Best remembered as Peggy, one of the loveliest of the "sei donne" in Mario Bava's BLOOD AND BLACK LACE [Sei donne per l'assassino, 1964], actress, model and entrepreneur Mary Dawne Arden passed away Saturday, December 13, in a Brooklyn, New York hospital at the age of 79. She was one of the many people I interviewed for MARIO BAVA - ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK, and one of those with whom I became and remained friends.
Dawne (she insisted on never being addressed as simply Mary) was the daughter of a single mother, born in St. Louis during the the years of the Great Depression, and had to face adult responsibility early on in
life. This forged her character as a hard worker, entrepreneur and self promoter. Though I liked - and, more to the point, respected - her immensely, she was one of those people who didn't seem able to ever fully relax
or have a good laugh, though she was always friendly and good natured. She told me that she had never acted for money ( a
good thing too, she philosophized, because she sometimes got stiffed on those Italian films come pay day), but to promote
herself - quite an unusual and avant garde attitude for an actress, but
Mary Dawne was, above all, a businesswoman.
likewise saw her successful career as a fashion model as a means of
"branding herself," to use today's parlance - and she did seem proud of
her accomplishments in that realm, which were indeed stunning, as she was of the fact that Federico Fellini had cast her in a role as a television hostess meant to be recurring in his JULIET OF THE SPIRITS, but which was cut from the final assembly. She asked me to keep on the lookout for other films in which
she appeared and, over the years, I was able to get copies of the B&W giallo A... come Assassino (1966) and the fumetti adaptation
KRIMINAL (1966) into her hands. When I asked what she thought of the
films, she would dodge that uncomfortable issue by saying "Kind of a
cute kid, wasn't I?" Indeed she was, a classic Grace Kelly type, and her modelling portfolio was truly stunning. But looking at those photos, at those VOGUE covers, I can always see the practical side of Mary Dawne, the good soldier and the good egg. I imagine that, as a young woman in the full bloom of her beauty, she must have been very like Peggy, who, finding herself the object of a co-worker's infatuation with her, sits him down, assures him of her friendship, and patiently copes with the problem till she can make the nutter see plain sense.
It was during the period when we were most closely in touch that VCI announced their plan to release BLOOD AND BLACK LACE on DVD. I was hired to record an audio commentary and arranged for Mary Dawne to film a video introduction for the movie, which she was very happy to do. When I later told her that I had
enjoyed the zany energy of her introduction, it
seemed to confuse her, to make her worry and feel self-conscious, which was not at all my
intention. She exuded such confidence that I was surprised to find a sensitivity there, not often tapped but still very present; it was one of the things about her that I found touching, which got to me. In short, I liked her tremendously - she was strong
and loyal and, above all, dependable - which I remember telling her were characteristics I prized especially, since I see and value them in my wife.
When the Bava book finally came out, Mary Dawne was quite effusive about
it and the lovely pictures I found of her, some of which she had never seen. As a thank-you, Donna and I presented her with a
print of the color shot that opens the BLOOD AND BLACK LACE chapter, which she
told me she planned to frame and hang near the entryway of her apartment. As this news reached me via a Facebook friend sharing her NEW YORK TIMES obituary this morning, Mary Dawne and I fallen out of touch for some time. I'm both sorry to know that she's gone and
grateful to know that this dear and driven woman is finally at rest.
Here is a link to her NEW YORK TIMES obituary.