January 05, 2011

Farewell Jill Haworth - a favourite scream queen

A visual reminder of Jill Haworth's horror roles...

I've stopped writing tributes because it was turning into a full-time job. I also prefer to write about my favourite movie people while they're still alive, and that's what I was hoping to do for Jill Haworth, having written to her last year with a few questions. For whatever reason there was no reply, but I still held out hope of perhaps seeing her at a convention or a public interview. I wasn't expecting her to pass away this young, at 65, earlier this week.

Many obituaries and tributes have lead with her biggest role in Otto Preminger's Exodus, opposite Sal Mineo. Or that she originated the role of Sally Bowles in the first production of Cabaret. But I was always more excited by her work in the horror genre. While most of these films were low-budget, they were made with a cast who'd take them seriously. No matter how silly the script or the situation, some of these films were awash with great talent.

While my taste for horror films includes the cheaply-made, I tune out really quickly if the acting is poor. This restricts what I enjoy quite severely - I'm unreasonably demanding low-budget horror with good casts. I'm also more likely to watch an actor in their low-budget roles rather than their biggest movies.

'The Sixth Finger' (1963, TV episode)

After Exodus, Jill's major film roles soon gave way to TV appearances like this. She played opposite David McCallum (The Man From UNCLE, The Invisible Man) in this tale of a scientist meddling with evolution in a Welsh mining town! As Cathy, she witnesses the past and the future of humanity...

IT! (1967)

Returning to England, Jill again found leading roles in movies, albeit in low-budget horrors. But at least she was playing opposite Hollywood star Roddy McDowall. She plays Ellen, who discovers that Arthur, a local museum curator, has unearthed the legendary Golem and knows how to control the indestructible creature. As Arthur falls in love with her, despite the protests of his dead mother (!), she finds herself in an impossible situation - not being able to say no to a man with absolute power...

 More about IT! here.

(also called Horror House or The Dark)

Although she gets top billing under Frankie Avalon, this and Tower of Evil are more ensemble pieces. A small crowd of young people lined up for serial killing shenanigans. Only when the crowd thins out a little, that she really gets a chance to shine. Her final moments in the film are some of the most horrifying I've seen, purely down to her performance.

(also called Horror on Snape Island or Beyond the Fog)

Another horror film that predates Black Christmas and Halloween with a crowd of youngsters battling a monstrous evil that carries pointy weapons. Again Jill has an amusingly bitchy character, but still evokes sympathy when she gets into trouble. The kind of trouble where you're being chased around an old lighthouse by some thing with an efficient-looking sacrificial blade...

More about the wonderful Tower of Evil here.

(1972, TV movie)

Only just passes as horror nowadays, but fascinating for seventies TV. They spill as much blood as they dare, when a pitchfork murderer is stalking around in a yellow raincoat! Plot twists courtesy of Joseph Stefano (Psycho, The Outer Limits), direction by John Llewellyn Moxey (The Night Stalker, City of the Dead). A definite attempt to assemble actresses from horror films. Only young Sally Field is new to the world of slashers, but she sure can scream like a pro! A treat to see Eleanor Parker (Eye of the Cat), Jessica Walter (Play Misty For Me), Julie Harris (The Haunting) all together,with Jill easily holding her own. Some formidable scenes of duress and madness push some of the cast over the top, but that's all part of the fun.

(also called The Freakmaker)

The Mutations is hard to recommend, because of the variable acting and a queasy presentation of sideshow performers as 'monsters'. But it still draws an audience because of Donald Pleasence as a mad scientist, and future Doctor Who Tom Baker as a mutated killer (already wearing The Doctor's hat and scarf), plus some ambitious giant killer plants. Jill is knocked down the cast list to merely a co-star, no longer the leading lady. Julie Ege takes the starring role, willing to strip down for the part.

So how many horrors qualify you as a scream queen - surely these are enough? And she really could scream...

Jill Haworth's page on IMDB.

Much more about the making of The Haunted House of Horror here on director Michael Armstrong's own website.
Finding photos to illustrate Jill's horror roles wasn't easy - but Monster Magazine World has dug up some great publicity photos for these movies.


  1. When I was a very young actor, I had seen Jill in "Exodus" and "In Harms Way" and was seriously fixated on her beauty and gentle lovely style. Around 1967 I got a part in an episode of the television series "12 O'Clock High" and was thrilled to find I would be playing a couple of scenes with Ms. Haworth. I told her that I loved her work, and that I was entirely infatuated with her. She said "How sweet" and embraced me affectionately. I was in heaven in her arms. She was as I had always imagined, soft, beautiful, a lovely girl, and a wonderful unaffected pro to work with. I've often thought of her over the years. Sad to know she's gone, and so young. - Pat Cardi

  2. Thank you, Pat, for sharing that with us. Part of my enthusiasm for her work is the sense that I get that she was such a character and an interesting person to know.