confidential Exposé of Boys and Girls Clawing Their Way to Success in Hollywood!

Poster image to 1958's Lost, Lonely and Vicious

Rising young Hollywood star Johnnie Dennis (Ken Clayton) has finally gotten his big break, and his former associates harbor a fair amount of bitterness about his success and the way he has distanced himself from them. But the truth is that he’s distanced himself from everybody, allowing only his acting coach (and sometimes lover) Tanya (Lilyan Chauvin) inside, even if just a little bit. Despite his newfound success, or perhaps because of it, he’s still not happy and has become somewhat obsessed with the thought of death. His whirlwind romance with the sweet and innocent Helen Preacher (Barbara Wilson) manages to crack the shell that he has constructed around himself, but can her affection save Johnnie before he self-destructs?

The death painting from 1958's Lost, Lonely and Vicious

This James Dean-inspired teen drama features some decent acting and some fun juvenile delinquency antics with a psychological twist. Not a wholly successful endeavor, it is still a noble attempt at offering us a different look at something we’ve seen many times before.

Johnnie Dennis is suffering from some sort of emotional crisis for reasons that are never made clear. He’s always moody and brooding, looking off into the distance with intense eyes, and muttering some dark musings. He’s antsy and completely angst-ridden, and has some deep-rooted mommy issues. He spends his spare time reading psychology books at the library, drag racing on public streets, and getting into increasingly-brutal fistfights with his rival Walter (Richard Gilden), who has a chip on his shoulder three miles wide.

Johnnie’s romance with Helen Preacher (or “Preach”, as he affectionately calls her) is an unlikely one. They first meet when he almost runs her down in the street, and she starts to fall for him after he warns her that she should be more careful. During their third meeting, Johnnie practically kidnaps her and forces her to go swimming with him, to which she responds by taking him home to meet her father. Certainly none of my relationships ever started like that, but this was the 1950s, when every woman apparently just needed a dominating man (or so thought the movie business).

The stars of 1958's Lost, Lonely and Viciious

For the most part, the acting was passable for the era, the major exception being the actor who portrayed Helen’s father. The other cast members, while not “naturals” in the traditional sense were at least naturalistic, so it didn’t take too much effort to suspend disbelief. It’s no secret that Johnnie Dennis was modeled after James Dean, who had lived fast and died young some three years prior, but unfortunately Ken Clayton, the actor portraying Johnnie, doesn’t remotely have the charisma that Dean had. He’s actually rather bland as far as bad boys go, but he does have an opportunity to shine in his scenes with Helen. Their rapport is witty and clever, the believable banter of a pair of young lovers.

As far as juvenile delinquent films go, there’s probably not as much J.D. activity as one would expect or hope for. It’s really pretty talky and concerned with getting us inside the dark and stormy mind of Johnnie Dennis. This psychological angle won’t work for everybody, but I found it a complex (if not wholly successful) take on the subgenre. Based as Johnnie is on James Dean, one would expect the doom-filled finale that indeed the entire movie seems to be moving towards—and yet all we’re given is a cheap cop-out ending that severely damages everything which had come before it. This is the biggest disappointment and the primary misstep in a movie that is, otherwise, unfairly maligned.

LOST, LONELY AND VICIOUS was written by Norman Graham, whose only other credit appears to be the script for the voodoo horror MACUMBA LOVE (1960). Similarly, this seems to be director Frank Myers’s only venture into film, and producer Charles M. Casinelli’s only other credit is the seductive-sounding LOUISIANA HUSSY (1959). Interestingly enough, these movie makers shot their big Hollywood exposé in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, of all places.

Our star Ken Clayton didn’t exactly have a meteoric rise to the top, with only a few minor appearances to his name, including a small part in the UFO sci-fi flick THE COSMIC MAN the following year. Some of his onscreen cohorts had a bit more success.

