Capturing The Beautiful Ruination


As acting work dried up, she became a voluntary social worker and got to know a convicted murderer and robber named Gary 'Cotton' Adamson in 1973 (Pictured: Lyon marries Adamson)

As acting work dried up, she became a voluntary social worker and got to know a convicted murderer and robber named Gary ‘Cotton’ Adamson in 1973 (Pictured: Lyon marries Adamson)

Lyon would later claim that when she was 16 she started to suffer from bouts of severe depression, which in turn led to drug abuse, as she saw her ambitions start to wither.

In 1963, she began filming her next big film, an adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play The Night Of The Iguana, in Mexico. She again played a seductive teenager, this time to a defrocked priest played by Richard Burton.

Dear Mr. Mendes;

This is the continuation of a letter I have been composing for two weeks. Two hours ago on August 3rd, I discovered Sue Lyon died. In my open letter I am informing you there is this certain movie that is trying to be made, and your American Rose is part of this attempt. Here is a very good writer comparing AR to the movie ‘Lolita’. Throw in Night of the Iguana, The Sandpiper, The Empty Canvas, and ‘Inherent Vice’ into the mix, and you have an American Foreign Art Movie about an established older gentleman who meets a Sea Sprite, a Water Nymphet, a Mermaid, and Aphrodite on a Half Shell. The problem is, she is an underage virgin goddess – forbidden fruit! How old was Helen of Troy and Bathsheba. Then I discovered you are involved in making a movie from the book ‘Beautiful Ruins’. You can add this to the Sea Aphrodite Tales.

From ‘Beautiful Ruins’

“It is April 1962. A beautiful blond American actress, a dying beautiful blond American actress, mysteriously arrives alone and by boat to the dock of “a rumor of a town,” the fictitious Porto Vergogna on the Italian coast south of Genoa. She is 22-year-old Dee Moray, fresh off the Roman film set of “Cleopatra” — the scandal-ridden Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton epic, which, with a budget at about 300 million of today’s dollars, is among the most expensive movies ever made. This young woman’s charmed entrance into this tiny village, which is accessible only by water, captures the attention of Pasquale Tursi, the azure-eyed, even younger proprietor of an empty pen­sione, the “Hotel Adequate View.” “Chest-deep in daydreams” and also seawater, Pasquale, who aspires to turn the village into a resort town, has taken on the Sisy­phean task of trying to build a beach out of “the rocky, shrimp-curled cove” by getting wet and digging the stones out of the inlet by hand. He holds a big rock beneath his chin and watches in “a burst of clarity after a lifetime of sleep” as Dee ascends onto the pier. She smiles at him and Pasquale falls in love, and “would remain in love for the rest of his life — not so much with the woman, whom he didn’t even know, but with the moment.”

Mendes, I have composed very elegant words why you should not produce your play ‘The Motive and the Cue’. I was going to suggest you turn my Bond book ‘The Royal Janitor’ but that would look like begging. I believe you should make a Propaganda Movie to thwart Christian Nationalism. The answer is, you produce the series ‘The Trial of Paul and Jesus’ then make a movie from the series. This will be a huge success, compared to Ben Hur, and the forgotten ‘King of Kings’. You will then be free to make…La La Sue!

La La Sue is about Sue Lyon allegedly have an affair with Richard Burton on the set of ‘The Night of The Iguana’. Liz was still in a relationship when she went with her new lover to the set. She saw the making of the Water Nymphette scene. Did she see her exploitation as a child actress? National Velvet was shot in Camel where my sister had two galleries. Christine Rosamond Presco and Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor are kin, as is our mother, Rosemary. A family of American Roses.

Sue is having flashbacks while married to a convicted murderer – who there is no Wikipedia for. Consider Charlie Manson. Then there is ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf’. I’m sure there were some tense moment in the Adamson house.

My first flame bought LSD from Charlies and his women at the Spawn Ranch. My brother drove Sue Lyon to Santa City College where they took classes. My sister-in-law was her best friend. My ex-wife lived in Mexico and Manhattan Beach with Thomas Pynchon. Let’s not forget ‘Suddenly Last Summer’ and ‘Star 80’ two very disturbing stories that Christendom can handle, now that they force X-Rated topics down our throat.

‘The Motive And The Cue”: Sam Mendes & Jack Thorne Play On Taylor, Burton, Gielgud – Deadline

Open Letter To Sam Mendes | Rosamond Press

The Last Beat With Sandpiper | Rosamond Press

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton enter a midtown nightclu
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton at opening night party after his opening on Broadway in Hamlet in 1964Getty Images

EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes (1917) has linked up with acclaimed His Dark Materials writer Jack Thorne on a new project for the stage that will explore how legendary acting figures Richard Burton and John Gielgud put Hamlet on Broadway in 1964, with a little help from Elizabeth Taylor.

The result of two years of writing and workshops is a Thorne-penned drama called The Motive and the Cue, which Mendes will direct on the UK National Theatre’s Lyttelton stage in spring 2023. With such heavyweights attached, it already has the weight and feel of a landmark production.

The Night of the Iguana (film) – Wikipedia

Beautiful Ruins Movie: What We Know

By Jennifer Marie Lin on May 19th, 2021 (Last Updated May 19th, 2021)

beautiful ruins movie trailer release date cast adaptation


Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter has a movie adaptation in development. For all the details about a potential jump to film for this book, here’s what we know about the Beautiful Ruins movie:

What’s it about? What’s the plot?

From IMDB: “In an Italian seaside village in 1962, a charming young man runs a hotel with no guests, until one day an American starlet, fresh from the set of Cleopatra, appears and captures his heart. Five decades later in Hollywood, a jaded assistant to a powerhouse producer gets caught up in the magic of his story, and takes it upon herself to find a happy ending.”

Beautiful Ruins (the novel) was originally published in June 2012.

See the Review of Beautiful Ruins from The Bibliofile.

What format will it be? Will the Beautiful Ruins adaptation be a Movie or a Series?

It’s planned as a feature movie.

Who’s behind it?

