Monday, September 25, 2006

RIP Mickey Hagritay



Mickey Hargitay died last week at the age of 80. He lived one of those extraordinary lives that only seem possible in the 20th century. Born in Hungary in 1926, Mr. Hargitay fled his homeland to avoid compulsory conscription in the Soviet army. Inspired by Steve Reeves, the bodybuilder and star of myriad Italian Hercules movies, Hargitay became a bodybuilder himself, and won the Mr. Universe title in 1955.

Hargitay was a beefcake extra in a Mae West revue when he was spied by his natural torso-mate, Jayne Mansfield. They became an item and married, having three children before divorcing six years later. Three years after that, Mansfield died in a horrible car accident. Fittingly, in the golden days Hargitay co-starred with Mansfield in his own Italian Hercules movie, The Loves of Hercules.

Hargitay starred in many amusingly cheesy movies, including the rather inert hero role in the hilariously sordid Lady Frankenstein. He also grappled with Robert Conrad in an episode of The Wild Wild West. However, his trademark role will always be his deliciously over the top emoting as the Crimson Executioner in Bloody Pit of Horror, one of those dead perfect little B-movie gems, the sort of thing that when you find it, makes the dive through cinematic dreck year after year suddenly worthwhile.

Arnold Schwarzenegger aptly enough played Hargitay in The Jayne Mansfield Story, a telepic starring Loni Anderson. Sadly, he did not have a scene in Hagritay’s Crimson Executioner get-up.

Having (like Schwarzenegger after him) made a fortune in real estate and other investments, Hargitay eventually retired from acting in the mid-‘70s and lived what we can only hope to have been a rich and happy life. He did live long enough to have briefly appeared opposite his daughter Mariska Hargitay in an episode of her TV series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and to see her win an Emmy for Best Actress in a Dramatic Series for that program.

Rest in Peace, sir, and thank you.

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