Day 5 of Noirvember: Charlie Borg in Wicked Woman (1953)

Today’s Noirvember post shines the spotlight on the skeevy, slimy, but unforgettable Charlie Borg in Wicked Woman (1953).

WHAT’S WICKED WOMAN ABOUT?

Our first Charlie sighting.

The “Wicked Woman” of the film’s title is Billie Nash (Beverly Michaels), a kind of distaff drifter who, at the film’s beginning, is arriving by bus in Somewhere Ville, USA. She finds a place to live and a job as a waitress at the local watering hole, where she catches the eye of her hunky – and very married – boss, Matt Bannister (Richard Egan). As their affair steams up and boils over, Billie makes plans for their future, but she runs into a little (no pun intended) stumbling block by the name of Charlie Borg (Percy Helton).

INTRODUCING CHARLIE BORG:

Our first Charlie sighting comes as Billie is strolling down the street toward the boarding house where she plans to rent a room (and, by the way, you haven’t seen strolling until you get a load of Billie!). Charlie, who lives at the same boarding house, works at the tailor shop next door and spies Billie as she passes by. After giving her legs an extended gaze, he’s compelled to step outside to the sidewalk to get a better look as she ascends the boarding house stairs.

Charlie would do anything for Billie.

As it happens, Charlie’s room is directly opposite Billie’s, and he’s tickled pink when she accepts his offer for a glass of sherry (not realizing that she’s more interested in consuming the steak he’s cooking on his hot plate), or when she suggests that they go out for dinner and dancing some night (unaware that the proposal is just a prelude to her request to borrow 20 bucks), or when she generously tells him that he can pick the club where they go out (while he’s doing a rush tailoring job on her skirt). But his fond feelings toward Billie make an abrupt transformation when he finds out that she’s doing the horizontal hokey pokey with Matt Bannister, if you know what I mean. And when you get on Charlie’s bad side, you’d better watch out.

WHY DID I PICK CHARLIE?

He’s so oily, so sleazy, such a sneaky creep – he’s not above leering, eavesdropping, or even blackmail. And I can’t keep my eyes off of him.

FROM THE MOUTH OF CHARLIE:

“You were trying to avoid me tonight, weren’t you? You shouldn’t do that, you know, Billie. You should be nice to me. Real nice.”

PLAYED BY PERCY HELTON:

Percy Alfred Helton was born in Manhattan on January 31, 1894; his father, Alf Helton, was a native of England and a stage actor. Percy began acting at the age of two, appearing in vaudeville acts with his father, and made his Broadway debut in 1906 in Julie BonBon. He honed his craft in stock theater and other Broadway productions, including Three Live Ghosts, Go West, Young Man, and Shoot the Works, in a cast that included future star Imogene Coca. He also appeared in several George M. Cohan productions, and he made his film debut in the silent film The Fairy and the Waif, starring Mary Miles Minter (Minter was the fairy and Percy played the waif.). After World War II (during which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross), Percy returned to the stage, but one of his roles required him to scream during much of the play, which permanently damaged his vocal cords, resulting in the actor’s unique raspy voice. His 1947 appearance as a drunken Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street signaled his career shift from the stage to the big screen, and he entered the realm of film noir the following year, with an uncredited part in Call Northside 777. He went on to appear in 10 more noirs over the next decade; Wicked Woman was his favorite. (And mine!)

Join me in the shadows tomorrow for Day 6 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 5, 2021.

15 Responses to “Day 5 of Noirvember: Charlie Borg in Wicked Woman (1953)”

  1. Oh man, Wicked Woman is just great trashy Kitchen Sink Noir. This is bottom-of-the-barrel done right. Lurid doesn’t even begin to describe it.

    Beverly Michaels not so much walks but sashays through the entire movie in slo-mo. I’ve never quite seen anything like it before, or since. I also love her “Runt! Runt! Runt!”

    Percy Helton is absolutely unforgettable. That pocket-size pipsqueak oozes slime from every pore. He’s literally slobbering all over Beverly. Oddly enough you can’t hate him. You just want to pat him on the head and say “there there”.

    • I LOVE the way Beverly Michaels moves — it is an absolute treat to behold. And I’m loving every time she blows her stack, whether it’s at the lady down the hall, Matt, or Charlie, it’s a hoot. I had to laugh out loud at the “there, there” — you’re not wrong!

  2. I watched this at your suggestion and kept reminding myself that Helton had been a child actor once upon a time!

    • Isn’t that funny — it’s so hard to imagine that he didn’t emerge just as he appears in this movie! I can’t picture him even 20 years younger, let alone as a child!

  3. I’m dying to see this but I can’t find it anywhere – any suggestions?

    • Absolutely, Jeffrey — it’s on YouTube! All of my movies this month can be found there — believe me, I know how it is to read a movie recommendation and then not be able to find it (or have to pay for it)!

      • Thank you!

      • Thanks for the rec! Watched it last night and it was great fun. I have always thought Percy was great fun but I don’t remember having seen Beverly Michaels before – I wonder if she was really as tall as she appeared in the film or if the men were just all short (Runts!) ?

  4. Fascinating to learn how his voice came to be what it was. He’s so elfin to me, and while your eyes want to skip over him, they can’t. Add the scratchy rat-like voice and you know he’s gonna’ be more than that pain in the ass.

  5. I just “discovered” this recently as u know, and wow what a movie. Percy is just such a grade A creep, he wrung the most out of that role and made us hate him.

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