Sam Mendes and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners are developing the Beautiful Ruins adaptation, and Niki Caro has been tapped to direct. Caro recently directed Disney’s Live-Action version of Mulan.

Producer Pippa Harris: “Sam and I can think of no better home than Amblin for the wildly romantic and cinematic Beautiful Ruins. Steven, Jeff, Jeb and the entire Amblin team were the most brilliant partners on 1917 and we are thrilled they share our passion for this film.”

From deadline:”The script is being written by Mark Hammer (Two Night Stand) and Chiara Atik (Superstore), based on an earlier draft by Micah Fitzerman-Blue (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Transparent) and Noah Harpster (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Transparent).”

What’s the status of the Beautiful Ruins adaptation?

The adaptation is currently in Pre-Production, meaning that the project is in motion and getting ready to film.

Who’s in the cast?

No casting details have been released yet.

See the full cast (when available) on IMDB.

When will it be released?

Currently unknown.

Is there a trailer or teaser available?

Not yet! Stay tuned.

Beautiful Ruins Movie Development Timeline

June 12, 2012 Beautiful Ruins (novel) is released.

February 13, 2020 Post ‘1917’ Oscar Success, Sam Mendes & Pippa Harris’ ‘Beautiful Ruins’ Moves From Fox 2000 To Amblin

June 30, 2020 ‘Mulan’s Niki Caro to Direct ‘Beautiful Ruins’ Movie from Producer Sam Mendes


Sam Mendes to Produce, Potentially Direct ‘Beautiful Ruins’ at Fox 2000 (Exclusive)

‘Transparent’ writing duo Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue are adapting the film.


SEPTEMBER 28, 2016 2:58PM

Sam Mendes to Produce 'Beautiful Ruins'

Jess Walter’s best-selling novel Beautiful Ruins has emerged from the ashes.

Sam Mendes has signed on to produce an adaptation of the book for Fox 2000 as a potential directing vehicle. The film had been in development at Cross Creek Pictures with Todd Field attached to write and direct but it stalled and became a hot package circulating in Hollywood.

The story centers on an American actress who travels to Italy in 1962 during the production of Cleopatra, considered the most expensive flop in Hollywood history. In a plotline spanning decades and locations, the actress’ narrative intertwines with Elizabeth Taylor, who starred in the real-life version of Cleopatra, and the subsequent love affair between Taylor and Richard Burton.

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Transparent writing duo Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue are now adapting the film.

When the book was being developed at Cross Creek, the 1960s movie at the heart of the story was unnamed — a departure from Walter’s book — because Cleopatra is owned by Fox and there would be licensing and copyright issues. But Fox 2000’s pitch to Mendes was that it could, indeed, incorporate the 1963 epic.

Published in 2012, Beautiful Ruins became an international best seller and catnip for producers looking for a story that takes a pivotal moment in Hollywood history as a jumping off point.

Mendes will produce via his Neal Street banner alongside Neal Street’s Julie Pastor. Walter is executive producing alongside Neal Street’s Pippa Harris and Nicolas Brown.

Elizabeth Gabler and Erin Siminoff are overseeing for Fox 2000.

Mendes, whose last two films have been in the James Bond franchise with Spectre and Skyfall, recently signed on to direct and produce The Voyeur’s Motel through his Neal Street Prods. banner. But that story, which is based on a Gay Talese nonfiction article in The New Yorker, has since been called into question when the the Washington Post uncovered that parts of titular character Gerald Foos‘ tale had been fabricated.Voyeur’s Motel, set up at DreamWorks, appears to have been thrown off course. Mendes also is attached to direct a live-action James and the Giant Peach for Disney.

He is repped by CAA and attorney Melanie Cook of Ziffren Brittenham.

Harpster and  Fitzerman-Blue are handled by UTA, Kaplan/Perrone and attorney Jamie Feldman.


The preface to the story shows Episcopal clergyman T. Lawrence Shannon having a “nervous breakdown” after being ostracized by his congregation and defrocked for having an inappropriate relationship with a “very young Sunday school teacher.”

Two years later, Shannon, now a tour guide for the bottom-of-the-barrel Texas company Blake’s Tours, is taking a group of Baptist schoolteachers by bus to Puerto VallartaMexico. The group’s brittle leader is Miss Judith Fellowes, whose 16-year-old niece Charlotte Goodall tries to seduce Shannon. Meanwhile, Fellowes accuses Shannon of trying to seduce Charlotte and declares that she will ruin him.

While approaching the group’s hotel in the bus, Shannon suddenly veers off and recklessly drives the terrified passengers to a cheap Costa Verde hotel in Mismaloya. Shannon assumes that the hotel is run by an old friend named Fred, but the man had died recently and the hotel is now run by Fred’s widow, the bawdy and flamboyant Maxine Faulk. Shannon convinces Maxine to allow the tour group to stay at the hotel, believing that they will be unable to reach a phone or escape.

Another new arrival at the hotel is Hannah Jelkes, a beautiful and chaste itinerant painter from Nantucket who is traveling with her elderly poet grandfather. They have run out of money, but Shannon convinces Maxine to let them have a room. Over a long night, Shannon battles his weaknesses for both flesh and alcohol, Miss Fellowes’ niece continues to make trouble for him and he is “at the end of his rope,” similar to how an iguana is kept tied by Maxine’s cabana boys. Shannon suffers a breakdown, the cabana boys truss him in a hammock and Hannah ministers to him there with poppy-seed tea and frank spiritual counsel.

Hannah’s grandfather delivers the final version of the poem that he has been laboring to finish and then dies. The characters try to resolve their confused lives, with Shannon and Maxine deciding to run the hotel together. Hannah walks away from her last chance at love.

