“I do not ever want to be a huge star.” — Tuesday Weld

It’s her birthday today.

1968_Pretty Poison_Weld_Perkins

From the great “Pretty Poison” (1968) with Anthony Perkins. And below you can see her as the creepily blank and heart-achingly gorgeous teenage majorette in the fantastic opening sequence of the film.


See Pretty Poison if you have not. Don’t miss Kim’s essay about Pretty Poison. In Pretty Poison, Weld shows up as the bombshell blonde teenager, restless in her small-town life, bored out of her mind (Weld was thrilling when she was bored because then she started yearning for excitement/stimulation/something to DO … and by that point, look out). She’s looking for escape and release, she’s empty on some level, and emptiness can be filled by bad-ness just as easily as it can by goodness. Bad-ness is certainly more exciting.



From the wonderful “Wild in the Country” (1961).

Weld was only a teenager when she made Wild in the Country but she is fantastic as the wild-child bored-out-of-her-mind, her horniness indistinguishable from boredom and disgust, the so-called local bad-girl who torments Elvis Presley’s character, a man trying (under court order) to stay good, clean, on the right side of the law. She practically begs him to “take” her. With all of her impulsive shenanigans, there is a quiet moment in the middle of the film, where Presley and Weld perch on a rickety back stairway, and he sings, and she listens. There’s a stillness, a communion between these two hard-to-be-pinned-down misunderstood-sex-outlaws … when everything slows to a standstill, and they can just be. They’re kindred spirits.

Elvis puts her off until, in the kitchen scene, after he adjusts her dress strap (because he’s aroused by that flash of uninterrupted creamy shoulder), he finally succumbs in an act of aggression that you rarely saw in Elvis films after this, where he was basically the somewhat submissive and amused recipient of the attentions of hordes of women. But Weld brought out the tiger in him.

I mean, who can blame him? Tuesday Weld was (and still is) irresistible.

Weld and Presley dated (if you can say that either of them ever “dated” in a traditional sense) and Weld had this to say about Presley:

He walked into a room and everything stopped. Elvis was just so physically beautiful that even if he didn’t have any talent . . . just his face, just his presence. And he was funny, charming, and complicated, but he didn’t wear it on his sleeve. You didn’t see that he was complicated. You saw great needs.

You could also say that she didn’t wear things on her sleeve. She was complicated but she didn’t walk around broadcasting that. You could also say that you look at her and see “great needs.”

Tuesday Weld and Elvis Presley.

There’s her chilly portrait of Los Angeles malaise in Play It As It Lays, based on Joan Didion’s novel (I wrote about the book for Sight & Sound, for their feature on the best books about Hollywood). Reunited with Anthony Perkins, Weld is an almost opaque figure here, eerily blank, the blank-ness not emptiness so much as almost total dissociation.

Again, let me point you towards Kim Morgan, who wrote gorgeously about the film for Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema website. Kim writes:

Hollywood, already filled with vipers and leeches and artists and muses, is the perfect backdrop for this type of dramatic discernment, as model and actress Maria (Tuesday Weld, very much a Sedgwick/Cassady mold breaker), wanders through the spread-out city with all of its surrounding areas and high desert lonesome in a state of depressive detachment and grim determination of … something. She’s not sure.

There are so many other roles: her fascinating cameo as the whorehouse “madame” in Once Upon a Time in America, her thankless role in Michael Mann’s Thief, which she fills to capacity with her human-ness, listening to James Caan with curiosity but also confusion, the whiff of her sordid former life all over her face: you don’t even need to know where she’s been to know where she’s been. There’s sadness there too. There usually is with Weld. I want to point to her WACKY performance in Lord Love a Duck, which shows what she can really do, shows her difference from other actresses. It’s not easy to play a scene like this one, and it’s hard to imagine another actress being bold enough, fearless enough, WILD enough, to make the choices she makes in this scene:

Tuesday Weld has one of the most passionate and devoted fan bases on the planet, even through – or maybe because of – her long years of retirement.

I mean, remember this?


That album came out in 1990. She now works so rarely. Her heyday was decades ago. But there she was. Aggressive. Insolent. Knowing. And stop-you-in-your-tracks gorgeous. You wondered what life was really like for her. You were never quite sure.

She’s still out there. And she wants nothing to do with her own fame, with her own fans. This was who she was all along. When Weld was done, she was really DONE.

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7 Responses to “I do not ever want to be a huge star.” — Tuesday Weld

  1. Lisa in Fort Worth says:

    Have you seen the YouTube videos from Roddy McDowall’s Malibu house 1965? She is so lovely and forever young.

  2. Shawn says:

    Side note: I met Lisa Marie Presley once after one of her shows, talked maybe 10 mins. My hub was a childhood friend of her ex husband Michael Lockwood. She was immediately full of presence, a sweet energy, curious and delicate on first impression. Delicate in the same way TW observed in her quote. What was odd was that she quickly introduced us to her (clearly gay) assistant, as if that was how she was going to relate to us. I was not offended but found it amusing. I quickly joked, “Well nice, I need one of those too.” She reacted confused. It was funny to me, but then it all devolved from there. Soon we were on our way to the car. Haha. I guess my point though was TW’s quote matches what I observed of his daughter.

    Another item: there was a creepy Elvis guy in the front row at the show, laser focussed on her the whole show. He had the late Elvis hair. I don’t see how that is pleasing to her. And I can only assume that she is somewhat weighted down by The Legacy.

    • sheila says:

      What an interesting interaction!

      Lisa has been through a lot. She just wrote a piece about grief for Entertainment Weekly, I think – As everyone knows, her son just committed suicide – and of course she will never get over it. Coming out of isolation to help promote the Elvis movie was huge – it’s the most open she’s been in years – which speaks well of the movie, but also her own perspective. It can’t have been easy for her. This is “myth” to everyone else, and it’s her LIFE to her. I think her piece is beautiful and she wrote it in the desire to not just help people get through grief but to give advice to those who don’t know how to help. She has a lot of experience with grief.

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