- By TOM WEAVER
In the year 2024, the Earth is a desolate wasteland, devastated
by cosmic radiation that pierced our damaged ozone layer.
Man has been evacuated to Mars. Those few humans who remain,
"first-stage mutants," live in an underground city. The
Texas-made Beyond the Time Barrier featured this
fanciful premise (now less fanciful than it used to be,
given recent speculation about the ozone layer and interstellar
flight). Independently made in 1959, directed by Edgar G.
Ulmer and starring Robert Clarke as a twentieth-century
Air Force test pilot who passes through a time warp into
this bleak futureworld, the movie co-stars Darlene Tompkins
as Trirene, the mute, telepathic Princess of the subterranean
Chicago-born Tompkins came from a "show-biz family," with
relatives who worked in vaudeville and in plays. (Tompkins'
three-years-younger aunt is actress Beverly [Old Yeller]
Washburn.) A beauty contest victory opened some Hollywood
doors for Tompkins, who began appearing in commercials,
co-starring in Time Barrier (at age 18) and appearing
in TV series and additional features, including Elvis Presley's
Blue Hawaii (1961). Marriage and motherhood derailed
Tompkins' screen career, but she managed to return in the
1970s to work as an extra, a stand-in and stuntwoman(!),
occasionally stunt-doubling on Charlie's Angels (for
Cheryl Ladd) and in other TV series and movies.
Leslie Parrish and Yvette Mimieux were both interviewed
for the part of Princess Trirene, before either of 'em WAS
DARLENE TOMPKINS: I didn't know that, I just know
that they had a LOT of people come in. I had an agent at
that time and he had heard about the movie, and he sent
me on an interview. I was really excited about it. The audition
was in an office; a lot of the studios had little teeny
offices, and you'd go in and read. The day I auditioned,
it was Robert Clarke and Edgar Ulmer -- just the two of
do you audition for a mute part like that?
DARLENE: That's right, in that case, there WERE
no lines, so they would tell me things that would happen.
I would have to stare out into space like I was looking
at somebody, or act as if I saw somebody fall down, or saw
somebody crying, or I had to look like I was in love --
or whatever -- while I stared into space. Well, they called
me back and I got the part. I was real lucky. That was very
you still living at home at the time?
DARLENE: Yes. In fact, my mother went with me to
Texas when we made the movie.
the Time Barrier was shot in about 10 days, in the abandoned
buildings where the Texas Centennial was held in the 1930s.
DARLENE: It was very, very desolate -- those buildings
looked to me like airplane hangars. We had Sunday off, and
that one Sunday we could go into Dallas if we wanted. Well,
I had never been there, and so a couple of people and I
got in a station wagon and went into Dallas, to just walk
around downtown Dallas, maybe stop and get a sandwich or
something, walk through a store and then come back. We were
all in Levis because we were out in the middle of nowhere.
(None of us had anything but Levis.) And I want to tell
you, I never realized how "dressy" that town was at that
time! To see six people walking down the street together
in Levis -- everybody would stop and stare. EVERYBODY! And
we're thinking, "What's the problem? Why are all these people
turning around?", and then one of the people I was with
turned around and said, "Oh my God, we're in DALLAS! We
should be DRESSED!" We ate at a hamburger stand, because
we were afraid to try to go into any restaurants -- we thought
we wouldn't be allowed in! "If they're looking at us like
THIS, we don't DARE go in a restaurant!"
was with you that day?
DARLENE: Just the crew, and one young man who was
"Mr. Texas," a real good-looking, dark-haired guy. In the
movie, he played one of the guards. Muscles -- a lllllot
of muscles! And they looked good on him, REALLY good --
they got him [for the movie] because of that. He was just
a nice, nice guy.
of Edgar Ulmer?
DARLENE: Edgar Ulmer sort of stayed to himself;
most of the time, my direction really didn't come from him,
it came from Robert Clarke. The love scenes, the kissing
scenes and everything. Edgar Ulmer's daughter Arianné
[who played a villainous scientist in the movie] was very
nice, and Vladimir Sokoloff [playing Tompkins' grandfather
"The Supreme," head of the futuristic city] was very charming,
very soft-spoken. He acted like he was my grandfather, he
really did. He took care of me and would want to pat me
on the shoulder and talk real soft to me. A very gentle
person. One of the things that I've been asked a lot, and
I really wish I knew: On the Supreme's table, are those
really bowling balls? [Laughs] I always thought they were,
but I can't swear to it.
Robert Clarke, who you say directed you?
