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Meeting Jackie Lane

Peter Campbell

"Whilst a teenager in the fifties, I used to buy various film magazines (like all of us lads did then), and it was through reading them that I first became aware of Mara Lane. She was a rather voluptuous type rather in the Elizabeth Taylor/Ava Gardner mould; she had just gone to the US from England and had landed a small part in the early fifties film "Susan Slept Here", starring Dick Powell and Debbie Reynolds; they still show it on TV here sometimes. What happened to her afterwards I don't know except that she eventually married an Italian Count and presumably gave up showbiz.

Then, shortly afterwards, I started to come across pictures of Mara's younger sister Jackie, who I thought was the bee's knees, and she immediately became my No. 1 pin-up for ever after; so you can imagine what I felt like when, early in 1960, I had the opportunity to meet her in the flesh!

At the time I was 22 and doing post-graduate teacher training, and was lodging with some friends in Worthing, West Sussex, England. One week I noticed in the newspaper that the local Connaught Theatre (which put on different plays each week, staged by the local repertory company along with occasional drafted-in celebrities) was doing a play (whose name I can't recall) starring none other than Jackie Lane! This I had to see.

Now, in one of those serendipitous moments which occurs less often than one would like, I also noticed in the advert for the play that her co-star was an actor called Brook Williams (son of the playwright Alun Williams), and it just so happened that I had been at school with him about ten years before. I hoped that this could be the key to a meeting with Jacke herself.

I therefore went to the play which, although fairly light-hearted in content in any case, unintentionally became hilarious when in one scene the actor on stage with Jackie forgot his lines, and there was then quite a bit of ad libbing (including a two-way conversation with Jackie about the gestation period of ferrets, would you believe!) until the actor managed to get back on track and resume the script.

Afterwards I went round to the stage door and asked if I could see Brook Williams, as he was an old schoolfriend. I was led through various poky passages with little headroom to Brook's home-from-home; amazingly, he recognized me, appeared genuinely pleased to see me, and announced that he was just off to the pub with Jackie, and would I like to join them?!

Actually we had a very enjoyable half-hour or so with a pint or two of something or other, and I managed not to be too tongue-tied in the presence of my long-time "heartthrob"; in fact I remember that she was quite unaffected by showbiz mannerisms and great fun to be with.

That is really the end of my personal experience; after all, I was never likely to see her again, but I treasure the memory to this day, despite having been happily married for over 35 years - after all you don't often get to meet your heroine in person!

Jackie was around for several years after that in the UK, as I still heard and saw bits of publicity about her, but after that I never heard her name again until very recently. In the early sixties she was obviously acquiring good basic acting experience in repertory theatres: very hard work, as it entailed being in a different town every week, and usually in a different play too, but in those days it was valuable experience for anyone wanting to work their way up in showbiz. Jackie also appeared in several BBC television plays in the early sixties (one of which was reshown a year or two ago over here). How many films she made during that period I just don't know, but I was delighted when over the Christmas holiday period at the end of last year one of them ("Two and Two Make Six") was screened. In this she co-starred with Janette Scott, Alfred Lynch and George Chakiris (his first big film role, I think). The film was complete with a rather naff typical early 60s theme song, sung by Craig Douglas, but was, for its time, quite an amusing film, and I thought that Jackie's performance outshone Janette Scott's by miles - but then I'm biased!

Just a couple of months ago, and purely out of curiosity, I searched for the name Jackie Lane on the internet, and there it was! I had absolutely no idea that she had gone to Hollywood, or changed her name, but the pictures on the Elvis films site was undoubtedly of her.

Now I would dearly like to see "Tickle Me" which, being in colour, will bring back a few memories, I guess!

I understand that like her sister, Jackie, too, married into royalty, so that presumably was also the end of her spell in showbiz. As we are almost exactly the same age, I can't help wondering what she's doing now . . ."

  • Thanks to a visitor to this page, Peter finally got his PAL copy of Tickle Me! If you have any questions or comments for Peter, feel free to email him!
  • Also, if you're into aviation, or just want to read about it, have a look at Peter's webpage!

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