Georgina Spelvin was born Michelle Graham, on 1 March 1936, in Texas. She was able to overcome polio as a child, and grew into a sexually adventurous teenager. “I was a bit promiscuous as a youngster”, she would later admit. “I only realised in retrospect that I’d been the school tramp. I was the girl all the guys would take out to fuck, but never took to the dances.” “At first I wanted to be an opera singer but my voice wasn’t good enough. My second choice was ballerina. After that it was a series of compromises.” Georgina soon realised that “I had neither the training nor the body to make it as a dancer”, but nevertheless moved to New York in the 1950’s hoping to break into Broadway.
“One of my first experiences in New York was when the state employment office sent me to see about a modelling job. It was a big, high-class studio, and I had to see someone with one of those hairdresser names: ‘Mr Charles’ or ‘Mr Gary’. After everyone else had left, he brought me into the studio and – through the course of taking many pictures – he eventually got me very drunk and nude and then he balled me. I don’t even remember how I got home; I passed out midway through the thing. But I never got the chance to tell him I had the clap, and I wondered how long it took him to find out and connect it to me.”
Despite such an inauspicious start, she did appear nude the 1957 French film ‘Les Collégiennes’, which also starred Catherine Deneuve. By 1963 she was working as a chorus dancer in ‘Guys And Dolls’, and in 1966, “I was fortunate enough to get a job as a replacement dancer in ‘The Pajama Game’ on Broadway. Then I got into the chorus; then I got the understudy to the lead role. When the lady playing it, who was a gal named Neile Adams, decided she would rather run off and marry Steve McQueen, I got to play the lead role for the last year that the show ran in New York. Then I was invited to recreate the choreography and the role for a touring company that went to South Africa. When I came back from South Africa, I couldn’t get another Broadway show, try as I might.” After a number of bit parts, including being a dance double for Shirley MacLaine in ‘Sweet Charity’, Georgina eventually got a job as a replacement dancer in the musical ‘Cabaret’. She kept the job for the last eighteen months of the show’s run. “By that point I was getting pretty long in the tooth to be a dancer. And I got tired of not having any money.”
At the time Georgina was divorced with children, and decided she needed to move her career in a completely different direction, “I started working for the JCPenney Company in the audiovisual department, creating slide shows, creating soundtracks, doing a lot of tech stuff… I became absolutely entranced with film and film editing. I opened my own editing facility down in the West Village. It was called The Pickle Factory, and we were doing a lot of underground films at that point. I was very much into the peace movement. By the end of the sixties, beginning of the seventies, I was interested in making revolutionary films and ending world hunger.” Ideals aside, though, Georgina soon found herself in financial difficulty. “We were scrambling to make the monthly rent on the place to begin with, so I said, ‘Okay, it’s near the first of the month again, and we don’t have any money! Somebody’s got to make some money!”
“So I bought all the local trade papers – Showbiz and Casting Call – and I just called everybody who was casting films. At that time, there was a lot of tits and ass films going on. Nudie-cuties!” “I called and made appointments with some of the producers, and I went around to see them, carrying my resume and my portfolio. The pitch I made to them was: ‘I know I'm probably not what you're looking for in the way of an actress. Yet, if you need someone to help carry cable, run sound, hold a boom, carry lights, type scripts, make coffee, or sweep the floor, I'm accomplished in all these areas.’ About the third man I went to see listened to my pitch with amusement and then told me he could use me. He wanted to do some shooting on a boat, so I found a boat for him, and I supplied a few people, friends and relatives, for some of the acting parts. I played a madam. It was soft-core, low budget, low quality, but it paid the rent for a month.”
"On that film I got friendly with one of the grips, and he called me a month later and asked me if I wanted to act in a sex picture he was making called ‘Parental Guidance’. This was to be hardcore, and he wanted to know how I felt about sex in front of the camera. Fornication was the word he used – would I fornicate for the camera? I told him it would depend on who my partner was. I'd have to meet the man before I could decide. Well, I met the leading man and he was nice, attractive and we got along fine. So I took the job. Soon I was fornicating like a veteran, right in front of the camera.”
