Classic Cinema Spotlight: Myra Breckinridge (1970)

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 Myra Breckinridge (1970) starts out with the first title card of an image of a letter which said, "I must write it all down. Exactly as it happened. While it is fresh in my memory. But my hand trembles. Why? Twice I've dropped the yellow ball point pen. Now I sit at the surgical table making the greatest effort to calm myself, to put it all down not only for its own sake but also for you, Randolph, who never dreamed that anyone could ever act out totally (underlined three times) his fantasies and survive... Myron Breckinridge"

A few moments later we meet Myron (played by Rex Reed-the film critic) who is having his privates surgically removed by John Carradine (who plays an unnamed surgeon) with an audience in attendance. He impatiently snaps his fingers at the surgeon and tells him to hurry up because "Myra is waiting." And there you have it-the introduction to the namesake of this quirky and unforgettable film. 

Gore Vidal published his book, Myra Breckinridge in 1968 which was satirical in style and challenged the gender and social norms of the 1960's. Although Vidal disowned the film, calling it "an awful joke", just five or ten minutes into the film you know you are about to go on an unforgettable ride. Not all books translate well on screen but it is safe to say both the book and film had a lot to say and neither medium held anything back. 

A Vintage Nerd, Vintage Blog, Myra Breckinridge 1970, Raquel Welch, Raquel Welch Films, Classic Movie Blog, Unforgettable 1970's Films

A Vintage Nerd, Vintage Blog, Myra Breckinridge 1970, Raquel Welch, Raquel Welch Films, Classic Movie Blog, Unforgettable 1970's Films
Myron seeks to have a sex change in Europe in order to become Myra (Raquel Welch). According to Myra, Myron died in order to give "birth" to Myra. Upon returning back to the states, the newly christened Myra seeks out Myron's uncle (John Huston) pretending to be her own widow in order receive money. Throughout the film Myron is always close by because he is a part of Myra.

Eventually Myra works for uncle Buck as a teacher in his acting school all the while uncle Buck begins to investigate a little more into who Myra really is. Things get complicated when Myra becomes obsessed with two students at the school, Rusty (Roger Herren) and Mary Ann (Farrah Fawcett). Rusty and Mary Ann represent everything that is traditional and "normal" according to their personal beliefs and Myra wants to take that away from them desperately. 

A Vintage Nerd, Vintage Blog, Myra Breckinridge 1970, Raquel Welch, Raquel Welch Films, Classic Movie Blog, Unforgettable 1970's Films

A Vintage Nerd, Vintage Blog, Myra Breckinridge 1970, Raquel Welch, Raquel Welch Films, Classic Movie Blog, Unforgettable 1970's Films
Things begin to take a unexpected turn when Myra uses her influence as a teacher to give dear Rusty a physical examination. Rusty is then tied to a table and assaulted by Myra. This act causes Rusty to leave his beloved Mary Ann and give Myra a chance to comfort and cozy up with her. Myra then attempts to seduce the young and vulnerable Mary Ann (Fawcett). Myra's goal was to break them both out of their gender norms and make her victory complete by exerting power over both sexes. Interestingly most of the sex scenes are cleverly interrupted by scenes from classic films to give the viewer an idea to what is actually happening without it tipping into the adult film category.

Then enters the legendary Mae West who who came out of a 27-year retirement to play Leticia Van Allen. Van Allen sashay's through her office and selects from a group of gorgeous young men hoping to land a role but instead land themselves in her bed. Van Allen, like Myra, enjoys having her way with whomever she wants like seducing the one and only Tom Selleck (his film debut). Mae West does not disappoint. Every word out of her mouth is a sexual innuendo that she is notoriously known for which brings endless fun to the film.

A Vintage Nerd, Vintage Blog, Myra Breckinridge 1970, Raquel Welch, Raquel Welch Films, Classic Movie Blog, Unforgettable 1970's Films
A Vintage Nerd, Vintage Blog, Myra Breckinridge 1970, Raquel Welch, Raquel Welch Films, Classic Movie Blog, Unforgettable 1970's Films
Myra tends to go on tangents about Old Hollywood and the importance of classic films which I ultimately found charming. She dressed in glamorous 1940's inspired outfits and has her home decked out in classic film posters. Her tangents don't stop with her passion for all things yesteryear but also about her ultimate goal to somehow destroy "the last vestigial traces of traditional manhood in order to realign the sexes while decreasing population thus increasing human happiness and preparing humanity for its next stage". A tangent she has with Myron-which of course she only sees, all the while seducing and pleasing him. Is she seducing herself? Is Myron real in all of this?

