A Cold Wind In August

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A COLD WIND IN AUGUST panted in on a hot July breeze in 1961 as a May-December romance given extra steam by marketing that stressed exploitation over exploration.  Sins slippery slope is rendered and redeemed by Lola Albright, in a gutsy, class-act performance with ample depth and plenty of the aforementioned steam.

A sultry New York City summer. If it isn’t temperature-rising enough when her skeezy ex-husband begs retired burlesque dancer ‘Iris’ (Albright) to save his skin by doing her torrid act for one more engagement, then her air conditioner goes on the fritz. The apartment super sends his teenage son (Scott Marlowe) up to repair the unit. (this can be found under, “Wow, thanks, dad, like really!”) Faster than you can say “you wish, punk”, Iris puts practiced moves on the guy, who melts like vanilla ice cream under a blowtorch. The affair goes beyond sex (man, it’s always something…) when they really do fall for each other. Thing is, he doesn’t know what she has done for a living, and she hopes to  keep him from finding out until she’s ready. Leave it to “a pal” to see that 2&2 get put together, with the proverbial excreta hitting the air conditioner.

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The set-up (six years and a Sexual Revolution before Mrs. Robinson schooled Benjamin in The Graduate) is rife for cheesy sleaze (as much as you could get away with in the year of One Hundred And One Dalmatians), but the handling is basically honest and straight-ahead, leaving moralizing aside.

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Made for a shoestring $163,000, directed by Alexander Singer (tons of TV and a few features, cue Psyche 59), written by novelist Burton Wohl, off his tawdry novel, and John Hayes, writer and director of numerous B-flicks and—unlike this serious-minded drama—actual exploitation junk. *

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Albright, at 36 sexy enough to cause a blackout, slinks away with the character like a hungry panther, her physical allure ramped up by sly humor, believable pathos, seared heart and b.s. puncturing intelligence. In this minor film, she shows what a loss it was that her career trajectory didn’t reflect her talent.

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Marlowe, like his character, is unfortunately in over his head. He’d featured in several cheapo teen-delinquent flicks, and mostly comes off clumsy here, too many “acting” tics to be fully convincing, let alone seem desirable enough for Iris/Lola to get in a shared- shower-worthy lather over. Herschel Bernardi is solid, as Iris’ old friend and he-wishes fallback; he’d co-starred with Albright on TV in Peter Gunn.  There’s a quietly effective slice of supporting work from familiar character actor Joe De Santis as the boy’s understanding father. **

For those erotic closeups of Albright, cameraman Floyd Crosby (High Noon) is the eye-meets-eyeful deserving of thanks. To swipe from Damn Yankees, “Whatever Lola, wants, Lola gets”, and rocket science isn’t needed to figure out why. Interesting artsy titles were done by Gene Grant.

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With Clark Gordon, Skip Young (oldsters may recall him from TVs The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, as the Nelson brothers buddy ‘Wally’, with the giggle, always up for “the malt shop“) and Jana Taylor.  Gets across everything it needs in 80 minutes.

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* Just some of co-scenarist Hayes later concoctions as writer and/or director: Alimony Lovers, Sweet Trash, Heterosexualis, Mama’s Dirty Girls, Jailbait Babysitter (now, in all fairness to babysitters, this needs to be examined).

Sexcapades in ’61, per the movies—-By Love Possessed, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, The Roman Spring Of Mrs.Stone, Go Naked In The World, Claudelle Inglish.

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** Marlowe, playing 17, was actually 28. His movie career went nowhere, but he did score much work in TV series (8 gigs in ’61 alone); those earlier teen delinquent movies he was groomed in include such morsels as The Cool And The Crazy, Young And Wild and Riot In A Juvenile Prison.

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Lola Albright—1924-2017

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