DARLENE: That's right, Edgar Ulmer didn't do that
much to direct me, I felt that Robert Clarke did. That was
surprising to me. Robert was such a gentleman, he never
lost his cool, always nice, never raised his voice, just
a wonderful human being. There was only one time I ever
saw him upset, and I felt so bad about it. Remember the
scene where Princess Trirene is shot? Because it was a black-and-white
movie, they used chocolate syrup for the blood. So on my
outfit was chocolate syrup. And they said, for the scene
where Robert carries my body, "Just hang like dead weight.
Throw your arms out, and just be as dead weight as you can
be." He was in the flight uniform that he had rented, the
real-life flight uniform -- expensive. VERY expensive. He
was carrying me in that, and I'm dead as a mackerel. Edgar
said CUT, and as soon as he said cut, the first thing I
thought of was to sit up and put my arms around Robert so
he could lower my legs. I reached up, and I got chocolate
on his outfit. And he said, "Ohhh, no, no!" He set me down
real gently and again, "Ohhh, no, no," and he just shook
his head and walked away. And I thought, "My God, I feel
so bad." He never said another word to me again about that,
never brought it up or anything, and I kept wanting to ask
him, "Did you get the chocolate out?" [Laughs] But I didn't
have the nerve -- I thought, "Oh God, don't ask, don't ask!"
-- I didn't dare. I was afraid he'd say, "NO, it's there
for LIFE!", so I figured I'd better not say anything and
hope everybody forgot!
makeup man on the movie was an old-timer named Jack Pierce.
DARLENE: Oh, I remember Jack Pierce -- he's the
one who did Frankenstein . I remember him very,
very serious, and sooo glad that he was working. And everybody
treated him with so much respect. He really had "quite the
name," him and Vladimir Sokoloff. These two gentlemen were
just idolized, they were wonderful, wonderful people.
do you know Pierce was "glad to be working"? Did he come
out and say so?
DARLENE: What I meant was, he was just so intent
and happy about it. I don't think I've ever seen anyone
so happy to be doing that craft. He really loved it, he
gave me the impression that this was the important thing
that there was, that this was so phenomenally important
to him. As opposed to other makeup people I have worked
with, people who treat each new assignment as "just another
job," he was really wonderful.
he was your makeup man?
DARLENE: Yes, he was, and I was thrilled. On that
picture, I had one of the best makeup men and one of the
worst hairdressers -- on the same show [laughs]! Oh, she
was a disaster! I had long hair and a ponytail, and they
said to the hairdresser, "Add a little fall [fake hair]
to the ponytail, to give it length. We want it up high,
not down at the nape of her neck." She was behind me working
and she picked up a scissors, and I thought she was just
trimming the fake hair. Well, that night I found out what
she had done: Because I had so much hair, long hair, she
didn't know how to wrap it all together, so she parted my
hair and then cut a lot of it right off! It was like a hole
in the back of my head, a two-inch circle that was just
stubble! Oh, God, it was bad, it was just a mess. After
that, when anybody did my hair, I'd say, "Can I watch?"
[Laughs] "I wanna see how it's done!"
you happen to remember how much you were paid?
DARLENE: $350 a week. And I'll tell you another
thing I'll bet you don't know: The mutants taught me how
to play cribbage [laughs]! I'd never played cribbage before;
I played chess and other games, but never cribbage. So they
taught me that, and I really enjoyed them!
were asked to do a nude swimming pool scene in Time Barrier.
DARLENE: They saved that scene for last, and since
they didn't have any access to an indoor pool, they were
going to do it at night, right at the motel we were staying
at. It had to be done at night because it was supposed to
look like the pool was in the underground city. The motel
was a two-story, and it was shaped like a U. One end of
the U was a restaurant, and in the middle of the U was the
courtyard with the pool. Well, they asked me if I would
do it nude, and I said, no, I wouldn't, I don't do nudes.
But I said I'd wear a flesh-colored or pink bathing suit,
because as long as I knew I was covered, I didn't care.
They said okay. So they put a pink bathing suit on me.
I was upstairs in my motel room, getting ready for makeup
and everything, and all of a sudden someone opened the door
and yelled, "Fire!" and we all ran out. What happened was,
in the restaurant, the flue over the stove caught fire.
And, because the motel was connected to the restaurant,
when the restaurant caught fire, smoke went through all
the air ducts -- smoke came in everywhere. We were all outside,
all watching, and a couple things happened that I thought
were funny. One thing was, Texas was a "dry" state; I don't
know if it still is, but at THAT time it was, so the people
would bring their own set-ups. This man and his wife had
gone into the restaurant and he brought his own set-up and
they were having dinner...the place caught on fire ... and
he grabbed his bottle and ran out. He left his WIFE [laughs]!
I don't know if they're still married after that! I thought
that was kind of funny!
