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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Marianna Hill on El Condor

In this excerpt from a fantastic in depth interview with Marianna Hill, she describes her involvement in the film, El Condor-

After "Medium Cool," Hill was next cast as the female lead in the big-budget Western "El Condor," (1970) starring Lee Van Cleef, Jim Brown, Patrick O'Neal and directed by John Guillerman. Hill played the sultry mistress of the officer in charge of El Condor, a Mexican fortress that Van Cleef and Brown's characters are planning to raid in order to steal its treasures. Even though the film was relatively successful, and remains a favorite of Western fans, Hill has mixed feelings about the experience. She recalls that she became involved with the film when, "My agent Walter said, 'Oh, Marianna, they'll fly you over there to Spain!' I said, 'What do you mean?' And he said, 'They cast a girl and she didn't work out.' Prior to 'El Condor,' there had been a film made over there with a similar cast. It was with Jim Brown and they had a different leading lady and there were *terrible* rumors coming out of Spain about that production. This was like a follow-up to the prior movie which was called 'Rifles' or '100 Rifles' and there was just cruel stuff coming out of Spain. So what happened is that the girl that had the lead in the new movie, the next leading lady, got in a *big* row with everybody. It was one of those knock-down things and she walked off the set. Anyway, Walter said, 'Oh, Marianna, you've got to go to Spain!' and I went, 'Well, no, I heard some bad stuff about that film, Walter, like people getting beat up and drunk. Are you sure about this?' So, despite my misgivings, I accepted the role and showed up in Spain. I was like a babe in the woods, with all of this stuff going on because of prior histories between the individuals due to their personality issues."

When asked to describe her experience of working with Lee Van Cleef, Jim Brown and director John Guillerman, Hill candidly opines, "They were highly disparate individuals. It was like oil and water. They were just very, very, very different kind of characters. I don't want to get into it because I cannot say stuff about people who are dead, but it was very chaotic because of everything that was going on. John Huston was working there on another picture right next door, and I think it was the times down there in Spain because there was a lot of--not on our picture--but there were fistfights going on with his picture. There was violence going on around us outside of our production and it was kind of like the same, sad people on our picture thought, 'Oh, what's going to happen to us here?' I don't want to say anything bad about Lee Van Cleef and any of those other people because they were just working to the best of their abilities, like we all were. There was just something strange in the atmosphere." 

As Hill reflects further on the experience, she pauses, then continues, "You know what? I'd really like to not talk anymore about 'El Condor.' I'm really sorry I don't want to be evasive, but the whole experience was so strange. All I can say is John Guillerman is dead, Lee Van Cleef is dead, who else?...so is Patrick O'Neal. These people are all gone and they were each completely different. They were so diverse in their characters and personalities that there's no way I can put words to the experience. They were all talented people, but when I left I thought 'I'm glad this one's done and I am out of here!' because there was something in the atmosphere down there. I just don't have the intelligence to put into words about that experience in Spain, not that it was terrible, but it was chaotic. I was confused all of the time, as everybody was. And I don't drink, I never touch the stuff, but there was a lot of drinking going on down there and so that affected the Karma on the set. I just couldn't figure out what was going on. I'd show up and ask, 'What's going on today? I don't know what's happening with the script, I don't know what to do with this character,' because it was changed constantly! So what can I say? That's all I can tell you."

You can read the entire interview here


  1. Interesting. I wasn't aware that wasn't her in the nude shots in El Condor. And apparently she had strong reservations about doing a film in Spain, didn't enjoy working on El Condor and was glad when the shoot was over. She did say the director was a nice man but didn't want to day anything bad about Lee or Patrick O' Neal as they are deceased.

    I have read the script was reworked several times with Lee's part changing from a typical bad guy role to a guff comical bad guy. And that Lee and Patrick O'Neal got into the booze too much. But that was also said about Lee and Walter Barnes becoming drinking buddies on Big Gundown and it became a bit excessive.

    On the plus side Lee had said El Condor was a favorite of his and he enjoyed working on the film and that he really bonded with Jim Brown who never tried to steal a scene and they were like brothers. El Condor was an "A" picture as was Good, Bad and Ugly. Most of Lee's films post Leone were "B" budget or lower films.

    I have heard Raquel Welch was not happy with the sexist remarks and attitude afforded her on 100 rifles. It was interesting to me Hill said nothing about Jim Brown who is still living and the actual star of El Condor and the star of 190 Rifles. Not sure what that means if anything. But clearly Hill did not enjoy El Condor and wasn't interested in talking about it but was eager to discuss Clint Eastwood and the film she made with him which she enjoyed a lot.

  2. It’s probably the role we will always remember her for but she definitely wants to forget it happened. She even tries to claim it was a “body double” but it’s obvious it isn’t. You can see her face and her nude body at the same time...

  3. Of course that's her in the nude shots. There's not even the slightest doubt about it. I was confused when I read the comment further on in the interview, because even if you've never seen the movie, you only have to google "Jim Brown, Marianna Hill" to see pictures of her naked with him (none of which are in the version of El Condor available on cable and DVD now). They aren't fakes. There's no body double. It's her. She also did nudity in Medium Cool. You could argue she never did really hardcore full frontal nudity--it's all pretty 'artistic'. But it's not even the least bit equivocal. That's her with no clothes on. Period. (Exclamation point, really.)

  4. I see where she says she did full frontal for Medium Cool and never again afterwards. There is not the least chance of a body double in the version that exists now. That is her, unless they found someone absolutely identical to her--in Almeria. Not likely. But she may simply be saying that the nudity was less frank than what she did in Medium Cool, and there may have been a body double in some of the scenes that are not in the available film, which I'm guessing she hasn't watched in a very long time. However, the stills from the earlier version where her breasts are on full display her are really her, and they're sensational.

    Has anyone seen the unedited cut? Maybe there's a European version somewhere. Given how little she was willing to say about the shooting of El Condor, it's not that surprising that she'd want to forget some of what happened there.