Port of Dreams

  • Give this article

By Helen Schulman

  • July 6, 2012

It is April 1962. A beautiful blond American actress, a dying beautiful blond American actress, mysteriously arrives alone and by boat to the dock of “a rumor of a town,” the fictitious Porto Vergogna on the Italian coast south of Genoa. She is 22-year-old Dee Moray, fresh off the Roman film set of “Cleopatra” — the scandal-ridden Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton epic, which, with a budget at about 300 million of today’s dollars, is among the most expensive movies ever made. This young woman’s charmed entrance into this tiny village, which is accessible only by water, captures the attention of Pasquale Tursi, the azure-eyed, even younger proprietor of an empty pen­sione, the “Hotel Adequate View.” “Chest-deep in daydreams” and also seawater, Pasquale, who aspires to turn the village into a resort town, has taken on the Sisy­phean task of trying to build a beach out of “the rocky, shrimp-curled cove” by getting wet and digging the stones out of the inlet by hand. He holds a big rock beneath his chin and watches in “a burst of clarity after a lifetime of sleep” as Dee ascends onto the pier. She smiles at him and Pasquale falls in love, and “would remain in love for the rest of his life — not so much with the woman, whom he didn’t even know, but with the moment.”

Are you hooked yet? If you are, you’re going to love this book. It opens like a movie; you can almost hear the swelling soundtrack, promising a good old-­fashioned, escapist story, even as it is imbued with a knowing — and often hilarious — satirical edge. And it ends like a movie, too, with a heaping helping of tied-up satisfaction, leaving at least this reader with a song in her heart and a yen for Chinese food. But if you’re not hooked, I bet you’ll like “Beautiful Ruins” even more — because the surprising and witty novel of social criticism that flows from its lush, romantic opening offers so much more than just entertainment in terms of scope, emotional range and formalist invention.

Credit…Illustration by Chris Gash

For example: the second chapter jumps ahead 50 years to present-day Hollywood, well past the golden age of idols like “the whore and husband-thief Elizabeth Taylor” and her fifth and sixth husband, the alcoholic Burton (who has a great cameo), and smack into the disheartening age of reality TV. Here we meet an ambitious but discouraged development assistant, Claire Silver, an ex-academic with a porn-addict boyfriend, who is an employee of the legendary (fictional) producer Michael Deane. Back in the day, Deane was a fledgling publicist on “Cleopatra,” his first real gig; through his prescient embrace of scandal-as-advertising, he claims, he saved the film from financial collapse. He is also the man who, for reasons we will eventually learn, sent innocent Dee Moray to Porto Vergogna to rot. This act of heartlessness, along with other unsavory though savvy behavior, marked the beginning of an illustrious career for the neophyte striver, and in the 1970s and ’80s his success as a film producer brought him the title the “Deane of Hollywood,” until his star inevitably fell. Now, he is the producer of a hit reality dating show called “Hookbook” and its partner dating Web site,

Continue reading the main story

We’ve met characters like Deane before, but it’s wicked fun to meet him here, again: “It may be impossible to trace the sequence of facials, spa treatments, mud baths, cosmetic procedures, lifts and staples, collagen implants, outpatient touch-ups, tannings, Botox injections, cyst and growth removals and stem-cell injections that have caused a 72-year-old man to have the face of a 9-year-old Filipino girl.” Once a month Deane Productions holds a “Wild Pitch Friday,” which means almost anyone can walk into Claire’s office and try to sell her an idea. Who walks in this Friday? Shane Wheeler, a wannabe screenwriter who is about to, against all odds, successfully pitch a movie called “Donner!” about, yes, the Donner party. (It is a pitch we will hear in its stunning entirety in a chapter called “Eating Human Flesh.”) I’m not sure if this kind of shtick is supposed to stick to your ribs or not, but it at times made me laugh out loud. Besides Shane there is also an elderly Italian gentleman, our old friend Pasquale, a half-century later, on California soil searching once again for answers about the mysterious Dee Moray.

“Beautiful Ruins” is Jess Walter’s sixth novel. He is a bold and funny writer who successfully surfed the zeitgeist in his visceral 9/11 novel, “The Zero” (2006), a finalist for a National Book Award; and in his last book, “The Financial Lives of the Poets” (2009), where he gave us his idiosyncratic take on the financial crises. Also a career journalist (he’s written for Newsweek and The Washington Post, among others, and published a non­fiction book about the Ruby Ridge siege in Idaho), Walter is simply great on how we live now, and ­— in this particular book — on how we lived then and now, here and there. “Beautiful Ruins” is his Hollywood novel, his Italian novel and his Pacific Northwestern novel all braided into one: an epic romance, tragicomic, invented and reported (Walter knows his “Cleopatra” trivia), magical yet hard-boiled (think García Márquez meets Peter Biskind), with chapters that encompass not just Italy in the ’60s and present-day Hollywood, but also Seattle and Britain and Idaho, plot strands unfolding across the land mines of the last half-century — an American landscape of vice, addiction, loss and heartache, thwarted careers and broken dreams. It is also a novel about love: amorous love, filial love, parental love and the deep, sustaining love of true friendship. Not all the 21 chapters are strictly narrative. Just as Walter used his protagonist’s own middling poetry to illustrate the insanity of his business venture in “The Financial Lives of the Poets” (a Web site,, in which he linked free verse with financial advice), Walter here throws in dialogue from plays real and invented; the lone chapter of a failed novel from an alcoholic veteran who spends two weeks every summer at the Hotel Adequate View continually rewriting those same pages; and a passage from Michael Deane’s own warts-and-all memoir, where he fesses up to the part he played in coldbloodedly ruining Dee’s life. (Rejecting this intro, an accompanying editor’s note reads: “There’s one other thing you should know: this chapter does not paint you in a very good light.”)

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Either racked by guilt or in search of a good story, when face to face with Pasquale again after all these years, Deane takes the elderly Italian, Claire and the player-in-training Shane on a trip to find Dee and learn what has happened to her. Clearly, she has not died; less clear is how well she’s lived. In tracking their journey, while also hopscotching through time and place, Walter skillfully fills in the lives and loves of the characters we’ve already met, along with those of a seeming cast of thousands we meet reading further. His balanced mixture of pathos and comedy stirs the heart and amuses as it also rescues us from the all too human pain that is the motor of this complex and ever-evolving novel. Any reservations the reader might have about another book about Hollywood, about selling one’s soul (or someone else’s, and pocketing the change) will probably be swept aside by this high-wire feat of bravura storytelling. Walter is a talented and original writer.