The first proper adult film, as opposed to a loop, that Georgina made was ‘High Priestess Of Sexual Witchcraft’. Filmed in 1972 and released a year later, it also included Marc Stevens. “I was having sex with the high priest [Stevens] and with the dude that was playing my son. Was I nervous? No. He was a very attractive young man, and I always felt that having sex was the friendliest thing two people could do.”
Through Stevens, Georgina met Harry Reems, and soon found herself in the inner circle of America’s original porn pioneers. “We made quite a few films. I called them one-day wonders. Marc Stevens and I had sex together on-screen many times, but he was like my kid brother. I didn’t have ‘affairs’ with anybody; I just had sex with a lot of people – there was a group of about six players. I referred to us as ‘The Rep Company’. It included Marc Stevens, Harry Reems, Eric Edwards, Sean Costello, and of course Tina and Jason Russell.”
Although the New York porn scene had been steadily growing between 1970-1972, the industry was still in its infancy. Georgina later recalled: “The boys would trade off holding the camera, and there was usually a sound person and perhaps one person handling lights. Sometimes there would be another cameraperson, other than the actual players. The film was basically cut in the camera – and the idea was to make up the story and work through the story in one day. One day of shooting and one location. And we would do all kinds of crazy and silly things to work in the six obligatory fuck scenes. I was using all kinds of different screen names for every film – Ona Turale, Connie Lingus… Though strangely enough, once I started doing hard-core films, I wasn’t promiscuous in my personal life.”
By her own admission, Georgina was not a great beauty, and in her mid-30’s, she was more than a decade older than her peers. “I’m slightly cross-eyed and my torso is way too big for the rest of me.” Nevertheless, she was perhaps the most accomplished actress ever to enter porn. “My face is very adaptable. No one feature is accentuated. It does what it wants from one role to another.” “I’m not a very good cock-sucker, but I am a good actress. Every role I’ve ever gotten has dealt with things that have been foreign to me, so I simply make them part of my experience in order to portray them convincingly… You see, in my personal life, I didn’t achieve a real orgasm until I was twenty-six, and it was a great mystery to me at what point the body takes over – is no longer controlled.”
Georgina loved the bohemian atmosphere of the early New York porn scene, and although she entered films purely for financial reasons, the camaraderie made her stay. “It was a wonderful atmosphere… If I wasn’t comfortable with the people or with the circumstances, I’d just say no. It was that easy. I was never forced to do anything.”
Despite starring in numerous hardcore loops, and the occasional porn film, Georgina was still primarily working behind the scenes of the industry. In 1972 Gerard Damiano was planning to follow-up his break-through ‘Deep Throat’, with a much darker film, ‘The Devil In Miss Jones’. According to Georgina, “I had no idea that ‘Deep Throat’ was this big break-through film… I had never heard of him [Damiano] or the movie. But then Marc [Stevens] said, ‘He’s doing a new film, and he needs a caterer.’ I said, ‘Great!’”
“I went to see Gerry and after explaining how low his budget was, he took me on to cook for two days for $500 – which included the food. After I accepted the job, he told me there were 27 people to be fed. I was in the middle of figuring out my menu and where I could get the best buys, when Harry [Reems] came along and asked if I’d mind doing some script reading. I was the only woman there at the time, and they were trying to figure out men for a part, and Harry had been reading the women’s lines. Now he had to go on some errand, so I filled in for him.”
“So I sat down and read the Miss Jones part, and everybody just sort of stood around with their chins on their chests. I guess they’d never heard anyone read for hardcore parts who had done any kind of actual drama before. Harry said, ‘You have to do this role. You’re wonderful.’ But the producers and Gerry said, ‘But she’s flat-chested, and she’s nearly forty! What are you doing to us?’ Needless to say, I was kind of intrigued by the idea of doing a lead role. My ego just came in and absolutely gobbled me up in one bite.”
