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pamela green
peeping tom


By Pamela Green

Note.. Film novices, unacquainted with PEEPING TOM, should initially educate themselves with Bill Kelley's riveting overview of the film prior to reading Ms. Green's recollections...

Magazine cover
"PEEPING TOM? Horrible! From a moral point of view, of course. It is an extremely well-made film, but a bit hard to support ... I would say that this sort of film is potentially dangerous."
Terence Fisher, 1964 Hammer film director of HORROR OF DRACULA

Michael Powell's classic originally debuted to a very hostile press. But Pamela Green, whose presence in the film courted a promotional blitz, was no stranger to controversy. As a matter of fact, negative press more often solicited prosperity.

"In 1947, I started at St. Martin's School of Art, studying life and fashion drawing," she recounts. "I began nude modeling in 1948 to help pay for my fees." One year later, after touring as a member of the Russian Ballet School, Green's modeling earned her "more per hour than I could earn in a day at an art school." She parlayed her dancing skills into gigs at the London Casino and the Folies Bergere.

One of her photographers, George Harrison Marks, "asked me to buy out his partner and come into business with him. As equal partners, we set up a limited company and brought out the first issue of Kamera, a nude, figure-study magazine that hit newsstands in 1957; a huge success, it spawned publication of Solo, another monthly magazine. We were also producing our own 8mm glamour films. One was shown on TV and there was an outcry--which was very good publicity for us. But we found out there was no market for 8mm films, and we had already spent money like water."

When the studio floundered, Green hoped to recoup profits with the production of her first featurelength movie, NAKED AS NATURE INTENDED (1961): "This was shown only at one very small cinema, and never had a general release." Green dissolved her business and "began to work on "the technical side of many films." Adhering to the genre, Green reserved the remainder of her onscreen appearances for THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE (1962) and LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF (1974).

During the past couple of years, Green's popularity has enjoyed a renewal. NAKED AS NATURE INTENDED crossed the Atlantic to U.S. video. Her foreword to Doing Rude Things, David McGillivray's survey of British sex films (1958-1982), earned Green's career an abridged summary on the B.B.C. But the restoration of Michael Powell's PEEPING TOM has been the primary stimulus behind Green's professional reclamation. Powell's film premiered in 1960, the same year that PSYCHO was released. Clerical and civic vilification of Hitchcock's film was a tempest in a teapot compared to the critical/public lynching of PEEPING TOM. But a legion of eminent filmmakers, impelled by Martin Scorsese's admiration for Powell's thriller, have brought the condemned movie another life.

Green offers Femme Fatales readers her personal recollection of the PEEPING TOM shoot, including an intensely candid insight into Powell's character. Read carefully; there's a couple of behind-the-seenes incidents, one particularly chilling, that parallel the film's voyeuristic theme ...

The location: Photographic Exhibition, our studio in London. Making his grand entrance, Michael Powell came face to face with an enormous picture of me leaning against a Parisian street wall; yours truly was photographically rendered in black stockings, black high heels-and nothing else. Powell, a celebrated filmmaker whose credits (THIEF OF BAGHDAD, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP) invariably surfaced on Ten Best lists, turned to his art director and said, "This is the girl I want for PEEPING TOM."

Powell had originally sampled my pictures in Kamera, one of our studio publications. Seated in the downstairs office, Powell elaborated on the proposed PEEPING TOM role. While he was casting for an authentic model, a flair for acting was mandatory; a communication had to be established between an ingenue named Millie and a schizophrenic photographer (Carl Boehm).

Drawing upon my own experience, I was training apprentice models to work for our Kamera Publications. George (Harrison Marks) and I were producing four monthly magazines and had branched out into 8mm glamour films. The development of so much merchandising precluded any opportunity to learn dramatic skills.

Nevertheless, convinced that I'd be right for the part, Powell wanted to see me in a suitably lit studio environment. Convening on the studio's top floor, Powell, the art director, and I organized a shoot. The set was a cobbled, Parisian street scene consisting of a brick wall and an arch over an alley.