Cursed by Lolita: Sue Lyon, who died last week, was plucked from obscurity aged 14 to play the child temptress, but it sparked a car crash life with drug problems and five marriages… one to a convicted murderer, writes TOM LEONARD


PUBLISHED: 17:01 EDT, 1 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:15 EDT, 2 January 2020


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On the poster for the film that made her notorious, she peers over heart-shaped sunglasses while sucking a red lollipop. The caption provocatively asks: ‘How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?’

The answer, of course, is that they found Sue Lyon. One of the few actors in Hollywood history not allowed to attend her own film premiere, she was just 14 when she was hailed as ‘the perfect nymphet’, the ideal schoolgirl to play the title role in Vladimir Nabokov’s scandalous story of a middle-aged man sexually obsessed with a 12-year-old.

It was a deeply dubious distinction that, by her own admission, would ‘destroy’ her life.

Lyon’s death at 73 was announced last week by a friend who said she had been in failing health for some time.

Sue Lyon was just 14 when she was hailed as ‘the perfect nymphet’, the ideal schoolgirl to play the title role in Vladimir Nabokov’s scandalous story Lolita

In fact, she disappeared from public view decades earlier. Though she notched up two dozen film and TV credits in a career from 1959 to 1980, she was famous for only one of them — and it turned out to be a poisoned chalice.

When the celebrated director Stanley Kubrick plucked her from obscurity over some 800 hopefuls for his 1962 film, it certainly was a beginning — but not of the glittering career that everyone predicted. Instead, it was the start of a descent into depression, drugs and a string of failed marriages, including one to a convicted murderer.

Many female child actresses (such as Shirley Temple, Judy Garland) have been damaged by unwittingly becoming underage sex objects. In the case of 14-year-old Sue Lyon, the attention was actively fostered by Hollywood.

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It was a deeply dubious distinction that, by her own admission, would ‘destroy’ her life

It was Nabokov who said he thought her ‘the perfect nymphet’ (a word he’d coined in his 1955 novel). Kubrick, meanwhile, described her as ‘a one-in-a-million find’ and ‘mesmerising’.

The director — who went on to make Dr Strangelove and The Shining — added: ‘From the first, she was interesting to watch. Even in the way she walked in for her interview, casually sat down, walked out. She was cool and non-giggly. She was enigmatic without being dull. She could keep people guessing about how much Lolita knew about life.’

In fact, his Lolita wasn’t allowed to be too much of an ingenue. Constrained by the industry’s moralistic ‘production code’ and religious campaigners, Hollywood shrank from depicting Dolores ‘Lolita’ Haze quite as young as Nabokov had made her in his novel.


To avoid trouble with film censors, Kubrick chose Lyon — 5ft 3in tall — because she looked older than 12. Nor was she flat-chested, as in the book. However, he also made her markedly more flirtatious as she provided the love interest for English academic Humbert Humbert, played by 53-year-old James Mason.

But Lyon was hardly well-cast as a sexually-aware provocatrice. The youngest of five children born in Iowa, her father died when she a baby, forcing her mother to find work in a hospital.

Sue was 11 when her mother pushed her into child modelling to supplement the family’s meagre finances. Fresh-faced and with her hair dyed blonde, she got work as a catalogue model and in small TV parts.

The late actress Sue Lyon stars as Lolita in trailer for Lolita

Lyon’s death at 73 was announced last week by a friend who said she had been in failing health for some time (Pictured: Sue Lyon and James Mason in Lolita)

To avoid trouble with film censors, director Stanley Kubrick chose Lyon — 5ft 3in tall — because she looked older than 12

That said, she led a relatively sheltered life. Her mother was furious when she discovered that a childhood friend of Sue, Michelle Gilliam (later Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas pop group) had sneaked her daughter a copy of Lolita, which was widely banned. Lyon, who had no acting training, claimed she auditioned for Lolita as a ‘lark’.

When she got the part, her mother asked her pastor if her daughter should accept the controversial role. Strange to report, the priest reportedly encouraged her to say yes. In June 1962 — aged 14 — Lyon signed a seven-year contract, worth $78,000 a year.

Lolita was filmed in London secretly due to its difficult subject matter and Lyon was chaperoned by her mother.

In the UK, the film was rated X and off-limits to under-16s. Too young to attend the premiere, Lyon was photographed sipping a soft drink.




However, she was allowed into the Oscars and, while Lolita failed to win any Academy Awards, Lyon became a huge overnight star before winning a Golden Globe for Most Promising Female Newcomer.

The girl who only a few months earlier boasted that she could ‘cook, clean and sew’ now revealed she had the same hairdresser and clothes designer as the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy.

‘I’m not worried about ever being out of work again,’ she trilled, adding that her biggest ambition was to get married and have lots of children.

Some critics accused the film of turning paedophilia into a joke. Lyon played down the controversy. It wasn’t as if she’d had to sleep with her ‘old man’ co-star, she reasoned naively. But in later life Lyon wouldn’t be nearly so charitable towards the film that made her famous. Her life soon span out of control as she grew frustrated with the public’s apparent inability to separate her from the teenage temptress she played.

As acting work dried up, she became a voluntary social worker and got to know a convicted murderer and robber named Gary 'Cotton' Adamson in 1973 (Pictured: Lyon marries Adamson)


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As acting work dried up, she became a voluntary social worker and got to know a convicted murderer and robber named Gary ‘Cotton’ Adamson in 1973 (Pictured: Lyon marries Adamson)

Lyon would later claim that when she was 16 she started to suffer from bouts of severe depression, which in turn led to drug abuse, as she saw her ambitions start to wither.

In 1963, she began filming her next big film, an adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play The Night Of The Iguana, in Mexico. She again played a seductive teenager, this time to a defrocked priest played by Richard Burton.

The production was fraught: Burton brought his future wife, Elizabeth Taylor, to the set. Lyon was accompanied by her mother and Lyon’s boyfriend, Hampton Fancher. A former flamenco dancer and street thief, he later wrote the screenplay for sci-fi classic Blade Runner.

