A tribute to Edy Williams (Edwina Beth Williams), whose birthday it is today, according to IMDB. Williams is on my radar chiefly because she is one of the best things (in a film full of best things) about one of my favorite movies, Russ Meyer’s 1970 Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
Amusingly, Williams was also married to Meyer in 1970 — amusing because she’s one of the villains in the film and is directed to be (gorgeous as she is) as unappealing as possible. She has enormous fun in the role, and it’s sort of a miraculous high water mark given her career as a whole. Most of her career prior to that was in bit parts: set dressing, eye candy, or to use the awful phrase from Soylent Green: “furniture”.
She began as a model and beauty pageant contestant, apparently winning some of her contests. Originally from Salt Lake City, she had a wholesome kind of beauty, not unlike Sharon Tate’s, which makes the sleaziness of her later roles more interesting in the context of an “evolution”. And, if these photographs are any gauge, for a period of time, she also worked as a receptionist:
It seems as though she was very versatile. For example, she could be a cowboy…
Or an Indian:
When she began to get film parts, they seem an extension of her modeling. She plays a chorus girl in the famous Twilight Zone episode The Dummy (1962) with Cliff Robertson, about the evil ventriloquist dummy:
She’s in Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) with Elvis:
In another Batman episode she’s a hostess at a nightclub run by Catwoman:
She’s in the 1966 Steve McQueen western Nevada Smith as a saloon girl, and in the 1967 Sonny and Cher movie Good Times as one of George Sanders’ “girls”. Then she starts to get some real roles. She’s 4th billed in George Axelrod’s The Secret Life of an American Wife. Here she is with co-star Patrick O’Neal:
And she’s sixth billed in Garson Kanin’s Where It’s At (1969).
Then came the the years with Meyer. They met while making Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) and he married later that year. The following year, she had a part in The Seven Minutes, Meyer’s ill-fated attempt at legitimacy. In 1973 he photographed her for a full color spread in Playboy. The couple divorced in 1977. Meyer went back to his particular brand of campy nudie films, and Williams continued on a sort of parallel track. Some of her more prominent roles were in The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977), Paul Mazursky’s Willie and Phil (1980), and an episode of the satirical tv show Sledge Hammer (1987). In later years (through the 90s at least) she became best known for showing up at film festivals and awards show with outfits specially designed for her to fall out of her dress. But this is how we like to remember her best: