Friday, August 28, 2009

Birthday Girl: Take a Letter, Darling

Hearty best wishes to the eternal secretary, Miss Jane Hathaway, or rather to her creator, Nancy Kulp, born this very day in 1921.

A well-bred Pennsylvania girl, Kulp made a career out of exagerrating, sometimes only slightly, her real-life persona as a cultured, brainy, rather gawky lady of the type frequently if paradoxically assumed to be simultaneously a daughter of Bilitis and a man-hungry spinster.

In real life she may well have been neither. Her only tie to Lesbos, it seems, arises from a supposed late in life interview with one Boze Hadleigh, a writer who claims to have carried out such conversations with a jaw-dropping array of notables, all - if he is to be believed - without ever making tapes or even taking much in the way of notes.

Whatever the case in her private life, Kulp achieved her little slice of immortality by acting as the perfect straight woman (in the comic-performance sense, of course) to the lunacy that unfolded around her, a visual joke next to the voluptuous appeal of Donna Douglas, the dogmatically logical victim of the Appalachian world view of Irene Ryan, and the stand-in for languishing youngsters of all sexes across the country in her helpless attraction to the carnal charms of Mr. Max Baer.

I adore, by the bye, stills like this one of character ladies. We are generally so conditioned to think of them as only the incarnations of the roles they play that it can be pleasantly jolting to see them, as it were, in their civvies, looking perfectly normal and indeed rather attractive. I am sure that whomever she took on as special friend would have been very happy to wake up next to her.


  1. I loved her when I was a kid but would be hard-pressed then to explain why.

    I think I felt a certain kinship. I also lusted helplessly and silently after Jethro.

    To further fam any Sapphic whispers: Nancy was in the WAVES.

  2. What a lovely & perfectly written post. i feel the same way about the character actors that played the sissies.

    my verification word is- CHESTS. Really.