Although Lyon had only just turned 17, she drew attention from local Mexican men while Fancher interfered so much with filming that he was banned from the set.

Lyon found Burton hard work, complaining that he bullied Taylor and drank so much at night that next morning the ‘alcohol literally oozed out of his pores’. He ‘gave off a terrible odour — playing a scene with him could be most unpleasant’.

Fancher later recalled how a former girlfriend had showed him an advert for Lolita, the one with Lyon sucking on a lollipop, and told him: ‘Here’s your next wife.’ He added: ‘And I laughed — because I knew it was true. In my mind I said, you’re right that’s my next wife, I’d bet everything.’

He was correct. Engineering a meeting with Lyon over dinner, they married months later in September 1963. She was 17, he was 25 and already had a six-year-old son.

‘It was totally wrong,’ Fancher recalled. ‘She was in a horrible situation, a kid who was expected to grow up in all kinds of ways she couldn’t manage. I was an angry young **** and chose her because of a fantasy. And I was vilified. But I probably deserved it.’

The marriage ended in a divorce court just 14 months later, with Lyon citing ‘mental cruelty’. She told the judge that ‘I was alone and miserable’ most of the time.

She later said it had been ‘a difficult year’, the worst part of which was losing her brother, James Michael Lyon, 20, who was found dead in a car during a trip to Mexico.

Although he was a diabetic, police believed he’d died from an overdose, and rumours spread that he’d committed suicide out of shame over his sister’s Lolita role. When a TV interviewer mentioned it, Lyon walked out in disgust.

Night Of The Iguana was a box office hit but the critics were not kind to Lyon, damning her acting as ‘painfully awkward’.

Pictured: Lyon with her daughter Nona Harrison in 1984

Further family tragedy came in 1965 when Lyon and her mother were badly injured in a car crash. The actress suffered serious head, neck and back injuries that meant she had to periodically use a wheelchair for two years.

Her next film, 7 Women, directed by John Ford, saw her in a complete U-turn from the role that made her famous, this time playing a missionary. But nothing she did could re-capture her success with Lolita. Other screen appearances included the 1967 thriller Tony Rome with Frank Sinatra, and the 1971 drama Evel Knievel, about the motorcycle daredevil.

By the time Lyon made her last film, the 1980 horror flick Alligator, she was reduced to playing an unnamed TV reporter.

In 1971, she married Roland Harrison, a black photographer and football coach who had five children from a previous marriage.

Mixed-race marriages were still controversial in the U.S. and the uproar prompted them to move to Spain. She was three months pregnant with their daughter, Nona, when they split the following year. She later blamed racism among other problems.

Lyon had nobody to blame but herself for the hoo-ha over her next marriage just a year later, however. As acting work dried up, she became a voluntary social worker and got to know a convicted murderer and robber named Gary ‘Cotton’ Adamson in 1973.

Unfortunately for their romance, he was serving a 40-year sentence at the Colorado State Penitentiary. They married in prison, with Lyon veiled and dressed in white.

She campaigned for prison reform and applied unsuccessfully for conjugal rights with her husband.

Lyon met him while working as a volunteer in the public defender’s office. She assumed he had been wrongly convicted until he broke out of prison and was captured in a shoot-out with police after he’d robbed a bank.

Lyon, by now working as a nightclub waitress in Denver, divorced him, but later claimed she’d been pressured into doing so by a censorious film industry.

By 1980, her acting work was so sporadic that she was working variously as a men’s clothing shop assistant, secretary, receptionist and teacher’s assistant.

She WAS diagnosed as a manic depressive and prescribed lithium. Her relationship with daughter Nona reportedly disintegrated.

As a child, said Nona, she’d had to care for her mother, who was bedridden for months, only for Lyon to throw her out of the family home when Nona was 13.

A fourth marriage to one Edward Weathers in 1983 lasted just a year and, almost immediately afterwards, she married Richard Rudman, a radio engineer.

The couple retreated to a life of obscurity in a small cottage in the Hollywood Hills. Lyon changed her name and rarely left her home, which was guarded by a high fence and a rottweiler.

She put on weight and, with her lank hair and thick spectacles, became unrecognisable from her Lolita heyday. But she said Rudman had ‘given me the closest thing to a normal life’. He in turn said she had ‘finally found peace and wants to keep it that way’, adding: ‘She never wants to hear the name Lolita again.’

The depth of her anger emerged in 1995 when British director Adrian Lyne started work on a new Lolita film starring Jeremy Irons. In a rare interview, Lyon said that playing the schoolgirl subject of an older man’s paedophile fantasies ruined her life.

‘My destruction as a person dates from that movie,’ she said. ‘Lolita exposed me to temptations no girl of that age should undergo. I defy any pretty girl who is rocketed to stardom at 14 in a sex nymphet role to stay on an even keel.’

And Sue Lyon — who fled the spotlight 40 years ago — was surely one of rapacious Hollywood’s most inevitable victims.

Belle and the ‘Lolita Syndrome’

Posted on April 30, 2014 by Royal Rosamond Press


The bike I gave Belle which looks like it is a knock-off of the blue bike Bridget Bardot is riding in ‘And God Created Woman’. BB inspired Simone de Beauvoir to behold BB as a Lolita.

“The first work by a philosopher (to my knowledge) that gathered together some of these threads was Simone de Beauvoir’s “Brigitte Bardot and the Lolita Syndrome,” an essay first published in Esquire magazine in August 1959.”

My brother drove Sue Lyon to school. Sue allegedly slept with the actor Sire Richard Burton who is in my family tree. If Belle marries me, she will be kin to Burton and Liz, as well as Thomas Pynchon. Then there is Talitha Getty, the Bohemian Muse and model for the greatest art collector since the Medicis. Talitha was famous for her Bohemian line. Belle could be a REAL Bohemian model with family credentials.

Belle and Sue have the same body-type, they both bathing beauties coming out of the sea. With this post, I have elevated Belle she now owning a place amongst the Great Muses! Who would take this from her? Belle wanted me to make her a real Bohemian. Now she is a real Bohemian Muse!

