It has been agreed that I should, one of these days, sit down and count out how many people I’ve written about for the column who have appeared in Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. Honestly, I’ve several times literally just sought out images of people with puppets in the corner because that’s literally just how I think of them, and once or twice, I’ve been kind of ashamed of myself for it—John Saxon has a long and interesting and varied career that shouldn’t be summed up by Mitchell, and I remain sorry that to me it is. But Mamie Van Doren has to hold some kind of record for sheer number of appearances with puppets in the corner while not having worked with Roger Corman, Bert I. Gordon, or Ed Wood.
She is the only one of the so-called “three M’s” of the ’50s to not die young and tragically. I mean, I assumed she was dead, because she’s 88, but she’s in fact alive. She didn’t have Monroe’s untreated depression, I guess, and she didn’t have the extravagance that forced Mansfield onto the road to pay her bills And so she’s still going, though I’ll admit I didn’t know that until I thought, “Hey, I bet I could do her for Attention Must Be Paid!” And I couldn’t, so I put her on the schedule for the first opportunity. Which is today.
Alas, she certainly didn’t have the career of Marilyn Monroe, and she made the mistake of rejecting the role Mansfield would accept in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? So mostly, she did things like Untamed Youth and Girls Town and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women. There’s something depressing about a movie called Sex Kittens Go to College at the best of times, and it’s not made better when a character name is “Dr. Mathilda West aka Tassels Montclair.” She has one of those careers where it’s hard to say how talented she is, because few of her movies required any.
I mean, I hesitate to say that there must have been something to her because Howard Hughes gave her a contract. But I don’t want to say that Howard Hughes was only interested in certain of her assets, either. I mean, maybe she could have shown an incredible amount of talent with a better script, you know? Probably she wasn’t exactly called on to do her best in Vice Raid. All of which kind of boils down to “there’s a reason I haven’t seen most of her movies that don’t involve puppets in the corner.”
Honestly, I’m curious as to how she views those appearances, you know? Is she of the Miles O’Keefe “I must show this to everyone I know” school? Or the Joe Don Baker “I want you and everyone you love dead” school? Or somewhere in between? Is she one of those people who thinks that at least it means people today know who she is? There are many options, here, and we don’t know, or at least I don’t know, which one she falls under. I’m kind of curious; I guess she’s on social media, so I guess we can ask her?