Meet Actress Jill Banner!
If you don’t recognize this star, ithttps://johnrieber.com/2017/03/18/cult-actress-jill-banner-from-spider-baby-web-to-marlon-brandos-arm-a-true-hollywood-tragedy/’s because her movie roles were overshadowed by her personal life…but if you saw her screen debut, you’d never forget it!
“I caught a big fat bug right in my spider web and now the spider gets to give the bug a big sting. Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting!”
Here is a “True Hollywood Story” if there ever was one: an Actress who made her debut in one of the craziest cult films ever, and ended up on the arm of Marlon Brando!
This ultra-rare photo shows Banner with Brando, and here is the fascinating story that brought them together….it all began with this cult classic:
Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told!
This is one cult gem! Legendary Exploitation Director Jack Hill made his moviemaking debut with this tale of a strange trio of kids being raised by iconic Hollywood horror star Lon Chaney Jr!
Character Actor Sid Haig also stars in the movie, which is a black-and-white horror film revolving around Chaney’s attempt to keep these problematic kids away from society…there’s a reason for it, of course…
Elizabeth: “Spiders don’t eat other spiders.”
Virginia: “Cannibal spiders do.”
You see, Jill Banner plays Virginia, who likes to keep pet spiders – she also has fun with her own spider web…as one of her guests found out the hard way…
Her sister Elizabeth has her own issues – and together, these two sisters don’t mess around!
“Spider Baby” was shot in 12 days August 1964 on a $60,000 budget. Lon Chaney Jr. was paid a flat fee of $2500 for his performance, each of the other actors were paid $100 a day – yes, this is low budget filmmaking!
Actress Jill Banner Made her movie debut in the film – at age 17! Many years later, Director Jack Hill was told that the actress was so embarrassed by acting in the film that she never told anyone that she had done it!
The film was made in 1964, but didn’t get released until 1967 – by that time, Banner would be seen in DEADLIER THAN THE MALE (1966) and THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST (1967) as well as episodes of DRAGNET and IRONSIDE.
The “Marlon Brando” Connection!
After working steadily in the business, Banner moved to New Mexico in the 70’s but returned to Hollywood – and was linked to Marlon Brando!
Here is what I found online:
According to Charles Higham`s 1987 book, “Brando, the Unauthorized Biography”, the fiftyish Brando and 20-something actress met while filming “Candy” and became a couple. In Marlon Brando’s own 1994 autobiography, “Songs My Mother Taught Me”, he apparently discusses their relationship, but disguises certain details of her life and refers to her by the name “Weonna”.
A Tragic End…
Here’s where the story takes a tragic turn. When she was 36 years old, Banner was living with Brando and working on a screenplay with the Actor. Banner was involved in a car accident on LA’s Ventura freeway and died on August 7th, 1982.
Banner’s movie debut can be seen on a restored blu-ray, and you can also read a ton of material on “Spider Baby” at the film’s official website:
Banner had a short career, but she is mesmerizing in the film, and her story end on a very sad note…
By the way, while this was Jack Hill’s directorial debut, he went on to make some of the greatest 70’s exploitation films of all, like this:
Hill was also a master of “blaxploitation” as well – working with the legendary Pam Grier on this classic:
You can see more of his work on the film here:
In researching this “True Hollywood Stories”, I have come across a number of stars who died before their time. The Jayne Mansfield story also has a tragic end.
Mansfield was a huge star in the 50’s and 60’s, a smart “sex kitten” who knew how to play the Hollywood game.
On June 29, 1967, Mansfield and her Attorney Sam Brody were driving home from a nightclub performance in Mississippi when they crashed into a semi-truck, instantly killing both of them. Jayne Mansfield was only 34 years old at the time of her death…
You can see more of her story here:
And here is another story of a rising star who died in a car crash:
Soledad Miranda has just stared in the exploitation classic “She Killed In Ecstasy” when tragedy struck.
In August, 1970, Soledad and her husband went out driving along the Costa do Sol highway in Portugal. They were involved in a collision with a small truck which completely crushed their car. Though her husband, who was driving, only had minor injuries, Soledad received serious fractures to her skull and spine, placing her in a deep coma. She died several hours after the accident…
You can see more about his great Actress here:
I know these are sad tales, but thanks to blu-ray and DVD, the work can live on for fans to appreciate…
Categories: 70's Cinema, Action Films, Art, Blaxploitation!, Books / Media, Cult Movies, Exploitation films, Film Fight Club, Film Noir, Great Films, Grindhouse, Halloween, Hollywood, Horror films, Independent Cinema, Los Angeles, Memoirs, Movies, Obscure Movies, Revenge Movies, Sexploitation Movies, Talent/Celebrities, Uncategorized
Good to read more background about Ms Banner, and to learn about the Brando connection too.
But it was Jayne who cheered up my afternoon!
Best wishes, Pete.
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Pete, thanks as always for your comments! A friend of mine worked on a Mansfield documentary which is coming out soon – I was in charge of programming at E! when we did the “E! True Hollywood Story” as well as “Mysteries & Scandals”, and these stories resonate with movie buffs…
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