At the time Georgina was involved in a lesbian relationship with Judith Hamilton – the two star together in ‘The Devil In Miss Jones’ (1973), ‘Sleepyhead’ (1973) and ‘The Journey Of O’ (1975). “Basically she was a schoolgirl who didn’t know what she was. I kind of adopted her.” Nevertheless, she admitted to Reems at the time, “If I dug a guy, I’d be willing to try anything. Sex can be very beautiful. With either sex. Even if it’s somebody you don’t know.” Fred Lincoln, who worked on ‘Miss Jones’ later recalled: “Georgina was very talented… not stunning, but she was a very sexual and charismatic person.” Reems was also enthusiastic: “She was honest, her body was good, and whatever way she swung, she was sexually ‘together’… Gerry was not impressed with my candidate – until Georgina took off her clothes, and he saw her marvellous body.”
According to Spelvin though, this was not the only reason she was chosen: “I also understand that the woman who was supposed to do the role had developed an impacted tooth or something and was begging off at the last minute, so it was just a series of happenstances that brought it about.”
“I took the role very seriously and studied the character. I had all kinds of back-story on who she was, where she came from, everything that happened to her… The fact that there was hardcore sex involved was incidental as far as I was concerned. I was totally deluded. I had made myself believe that I was an actress. I was showing life as it really was – including actual sex as it really happened – instead of the phoney stuff that you got from Hollywood… It was okay; I was okay; I wasn’t a slut.”
Reems: “A lot went wrong in the making of ‘The Devil In Miss Jones’. Locations were lost. We went way over schedule. The picture was almost dropped midstream. Two guys had each put $15,000 to make ‘The Devil In Miss Jones’. When it was made, one of them was convinced it was a bomb and asked to be bought out. But for those of us who hung in there, it was one of the loveliest shoots ever. It was Georgina’s first big movie, and she did a damn fine job acting in it.”
Spelvin: “They re-wrote the script to make the heroine, Miss Jones, not a 19-year old buxom sexpot, but a 36-year-old flat-cheasted old maid. It worked. ‘The Devil In Miss Jones’ wasn’t released for a year after it was shot, and in that year I acted in I can’t tell you how many one-day wonders. Gerry Damiano and I became good friends, and he saw to it I got all the work I could handle.”
The premise behind the film is that Miss Jones, played by Spelvin, commits suicide after living a lonely sad life, and as a result goes to hell. Once there, the devil has no idea how to punish her, as she has never committed any sins; she has never had any desires and died a virgin. The devil, therefore, agrees to return her to life in order for her to experience Lust. Her teacher is played by Harry Reems, but as Fred Lincoln would later comment: “Georgina’s really the only person in ‘The Devil In Miss Jones’. The other characters come and go… But Georgina, you see go from a spinster to a sex fiend. I mean, you really see her change… At the end of ‘The Devil In Miss Jones’, Miss Jones is back in hell. And she’s with this guy – Gerry played the part – and he won’t fuck her; he won’t touch her; he won’t do anything. She’s going crazy! She just wants sex.”
According to director Gerard Damiano: “’[Deep] Throat’ is a joke. ‘Miss Jones’ is a film… It’s always a shock, even to me, seeing hardcore blown up twenty times bigger than normal life, so I thought of doing it soft-core, then decided hell, no, the time had come for a good pornographic art film. I hoped audiences were ready to take us seriously if we stopped making fun of our sexual problems. Why can’t we just look at sex as sex, and not think we’ve always got to make people laugh to justify it?”
In his analysis of the industry David Flint states: “Hell, for Miss Jones, is discovering the joy of sex and then being denied it for eternity. ‘The Devil In Miss Jones’ is a stunning piece of work… It is, in many ways less a porn film than a piece of ‘anti-porn’… The feel-good factor is absent, replaced by overwhelming guilt… it’s probably the most nihilistic sex film ever made. Damiano’s directing is assured, and the performances are excellent.”
