Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Wink, in Retrospect, Seems All the More Malicious

Can we talk about Rosemary’s Baby for a second? I know, I know, you have plans that don’t involve reading about a 43-year-old movie, but there’s just this one thing about Rosemary’s Baby that’s always bugged me: Victoria Vetri.

You probably don’t know the name, because she didn’t end up becoming all that famous, but that’s the reason I bring her up. In the film, she plays Terry Gionoffrio, the boarder staying with Mr. and Mrs. Castevet when Rosemary and Guy move into the Bramford. Terry introduces herself in the laundry room scene, where she praises the Castevets and even shows off the strange, antique locket that they’d given her for good luck. She’s beautiful, in that Jerri Blank-ish way that actually worked in the 60s, but she gives off a harder vibe than pure-as-driven-snow Rosemary does.

Even her story is Jerri Blank-ish. As she tells Rosemary,
They picked me up off the sidewalk, literally… I was starving and on dope and doing a lot of other things. They're childless though. I'm like the daughter they never had. At first, I thought they wanted me for some kind of a sex thing, but they turned out to be like real grandparents. I'd be dead now if it wasn't for them. That's an absolute fact — dead or in jail.
Not long after their run-in, however, Terry ends up back on the sidewalk — dead and bloody, allegedly as the result of self-defenestration — and the Castevets start grooming Rosemary for the role they had initially planned for Terry: that whole giving birth to Satan thing. But there’s an odd meta joke that Rosemary makes to Terri when she first sees her: “I thought you were Victoria Vetri, the actress.” Terri brushes off the comparison, saying she “doesn’t see the resemblance.” First, consider that Vetri acted in Rosemary’s Baby under the name Angela Dorian, which she also went by in the September 1967 issue of Playboy where she appeared as Playmate of the Month. So the joke is strange, because Vetri would have been best known as Angela Dorian when the movie was filmed. And while Vetri did go on to act under hear real name, she only scored roles in schlocky B movies, the most notable of which would be the 1970 caveman movie When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth and the 1973 scifi flick Invasion of the Bee Girls. She achieved some fame as a sex symbol, but never became a household name — as Victoria Vetri or Angela Dorian.

Consequently, the joke now seems mean-spirited because not only is it unlikely that dumb ol’ Rosemary Woodhouse would have recognized her, but today hardly anyone else would either. (Though you have to wonder if Rosemary’s decline into antichrist-rearing was preceded by a subscription to Playboy. I mean, why else would she think Terry looks familiar? Maybe that snow ain’t so pure.)

So where is Victoria Vetri today? Better off than Terry Gionoffrio, I suppose, but not by much: Now 66, she’s in jail awaiting trial for the attempted murder of her husband. Vetri allegedly shot him on October 16, 2010, and she’s been held on $1.53 million bail ever since.

EDIT: The author Frank Portman has responded to this post and explained why it is that Vetri speaks her own name in the film. It’s a very logical reason, really, but I’m happy to learn it. 

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