Cave Girls and Carry On’s – Remembering Imogen Hassall (1942 – 1980)

Posted in Remember by - April 15, 2014
Cave Girls and Carry On’s – Remembering Imogen Hassall (1942 – 1980)

With her long dark hair and busty figure, glamorous Imogen Hassall was for a while, very familiar to British viewers, appearing in over 30 productions between 1963 and 1973. But behind the scenes Imogen was a rather troubled person, hiding insecurities that she would never fully be rid of.

The daughter of poet Christopher Hassall, Imogen was born in Surrey, England, on August 25th, 1942. After studying ballet and following a brief stint in theatre, Imogen’s screen career took off in 1963 when she was 21. In the next few years Hassall would pop up in various television series, including ‘The Scales of Justice’ and ‘The Avengers’, as well as a couple of Norman Wisdom comedies, (The Early Bird – ’65, and ‘Press for Time – ’66). In 1967 Imogen had her first movie role when she played Tara, in Ken Annakin’s historical adventure ‘The Long Duel’, where she got to perform a couple of Indian dances.

After appearing in episodes of ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Champions’ in 1968, Hassall then played Michael Bryant’s sexy girlfriend in the wonderfully perverse thriller ‘Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly (’69). It was a small but noticeable role as Imogen’s character meets a bizarre fate when she dies after falling from a children’s slide. However, it would be the following year though that would prove to be Imogen’s busiest, with no less than seven movies, some of them pretty good.

In the controversial Peter Cushing exploiter ‘Incense for the Damned’ (’70), Hassall’s vampire found herself cavorting on a Greek island with Patrick Mower. Next she bared all in the gritty Jim Brown/Lee Van Cleef western ‘El Condor’, where her dark hair and exotic looks matched her part perfectly. Her dark looks were again put to good use when she had a small role as a gypsy’s wife in the D.H. Lawrence drama ‘The Virgin and the Gypsy’. After a small part in the mediocre Olivia Newton-John sci-fi musical; ‘Toomorrow’, Imogen would appear in her two most well known roles.

As the wonderfully named Jenny Grubb in ‘Carry On Loving’, Imogen had her most fondly remembered part, as a shy and sheltered girl who, after a minor makeover (which mainly consists of taking off her glasses and unruffling her hair!), blooms into a beautiful and sexy model. This is the movie that most people associate Imogen for, and it remains one of her best performances. Her character is both likable and fun to watch, and very sexy in her new-found freedom. The other movie which gave Hassall wider recognition was the enjoyable Hammer sequel ‘When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth’, the third of four ‘cave girl’ flicks made by the studio. Shot largely in the Canary Islands, her jealous cave girl; Ayak, meets a sticky fate when she drowns in quicksand. Hassall finished the year with a brief bit in the Hayley Mills sex comedy; ‘Take a Girl like You’.

In 1971 Imogen played the sister of a crime boss in the pilot episode of the cult TV series “The Persuaders!”, and was window dressing in a “Jason King” episode the following year. 1973 saw Hassall as a strip club worker abducted and shipped overseas, in the David Jason farce ‘White Cargo’. Imogen would not appear on screen again until the poor 1979 James Bond parody ‘Licensed to Love and Kill’, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part.

Imogen’s private life was tabloid’s dream. A regular on the party circuit and attending movie premiers, she was labelled “the Countess of Cleavage”, due to her rather scantily clad appearances. This fun-loving outward persona however, hid an inner torment, and in her later years Imogen’s life was plagued with depression. Her life had become a rollercoaster, and after many failed relationships, her career was now in a rapid decline. Her brief second marriage was over, and after several previous suicide attempts, Imogen finally succeeded on November 16th 1980. Aged just 38, Imogen died in her London home from an overdose of Tuinal pills, a combination drug used as a sedative.

Imogen Hassall may have appeared outgoing and lively, but her lively appearance hid deep insecurities. She was a very attractive woman with a degree of talent, but she was also lonely and lacking confidence and self belief. A loving, kind person whose star shone briefly, Imogen left an indelible mark as a starlet in a handful of British B-movies.

Favourite Movie: Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly
Favourite Performance: Carry on Loving

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