Tag Archive: 1000 Convicts and a Woman (1971)

Happy Birthday Ray Austin!

Austin (left) directed episodes of, and coordinated stunts on The Avengers

Austin (left) directed episodes of, and coordinated stunts on The Avengers

Austin, director of 1,000 Convicts and a Woman, turns 81 today.  Besides doing a ton of TV work from The Saint through Pensacola: Wings of Goldhe’s an English Lord–the Baron of Delvin.  Not bad for a former chauffeur for Cary Grant.  He is also the author of the Beauford Sloan mysteries.

Alexandra Hay with The Baron on the set of 1,000 Convicts and a Woman

Alexandra Hay with The Baron on the set of 1,000 Convicts and a Woman

He still does public appearances periodically, giving advice on getting into “moving pictures” (I envision him giving talks about “the talkies”) and celebrating his many television programs.  He apparently summers just down the road from here, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Twenty years ago today we lost actress Alexandra Hay.  She died of a heart-related condition at the much too-young age of 46.


Hay in her photoshoot for Playboy, February 1974

She’s best known, perhaps, for her starring role in 1,000 Convicts and a Woman.  She got her start as a a model at the age of 12, but when her mother passed away when Hay was 16, she went to the UK and married her legal guardian there so she could stay in Europe.  When she returned to the States they had the marriage annulled.  One of her first roles upon her return was a stage play The Beard, she (and other cast members) were arrested several times for obscene language and being nude on onstage.

On film, she had some bit parts opposite some huge stars.  She was opposite Dean Martin for a bit part in The Ambushers (1967); she memorably recited ice cream flavors to Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1968):


Hay’s career trajectory hinged on two roles: first she had a small part in Skidoo (1968), generally considered these days to be a thoroughly misconceived Otto Preminger comedy with Jackie Gleason, Groucho Marx, Mickey Rooney, and Frankie Avalon, among others.



Hay brushes off Gary Lockwood in The Model Shop (1969).

Next, was The Model Shop (1969), where she had a larger role playing Gary Lockwood’s live-in girlfriend. However, that movie didn’t fair well at the box office either. These and a couple other mediocre films, such as The Love Machine and the aforementioned 1,000 Convicts and a Woman, forced Hay to find work on the small screen, where she found roles in Mission: Impossible, Love, American Style, and the TV movie The Screaming Woman, which also starred Olivia de Haviland.

She tried, mainly unsuccessfully, to boost her career by appearing nude in the February 1974 issue of Playboy, but the roles that came out of that were in some pretty lame fair: How Come Nobody’s On Our Side (1975), also starring Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner was pretty much an embarrassment for all involved.  The end came in 1978 with a small role in the Jack Palance vehicle, One Man Jurya blatant Dirty Harry/vigilante cop ripoff.

The most complete biography I’ve found on Hay suggests that after this, at some point in the early 1980s she called it a career, and died a decade or so later.  Not much information out there that’s readily available on what she got up to in retirement–she’d have been in her mid-30s or so.

But there may be a little more to Hay’s story: her last role may have been in 1988, when, according to the Toronto Star, (“Royal Pain,” November 12, 1988) after a 16-year hiatus after principle photography, post-production finally wrapped on a Clyde Ware film Another Time, Another Place.  Apparently, Hay played a small town waitress who followed Martin Sheen to New York.  But because the original material was shot in 1972, Sheen and Hays’ material were flashbacks for the tribulations of Hay’s daughter in the film.

However, IMDB lists this film as coming out finally in 1992-fully two decades after Hay would have been on set, and a year before her death.  The 1992 version was without Sheen. and IMDB lists Hay as a different “Alexandra Hay”–Alexandra Hay II.  II’s only other role is one episode of a 2002 TV series called The Strip, which is most of a decade after the actual Hay passed away.  This confusion shows us yet again that for more obscure films and actors, IMDB is not necessarily an authoritative source.

At any rate, Hay’s career is probably best summed up as a “near miss”–she clearly had the looks and the acting chops to be a leading lady, but what she did not have was a good break to give her the opportunity to go further than she did.               

1000convictsposterThis month in 1971 the British exploitation picture, “1,000 Convicts and a Woman” was released! This is a silly women-in-prison flick (sorta), sometimes known as Fun and Gameswhich may be a more accurate title, as Chad Hoolihan sees it: “When the title writes a check the movie can’t cash”.  Essentially, this flick was a lot tamer than it was billed, to everyone’s frustration.  It is positively dull by today’s standards.  The general consensus seems to be this was a tame British exploitation film, but its American-style promo campaign over-promised what was actually delivered. It did, however, star Alexandra Hay, who passed away far too young of a heart condition, in 1993 at the tender age of 46.  This was directed by Ray Austin, a former driver for none other than Cary Grant, and who is now in his early 80s.


Also in this movie was Terry Richards, who we remember more as the swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark: 


Remembering Sandor Elès

Sandor Sandor Elès passed away 11 years ago today.  On this blog we especially remember him for his film roles 1,000 Convicts and a Woman (1971), Countess Dracula (1971); and The Evil of Frankenstein (1964).  His better known television roles were Upstairs, Downstairs (1973); and multiple roles in both The Saint and The Avengers in the mid-1960s.

Born in 1936 in Hungary, he overcame a difficult childhood before coming into his own as an actor: he lost both parents during World War II, then after the Hungarian Uprising ag1000convictsposterainst the Soviet Union, he was forced to relocate to the UK, which is where he started his acting career.

Actually, that is a bit of speculation on my part–his life and any career he had started before his emigration, which would have been when he was about 20 is mainly unknown to us.

At any rate, watch a classic Hammer horror films today to celebrate Elès’s life.