Talitha is a Dutch extraction, like Belle, and is kin to the famous Bohemian couple Augustus John and Dorothy “Dorelia” McNeil. I suspect they share the same genetics. Belle is my discovery.

Jon Presco


Talitha Getty, Beauty Muse of the Moment

Thu, 22 March 2012 10:52AM

There are several beauty icons whose names pop up regularly backstage at the fashion shows, as makeup artists reference them as their guiding hair or makeup influence. Brigitte Bardot is a favourite (cue smoky eyes and bedheady hair); Sophia Loren another (nobody did winged eyeliner better); and Brooke Shields too (whenever anyone wants to make a strong brow statement). But there’s another name that has been thrown around with increasing regularity recently.

It’s Talitha Getty, who was the wife of the oil heir, John Paul Getty Junior, in the 1960s. She’s probably best known for this photograph:


It was taken in Marrakesh in 1969, and has come to symbolise the whole 1960s bohemian hippie vibe. Any time a designer or fashion editor goes all gaga about kaftans and harem pants, you can bet Talitha Getty’s name is not far behind.

I don’t know about you, but I try not to wear mumus and Jeannie pants all that often. Nevertheless there has always been something about the Talitha Getty look I’ve loved – that tawny skin, sand-swept cheeks and rich bronze eyes.

Another to come under Pol’s spell was the dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who first met her at a party in 1965. According to Nureyev’s biographer, Julie Kavanagh, the two were in thrall to each other, to the extent that Nureyev “had never felt so erotically stirred by a woman” and told several friends that he wished to marry Pol.[4]

Talitha Dina Pol was born in Java, then part of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). Her father was Willem Jilts Pol (1905–88), a painter who subsequently married Poppet John (1912–97), daughter of the painter Augustus John (1878–1961), a pivotal figure in the world of “Bohemian” culture and fashion. She was thus the step -granddaughter of both Augustus John and his muse and second wife, Dorothy “Dorelia” McNeil (1881–1969), who was a fashion icon in the early years of the 20th century. By Ian Fleming’s widowed mother, Evelyn Ste Croix Fleming née Rose, Augustus John had a daughter and Talitha’s aunt, Amaryllis Fleming (1925–1999), who became a noted cellist.

in Augustus John’s art she at times served more exotic purposes, wearing scarves and long dresses,[10] but was also the subject of domestic scenes, including those which show her with Augustus’ first wife and their children.[9][11] It is said that she “made a significant contribution to the ‘bohemian utopianism’ of the artist’s most intensely creative period, c. 1903-1914.”[9] Eventually she had two sons and two daughters with Augustus. She lived with him until his death in 1961.[3] Her step-granddaughter was the 1960s bohemian fashion icon Talitha Getty.

NPG x21188,Dorothy ('Dorelia') McNeill,by Charles Slade

“For years, Pynchon trackers have wondered about Tharaldsen, listed as married to Pynchon in a 1966–67 alumni directory. The real story is not of a secret marriage but a distressing divorce—hers from Seidler.”

It appears Thomas Pynchon is in my Family Tree, as is Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor who may have been jealous of Sue Lyon who played Lolita, who is running around half-naked in front of Richard Burton on the set of ‘The Night of the Iguana’. Sue Lyon was best friends of Patty Presco, the ex-wife of my brother. Mark Presco, who drove Sue Lyon to Santa Monica City College five days a week in his GTO Mustang that he bought from his wages earned by helping put men in space V-ia rockets. Mark was Mary Ann Tharaldsen’s brother-in-law, and the famous artist ‘Rosamond’ was her sister-in-law.

Rosamond took up art after seeing my painting of Rena Easton, who walked about California half-naked. She was seventeen, a real nymph I drove around in my 1950 Dodge.

My brother held our wedding reception at his house, and took the photos of Mary Ann and I. His eyes fell upon Sue Lyon for a semester. Stanley Kubrick worked with Vladimir on the Lolita script. Above is a letter from Vladimir to Kubrick. Did the Vlad have anything to do with casting Sue Lyon? Was he hidden behind two way mirror – with Paynchon during audition?

I am now running The Most Outrageous Pynchon Guess Contest. Send me you entries.

In the article in the New York magazine Boris (and Vlad) says Pynchon encouraged folks to keep on guessing about who he is, and what he is all about. My guess is, Thomas was an avid fan of the BBC series Connections, and might own this series on video tape. Anyone who has read a biography of a famous artist or musician, has read a book about Connections. With the addition of Pynchon in my family tree, so grows the Creative People therein. The relationship between Thomas and Mel Lyman, is amusing. As is the relation to Sir Richard Burton, the man who could not get enough attention, and the man who did not want any! I see a play on par with Waiting For Gadot.

If Rena had married me she would be kin to Taylor and Burton. At twenty-five, Rena married Sir Ian Easton, aged sixty one. Ian was an Admiral who was awarded a KCB. The lived on the Isle of Wight where British Admirals go to die. To make a picture of the old Admiral and his beautiful Water Nymph getting out of a Bentley to attend a ball, is Lolitish. Rena, the Mermaid of Wight, is the catch of the season. Ian made many old Admirals – jealous! Then there is the swimming pool at the club. There are smoking jackets. There is a book here.

Above is a photo of Rena that was taken by her lover in the woods. She was seventeen and totally naked. This photo appeared on a poster advertising an event held by the University of Nebraska. It was posted everywhere! There are real egg-head writers, and, there are real-life nymphs!

Vladamer was living in Oregon when he wrote Lolita. He went on a drive looking for butterflies. Did he come upon a loving couple that were a generation apart? Were they in a resturant, and after eating, he watched them drive away.

The average male has sex-thoughts every twenty seconds. In my novel ‘Capturing Beauty’ my big complaint was, that when Rena and I were in public, I saw nothing but powerful sex-thoughts firing away the second they lay eyes on her. These males captured Rena via the lenses in the eyes, and took her to their dungeon, or, some shady Motel out on the highway.

Nabokov believed he captured the unsung heart of America, the love of young maidens, and the automobile. We American love go out on the road – and have sex! Having casual visual sex with pretty young things, is par for the course.