Barbara Wilson (former roommate of Barbara Eden) had previously appeared in the Columbia chiller THE MAN WHO TURNED TO STONE, Herman Cohen’s BLOOD OF DRACULA, and Roger Corman’s girl gang opus TEENAGE DOLL—all in 1957. Following LOST, LONELY, AND VICIOUS, she went on to appear in INVASION OF THE ANIMAL PEOPLE (1959) and THE FLESH EATERS (1964). Richard Gilden had a number of uncredited appearances throughout the 1950s, but landed the lead in THE BLACK KLANSMAN (1966) and had a small role in THE CORPSE GRINDERS (1971), both from trashmeister Ted V. Mikels.

Carol Nugent, who played bottle-blonde also-ran Pinkie, was a child actress who first began in the business at age seven. She can also be found in INSIDE THE MAFIA (1959), VICE RAID (1960), and in dozens of other various roles of assorted (mostly smaller) sizes. She was the daughter of MGM Property Master Carl Nugent and Lucille Nugent, who would later become Carol’s agent. Lucille also represented Carol’s younger sister Judy. She was married to actor Nick Adams (star of THE REBEL) from 1959 until his death in 1968—despite a well-publicized period of marital problems—birthing Allyson and Jeb Stuart Adams, both of whom did some acting themselves. In 2002, Carol married John G. Stephens, Production Manager of the television show MY THREE SONS, on which her father was Property Master, and they remain married to this day.

Carol Nugent and Sandra Giles in 1958's Lost, Lonely and Vicious

Sandra Giles, who played new girl in town Darlene, can also be seen in DADDY-O (1958), FLAREUP (1969), and THE MAD BOMBER (1973), and although the gossip magazines loved her at the time, she never became the big movie star she was all poised to become. Her story may not be the stereotypical Hollywood success story, but is probably twice as common.

Born in Oklahoma as Leila Bernice Giles, she was raised in Texas, ending up in foster care after her father went to prison for molesting her. She ran away to fend for herself, but eventually reconnected with her mother. She married an unknown man who was around just long enough to give her a daughter, Sandra, and moved to Hollywood, where she worked in a delicatessen. She tried her hand at modeling, posing in a swimsuit for artist Philip Paval, who was hired to paint Lady Luck for a Las Vegas casino. When the painting was revealed, though, she was depicted as nude, which is not what they agreed upon. Giles filed a lawsuit and it was settled out of court. She took her $15,000 settlement and put it towards furthering her career: new car, new wardrobe, new hairdo, and lessons in singing, acting, and diction.

It was decided that Leila Bernice was not a pretty enough name for this Blonde Bombshell in the making, so she borrowed her daughter’s name, and became Sandra Giles. Television appearances, minor parts, and roles in low budget films became the standard for her career. She married her second husband, contractor Paul Robertson, in 1960, which lasted for six years until she filed for divorce claiming “extreme cruelty”, also stating that he would disappear for long periods of time without warning. These days she hosts numerous dance events at various clubs in Southern California.

Lilyan Chauvin, who played Johnnie’s acting coach, was also a highly sought after acting coach in real life, as well. She was born in France and worked there in broadcasting but moved to New York when she was 21 to pursue a career in show business, racking up an impressive list of credits on both the stage and screen. LOST, LONELY AND VICIOUS was her first theatrical role, and she went on to appear in the The Most Dangerous Game-derivative BLOODLUST! (1961) alongside BRADY BUNCH father Robert Reed; the Santa-slasher SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984); PREDATOR 2 (1990); PUMPKINHEAD II: BLOOD WINGS (1993); the Coen Brothers film THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE (2001); Spielberg’s CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002); and episodes of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1958), ONE STEP BEYOND (1959), THRILLER (1961), THE X-FILES (1995), and of course FRIENDS (1999), where she played Joey Tribbiani’s grandmother, among countless others. Chauvin died in 2008 from complications related to breast cancer, but she is fondly remembered by people inside and out of the movie industry on which this coulda-been classic was based.


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