Rialson (center) with Jeffrey Kramer (left) and Dick Miller (right) in Hollywood Boulevard
Bad news straight from Hollywood Boulevard: 1970s B-movie starlet Candice Rialson, has died. But here’s the strange part: apparently she died four months ago and no one seems to have even noticed. According to Ted Cogswell, proprietor of a brand-new blog entitled High and Low, the folks at Code Red DVD were trying to track her down to participate in an upcoming release of her twisted grindhouse classic Pets (1974) and when they reached her husband he informed them of the sad news. (There is a link to Code Red DVD’s blog, where more information may be forthcoming, posted on High and Low, but access requires a registration on MySpace.com.) If you look up Candice on IMDb, you’d see that her last role was a bit part in William Richert’s Winter Kills, but after that it’s left to speculation as to what Ms. Rialson had been up to in the years (27 of ‘em) since that movie’s release, and there is certainly no indication that she is no longer among the living.
Hopefully, the discovery made by Code Red DVD will lead to some acknowledgment in the press of Ms. Rialson’s death—an official obituary in the trades, some kind of tribute from some of the people who worked with her perhaps (Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Dick Miller, among many others). It’s hard to understand, even when the passing of someone whose moment in the Hollywood spotlight was brief, and was admittedly a minor one to begin with, how that person’s death can go almost completely unnoticed. None of us knows what her life was like in the months and years before her death, and even the circumstances of that death aren’t, as far as I can tell, public knowledge yet either. Perhaps it was a request she left with her husband that her passing be left unmarked. Perhaps it was a decision he made himself. Rialson’s fans may never know why it took four months for her death to come to light. We’re left only to remember her buxom, sunshiny, anything-goes presence and the smeared-lipstick mark she left on the drive-in exploitation pictures of the ‘70s.
(Thanks to Ted Cogswell and High and Low for the information. Inspired name choice, Ted!)
UPDATE 8/10/06 5:02 p.m.: A friend sends along a link to Candice Rialson’s page on Mr.Skin.com, a site devoted to (among other things, I’m sure) “celebrating nudity in film.” The page’s bio of the actress ends with the following:
“She even remained mysterious in death, as her March 31, 2006, death wasn't discovered by the public until nearly six months later.”
Aside from the fact that Mr. Skin seems to have trouble, at least as far as arithmetic is concerned, with his “gazintas” (his claim that her March 31 death wasn’t discovered until nearly six months later would have it being revealed to the general public sometime this coming October), this is the first note that I’ve seen about Rialson’s passing outside of the reportage from Code Red DVD and High and Low. (I have no idea when Mr. Skin’s bio of Rialson was posted.) I can only hope that more information, or just a simple acknowledgment, in the print and electronic media is just around the corner.
UPDATE 8/11/06 9:43 a.m.: That Little Round-Headed Boy kindly refers us all to Tim Lucas' Video Watchblog, where Tim invited directors Allan Arkush and Joe Dante, who co-directed Ms. Rialson in Hollywood Boulevard, to offer their remembrances of the actress. They obliged, and we are very grateful to them.
Arkush: "She looked beautiful and embodied all the glamour a New World Picture could muster. I'm missing you, Candice... but I'm sure Paul Bartel is calling you & all actors 'cattle' in Movie Heaven."
Dante: "Although her reign was brief, she set many an ozoner heart aflutter and is warmly remembered by not only those of us lucky enough to work with her, but by what Norma Desmond called 'those wonderful people out there in the dark.'"
On behalf of those people out there in the dark that Norma and Joe referred to, thanks, Tim, for contacting these men, soliciting them for their thoughts and, of course, posting them.
UPDATE 8/11/06 10:15 a.m.: Ted Cogswell at High and Low has been busy putting together a good collection of links to discussion and writing about Rialson's passing, including a wonderful piece from Marty McKee and a couple of excellent forums headed up by Casey Scott. Plus, if you go to Ted's site, you'll see a couple of terrific shots of Ms. Rialson, one from Candy Stripe Nurses, the other from Hollywood Boulevard. Ted, the way you've mourned and commemorated Rialson's passing is funny and moving and appropriate, and I bet she would think so too.
UPDATE 8/19/06 10:27 a.m. Candice Rialson's cousin, Kim, was kind enough to write in with her own remembrances in response to this and, I'm sure, all the other obituaries and notices posted since the revelation of Candice's death. You can read that remembrance in the comments column below. Thanks, Kim, for taking the time to give us all a glimpse of the Candice you knew and loved.
UPDATE 12/11/07 I've been corresponding with Candice's brother Scott, who sends along a lovely portfolio shot of the actress as well as his appreciation for all of his sister's fans and the concern shown by them here on this blog and in other places since her death over a year and a half ago. I have extended best wishes for Scott and his family for a happy holiday season, in the hope that memory of Candice enriches it and makes it ultimately more meaningful. Here's the photo: