Delores Fangot ,
After the cornucopia of signs that was JOHNNY GUITAR (1954), the auteur
decided that the message of female empowerment through catfighting needed
to be spread to the drive-ins. Smithee, a director whose postwar 'up and
coming' phase (and bribery of management) was still remembered fondly on
the B-movie lots, found a friendly ear among backers eager to capitalize
on the decade's heady mix of crime anxiety, rogue females and communist
The resultant opus, WHORCHESTRA!, was at first to be a 10-day shoot with a
script about a ring of spying, zaftig, Communist hookers disguised as an
all-girl jazz band. His insistence on musical authenticity, however, led
to auditioning jazz players of primarily Negro descent, which would have
presented severe distribution problems in the Southern US. He ultimately
relented, and changed whores' cover to that of a big band, playing the
hits near airbases destined to be links in the Strategic Air Command. His
selection process led to a wealth of talent, both young women eager to
prove their musical talents on film as well as experienced tourers
displaced by the return of GIs to the bandstand.
There was an unique bond among many of the women, which led to the
production of the hottest music and acting improvisation on record -- and
this bond was due solely to the intervention of one of Smithee's most
intriguing and elusive collaborators -- the artist, hoaxer, slattern and
judo enthusiast, Delores Fangot.
The former DiDi Fangonetti of the Bronx, Delores knew from an early age
that she was destined for artistic greatness -- or, at least to lean
beside and cadge a drink from it, once in a while. While leaping from
rooftop to rooftop in dungarees, sharing beers with her teenage companion,
Amy Camus, (whose own path to fame is quite the tale), she whispered plans
of moving to the Village, sharing a pied-a-terre with sensitive,
neurasthenic males who'd enlist her to steal the latest couture at Saks.
She spent the days in temp jobs, and the nights in bars, developing the
dark siren look that drew women of all clothing predilictions to their
When an ex-WAC truck driver (equipped with an iced case of beer, a bag of
Dexedrine and a month without erotic release) took one of DiDi's idle
nymphet flirts at face value, she kidnapped DiDi, and changed her life
forever by taking her to California, non-stop, in a multitude of ways.
(It is rumored that Ms. Fangot's penchant for easy-to-wear black jersey
turtlenecks resulted from this cross-country odyssey -- that, and her
tendency to steal tips.)
When Smithee, slumming in West Hollywood dives for girls 'disenchanted'
with their lives (and trust funds) to contribute heavily to his vision,
found himself armed with a smashed beer bottle against Delores (who
mistakenly thought him competition for a mid-level starlet), he knew he
found his Cold-War muse. They set up shop on Sunset, started a modest
basket of blackmail fund schemes, and planned their first ventures.
* * *
To remind one of the discursively un-seminal climax of WHORCHESTRA! (the
first Smithee/Fangot effort), the battle of the bands occurs just as boy
singer/FBI agent Smithson Jones, torn between the two women bandleaders,
discovers the identity of the Communist courier (easy to spot, since she's
the only one who completes a pass with him):
As the music heats up, the duo throw roses at Jones, with enough force to
scratch him; at that point he slowly puts on the ring the more underhanded
of the two gave him, sparking the fight.
The bands keep trading solos as the hair flies, and Jones watches as the
spy tries to escape; she falls into the hands of the FBI, whose agents
smile bemusedly at the lovely, tough ladies fighting. Jones is about to
interrupt them with a pitcher of cold water, to inform them of how they've
just served their country, when to his horror the women, enclenched,
finally acknowledge their rivalry masked their intense mutual desire. As
they kiss, the couples between the bands move out into the light, and the
perky girl singer croons "You Made Me Love You (Dear Mr. Gable)" to her
beloved butch sax player.
The audience goes wild, some throwing chairs, many cursing, but soon the
exquisitely dressed daughter of the town's crime lord silently orders her
all-female team of bodyguards to clear the ballroom, so she can finally
listen to the music of her dreams in peace. As Jones gives up and joins
the tide of repulsed patrons, the sax gal breaks into her own rockabilly
composition, "(no longer) High N'Dry", the walking bass begins to strut,
and idle band members begin to seriously neck. The bodyguards lock the
doors, and Jones rushes to his motel room, hoping to punish them the only
way he knows how...
The last scene shows Jones in his policeman friend's car, hidden in the
bushes by the state line, as he watches the two buses filled with
carousing, semi-naked women glide by.
He borrows the police radio and calls out the troops -- he calls for
arrest due to a violation of the Mann Act -- taking a woman across state
borders for immoral purposes....
The fact that civic and religious groups nationwide called for the burning
of all prints only added to its box office. Along with Preminger, Smithee
exposed the rating and censorship agencies for the restraint-of-trade
consipiracies they were -- which only piqued his interest in the greater
secrets to be discovered, at the cost of his future potential for success.
-- plain scarf