“Tura Thursday” is a regular series celebrating the legacy of the late, great Tura Satana, best known as Varla in the 1965 Russ Meyer cult classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. This series is curated by Tura’s longtime manager, friend, confidant and CEO of Tura Satana Productions, Siouxzan Perry.
This week we are going to talk a little about Susan Bernard aka the girl in the bikini in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. Susan’s role as “Linda” gave Varla additional spark & venom, as if she didn’t have enough! The interactions between the two seemed somewhat strained, to say the least…but it worked in their favor as you saw. Read on to find out what they really thought of each other.
Bernard had her own career as a pinup and actress: In 1961, she answered an ad in Variety for “an All-American girl who looks good in a bikini,” which led to her landing the role in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! as a nice girl held hostage by three psychotic go-go dancers.
Satana admitted that the only cast member she had a problem with was Bernard. “Susan didn’t get along with us. She had her mother with her, who was one of those types of women, ‘Don’t come near my daughter, you’re liable to give her something.’ The only way I could get anything out of her acting-wise was to literally make her hate me. I had to get very physical and brutal, pulling teeth to get a reaction. But it seems like any of the good stuff she did in that film was when I was getting nasty with her. The rest of the time, all she did was cry.”
Bernard’s overprotective stage mother got on the cast and crew’s nerves, demanding that her daughter get more dialogue and screen-time. Satana finally lost it when the mother referred to the Pussycats as a “bunch of whores,” and demanded she leave the location or she’d quit. Meyer wasn’t impressed with Bernard’s acting skills and enlisted Satana to provoke a reaction out of her for a given scene, which she was only willing to oblige.
Bernard confirmed that she was as terrified of colorfully named screen villainess Tura Satana as her character was during the film’s shoot in the California desert. “They gave us this little motel and my mom came with me, thank God, because I was underage. I always thought Tura was going to bang down the door and karate chop me. I thought something awful could happen. And I think they wanted me to believe that.” She laughed, “After a while, I started realizing that she wasn’t going to do anything.”
Susan Bernard is the author of six books, including Marilyn: Intimate Exposures, Bernard of Hollywood’s Ultimate Pin-Up Book and Joyous Motherhood. She is the president of Bernard of Hollywood/Renaissance Road Incorporated.
Bernard starred in the Russ Meyer film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! in 1965, and in two seasons of General Hospital in the late 1960s.
She appeared in Playboy in December 1966, and was believed to be the first Jewish Playmate of the month, though in recent years Cindy Fuller, Miss May 1959, has claimed that she was the first Jewish Playmate.
In an interview in the August 1998 issue of Femme Fatales, Bernard revealed, “I was the first under-18 Jewish virgin who was in the centerfold placed in front of a Christmas tree,” and that she’d never been nude in front of anyone other than her mother prior to posing for Casilli, who had been one of her father’s apprentices. Her father was photographer Bruno Bernard “ Bernard of Hollywood”. Her husband, although they later divorced, was the late actor/playwright Jason Miller; their son is actor Joshua John Miller. -Wikipedia
Susan Bernard’s Marilyn, Intimate Exposures features previously unseen images of Marilyn taken by her father, Bruno Bernard, including the iconic photo of the blonde bombshell in the white halter dress on the set of The Seven Year Itch.
To learn more about Susan visit her at her Facebook page.