I was particularly pleased with the set as I had not only designed it but personally painted the entire mise-en-seene, literally brick by brick. My studio assistant had taken a plaster cast from an actual London Street, including the pavement and the cobbles. Supplementing this authenticity with tiny ferns, moss, street lamp and genuine French posters, the finished product looked like the real thing. I had studied art and painting for seven years, the last four of which were spent at London's St. Martin's School of Art. Though educated in set design and painting, my primary passion was drawing and painting the nude figure.

Powell, looking through the lens of a camera, was satisfied with my appearance. The costumes that Millie had to wear were conversely sexy but concealing; remember, the year was 1959 and the mainstream industry was intolerant of nudity. A large color photograph, framed on the studio wall, intrigued Powell and foreshadowed the cosmetic development of my film character. The photo depicted a girl with waist-length, flaming red hair; wearing a deep pink and gold waspier corselet, her bared breasts had very visibly burst from the black lace negligee clinging to her shoulders. I tipped off Powell that the semi-nude libertine was myself in a red wig and a subtle change of makeup; she was a character-a French nightclub singer-whom I christened as Rita Landre. Her invention stirred more than a cursory interest in the media. I complied with Powell's request to model Rita's costume. He thought the pink and gold corselet was ideal, but berated the black lace as "too heavy."

My makeup room: I had two long racks of costumes that I had designed and made myself. Powell sorted out a see-thru nylon negligee that was trimmed with black lace. I took off the black negligee and slipped on the magenta "shortie" that Powell had approved. He thought it perfect for the first scene. Next, he wanted a full-length negligee and picked out a pale green, semitransparent flower-spattered nylon. This would do for the costume in the second scene.

Fascinated by our set, Powell asked if he could duplicate the street scene for his movie. Traversing to another corner of the studio, Powell examined another of our set-ups: an attic interior consisting of a black iron bedstead with bed linen and pillows. Powell thought the setting would be compatible with my final scene in the film. I read for the Millie partat St. Mary Abbott Studios in Kensington. Upon landing the role, I learned production was scheduled for late October; interior scenes would be shot in Buckinghamshire s Pinewood Studios. Rehearsing with the cast at St. Mary Abbott s, I crossed into virgin territory; it was the first time that I had done a reading with professional actors. Auditioning for London shows, I had to either demonstrate my dancing aptitude or show that my physique qualified me for the Folies Bergere as a semi-nude showgirl. But now I was confronted by seasoned actors like Anna Massey, Carl Boehm, Maxine Audley, and Nigel Davenport among others. I was told that Boehm's psychopath, named Mark, murders me in my final scene but it was still unclear how I was going to die. By early November, Pinewood Studios phoned in my agenda. The film company hired a car and driver to collect me each morning from my Hampstead Heath residence in North London; I was transported in similar fashion, from Pinewood Studios to my home at the conclusion of every work day.

Day #1: I was ready when the driver rang the bell of my apartment at 6 AM; had to be made-up and on the set in two hours. Driven through the dark and the rain, I felt apprehensive. I had never been to Pinewood, and I desperately needed a friend for reassurance. My vehicle cruised past the open countryside, up a long leafy lane and swung through the gatehouse of England's largest studio complex. George and Bill Partleton were waiting for me in makeup; I sat in a chair and George made up my face, which was a novelty for me. I had always had to do my own makeup and hair.

After I stripped down to my bra and pants, Bill took over and began to make up my body-mainly the arms, legs and shoulders. In the script, Millie asks Mark if he could contrive a camera angle that would camouflage her skin blemish; thus, Bill fabricated a bruise, on my left thigh, that would later prove too convincing.

Consultation with the hairdresser was followed by a visit to wardrobe and, quite frankly, I was unimpressed with my first costume. To start with, the waspier was in a dull red with gold flowers and the shortie top, tinted in a peculiar shade of scarlet, had been made of a more opaque nylon to hide the breasts. The G-string had proven too brief and, as a result, two rows of frills were sewn on the small panties; this refurbishment was added for "deceney's" sake ... and "decency" was the major worry of the film.

The third assistant escorted me to the sound stage. I was in awe. Enveloped in vacuous darkness, my eyes locked on the core of a lustrous beam. The second assistant motioned me over to the light; huge lamps illuminated a detailed reproduction of my studio set. Michael Powell, standing in the center of the stage, was talking to Carl Boehm. Something suddenly occurred to me; stepping from the hidden, shady retreat of darkness, I suddenly made myself vulnerable. Feeling scared, I would have preferred to trade my salary for an expedient voyage back home...