This was the last night of the shoot on Time Barrier,
and The Amazing Transparent Man  was going
to start shooting in the next day or two. [Ulmer and his
crew shot Beyond the Time Barrier and The Amazing
Transparent Man back-to-back in Texas.] One woman who
was going to be in Amazing Transparent Man, I don't
know her name [presumably Marguerite Chapman, the movie's
co-star], was sitting in her room under one of those old
hair dryers -- you know those old "space age" hair dryers
that's like a big cone on your head? She had the rollers
and everything, and she didn't have any clothes on. Someone
opened up the door and yelled to her "Fire!", but all SHE
saw was this man charging in. Under that hair dryer, she
couldn't hear anything! So she jumped up and ran out, naked.
So HE grabbed the mink coat that she had laying on the bed,
and he CHASED her with her mink coat! Oh, God, that was
funny -- I really enjoyed that!
much of the motel burned that night?
DARLENE: I don't think any of it did, except for
the flue. Being that the fire was in the kitchen, the smoke
went through every single bit of the motel, through the
air ducts. But the actual fire, I believe, was contained
in the kitchen. Thank God nobody got hurt.
obviously, you didn't shoot your supposedly-nude scene that
DARLENE: That's right, they didn't film it. A month
or two later, after we had all returned home from Texas,
Robert Clarke called me and said, "We're gonna shoot again.
We have enough time and we wanna shoot it [the swimming
scene]." I said that sounded great. They were going to shoot
it in the pool at Robert's home in North Hollywood, in his
backyard, again at night because it was supposed to look
like the pool was indoors. So I go over to Robert's house
and I've got my bathing suit on and my Levis over my bathing
suit. I came into the house, and he had a piano in one of
the rooms. I walked in and there was this lady sitting there
at the piano bench, and she had got a ponytail like mine.
I said hello and the lady turned around...and it was ME.
I almost fell over! It absolutely took my breath away --
I was staring at MYSELF. I just stood there! And she looked
at me and she didn't say anything either! She just stared
at me and I stared at her! I was just dumbfounded. Robert
Clarke came in and he explained: He said he called around
to some photographers telling them that he needed a double
for me, a girl who did nudes, a girl who was five-foot-three,
105 pounds, etc. Well, he called Peter Gowland [a Hollywood
photographer known for his "nudes"] and mentioned my name,
and Peter said, "Oh, I know Darlene. No problem!" He had
been a judge at a couple of beauty contests that I was in.
was able to supply a girl who looked exactly like you, because
he knew you.
DARLENE: That's right, Peter matched me perfectly
because he knew me; I had worked for him.
you swam, you had a flesh-colored bathing suit?
DARLENE: That's correct, a strapless pink bathing
suit. But it didn't make any difference, 'cause they only
did head shots with me. I went out and did the swimming
scene -- I did like an Australian crawl, and then came to
the end of the pool where you go up the steps. When I started
climbing out of the pool, they shot my head and then they
cut it. Then it was HER turn to do it nude, and I went in
the house. By the way, after I did MY swimming, Robert Clarke's
stepson came home. He was a young boy at that time, probably
17, 18, and he came home from wherever he'd been all day,
and his mother said [excitedly], "Stop! Stop! You go RIGHT
to your bedroom!" [Laughs]
the naked girl was swimming outside in their pool?
DARLENE: Right! The mother said, "You go DIRECTLY
to bed!", and the kid didn't know what was happening --
he just turned to her and he went, "Huh?? What??" And again
he was told, "You go directly to your bedroom!" And he had
to go right to his room -- the mother told him, "Stay in
there. Stay in there." They were very much family-oriented
people, very gracious, very wonderful -- a real class act
-- and [the nude swimmer] just "wasn't her thing" [laughs]!
you recall seeing Time Barrier the first time?
DARLENE: It was playing at a theater in Van Nuys,
and my mother and I went down and she took a picture of
my name up on the marquee! And the first time I saw it was
there. My reaction to myself? It was really a surprise --
I was so glad that I hadn't had any opportunity to see dailies
during the making of the movie. On future movies I didn't
WANT to see dailies until after every single thing that
I did in that movie was over with. Other people can look
at dailies and see "the whole picture," but I'd keep looking
at me, it was hard to look at anybody else in the scene.
And I'd keep saying, "Oh my gosh, I should do THIS" or "I
should do THAT," because seeing myself would make me so
you ever see the foreign version with the nude swim?
DARLENE: No, and I've never even TALKED to anyone
who saw it. I've gotten fan mail from it, people saying
it was great or they loved it or whatever. If they ONLY
you ever work with Clarke again after that?
DARLENE: The only other time I got to work with
him after that was on [the TV series] Dynasty.
friendly did you get with Elvis on Blue Hawaii ?
