Phyllis Diller’s Greatest Film Role


Ever since Mr. Pinnock and I discovered a copy in the 99 cent bin about five years ago The Fat Spy has been my favorite movie. It possesses all the avant-garde technique of Jean-Luc Godard, mixed with none of the intentionality. A sort of home movie with nationally known third tier stars, directed by Phoebe Cates’ father, with music by the Wild Ones, it stars Borscht Belt comedian Jack E. Leonard in dual roles as “Herman” and “Irving”, the incomparable Jayne Mansfield as a girl named “Junior”, B-movie villain Brian Dunlevyminor pop sensations Johnny Tillotson and Lauree Berger (a bit behind the curve stylewise in 1966), and  Phyllis Dillerin her best film role ever (because she is not playing second fiddle to Bob Hope): the Cruella Devillesque “Camille Salamander”, who schemes to get the secret of the Fountain of Youth away from Herman…or is it Irving? The film is so dubious that, despite the fact that it’s supposed to be set on a desert island, throughout the movie we see Miami a short distance away, across a harbor dotted with boats. I screened it at the Brick Theater a few years ago, and Hope Cartelli, who is the very definition of life itself, fell asleep. THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS HOW GOOD IT IS.

Anyway, who doesn’t admire Phyllis Diller? I thought she was as funny as hell, and she kept right on being a pistol right to the very end. We salute her today as she heads off to that great comedy club in the sky.


  1. I love this blog! And I love “No Applause–Just Throw Money!” I even bought it as a birthday gift for a friend.

    Here’s some more from Phyllis about that movie:

    “That was a terrible picture. It was just awful. It was filmed in a swamp in Florida. They were trying to save money, and they did, but a false economy. Every day at four o’clock, a crop duster plane came to dust away mosquitoes. It was that bad — we were doing it in a swamp. And poor old Jack E. Leonard, they had bitten him so badly on his bald head that he had to be hospitalized. I mean…

    “Jayne Mansfield was in it, and it’s the first time I had ever met her. And she had these two huge boobs and a little chihuahua stuck between them. Here’s the dog’s head, and I said, ‘You know, your chest is barking!’ Aha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

    “And you know who else was in it? Christopher Jordan [Jordan Christopher], who was married to Sybil Burton, after Burton, you know Richard Burton dumped her for Liz, Elizabeth Taylor. And a young man, Christopher Jordan, married her. He was in the movie. And, it was one of those disasters. I saw it once! That was enough.”

    –Archive of American Television interview


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