Sixty Years Later, Town’s “Teenage Mummy” Lives On

“Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark” it’s not.

But “I Was a Teenage Mummy” holds a place in movie history.

In Westport, anyway.

And if you were in town 60 years ago today, you remember it well.

The film had its world premiere on April 26, 1963 in the Staples High School auditorium.

A full house — 1,200 people — packed the place. The next night there were 2 more showings, both also sellouts. Tickets were 75 cents in advance, $1 at the door.

Life Magazine and the New York Times covered the event. Hugh Downs invited the cast onto the “Today  Show.”

Not bad for a 90-minute film, produced and acted by a group of feisty Long Lots Junior High 9th graders.

Of course, they had adult help: a 21-year-old, with fantasies of Hollywood.

Jeffrey Mullin — one of the “Teenage Mummy” stars — went onto a 40-year career as a documentary filmmaker. He learned editing and cinematography from legendary documentarian Bill Buckley, and between 1985 and 2008, worked with Buckley and fellow Westporter Tracy Sugarman.

These days, Mullin is retired. But as the 60th anniversary of his teenage adventure drew near he checked in with “06880” from his Cape Cod home, with a trove of materials.

Life Magazine covered the movie story.

“Mummy” — a satire on horror movies — was the brainchild of that 21-year-old, Ralph Bluemke (part-time manager of a Stamford theater).

He enlisted his Half Mile Common neighbor Mullin, Allen Skinner of nearby Cross Highway, Steve Emmett and Jayne Walker. Michael Harris played the mummy. Jeff’s 8-year-old brother Scott was the villain.

They raised funds by selling “stock” in Jerall Films (a combination of their names) to parents and friends.

Filming began in September of 1962. Locales includes beaches (for “the desert”), Longshore, and an auto chase scene throughout town.

The Westport Police Department let the teenagers “borrow” a police car — and officer. An auto dealer provided a Cadillac. And, Life reported, “one mother was conned out of her new Mercedes.”

The movie also includes a scene at Idlewild (now John F. Kennedy) Airport. Jayne Walker’s father — a TWA pilot — held his passengers on board for half an hour while the main characters scurried up the steps, and were filmed “disembarking.”

It ran through January, with interruptions when the cast had to raise more cash. The go-to job was babysitting.

The total cost: about $375.

After its Westport premiere, Life magazine said, the film was booked into theaters in Fairfield and nearby counties.

Teen idol Pat Boone gave the movie a boost.

“I Was a Teenage Mummy” did not reach the enduring fame of “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s not mentioned with classics like “The Jazz Singer” or “Star Wars.”

But for a few brief springtime weeks — beginning 60 years ago today — “Teenage Mummy” was very much alive and well in Westport.

(If a story happened — or happens — here, “06880” covers it. Please click here to support our non-profit. Thank you!)

The cast of “I Was a Teenage Mummy.”

11 responses to “Sixty Years Later, Town’s “Teenage Mummy” Lives On

  1. Does it exist? Do we need a GoFundMe to digitize it?

  2. Let’s do a 60th anniversary screening at Staples High!

  3. Steve Doig (Staples ‘66)

    I remember all this so well! My family had moved to Westport the summer of 1962, to a house across the street from Steve Emmett. The cast was the talk of our 9th grade class at Long Lots. And Jayne, a natural beauty, was a Julie Christie look-alike who belonged in Hollywood. I thought then that living in Westport was going to be something special — and it was.

  4. Who remembers back in 1966, when Hollywood came to Compo beach to select 13 elementary school aged kids for the movie, “Night Children”? Hundreds of Westport kids lined up to be “discoverd”. Frank Perry, who was the director as I recall, stared at me from a distance, me with my freckles and red hair. I told him he should also select my two brothers for the film. A week later my dad was signing contracts for the 3 of us downtown. I also remember one of my neighborhood pals, (also with freckles), was selected too. Disappointingly, we were later told that the movie’s funding had been cut. Months later they made “The Swimmer” here in town with Burt Lancaster, also diected by Frank Perry. Frank, Interestingly got his start parking cars at the Westport Country Playhouse. As it turns out, my neighborhood pal was selected for a non-speaking part in “The Swimmer”.

    • Don’t remember that story. But the Perrys (Frank & Eleanor) were about as far away from “Hollywood” as you could get in the movie business..

      I do remember “The Swimmer.” My dad’s poker buddy, Chilton Ryan, owned one of the pools featured in the film. By the way, there is a book, or perhaps a screenplay — and definitely material for several 06880 posts — in that poker game.

    • Ellen Dale Naftalin

      My dear departed friend Gene Lexen was married to Phyllis Langner of Lawrence Langner and Armina Marshall, who founded the Westport Country Playhouse. The scene in the Swimmer pool party was filmed in the Langner’s pool. Funny how life works to tie up various events. Gene was in the pool.

  5. Carl Addison Swanson, Wrecker, '66.

    Four (4) of us were actually recruited to be “extras” in “The Swimmer.” Free lunch and a bad case of dry skin from being in the Weston Community for hours. Indeed, many of us thought it would be Jeff Mullin who would be the next Spielberg but Steve Miner along with Shane Cunningham, with “Halloween” & “Friday the 13th” would dominant.

  6. Shawn Cunningham was in my dad’s poker game, too,

  7. Aw you removed the link to earn $18,000 per month working from home! I was looking forward to that gig!

  8. Carl Addison Swanson, Wrecker, '66.

    And Kevin is the Pickle Ball King of Westport.

  9. I saw “The Swimmer” with Butt Lancaster when l lived in Westport as an au pair, it was either 67 or 68. Unusual movie saw it again awlile back, l think on Utube. I liked it and loved that it was filmed in Westport.

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