Monday, 26 January 2015

Lost World: Marguerite White and other Lost World heroines

"The plateau!  The plateau!" cried Marguerite White.  She drew her revolver to fire a celebratory shot into the air, turning back to look at the straggling crocodile of men laboring up the dusty path behind her. The lost plateau loomed over them at last.  They had spent weeks getting to this point and she had spent a considerable amount of money.  She would have expected rather more enthusiasm from her male companions at the first sight of their goal.  They trudged upwards, looking at their feet, as they approached her at the top of the ridge.  She could understand the professors not being in the best of shape but Malone was a disappointment.  And as for Lord Roxton!  "Do come along Roxton!  Stiffen up the sinews!  Summon up the blood!  If gossip is believed that seems to be your greatest talent, anyway!" she said.

Roxton muttered under his breath.  There she was, striking a pose as usual, flaunting her stomach like a Circassian dancing girl.  Most unladylike. He felt like putting her over his knee and spanking her.  Except, of course, she was his paymaster.  Or paymistress.  The latter epithet sounded a lot more entertaining, he thought, dropping his pack at the top of the ridge.

"You are a very fit young woman, Marguerite!" said Roxton, gazing at her abdomen.

"You are not the first man to say that!" she smiled.

"Will there really be prehistoric creatures on the plateau?" mused Malone.

"Of course!" cried Challenger.

"Of course not!" said Summerlee.

"More importantly will we find my dear cousin, Veronica?" asked Marguerite.  She gazed at the huge ascent ahead.  How could her cousin possibly have survived for two years up there?

Marguerite White, daughter of Maple White, is my non-literary nod to the various women who have appeared in various screen adaptions of The Lost World.  In Arthur Conan Doyle's original novel the only major female character was the perfidious Gladys Hungerton, who remained at home in England.  However, in every subsequent film or TV adaption an adventurous woman has been included alongside Malone, Challenger, Summerlee, Roxton and (sometimes) Zambo.  The idea being, no doubt, to add glamour (initially) or provide a free spirited female role model (latterly).  I have already painted my main characters but was struggling to find a suitable female to give my team more of a Hollywood, rather than literary feel. However thanks to Mr Gordon Richards, who pointed out that Steve Saleh's Lucid Eye miniatures are now being sold by Arcane Scenery and Models I now have my female explorer.  Properly equipped with various packs she daringly wears trousers but does not have the jodhpurs so many Pulp heroines are sculpted with, as they would not be worn by women until after Coco Chanel adopted them in 1920.  My adventuress is the daughter of Maple White, so she is likely to have picked up some of the appropriate survival skills and not just be a screaming liability.   Here we have a look at her equivalents from film and TV.


Just thirteen years after Conan Doyle's book was published, Hollywood made The Lost World (1925) which was a silent film, of course.  It did, however, feature stop motion dinosaurs by Willis O'Brien, eight years before his creatures in King Kong (1933), although the river scenes were shot in Los Angeles' open sewers. 

Bessie Love in The Lost World (1925)

In this version of the story our leading lady is Paula White who is none other than the daughter of the explorer Maple White, who originally discovered the dinosaur infested plateau.  Incidentally,  I always thought that Maple was an extraordinary choice for a character's first name.  Very curious indeed. Anyway, after their adventure, White's daughter ends up with Malone after he discovers that Gladys has got married in his absence. A common occurrence for the female characters in the screen adaptions.  Paula was played by actress Bessie Love (1898-1986) the daughter of a Texan cowboy who had been discovered by DW Griffith.  Due to her part in The King on Main Street (1925) she became the first woman to be filmed dancing the Charleston.  She set the standard for the masculine-clothed, jodhpurs-wearing, armed adventuress in subsequent films.

I could not call my heroine Paula, however, as I knew someone called Paula White and it would provoke all the wrong thoughts, so I chose Marguerite as her first name because the Steve Saleh figure has something about the character played by Rachel Blakely in the Canadian TV series (see below).


There were a couple of radio adaptions in the forties but the next film wasn't until 1960. When Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (the TV series of which would star David Hedison who appears as Malone) creator Irwin Allen produced the next adaption.  Allen actually employed the 1925 production's Willis O'Brien to produce concept sketches of the dinosaurs but was unable to afford stop motion creatures in the end.  Instead, his team stuck fins on real reptiles and produced footage that appeared in many subsequent productions, including Hammer's cavegirl classic, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970).  The film is set in Venezuela (rather than the book's Bolivia) but is set in the present day (as was the 1925 version) so the explorers arrive on the plateau by helicopter.

