My Interview with Gaby Rogers

Wes Clark - 7/15/02

"Whatever happened to Gaby Rodgers (Lily Carver in "Kiss Me, Deadly")?

I just got off the phone with Gaby Rodgers. Yes, this is the same Gaby Rodgers who opened Robert Aldrich's mysterious atomic box in "Kiss Me, Deadly."

She was at first naturally guarded, and wanted to know who I was and why I wanted to ask her questions. I tried to put her at ease; we talked for about ten or fifteen minutes. She does not seem to be well-acquainted with the phrase "film noir."

From my conversation with Gaby Rodgers:

- Robert Aldrich described the contents of his famous box in only the most vague terms; Gaby didn't know - and doesn't know - what exactly was in it. At the time of the filming she understood it to be "atomic," and that was it.

- She was offered a ten year contract by Selznick, but turned it down. One reason was that she had a problem with the cheesecake photos she was required to do. Anyway, she enjoyed the early days of television, and went on to do theater directing and criticism, which she still occasionally does.

- She asked Aldrich how she was supposed to portray Lily Carver; he told her that he wanted her to play a lesbian! So she had her hair cut short and wore (as she described it), a "tuxedo." (That's that surprisingly modern-looking black suit with the white lapels.) She naturally asked if she had any scenes with other women, and Aldrich said no. So the short hair and the tux are all that indicate Aldrich intended for her to be a lesbian for this part.

- She indicated that, reading the novel by Mickey Spillane, she was attempting to portray a drug addict - which accounts for the somewhat dreamy behavior of her character - but that the production codes wouldn't really allow a more explicit portrayal. (Same problem with a more descriptive portrayal as a lesbian.)

- According to Rodgers, Robert Aldrich was, "...a lovely man, jolly, easy-going. A Catholic." So she was surprised, viewing the finished product, that the film was so sadistic.

- Kiss Me Deadly was described by her as being "a quickie movie, a one-take kind of thing." She had no idea that it would be as highly regarded by critics as it has become. She mentions that everyone was rather lightly directed in it, and filming didn't take very long at all.

- At one point she talked to Mickey Spillane about her character, but it didn't help.

- She confirmed that she had an influence on her husband (famous songwriter Jerry Lieber) in writing the song "Jackson," a hit for Johnny Cash, but wouldn't elaborate due to legal reasons. (My assuring her that I had no interest in songwriting legality didn't help...)

- She also mentioned that she once got her husband to read a work by the German author Thomas Mann that contained an evocative passage about disappointment. He wrote "Is That All There Is?" (a hit for Peggy Lee) as a result. The song was intended to be in the style of German cabaret. (Gaby Rodgers is a German who grew up in Holland.)

- She confirmed the story that she played with Anne Frank as a girl.

- She prefers films that are not explicit, and agreed with me that suggesting something is usually better than depicting it outright. I got the distinct impression that she's not a great fan of modern filmmaking.

Gaby Rodgers does not have e-mail.


Click here for an exhaustive synopsis of Kiss Me, Deadly.