Eventually things start to unravel even more when uncle Buck discovers that Myron never died. Myra realizes she is discovered and shows a shocked uncle Buck who she really is. A manifestation of Myron swoops in and claims that Myra has become too ambitious. He then runs her down and thats when its discovered that it is really Myron in the hospital but not for a gender reassignment surgery but because of a actual car accident. His nurse happens to be Mary Ann and while looking at his bedside table, Myron sees a magazine featuring an article on Raquel Welch.

A Vintage Nerd, Vintage Blog, Myra Breckinridge 1970, Raquel Welch, Raquel Welch Films, Classic Movie Blog, Unforgettable 1970's Films
A Vintage Nerd, Vintage Blog, Myra Breckinridge 1970, Raquel Welch, Raquel Welch Films, Classic Movie Blog, Unforgettable 1970's FilmsThis film is a statement piece-addressing topics that are not new to us today but I am sure were not as openly spoken about back in 1969 when the film was made or 1970 when the film was released. It addressed feminism, homosexuality, transsexuality, as well as American expressions of machismo and patriarchy. Everything shared and stated in the film felt like it was done with purpose, although there was a lot of camp weaved throughout.

It's safe to say that this film has a bad reputation and there have been many through the years that have had nothing good to say about it including Welch herself who said, "The only good thing about that was the clothes." It might not be a masterpiece but it is unique, visually interesting, and has an iconic cast of characters. And let us not forget the stunning late Raquel Welch who gives an indelible performance as Myra Breckinridge.

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16 comments :

  1. Wonderful tribute to this film. I saw Mae West in Sexette, but tbh she sounds like fun in this and with Tom Selleck too. Thanks for bringing this fabulous title and post to the blogathon, Daffney

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    1. I just heard of Sexette and of course now I have to see it lol xox

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  2. Btw added you to Day 4s post out soon
    ..

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  3. Great article and amazing photos. My favorite thing about Myra, too, is her obsession with classic films--the scenes where she lectures on the cinema always tickle me. (Of course, Mae, Farrah and Rex are also iconic!) Raquel was a sensational comedienne (and great musical entertainer) as well as sensational looking. She was an underrated talent.

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    1. I couldn't agree more! The more films I watch of hers the more I realize that she was def underrated! This was a wild film for sure though lol xox

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  4. I was super stoked when I saw a fellow blogger was reviewing Myra Breckenridge!! You did not disappoint! I love this film and reviewed it a few years ago for a so bad it's good blogathon, though I do not actually consider it a bad movie! I'm very happy you mentioned the stellar cast, and gave an extra nod to the brilliant performance of Raquel Welch! I personally think it's one of her best roles because she shows great comedic timing and subtlety that I think most people miss because of the boisterous atmosphere of the film. I hope more people seek it out after reading your awesome review!

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    1. Oh you are so kind John-thank you! I try not to judge a film too much and also try to never label a film as a "bad" film only because to someone else it might be an amazing film. It was unique albeit disjointed-I think it was ahead of its time. xox

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  5. I couldn't help but notice that John Carradine, who played so many mad scientists, has a bit part as Myron's surgeon. Plus, the use of clips from classic movies in Myra's seduction scenes is interesting, a quirky way of commenting on the censorship of sexual subjects in film. It's a shame that the film left a bad taste for some of the people involved -- it was so far ahead of its time!

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    1. Those classic film scenes were interesting to use weren't they? I heard that some stars of those films actually sued to have some of their scenes removed from the film. I think Lana Turner was one of them and she won! xox

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  6. I had never heard of this movie, but it sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for intorducing me to this title!

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    1. It's a hoot! Worth seeing at least once! Thanks for stopping by! xox

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  7. I'm not sure if I can bring myself to watch this one, Daffny. Yikes! But I sure did enjoy reading your take on it! Great pick!

    -- Karen

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    1. It's a lot Karen, it's a lot lol I do not blame you. I had to clean my palette after watching this and watched Tammy and the Bachelor (1957) lol xox

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  8. I've heard so many things about this movie, so I'm almost scared to take it on. Your review was awesome, though--thanks, Daffny, for joining the blogathon!

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    1. It's a wild ride of a film. I have been curious too. I am so glad you liked it-thank you for having me!! xox

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