Tribute By Monica Sullivan
Hillary Brooke was a tall, classy blonde who shimmered with intelligence and style. The word "tall" meant that she couldn't be cast in virginal roles opposite many male stars of the 30's, 40's and 50's, but she could be vixens, vamps and villains, all of which she played with a twinkle in her eyes. That twinkle extended her career, because it meant she could also do comedies, namely films like "Africa Screams" and "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd," as well as the team's popular television series. By 1952, she was so at ease working with Bud and Lou that she was able to calm Charles Laughton, of all people, when he confessed to nervousness about co-starring with the famed duo. Away from the comedy arena, Hillary Brooke specialized in playing women who were up to no good, like Blanche Ingram in "Jane Eyre" or the title role in "Woman In Green," a Sherlock Holmes mystery with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. She also made a strong impression in a slinky gown in the Fritz Lang film noir, "Ministry of Fear," based on Graham Greene's classic novel. She was cast to confuse an already-baffled Ray Milland, and she did, with a rapid succession of distracting gestures, a cool, soothing voice, and a pair of hypnotic eyes.
Although Hillary Brooke was basically dealt the same cards in over seventy films between 1937 and 1957, she played them with a disconcerting blend of grace and venom. She made good movies look even more sumptuous and intriguing and she gave her own special menace and allure to low-budget programmers. Check out how she entraps both poor Sidney James AND bewildered Alex Nicol in "HeatWave" (also known as "The House Across the Lake" & available through Sinister Cinema). You should never turn your back on THIS dame: Luckily, whenever Hillary Brooke is on screen, you couldn't even if you wanted to.
© 1999 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 6/9/99
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