Rena would not let me in the water with her, because she was having visual-sex with her admirers, her audience. Sue Lyon got in hot water over the image of her coming out of the water with an older man, my kindred Richard Burton.

Lolita – is a Muse? She is a Road Nymph in that Nymphs are associated with locality.

Here are more famous folks Thomas Pynchon is kin to….

Jon Presco

Copyright 2013

What is truly exciting is that I am kin to the fashion Model, Talitha Getty, who was married John P. Getty Jr. who amassed the world’s largest art collection. Talitha is still the Bohemian Fashion Muse that influenced the first work of my late sister, the world artist, Christine Rosamond Benton, who husband rendered murals at the Getty mansions. Lawrence Chazen owns several high class restaurants and is a partner in the PlumpJack Wineries along with members of the Getty, Newsom, and Pelosi family. Add to this the political Benton and Fremont family, ad you have California Bohemian Royalty.

My ex-wife, Mary Ann Tharaldsen, any my two Models and Muses, Marilyn Reed, and Rena Victoria Easton, have played a huge role in bringing together the world’s foremost Creative Dynasty that is a New Renaissance in America! Rosemary, Christine, Marilyn, and Gloria Ehlers made their own clothes. Gloria made me the blue shirt you see in photo with Rosemary and my aunt Lillian. These Rosamond sisters did not know we were related to Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor. Nor did my daughter, Heather Hanson.

The Persistence of the ‘Lolita Syndrome’

May 19, 2013, 7:00 pm 249 Comments

The Stone

The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.

Ever since the details of the Jimmy Savile case started to come to light, I have, like some philosophical gumshoe, been pursuing an investigation into the possible intellectual origin of his mentality. In other words, I have been looking into what has loosely been referred to as the “culture of abuse,” which may or may not have been a factor at the BBC, or what Michel Foucault would have called the “epistémé” — a kind of conspiracy at the level of language and ideas and metaphor that (in this context) could conceivably promote or justify the sexual exploitation of young girls. (Alongside its continuing “Savile review,” the BBC has also promised to examine the case of Stuart Hall, another broadcaster, who has pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting 13 girls over three decades.)

I detected a significant congruence between “Lolita” and Savile’s autobiography.

I believe there has now been a breakthrough. Of course, it is perfectly possible to object at the outset that this whole inquiry is futile, that there is no intellectual origin to anything, that the very idea of a whodunit — beyond reference to the actual perpetrator — is irrelevant in comparison with overriding biological imperatives. It’s the libidinal economy, stupid! But that argument is itself an integral part of the conspiracy.

Surveying the list of usual suspects, I could hardly avoid considering “Lolita,” Nabokov’s classic novel — virtuosic, teasing, elusive, complex, ironic — which was published in 1955 and neatly coincides, historically, with the rise of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine (first issue: 1953). The pushy, hectoring, rhetorical voice of the narrator, Humbert Humbert, is set against the almost voiceless figure of Lolita herself, the 12-year-old girl (as she is at the beginning of the novel) whom Humbert abducts. I was about to write “seduces,” but the key to understanding the narrative is that it is Lolita herself who does the seducing. At least, according to Humbert. The narrative is, in judicial terms (pitched, as it is, at a notional jury), a disavowal or diminution of responsibility on behalf of the accused, or a re-attribution of responsibility. The argument is that the “nymphet” is already sexually adventurous. “Between the age limits of 9 and 14 there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travellers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is demoniac).”

I detected a significant congruence between “Lolita” and Savile’s autobiography, “As It Happens,” published in 1974, Chapter 10 of which reads like a pedophile’s charter. Savile’s equivalent of “nymphet” is “teentype” or “sirene” (or “crumpet”). Always seeking to outwit irate or concerned parents, he is hazy about ages on the grounds of his “disjointed sort of theory that all girls, in relation to their male opposites, are 2,000 years old when they are born.” Savile, a Catholic, may be making some point about original sin here. But the trope that braids together Nabokov and Savile is the Hugh Hefner image, repeated with variations, of an older man (replete, ideally, with tweed jacket and pipe — Savile prefers the cigar) festooned with nymphets/sirenes/“playmates,” who have clearly been drawn to him, like bees to some highly pollinated plant. All three insist on some kind of categorical imperative governing the behavior of the girls. Savile also argues that “girls have taught, trimmed and trained me up to Olympian standards.” It is they who groomed me.

Tucker Nichols

The first work by a philosopher (to my knowledge) that gathered together some of these threads was Simone de Beauvoir’s “Brigitte Bardot and the Lolita Syndrome,” an essay first published in Esquire magazine in August 1959. It has to be said that Beauvoir’s interest in these matters was not purely theoretical (in fact, it is hard to conceive of any philosopher’s thoughts being purely theoretical). As a diligent investigator, I am obliged to say that she was dismissed from her teaching job in 1943 for “behavior leading to the corruption of a minor.” The minor in question was one of her pupils at a Paris lycée. It is well established that she and Jean-Paul Sartre developed a pattern, which they called the “trio,” in which Beauvoir would seduce her students and then pass them on to Sartre. (See, for example, “A Disgraceful Affair,” by Bianca Lamblin, in which she recalls being infatuated with Beauvoir, but romanced systematically by Sartre, who cheerfully remarks, on the way to a consummation, that “the hotel chambermaid will be really surprised, because she caught me taking another girl’s virginity only yesterday.”)

Beauvoir’s “Lolita Syndrome” (her personal favorite, she said, among her essays) offers an evangelical defence of the sexual emancipation of the young. They have been tied up in chains for too long: Bardot is presented as the Harry Houdini who will get them out of bondage. Bardot is a filmic counterpart to Beauvoir herself, the Socrates of St. Tropez who is falsely convicted of “corrupting the youth of France.” She is a “woman-child” — a “garçon manqué érotique” — whose age difference is capable of re-igniting burned-out desire: “she retains the perfect innocence inherent in the myth of childhood.” Beauvoir posits Bardot as the incarnation of “authenticity” and natural, pure “desire,” with “aggressive” sexuality devoid of any hypocrisy. The author of “The Second Sex” is keen to stress sexual equality and autonomy, but she also insists on the “charms of the ‘nymph’ in whom the fearsome image of the wife and the mother is not yet visible.”

