I consider the case of Tuesday Weld (Susan Weld, b. 1943) to be one of maddeningly unfulfilled promise. One of the screen’s great beauties as well as one of its great talents, she had the potential to be a star of the magnitude not seen since the studio days of the early 20th century. For perfectly understandable and justifiable reasons she turned down starring roles in a string of major pictures that would have secured for her that position, instead choosing to pursue a more modest path. To clarify: her existing body of work is extremely impressive. I am merely saying it might have been BLINDING in the magnitude of its dazzle.
I am distantly related to Weld. The Welds have been in America since 1632. Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, who recently ran for President is also of this family. Tuesday’s patrician father, Lathrop Motley Weld died when she was four. Her mother, a daughter of the Socialist illustrator William Balfour Ker, was alienated from her husband’s family. Forced to fall back on her own resources, she found employment for young Tuesday as a model. This led naturally to acting work. She was only 13 when she was in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man and the influential teeny bopper film Rock Rock Rock!, both in 1956. Next came Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys (1958), in which she played a character named Comfort Goodpasture, and The Five Pennies (1959) the Red Nichols bio-pic starring Danny Kaye. Television made her a household name: she had a recurring role on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1958-1959) and then a regular role on The Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-63). In a 1962 episode of The Naked City, she and Rip Torn played Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend, the same characters Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek played in Badlands. Some of her films of the ’60s: Because They’re Young (1960) with American Bandstand’s Dick Clark; Sex Kittens Go to College (1960); Blake Edwards’ High Time (1960) with Bing Crosby and Fabian; Return to Peyton Place (1961); Wild in the Country (1961) with Elvis; Bachelor Flat (1962) with Terry-Thomas; Soldier in the Rain (1963) with Jackie Gleason and Steve McQueen; The Cincinnati Kid (1965) with McQueen; I’ll Take Sweden (1965) with Bob Hope; and George Axelrod’s AMAZING, jaw-dropping Lord Love a Duck (1966) with Roddy McDowall.
This is about where we come to the fork in the road. Already having turned down the lead in Lolita (1962), sWeldwent on to turn down Bonnie and Clyde, Rosemary’s Baby, True Grit, Cactus Flower, and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, instead choosing to do Pretty Poison (1968), I Walk the Line (1970), A Safe Place (1971) and Play It As It Lays (1972). From 1975 through 1980 she was married to Dudley Moore. After a time she ceased to be cast in leading film roles, though she continued to get leads in made-for-TV films, and to play supporting roles in movies like Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977), Author! Author! (1982), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Heartbreak Hotel (1988), and Falling Down (1993). She retired following a cameo in Chelsea Walls (2001).
There appears to be a certain self-destruction, or self-abnegation to the choice Weld made at a crucial juncture in her career. We called it justifiable, and it’s not the most surprising or unique one. She had an ambivalence, even an antipathy to her career, never having chosen it to begin with. It was thrust upon her as a young child. She felt exploited. From childhood, she experienced depression, nervous exhaustion, booze and drug dependency, and even attempted suicide. She felt inappropriately sexualized, as evidenced by her comparing herself to the character she was offered to play in Lolita (interesting in that connection to compare her to Sue Lyon, who had similar self-destructive tendencies). Still her talents are missed.
It is tempting, though completely baseless, to compare her also to that other dark child named after a day of the week, Wednesday Addams. But there is no more call to do that than to mention her alongside A Man Called Thursday, or for that matter, my man Friday. Okay, I’ll stop now. Also, sorry for the Wimpy joke.