Mamie van Doren, Bad-Girl Blonde Of '50s Cult Cinema, Then And Now

By | February 23, 2021

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Mamie Van Doren posing for a phot shoot and on the poster of 'Born Reckless.' Sources: eBay;

Peruse Mamie Van Doren's filmography -- Untamed Youth (1957), High School Confidential (1958), Born Reckless (1958), Girls Town (1959), Vice Raid (1960), Sex Kittens Go To College (1960) -- and you get a feel for this iconic blonde's Hollywood story. Casablanca and Gone With The Wind, it ain't. If she was eye-candy and her movies tended toward exploitation, that doesn't mean Van Doren wasn't culturally significant. Quite the contrary. As an artifact of its time, a film like High School Confidential will tell you more about American society, with all its taboos and fears, in the 1950s than the romantic comedies of Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn, or even most of the movies made by Van Doren's pneumatic blonde rivals Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.

Now in her ninth decade, Van Doren remains a symbol of a previous era of Hollywood, but more than that, a time when filmmakers were luring audiences to theaters with scandalous subject matter that seems unremarkable today. Van Doren made movies about rock 'n roll and juvenile delinquency; the '50s have been called the decade that gave us the American teenager, and Van Doren's movies traded on the potential dark side of this emerging class of independent youth. Van Doren made a women's-prison movie, she made a movie about the Beat Generation, she made a movie in which she played the Biblical Eve, wearing story-appropriate wardrobe (in other words, not much). She was a serial bad girl at a time when America feared bad girls almost as much as the red menace.

The Gal From Rowena, South Dakota

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Mamie Van Doren in "Untamed Youth." (facebook)

Few Hollywood starlets hail from South Dakota, but then again, few starlets invent themselves in the same fashion as Mamie Van Doren -- who was born Joan Lucille Olander but given the name "Mamie" to piggyback on the popularity of the then-new First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower. The unabashed blonde lived life her way and didn’t care whose feathers she ruffled along the way. Along with Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren set the standard for raucous blondes that set the ‘50s on fire. In an era ruled by men, Van Doren blazed her own trail, with a flamethrower.

Her movie choices exemplified her life from Untamed Youth to Born Reckless. She dated everyone from Jack Dempsey to Frank Sinatra and almost everyone in between. However, she never did something she didn’t want to and always did someone she desired. Here’s to one of the first sex symbols to ever sashay through Hollywood.