A man, seated in the shadows, lifted himself up and approached me.

"Pamela, do you remember me?"

Of course I knew him. Good ole'Peter Noble.

"I've come especially to interview you."

Peter Noble and I went back a long way. We originally met, back in 1953, at London's Prince of Wales Theatre. As a semi-nude entertainer in Bernard Delfont's "Folies Bergere" revue, I spotted Peter when he was interviewing the show's vaudevillian star, Norman Wisdom. The engagement provided me with an opportunity to meet George Harrison Marks, who was photographing Wisdom and offered free sittings to the showgirls. Together, we nourished a collaborative spark. I used to interview most of the big American stars who appeared at the London Palladium. George photographed each of the celebrities, and the pictures found a home in magazines that hired Peter as a journalist.

So here was the friend whose confidence and support I needed so much. Detecting my panic, Peter offered some reassurance: "Just walk onto the set. Once you are under the lights, you won't feel so scared. Beyond the lights, you will see nothing. Go on-GO!!" I walked on ...

Powell lumbered in my direction. Clutching my script, I fervently groped for a retention of my lines. As I erectly stood on the set, Otto Heller proceeded to light me while the focus pullermeasuring my distance to the camera-literally made my mark on the stage floor with a taped cross. Finally, all was ready and a shrill bell announced the first rehearsal. The initial shot was of me reposing by the door, smoking a cigarette. Problem #1: I never smoked in my life. A member of the crew lit a cigarette for me, and-taking a couple of drags - I feigned the motions of veteran nicotine addict. Each take required another cigarette. A couple of puffs later, I recited my lines and opened the door.

Cut to the other side of the door for Carl Boehm's entry - recite same dialogue-then cut to another angle, The scene had been shot from a variance of camera positions by the time we broke for lunch.

Day #2: We picked it up from the door, and moved on to the Parisian street setting. I was becoming accustomed to the filmmaking process. Peter was quite right; beyond the luminescent blaze of the lamps I could see nothing. Lighting me with loving care, Otto Helter would inevitably call for that extra "Inky Dink" just to highlight a cheekbone; his meticulousness irritated the director to no end. "Hurry up, Otto!" was Michael Powell's trademark growl throughout the entire shoot.

Carl Boehm fluffed a line on one take and stopped cold. Compliant with my theatrical training, it was incumbent upon me to cover my coplayer's fluffed line by cutting-in with my own dialogue. But this tradition proved impractical on the set. "CUT!" bellowed Powell. Turning to Carl, he frostily snarled, "You are an actor and should at least know your lines. She [pointing to me] has never stood on a film set before, but she covered you like a professional." Glimpsing the humiliation expression on Carl's face, I thought, "Thanks a lot, Mr. Powell. You just declared open season on Pamela Green." Lesson #1: Don't try to rescue your fellow actors. Look after Number One.

PEEPING TOM summoned horrors sans graphic carnage; this non-violent option was in direct contrast to the then-popular Hammer horror films (and I'd seen all of them), where Eastman blood was spattered all over the shop. I had been secretly hoping that my own death scene would be bloody; however, I had already been tipped-off that the camera would cut away to a shot of a policeman who, after examining my corpse, would offer an understated prognosis ("She's dead"). It was a very anemic way to go, though I was still uncertain exactly how my character would be bumped-off.!

Day #3: My scene and dialogue with Carl, which centered on the bruise, was viewed among the rushes. Someone thought the bruise to be "too conspicuous"; hence, the scene was reshot though, this time around, the bruise was less pronounced, more faded.

Day #4: Rushes of the revised scene rendered a different verdict; the bruise was gauged as too pale. And so it went on and on and on...

Whenever I had a moment off the set, Peter would interview me for the B.B.C. and B.B.C. Overseas. Parade and Blighty magazines wanted to photograph me on the set for color, double-page spreads. The public relations department appeared lackadaisical in their efforts to promote PEEPING TOM. Picking up the slack, George photographed me in the film's sole "glamour" repository: the sets reproduced from my studio tableaux. Color shots were printed in our Deluxe Kamera calendar, while the remainder of the photos were fanned out to a profusion of newspapers and magazines.

