Friday, January 18, 2013
From my collection: Wanda Hendrix (1928-1981) Saddle Tramp & Sierra (both 1950)
I recently had the pleasure of viewing two Universal westerns from 1950 that just happen to feature the pert Wanda Hendrix, Saddle Tramp, in which she joins Joel McCrea's adopted brood only to become ... well, take a guess; and Sierra, as a girl lawyer, with the stress on the "girl" part. She probably remembered the latter with mixed feelings considering her private life at the time.
A petite, dark-haired and often highly emotional actress, Wanda Hendrix is better remembered for her 14 month union with World War II hero turned action star Audie Murphy (see below) than for any of her film roles. Which is rather unfair. She was very good, for example, as the little Mexican waif aiding world-weary blackmailer Robert Montgomery in Ride the Pink Horse (1947), a fine film noir that deserves to be better known; and she starred in Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950), which gave the world the haunting Evans & Livingston song “Mona Lisa.” But her marriage to Murphy grabbed the headlines. She claimed that the shell-shocked veteran took to brandishing a gun in her face, and by the time of Sierra (50), their one joint venture, in which Universal billed her above him, they were already headed for divorce court. She retired in 1954 to marry the playboy brother of actor Robert Stack but that union, too, proved short-lived and when she returned to the screen after their divorce, all she got was such tepid fare as The Boy Who Caught a Crook (1961), a children's film that earned few play dates, and the plodding retro western Stage to Thunder Rock (1964). There were two comeback films as late as 1972 but only one, the cheesy thriller One Minute Before Death (1972), was ever released. Although a pleasing personality who added a rare vulnerability and sensitivity when cast in the appropriate vehicle, Wanda Hendrix more or less fell through the cracks and she has not been treated with kindness by Audie Murphy’s various biographers.