“Vera, Vera, what has become of you?” – Roger Waters
This month’s dose of Hammer Glamour comes to us via ingénue Vera Day, an actress about whom I knew relatively little before I opened up this year’s Hammer calendar and began skittering through her back catalog. (Waters, of course, was referencing another Vera altogether.)
According to her own Web site, Day began her show business career at age 19 when she auditioned for Wish You Were Here, an American-financed stage musical for which she admits she was hired less for her musical talent than for the way she filled out a bikini. So would it be, it seems, throughout Vera Day’s career. It was during the run of Wish You Were Here that she was discovered by Val Guest, who cast her in an uncredited role in his 1954 drama Dance, Little Lady. From there she made appearances in John Guillermin’s Shop Spoiled (1954) and Carol Reed’s A Kid for Two Farthings (1955).
But it was the second half of the '50s that would prove to be Day’s most active period as a screen actress. 1957 saw the release of her most widely-known movies, The Prince and the Showgirl, directed by Laurence Olivier, and, of course, the movie for which she is ranked among Hammer’s scream queens for 2012, Quatermass II: Enemy from Space, where she would once again by directed by Guest.
(Day’s insider perspective as a surviving cast member from the set of the Olivier movie, which of course starred Marilyn Monroe alongside the British thespian icon, was accessed recently when she weighed in on the actual factuals of My Week with Marilyn, which of course purports to tell of an affair between Monroe and a production assistant on the film.)
In 1958 Vera Day also starred in notable genre films like The Haunted Strangler, Up the Creek and The Woman Eater, but by the early ‘60s, after a few more less-than-memorable appearances in movies in British TV, her career in films took a backseat to domestic life after she married photographer Terry O’Neill (himself later married to Faye Dunaway) and had two children with him.
Despite dropping out of the spotlight, Day has always remained active on the autograph and fan convention circuit, and she scored a return to movies after a 34-year absence in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Her most recent feature was 2007’s The Riddle, in which she fills out an eccentric cast comprised of her Smoking Barrels costar Vinnie Jones, Derek Jacobi, Julie Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Flemyng and Mel Smith. She's been at it since 1954, and given the tenacity she's already shown in remaining on the radar there's no reason to believe Vera Day's day is done yet.
(Above: Vera Day poses with Dave, a poster collector and Hammer horror aficionado who hosts his own spectacular site, Hammer Horror Posters, which is well worth a look.)