All of our photo possessions - sets of nudes, pinups, calendars, Kamera magazines - were loaned out as set dressing in a scene depicting a news agent's shop; when the film debuted, the visibility of these props increased the sale of our merchandise.

Michael Powell was a strange man; cold and somewhat remote, he wielded a sarcastic tongue. His popular pastime appeared to be humiliating actors, and at least one thespian would be pegged as his whipping boy; I recall the day that Powell targeted yours truly as his personal quarry ...

Storm clouds started to brew when Otto was lighting me for a scene. All of a sudden, my flowered negligee wasn't transparent enough.

"Well, that's because it has been sewn with a pink lining-for decency's sake," explained wardrobe.

"Then take it out now!" screeched Powell. The storm was incrementally turning into a tempest.

I removed the offending garment and handed it to the wardrobe lady, who cut out the lining with a pair of scissors. I put the refashioned negligee back on, and was relit. But with the lights beaming through the diaphanous fabric, the cameraman thought my costume was too transparent! The crew shifted the lamps. I was measured and my marks were outlined on the floor; the set was extremely narrow, and I had to cautiously remain in a rigid position at the head of the bed.

"Camera! Action!" We were rolling with the scene where I chew out Mark for recruiting me to pose.

"CUT!" screamed Powell. "Why are you not moving about? You are supposed to be angry with him! Just don't stand there, throw yourself around the set!"

My timidity quickly eroded; turning to the camera operators, I asked them, "If I 'throw myself around', wouldn't I be out of camera range?"

"Yes, Miss Green." "And aren't I supposed to strictly adhere to the marks that are taped to the floor. -wouldn't any kind of improvisation risk cutting me out of camera range?"

"Yes, that's true, Miss Green."

My temper really flared; turning to Powell, I yelled, "Why don't you make up your bloody mind?" Powell abruptly shifted from aristocratic tyrant to a chivalrous British gentleman. We did the scene again-sans tantrums. Lesson #2: Stand up to the director, and it's likely he'll back down.

Next morning, upon my arrival at the studio, I found the waspier and the shortie top had been sorted out for me in the dressing room. I was very puzzled; why were these garments handpicked for me? "You're to put them on for a shot that Mr. Powell wants," replied someone from wardrobe. I inquisitively searched the sound stage and discovered the Parisian street set, which had been struck, was partially erected again. Nobody was on the set; a couple of arcs, but no electricians. Otto appeared, patted my hand, and said, "Not to worry." It all began to sound pretty ominous. Powell eventually surfaced and described his inspiration as something that came to me last night." He wanted my image to be distinctly visible on the lens of Mark's Linhof 5x4" view camera; this vision of me would be upside down and fill the screen. I was the sole actor required for the shot.

Four arcs were arranged to light me. Gaping through the back of the camera, Powell insisted, "The image isn't bright enough." Otto took a reading on his meter. The movie camera was in position, but Powell still wasn't satisfied: "More light!" Then he asked for the protective fresnel glass to be taken off one of the brutes. Otto protested, "No, Michael it is too dangerous." Powell took no notice and had the glass taken off another arc and yet another; the resultant burst of unyielding, blistering light felt like an atomic blast. Bill, checking my makeup, warned me, "Don't look at the lights, Pam." Swinging over to the director, Bill cried, "For Christ's sake, you'll blind her." I felt my skin beginning to burn, red patches appeared on my arms and shoulders. The reckless furnace of flares, discharged from the four naked Brutes, was incinerating my face. Powell watched my discomfort with a slight smile on his face. Eventually the shot was over and the arcs were quickly killed. Bill hurried over to me and removed my false eyelashes; then, in the makeup room, he cleansed the makeup from my face. "That shot should never have been permitted," Bill kept repeating. I didn't know that a bare are could blind a spectator; then again, posing in his makeshift Hades, I wasn't blinded to Powell's Faustian game. He was challenging me in a competitive trial of strength.

Next morning, I couldn't open my eyes; they were swollen shut. My driver, unnerved by my lacerated face, helped me down to the waiting car. Bill, awaiting me in makeup, looked grim. My peripheral vision was limited to obfuscated images seen through two tiny slits.

