Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Barbara McNair: 1934-2007

I was saddened to hear that actress/singer Barbara McNair had passed away Sunday, losing a long battle with throat cancer.
Outside of being a fine singer who cut some great albums for Motown in the sixties, a terrific double cd retrospective is available, she also costarred not only in one of my Jess Franco's best films, but also one of my favorite Elvis Presley films.
1969 saw the American release of both Franco's Venus In Furs and Elvis' final film, Change of Habit. McNair was unforgettable in both. She was especially effective as the stunning nightclub singer Rita in Franco's film opposite James Darren. Her singing of the theme song is an incredibly memorable moment and her voice echoes throughout the film each time Maria Rohm enacts her revenge.
Change of Habit is a lesser film compared to Venus In Furs but it is still a personal favorite. Elvis had never been more beautiful and his final film would be a total break from the formula pictures he had been doing. Mcnair and Elvis share several really nice moments for, future X-Files director, William Graham. Mcnair and Elvis got along well off the set and she would later remember him fondly as a supportive friend in several documentaries after his death.
McNair appeared in many films and tv shows, as well as her own variety show, including They Call Me Mr. Tibbs and a great guest spot on The Mod Squad.
Her albums are well wortrh searching out and two, as well as the double disc anthology, are in print on cd. She gave one of the definitive readings of the sublime Bacharach tune Here I Am and had a big hit with You Could Never Love Him.
She will be greatly missed.

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