“She Ruled The Swamp With A Blazing Gun And A Luscious Smile!”
How can you top that for a tagline? It was used in the poster “Gator Bait”, and the image made Claudia Jennings a Cult Film Superstar!
One of the 70’s most promising stars appeared in several classic cult films, but just as she was growing as an Actress, she died tragically – my “2022 Sex Kitten Countdown” has the story of Claudia Jennings…
Jennings was born Mary Eileen “Mimi” Chesterton (nicknamed Mimi by her friends and family) in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1949.
After taking a job as a receptionist at the offices of Playboy magazine in September 1968, Photographer Pompeo Posar asked her to test, and the rest is history!
Claudia’s photos were mesmerizing, and she ended up in the magazine as a Playmate in November 1969, and later as 1970 Playmate of the Year.
She changed her name to Claudia Jennings to avoid family embarrassment due to posing in the nude, but as you can see by the photos, they are beautifully artistic and far more subtle than many…
Claudia would ultimately become the most perennially popular Playmate of the 1970s, which led her to Hollywood!
She became one of the most popular “Cult Movie Queens” of the 70’s!
Claudia Enters “The Love Machine!”
Jennings got her start in the camp cult film “The Love Machine”, based on the notorious novel by Jacqueline Susanne, who wrote “Valley Of The Dolls.”
Listen to this plot, thanks to IMDB:
“Robin Stone, an ambitious, sex driven TV news anchor catches the eye of Judith Austin, the wife of network executive Greg Austin. She pressures Greg into promoting him to a higher position and before long, he is running the network while Greg recovers from a massive coronary. Meanwhile, Robin dumps his model girlfriend Amanda and begins an affair with Judith!”
Pure campy trash. Jennings followed this with “Unholy Rollers” – that’s right, Jennings jumped into the hottest sport of the 70’s Roller Derby!
Check out the trailer:
Next, Claudia starred in “Group Marriage” – yes, exactly the kind of films you’d expect to see a naked Playmate in!
Just a few years after the groundbreaking “Bob & Carol& Ted and & Alice”, Jennings starred in a sex romp that imagined a whole new way to get married! Check out the trailer for this camp classic:
Actress Victoria Vetri also starred, and she had a very troubled life…you can read all about it here:
Next up, Jennings headed to the country for some classic “hicksploitation!”
“Truck Stop Women, My Head’s Still Swimming’!”
Talk about a catchy title song! “Truck Stop Women” from 1974 is a classic exploitation movie – just look at the double entendre in the poster!
Check out this trailer:
“Half Animal…ALL Woman!”
“Gator Bait” in 1974 was Jennings’ greatest film achievement – she got to get down and dirty in the swamp, and kick some serious ass at the same time…check out the trailer for this cult classic:
This was a star-making role, and Jennings ran with it!
If you want to know more about the “hicksploitation” genre, click on my guide here – including one terrific film with Rene Bond:
Jennings took her success in this film and started to branch out, getting away from pure exploitation – although she was always asked to do nude scenes:
Jennings began to change her onscreen image. She was reluctant to do those nude scenes any more, as she wanted to become a more serious Actress…
Claudia’s “Texas Dynamite!”
Jennings starred in several “serious” movies, accepting smaller roles for the chance to show her acting ability, and then headlined this campy action film.
Check out the trailer:
Jennings’ boyfriend at the time was songwriter Bobby Hart, who wrote many hits for The Monkees. She was poised to grow as an Actress as she headed into the 80’s…
Her Tragic Death…
Then, a senseless tragedy.
Early in the morning of October 3, 1979, Jennings died in a car accident when a van hit her while she was driving her Volkswagen Beetle convertible along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. She was only 29 years old…
Jennings was in the midst of a very successful career, and the next decade could’ve seen her take on any number of great roles…
She had an upbeat energy in all of her films, and the senseless death is really shocking…a terrific Memoir tells her whole story, with candid stories from her and her family…
Bravo to Eric J. Karell for telling her story so well…you can see more about his terrific book by clicking on my story here:
Sadly Hollywood is full of these tragic stories – stars who had personal problems or tragedies that cut short promising careers….
Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith was one such Actress…after a slew of roles in cult 70’s films, she lost her way…read her story here:
Here’s the story of an Actress who appeared in a number of cult 70’s films, but never had a breakout lead role:
Tara Strohmeier was in a number of great films, and you can see them all here:
If you like these stories, and don’t want to miss any of my “2022 Sex Kitten Countdown” as well, then go to my website’s front page and sign on to follow me – there are NO ads at all, just lots of stories to come about the wild world of exploitation and cult films!
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Leave me a comment about any of your favorite Actresses you’d like me to profile!