Seizing my arm, Bill dragged me across the sound stage. Finally encountering the director, Bill admonished him with, "Look at her face, will you?" Powell turned, shot a glance at me and casually replied, "Make sure that she is ready and made up for 9 a.m." Bewildered by Powell's insensitivity, Bill shouted, "I can't put makeup on her as she is." Powell shrugged his shoulders: "That is your problem, just see that she is on the set by 9." And he walked away.

Bill worked on my eyelids for an hour with ice packs and pads soaked in Murine. Wearing a minimum of makeup, I put on the negligee and made my way to the set. We were shooting the conclusive phase of the scene where Millie, laying on a mattress, is murdered. My final two lines of dialogue: "Are you safe to be alone with?" [long pause as Millie nestles against the pillows] "--it might be more fun if you weren't." Later that afternoon, as I was conversing with Carl near the bed, Powell advised me, "The next shot is where you strip." He appeared quite chipper over the prospect.

"This is where I don't strip," yours truly snapped. "There is nothing indicated in the script that I am completely in the nude, nor has its possibility ever been discussed."

"But you strip for men," Powell sneered.

"I pose nude for my partner, who's a photographer, and that is my job. I am not a stripper on a stage."

I noticed that the stage had been suddenly jammed with men taking a respite from their commitments at Pinewood Studios-and none of them were affiliated with the production of PEEPING TOM. The cast from one of the CARRY ON burlesque comedies were watching from one corner.

Personnel from THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN, a sociodrama with Richard Attenborough that was shooting on another sound stage, were also in attendance for the "show."

Fortunately, ever since Day #1 on the set, the crew had adopted me as their "child." Realizing that I was naive about the film business, they volunteered to set my straight about professional problems. During tea break, a gaffer named Sparks quietly huddled near me. I explained that if stripping was critical to the story, I did not mind the crew being present - I was only intolerant of strangers hanging around to ogle a nude girl. The gaffer told me what to do: "You just say 'Clear the set, and put the drapes up." And I did, much to the considerable astonishment of Michael Powell; his facial expression silently posed the question, "Who's been showing her the ropes?" It should have been pretty obvious I was declining to perform as a public peep show. But, just in case, I grabbed my mink coat and confronted the director with an ultimatum: "The money that you're paying me, for three weeks work on this picture, I earn in one day at my own studio. So while you make your mind up, I'm going." Powell, instantly the embodiment of Gallic charm, capitulated. "O.K., the drapes will be put up."

The next day the set was enclosed in black velvet drapes; outsiders were quarantined from the unscripted nudity. Bill rushed me into a dressing room and applied pancake makeup to my naked body. The third assistant dropped in with a communique: "Powell says, 'Will you hurry up?'" Tossing the assistant a sponge, Bill ordered him to "Shut up, and cover her back." The two men massaged me with makeup at top speed-up my legs, inside my legs ("Bend over Pam, I want to do your bum"). Inspecting their handiwork, both men suddenly realized that they had been slapping makeup on a totally nude girl. "I didn't even stop to think," commented a perplexed Bill.

Taking my position by the bed, I saw two young boys - approximately seven and eight years old-sitting on the floor in front of the camera. Powell, noticing my distress, identified the tykes as his sons; he wanted them to watch the scene. Sick of arguing, I struck a pose for the first take. The producers insisted on shooting two separate versions of the same scene. The camera was locked at the head of the bed for Take #1: I recited MY line, reclined on the bed and my negligee split open to reveal that my breasts were only partially covered. I was bare from ribs to navel. Second version: The camera was perched directly over my body. I parroted the same dialogue and, again, laid down on the mattress but-this time-the negligee opened entirely for an unobstructed view of my bare physique. Cut to close up of me, end of scene.

I remained on the bed for some still photography. Suddenly, I was aware of a stranger's presence; he was at the foot of the bed, aiming a camera straight up my naked body. I sat up quickly: "You're shooting me from that angle? No pictures! Get him off the set!" Electricians pounced on the intruder, whipped away his camera and ejected him off the set. It turned out to be some photo-journalist who had got wind of the fact that there was a naked girl on F Stage. Turns out I left behind a legacy; I was the first nude in a British feature length film.