In a rhetoric that is half-French Revolution, half-Marxian, Beauvoir sets her heroine up as a modern-day, bare-chested Liberté, leading the cohorts of the younger generation, breaking down the taboos, “capable of incinerating the poor disguises that camouflage reality.” “Children ceaselessly ask: Why? Why not? Are we going to stifle the questions that BB has raised?”

Perhaps in the background there is a whole genre of what has been described as “female pedagogical pedophilia,” fixated on the sexual awakening of schoolgirls. But probably the key work of this generation, published in the 1930s but going on to become a manual of the 1960s, was Margaret Mead’s “Coming of Age in Samoa.”

Mead was an anthropology postgrad at Columbia when she took off for Samoa to do research for the thesis that would eventually become the book. Mead was in some ways America’s Beauvoir, an exponent and apostle of feminist themes. But she was also a precursor to Nabokov’s Lolita (and the early Bardot). Her Samoan girls are always on the lookout for sexual adventures “under the palm trees,” curious to experiment before being tied down in marriage. Whether or not she was hoaxed (as has been argued), the Lolita syndrome narrative enabled her to give an anthropological twist to Freud, depicting the Southern Hemisphere as the realm of the unconstrained id, with the North — North America in particular — still tangled up in sublimation and repression. It remained only for the sultry, grass-skirted breezes of the South to blow northward.

Savile takes up the very same argument, on the last page of “As It Happens,” looking forward to “admirable Polynesians” joining Europe and bringing “jolly goings on” to his native Yorkshire: “Why should they have it all?”

Both Beauvoir and Mead hark back to 18th-century or early-19th-century harbingers of sexual liberation. Sartre and Beauvoir used the word “pivotal(e)” to describe each other — the “necessary” significant other in their lives in contrast to “contingent” lovers. They were alluding to the works of Charles Fourier, the post-revolution utopian thinker (who provided a template for the future to the early Marx and Engels). Fourier’s “phalanstery” offers (in “Le Nouveau monde amoureux” of 1805) to provide a “sexual minimum” that tends toward a maximum: the rigorous timetable of the future sketches out a permanent sexual Olympiad involving mass public orgies, multiple affairs and a sexual AAA call-out service for emergencies.

Boredom and frustration — the dissatisfaction of any one of the 12 principal “passions” — become the cardinal sins of this society and the root of all evil. “Civilization” has (as Freud would argue) been built on repression, and it doesn’t work: the point is to satisfy all desires, thereby eradicating conflict and violence and ushering in the state known as “Harmony.”

Both Mead and Fourier (and Freud, more critically) refer back to the voyages of discovery, and notably Bougainville and Tahiti in 1768. This was the 1960s of the 18th century and Tahiti provided an alternative culture. The theme of Bougainville’s “Voyage” was that his men were accosted and seduced – “conquered” by “jeunes filles” (young girls, possibly virgins). The French sailors had become objects of the other’s desire. And the sexually voracious nymphet, or “Venus,” is given some kind of historical/anthropological documentation for the first time. Diderot’s subsequent satirical take on the subject suggests how this seemingly idyllic state of affairs could go wrong and how it was all inevitably connected up to the exercise of colonial power. The writings of the Marquis de Sade (notably “Philosophy in the Boudoir”) — another of Beauvoir’s touchstones — might be taken as a more brutal satire on the Bougainvillean/Fourierist vision of desires and passions leading naturally to a state of harmony rather than one in which murder, torture and rape are the norm.


More From The Stone

Read previous contributions to this series.

The original model of Bougainville’s narrative is Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Bougainville was an avid reader of the “Discourse on the Origin of Inequality.” But more crucial for the Lolita Syndrome is “Emile,” dating from 1762, notable for Rousseau’s theory of “negative education.” Formal education, as such, can only spoil the growing child. Children should be kept well away from libraries and schools and teachers for as long as possible. They already know everything they practically need to know. They are (as we might put it now) genetically pre-programmed. Rousseau, in a move that is perhaps the foundation of Romanticism, turns the classic pedagogical relationship on its head, and suggests that it is the child who teaches us, not the other way around. All we can do is corrupt and distort the inbuilt software.

I realized, when I returned to “Emile,” that I had found here the intellectual precursor of Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert and Savile. For Savile, it is the “teentype” who “taught, trimmed and trained me.” Humbert Humbert, the English academic, is overthrown by the superior, carnal knowledge of the nymphet. Beauvoir finds salvation in the figure of the naïve, artless BB; Mead sees the future of the North in the primitive South. In each case it is assumed that education no longer serves any real purpose. Education, as Rousseau would argue, is only a way of locking the child up in irons. The child is always already 2,000 years old, automatically educated.

The irony of my investigation into the perpetual orgy paradigm is that I am arguing that the style of thinking that made a real difference maintains that thinking makes no real difference. Rousseau was the distant godfather of contemporary arguments that imply that education is, in effect, irrelevant, since the selfish gene (or “nature”) is paramount and sociobiology rules. But the point that emerges from Beauvoir’s analysis in “The Lolita Syndrome” is that liberation and “authenticity” are indistinguishable from coercion because they turn the very notion of “freedom” into a categorical imperative. As Rousseau argues in “The Social Contract,” the citizen (young/old, male/female) has to be “forced to be free.” As so often, freedom coincides with what I want you to do for me.

Perhaps the phalanstery of Fourier is already here, with its unremitting satisfaction of passions. But there is a certainly an ironic convergence between believers and atheists. Savile for one, mother-fixated and explicitly convinced of his own sinfulness, nevertheless expected to get himself off the hook with a final, posthumous appeal to the “Boss.” And in a strange mirror image, secularists are perfectly capable of dissolving any notion of responsibility in an invocation of ancient, even pre-human patterns of behavior. For Savile, there is predestination; for others, there is the overarching excuse of genetic fatalism.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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