DARLENE: I was his good buddy. I remember he had
a penthouse at the hotel, the Reef in Oahu, Hawaii, and
he had guards so that no one could get up there. I can't
remember how many floors there were in this hotel, I think
it was like 11, and one day some teenage girls managed to
get up to the roof, and then from the roof they jumped down
onto his balcony. If they had slipped, it would have been
11 floors down. Unbelievable!
Elvis was really nice. We had dinner and he pushed the
potatoes away and I asked, "Don't you LIKE potatoes, Elvis?"
He said, "Oh, I love 'em, I really, really love potatoes,
they're my favorite thing. But...I don't wanna get fat."
For him to be so worried about getting fat, and then to
have that [getting fat] happen to him -- oh, dear!
But things were different in those days, almost everybody
took diet pills, or Valium, or whatever. Nobody knew that
you could get addicted to them. A man in Elvis' position
could get prescriptions from anybody, and people wouldn't
ask, "What else are you taking?" He just didn't know, and
I think it was very sad.
did you leave the business?
DARLENE: The disappointments were a little bit
hard for me, and I began to think, "Well, maybe this isn't
meant to be." Like, I was set to do CinderFella ,
and the day before I would have shot my scene, they called
and told me Jerry Lewis had had a heart attack while running
up some stairs. So I wasn't in CinderFella. On A
Guide for the Married Man , I was in a scene where
Walter Matthau sees a girl walking and he flirts with her.
The scene was shot, but it was cut out -- they shot it again,
this time using one of the female leads instead. Then when
I did Grandpa Was a Cop, a TV pilot, what happened
was kind of sad: The pilot got rave reviews, and four sponsors
were fighting to do it. Everything was great, and I was
told to go out and buy my Cadillac. And then all of a sudden,
bang!, they couldn't find a time slot for it. That was unfortunate,
because that would have been a real fun show, I really was
disappointed when THAT didn't air. I was the granddaughter,
Joe E. Brown was Grandpa and Dick Foran was his son, my
father. Then there would be me and a young boy. It was a
cute show, really nice. I think that was my first MAJOR
disappointment, because I really thought that that was gonna
go. EVERYbody did -- it was a disappointment for everybody
who worked on it.
So I had a couple of disappointments, and then I got married,
and the gentleman that I married -- well, it was hard for
me to go on interviews and stuff, because [actors and actresses]
are always having to do love scenes with other actors who
you've only just met that morning! It became a little difficult.
So I got married and had my two sons, and then unfortunately
I got a divorce. At that time, I was 33, and there really
isn't much call for a 33-year-old ingenue. And I had to
support my family. I'm very, very happy with what I did.
I think I should have put more effort into it while I was
raising my kids. I thought I could raise my children and
I could come back and I could work. But it isn't that way.
You can't be gone in that kind of a business for 10 years,
you can't leave at 23 and come back at 33, you can't. But
that hadn't occurred to me. When I came back at 33, I had
to go behind-the-scenes and do things. I made a good living
doing it, but it was not the same.
you do the occasional "celebrity autograph" show.
DARLENE:I'll tell you one of the things that was
a little scary for me about that: Remember Vivien Leigh,
Gone With the Wind ? Well, Vivien Leigh in
the early '60s went to a theater down South where they were
showing Gone With the Wind. She came, and one of
the ushers looked around and said, "Where IS she? Where
IS she? Where's Vivien Leigh?" -- with her standing or sitting
right there! He had seen the movie, and he thought she was
gonna be the same age as she was in the movie. So when I
recently started going to some of these signings around
the country, I thought, "People are gonna see these pictures
of me" -- [a lot of my pictures are in bathing suits --
"and they're gonna think that I'm supposed to be this girl...but
that was 30 years ago!" It was kind of hard for me at first
to DO the signings. But then when I went on 'em, I found
that people are really, really nice, and they know that
time goes by. The people are just wonderful and they make
me quite comfortable -- but at first, after I read that
thing about Vivien Leigh, I was a little worried to go out
in public. I thought people were going to expect a teenager!
got special "and introducing" billing in Time Barrier.
Were you harboring hopes that this would be your "big break"?
DARLENE: Actually, I did -- I really did. Beyond
the Time Barrier was the first thing that I had done,
and I was star-struck. I'd only done a couple commercials
before, and I was really hoping that something would work
out, because I LOVED the industry. There was nothing like
it, everybody was so happy to be there and they were having
fun and they were makin' money doing what they really loved.
It's both the hardest and the best of jobs.
Tom Weaver is the author of John Carradine: The Films,
Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Flashbacks, Attack of the
Monster Movie Makers and many others available from