Upon wrapping the film, I was required only to loop some additional lines. Powell instructed scriptwriter Leo Marks to embellish one scene's dialogue where my back was to the camera. I stood in the sound effects stage as Powell demonstrated the dubbing procedure. He was so gentle and kind, I inquired about his pendulous swing from Hyde to Jekyll. I mean, why was he was such a pig on the set? He just smiled and said nothing. On another occasion, he had an extra set built for an exterior of Hyde Park and a small row of shops. I was curious how the crew sustained the illusion of transforming this rather cluttered set into something on a grander scale. "Walk down the path with me," grinned Powell. A series of lamp posts successively shrunk from average size to knee-high height. Explaining it was a forced perspective set, Powell invited me to look through the camera lens. He noted the set had been decorated for the film's title sequence: a smooching couple, engaged in a nocturnal tryst on the grass, discover Mark is voyeuristically photographing them. The man jumps up and shouts, "Peeping Tom!"

My personal pictures more often plugged PEEPING TOM, since the film's publicists covered themselves with only one single image that - to this day - ties-in with book and TV revivals: the shot of Mark posing me in the first scene.

The world premiere of PEEPING TOM was held on April 7, 1960 at the Plaza Cinema, Piccadilly. A 40-foot cut-out of me, clad in the red waspier and black stockings, was hoisted above the theatre; planted at the feet of the comely colossus was a sign - "and introducing Pamela Green" - illuminated in electric lights. So many flash bulbs were interminably popping that it appeared the press adlibbed their own "day for night" delusion. I connected with Otto Heller and his wife, and we plowed our way into the packed auditorium. As we passed the foyer, Michael Powell turned to me and asked, "We're still friends, aren't we, Pamela?" I smiled and said nothing.

Upon finally screening the film, I noticed that various scenes had been cut out; the Hyde Park sequence with its lamp posts, and the couple lying in the grass .... gone. But the footage of my nude scene, superbly lit by Otto, was beautiful; the soft folds of the negligee, opened to display the curve of my breasts and torso, and my hair spread out on the pillow .. a pity this exotic tapestry concludes with a knife plunged into my character's throat.

The flashback scenes, shot in black and white, were disturbing; the footage traced Mark's embittered childhood. He was a guinea pig, quietly terrorized by his dad as an experiment in fear. The father was played by none other than Michael Powell, who cast one of his own sons as the youthful, traumatic Mark. While viewing the scene, I experienced my own flashback; I remembered Powell's insistence that his two sons watch me on that last scene, the one where I performed alternate versions of the nude scene. A strange man, Powell.

The screening was followed by a party at the Savoy Hotel. We were speculating on the press reaction to the film ...

The critics waged war on Powell, branding PEEPING TOM as "violent" and "pornographic"; the less vicious pans described the film as "crude" and "nasty". The local Watch Committees ostracized the film, denying it playdates in their towns. My nude was cut out and substituted with the milder version, photographed in a long shot (European prints of PEEPING TOM retained the more risque nudity, unedited and intact). Powell's successful career screeched to an abrupt halt. Exiled by the British film industry, he retreated to Australia after making THE QUEEN'S GUARDS. Concluding his directorial career on Aussie turf, he made THEY'RE A WEIRD MOB (1966) and AGE OF CONSENT (1969).


A couple of decades later, the reviled film enjoyed a rebirth. Director Martin Scorsese arranged for a screening of PEEPING TOM at the 1979 New York Film Festival. But my nude footage appears to have vanished. Thus, I prevail upon Mr. Scorsese-who is genuinely impassioned with film-to please, if possible, recover the bawdier version of my bed scene. Maybe it's lost forever, but at least I have its reproduction among my own publicity pictures.

Incidentally, a U.S. correspondent enlightened me to a revival of PEEPING TOM at his local cinema; when the credits rolled, and my name came up, the audience stood up and applauded! Though a bit belated, it's quite a salutary acquittal from that first round of negative reviews. I'll always be grateful for Millie; her 35-year-old negligee still hangs in my wardrobe.

PAMELA GREEN "The director, Michael Powell, was a strange man. Cold and somewhat remote, he wielded a sarcastic tongue. His popular pastime appeared to be humiliating actors."

Michael Powell referred to PEEPING TOM as a very tender film

If you haven't already done so you really should read Bill Kelley's riveting interview with Michael Powell and overview of the film.

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