Jill St John

The gratuitous female explorer in this was Jennifer Holmes, who was the daughter of the newspaper owner financing the expedition.  Holmes was played by Jill St John (as annoying but picturesque as ever) dressed, for, much of the film, in very unexplorer like pink slacks.


It would be over thirty years until the next version and 1992's Canadian production of The Lost World, starring John Rhys-Davies as Challenger.  This was actually set in 1912 and was closer in plot to the novel.  Relocating the action from South America to Africa it was, at least, shot on location in Zimbabwe.  The film actually had a sequel made at the same time with the same cast, where devious Belgian and Portuguese oil drillers get their comeuppance for trying to ruin the plateau.

Tamara Gorski

Our female adventurer is this is Jenny Nielson a wildlife photographer (in 1912?) whose parents are rich arts benefactors so she funds the expedition herself.  Played by Canadian actress Tamara Gorski, she is an early animal rights activist.  Perhaps this is why she is dressed in white, like an escapee from a Ralph Lauren advert.


There was only a six year wait for the next version and it's another Canadian production. This one takes place in 1939 and is set in Mongolia (filmed in Quebec) with the tropical, Shangri-La like plateau being shot in British Colombia.

Jane Heitmeyer

We have another version of Maple White's daughter, this time named Amanda, who insists on travelling with the men.  She is played by another Canadian actress, Jane Heitmeyer who is best known for her appearance in three seasons of Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict.


Just a year later we were given The Lost World's first TV version which was actually entitled Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World and ran for three series and 66 episodes.  This was also set at the time of the novel and, at least initially, vaguely followed the original story before turning into "lost tribe of the week".  This was a Canadian (they love The Lost World in Canada)/Australian production filmed in the Gold Coast, Australia, close to where I'm a Celebrity get me Out of Here is shot.   Michael Sinelnikoff, who played Summerlee in the 1998 film, returns as Summerlee in this but the rest of the cast is different.

Rachel Blakely

Again our lady explorer, Marguerite Krux, is also the expedition's financier, in the really rather splendid form of Australian actress Rachel Blakely.


The next, and so far final, TV production was the BBC version from 2001, starring Bob Hoskins and filmed in New Zealand.  Also a period piece, it was produced by the team behind Walking with Dinosaurs, so the prehistoric creatures are excellent.

Elaine Cassidy

The obligatory woman in this is Agnes Kerr, the daughter of a priest.  Irish actress Elaine Cassidy portrays Agnes as another modern young lady.


The final version, to date, of the story, The King of the Lost World (2005) is set in the present day and bears very little resemblance to the original story and is more akin to King Kong, of which it was a (very) cheap rip-off, being released just before Peter Jackson's epic effort..

In this film our lady is actually Rita Summerlee a character who replaces the professor and is played by Sarah Lieving.  This is the only one of these films I do not own on DVD so I cannot tell you which one of these ladies is Sarah Lieving and as the reviews are so bad I don't think I will bother to buy it.

As a completist, I should point out the existence of the films Lust World (1999) and Lust World 2 (2001).  In the first, which I do confess to owning (thanks to Sophie!), three people are shipwrecked on an island and discover some of the worst stop-motion dinosaurs ever, cavegirls and primitive tribesmen.

Nikki Andersson

One of the three castaways is a rather well-fed lady called Jill, played by Nikki Andersson, who must be a geologist as she notes that the island is made from strange rock for the region.  However, it soon turns out that it is something else rhyming with rock that she is an expert in.

I do not own Lust World 2 so cannot comment on it but I am sure it is more of the same (albeit with a different cast).  I have seen a trailer and it features some amusing men in a rubber suit dinosaurs very similar to those from the Doug McLure epic The People that Time Forgot.  One key point to make as regards these two films is that they both feature cavegirls so I will have to have a cavegirl or two for my lost world scenarios. The appearance of these in The Lost World is a whole separate post, however.

1 comment:

  1. Good choice of the trousers for Marguerite. King Kong, and no mention of the lovely Naomi Watts? And it's no wonder you don't paint more figures as all this film research for our benefit must take an enormous amount out of your spare time ;-).......but keep it up (double entendre intended)