A WINDSOR BEAUTY
While life can be unkind, fate can offer its own compensations. This was the way things panned out for the statuesque beauty that we know as Naomi from the Bond flick, The Spy Who Loved Me. At age fifteen, Caroline Munro was struggling at school due to her battle with dyslexia. In the mid-60s this physical impairment wasn't understood like it is now, and school could be hell for someone who could not keep up with other students. As a means of coping with this problem, Caroline decided to try her luck at Art School where this handicap would prove to be less of a burden. As luck would have it photography major, Ray Green, asked Caroline to pose for him and she duly won a newspaper contest being judged by the famous photographer, David Bailey.
Caroline was sixteen and on her way as a model. In the same year, she also recorded her first song, Tar and Cement. Caroline recorded at the famous Abbey Road studios which were being made famous by the Beatles. Caroline's backing band for the single included Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Steve Howe; hardly a shabby ensemble for a teenager making her recording debut.
It wasn't long before Caroline was working as a Lucy Clayton model and doing shoots in exotic locations like Malta for American Vogue and other magazines. While her move into movies was not hugely auspicious, it hardly came as a surprise given her great figure, sexy English accent and photogenic allure. If you look really carefully you might even spot Caroline in the 60s spoof, Casino Royale. You can also see her to greater effect in the underrated western, A Talent for Loving and Where's Jack? She also makes a rather fetching corpse in Dr Phibes.
While the film roles began slowly, Caroline found a niche in the Hammer Horrors of the 70s as well as a memorable turn as Naomi the helicopter babe playing opposite Roger Moore's Bond and Richard Kiel's Jaws. In a recent interview I did with Mr. Kiel, he lavished praise on both the beauty and talent of Caroline Munro.
For me, the best roles for Caroline have been the darker roles like Anna D'Antoni in Maniac and Carla in Captain Kronos. The fact that she is the only actress to have signed a contract with Hammer Films is testimony to the high regard producers held her in during the 70s and 80s as she worked continuously in Europe and the US. Now that Caroline's children are growing up we will hopefully see Caroline returning to film on a full time basis if the roles come her way. This woman with the gypsy heart has been missing from our screens for far too long. English shows like The Bill and Coronation Street could cast a wide net and not locate a more able actress who retains all the vitality and enthusiasm of her youth.
And if you doubt me check out Caroline's website at http://www.carolinemunro.org/
I recently caught up with Caroline for a quick chat and here is a little of what she had to say about her career:
David: I was wondering about your first autograph experience?
Caroline: You know, I don't honestly remember. I can only guess that it may have been in the street somewhere as a result of one of my magazine or Lamb’s Navy shoots.
David: You began life as a model and singer. Can you tell us about how your first song came about?
Caroline: I was very fortunate because I got to meet Steve Beecher-Stevens who was head of Decca Records. He was a great friend of my Dad’s and the man who discovered the Rolling Stones. Until then I had only sung in church choirs and the like and never professionally. Beecher-Stevens really supported me considering that at that time I was still deciding what I was going to do with my life. I remember being interested in window dressing back then, but that never came about.
David: What are some of your best memories from this time?
Caroline: It was a wonderful time in my life! I was very busy and working really hard. Of course it was so fantastic to have the chance to work firstly with people like Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, but also to meet some great actors like Peter Sellers and later Richard Widmark and Vincent Price. I wasn't even twenty by the time I had made A Talent for Loving. Later I would also work with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and there were hardly two more different actors, but they were both wonderful. I still see Christopher and am so pleased that he is working in such amazing films as the Rings Trilogy, even now that he is in his eighties.
David: Later on you made two films which are now virtually cult classics in Starcrash and Maniac. How was it working with people like Tom Savini and Joe Spinell?
Caroline: Tom is one of the best all round talents when it comes to the horror genre because he can do it all. Joe was very different and I loved making the three films we did together. He certainly lived life to the full, but he was also a very sweet man in his own way. His death was a huge loss for everyone who knew him and worked with him. But you know I feel that I have been blessed with working with all the actors that I have over the years. People like John Phillip Law and David Hasslehoff were great fun and have left me with some great memories.
David: I know you don't collect autographs yourself except for your children when you do memorabilia shows in Europe and the US but I was curious about whom you would have sign for you if it could be anyone in history?
Caroline: Well, it couldn't be just one person. How about Elvis, John Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Mother Theresa? Oh, and how about Einstein. Maybe he could explain the meaning of life to me!
David: Apart from looking after your two children, what is happening in your life these days?
Caroline: Well apart from the numerous autograph shows I do, I have recently been involved in a Dr Who audio project called Omega. It was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done but creatively very rewarding. This project wet my feet and got me very interested in audio/voice over work and I am actually in discussions right now about the possibility of doing more in the near future.
I also appeared in a cameo role in a horror film called Flesh for the Beast, which has recently been released on DVD, and later this year an independent film I did called The Absence of Light will be released. All these projects were a lot of fun to be involved in and I’m always looking for new and challenging roles.
David: You attend a lot of the big shows like Chiller and Autographica. What do you like most about these shows?
Caroline: You know that I get great enjoyment out of these shows. I always feel so fortunate to have such wonderful fans, many of whom travel from very long distances to come to the shows. I love talking with the fans and I love answering their questions in the Question & Answer sessions that many of the shows put on. I also get a chance to meet actors who I have admired for years. The shows are physically exhausting but certainly worth it all by just getting the chance to be there for the fans.
Another part of the shows that I really love is being able to get autographs from the stars for charities and school auctions that I help out. The actors are very gracious with giving me autographs.
David: Do you often run across fake signatures?
Caroline: I have seen a few but as I’m not very computer savvy, I don't go to sites like eBay. I had a young chap recently bring me a photo that he paid a lot of money for from eBay, and I’m happy to say that my signature was real on that photo. But it must be hard for collectors because my signature changes just about every time I sign it.
David: So before we sign off, Caroline can you tell us what is happening with you during 2004 and what shows and projects you have in the works that we can keep tabs on?
Caroline: 2004 is going to be a very exciting year. Firstly, the wonderful John Scoleri and Steffen Schulz having been working very hard on my own DVD project, the interview portion of which I did when I was in LA last year. They are putting the finishing touches to it and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the final product in the next few months. I’m also highly honored to be asked to be a part of American Cinematheque’s 5th Annual Festival of Fantasy, Horror & Science Fiction in August. They will be screening 4 of my films at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard and everyone keeps telling me what a spectacular theater that is. I’m very excited to be a part of this event. Also, as mentioned above, The Absence of Light will be released later this year and I also understand that one of my European films, Faceless, will be released on DVD shortly. All this information will be posted on the website once I have confirmed dates. It’s going to be fun year!
© David Priol 2004