Meet Actress Jill Banner!
If you don’t recognize this star, it’s because her movie roles were overshadowed by her personal life…but if you saw her screen debut, you’d never forget it!
“I caught a big fat bug right in my spider web and now the spider gets to give the bug a big sting. Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting!”
Here is a “True Hollywood Story” if there ever was one: an Actress who made her debut in one of the craziest cult films ever, and ended up on the arm of Marlon Brando!
This ultra-rare photo shows Banner with Brando, and here is the fascinating story that brought them together….it all began with this cult classic:
Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told!
This is one cult gem! Legendary Exploitation Director Jack Hill made his moviemaking debut with this tale of a strange trio of kids being raised by iconic Hollywood horror star Lon Chaney Jr!
Character Actor Sid Haig also stars in the movie, which is a black-and-white horror film revolving around Chaney’s attempt to keep these problematic kids away from society…there’s a reason for it, of course…
Elizabeth: “Spiders don’t eat other spiders.”
Virginia: “Cannibal spiders do.”
You see, Jill Banner plays Virginia, who likes to keep pet spiders – she also has fun with her own spider web…as one of her guests found out the hard way…
Her sister Elizabeth has her own issues – and together, these two sisters don’t mess around!
“Spider Baby” was shot in 12 days August 1964 on a $60,000 budget. Lon Chaney Jr. was paid a flat fee of $2500 for his performance, each of the other actors were paid $100 a day – yes, this is low budget filmmaking!
Actress Jill Banner Made her movie debut in the film – at age 17! Many years later, Director Jack Hill was told that the actress was so embarrassed by acting in the film that she never told anyone that she had done it!
The film was made in 1964, but didn’t get released until 1967 – by that time, Banner would be seen in DEADLIER THAN THE MALE (1966) and THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST (1967) as well as episodes of DRAGNET and IRONSIDE.
The “Marlon Brando” Connection!
After working steadily in the business, Banner moved to New Mexico in the 70’s but returned to Hollywood – and was linked to Marlon Brando!
Here is what I found online:
According to Charles Higham`s 1987 book, “Brando, the Unauthorized Biography”, the fiftyish Brando and 20-something actress met while filming “Candy” and became a couple. In Marlon Brando’s own 1994 autobiography, “Songs My Mother Taught Me”, he apparently discusses their relationship, but disguises certain details of her life and refers to her by the name “Weonna”.
A Tragic End…
Here’s where the story takes a tragic turn. When she was 36 years old, Banner was living with Brando and working on a screenplay with the Actor. Banner was involved in a car accident on LA’s Ventura freeway and died on August 7th, 1982.
Banner’s movie debut can be seen on a restored blu-ray, and you can also read a ton of material on “Spider Baby” at the film’s official website:
Banner had a short career, but she is mesmerizing in the film, and her story end on a very sad note…
By the way, while this was Jack Hill’s directorial debut, he went on to make some of the greatest 70’s exploitation films of all, like this:
Yes, he made this classic film, which starred a great cast!
You can see more of my story about the great Roberta Collins in this role by clicking here:
Hill was also a master of “blaxploitation” as well – working with the legendary Pam Grier on this classic:
You can see more of this film, and a lot more of Pam Grier, by clicking on my story here:
Bannon wasn’t the only tragic “True Hollywood Story” I’ve shared:
Carol Wayne bared on for Playboy after appearing on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson for years…so how did she end up dead?
Click here for this mystery:
For many, success in Hollywood comes with a downside: drugs and alcohol:
Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith was in a number of films in the 70’s and 80’s before her life sadly spiraled out of control: you can see her whole story by clicking here:
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