Adult film critic Anthony Petkovich goes one step further: “As Justine Jones, Georgina Spelvin became the prototype porn starlet. The quintessential slut! Not only did Spelvin’s sharp intuition and steadfast integrity make her role as virgin-turned-whore believable, but also her lust was unquenchable. She not only fucked men, women, snakes, and bananas, but performed annals and double-penetrations with the sincere voraciousness of a starved cannibal unleashed in an over-crowded aerobics class… DMJ brought the notion of decadence to a whole new level!” When hearing his comments, Georgina Spelvin simply stated: “If that is true, then I was a better actress than I thought I was.”
‘The Devil In Miss Jones’ was finally released in 1973 to massive mainstream critical acclaim and went on to become one of the most successful adult films ever made. Newsweek reviewed it stating the film “dissolves the distinction between sex films and art films.”
Georgina Spelvin is ambivalent in her reaction towards it: “‘The Devil In Miss Jones’ is pretty existential, especially for a porn film. I think that’s the reason that it got the kind of critical notice that it did. But it was not a very successful porn film. I mean, guys came out of that film shaking their heads, saying, ‘I came here to jerk off; I didn’t come here to think.’ …Do I think that ‘Miss Jones’ has a lot to do with the Catholic-guilt thing? Absolutely! You know, pain and pleasure – there’s a thin line.”
Former porn actor Bill Margold is scathing about the film. “‘Miss Jones’ is the X-rated industry’s first attempt to make an art movie. It’s a dismal film, a forerunner of today’s punitive movies. Damiano had so much fun with ‘Deep Throat’ that he wanted to punish the viewer with ‘Miss Jones’.”
The name used by the lead actress in the film – ‘Georgina Spelvin’ – is the traditional pseudonym used by actresses in theatre and film that wish to remain anonymous. The male equivalent is George Spelvin. “I adopted the pseudonym Georgina Spelvin when ‘Miss Jones’ was released and became an instant hit. Before that I used a lot of silly names… We’d sit around laughing as we made them up. But when ‘Miss Jones’ became a national monument, the name Georgina Spelvin was institutionalised with it, so I kept that name.”
Despite starring in one of the most successful porn films ever made, Georgina continued working in mainstream theatre. “The two worlds are so different. If people want to put me down for acting in porn, they have to admit they’ve seen a porn picture. A few people outside the industry knew about my ‘other career’, but I think they secretly admired me. Now and then someone would whisper with a leer, ‘Made any good pictures lately, Georgina?” “In the early days, amongst my co-workers, my close friends, it was a big giggle; they just thought it was hysterical.”
Occasionally, however, it did place her in awkward situations, as was the case when she worked as stock director in a theatre in Maine during the summer season: “One of the ‘Oliver’ boys – he was playing the Artful Dodger; I think he was 14 or so – his father was the projectionist at the one theatre in town that did show hardcore films occasionally, and his father had allowed him to view the film [‘The Devil In Miss Jones’], and he came up and whispered to me that he’d seen it. I took him aside, shushed him and said, ‘Don’t tell the other kids.’”
More importantly than being recognised by the public though, the film also brought her to the attention of the Law. “The FBI tracked me down; came to the theatre to arrest me on the opening night of ‘Anything Goes’. The director, who was a very close friend, says to me in the middle of rehearsal, ‘Come here a minute.’ So I come, and we both walk up to the stage. Then he says, ‘Okay; now, everybody go back to the line where the purser crosses to the captain.’ So they do, and the purser’s line is, ‘Excuse me, sir, but there are a couple of FBI men here at the foot of the gangplank.’ At which point the director stands up and shouts to the men at the back of the house, ‘Now, this is where you guys come in.’”
“I finished the season and went to Memphis, Tennessee, where I appeared before a grand jury, and the prosecution team said that if I would turn state’s witness, they would give me immunity. And I said, ‘Immunity from what?’ I didn’t even know what I was charged with! …[The charge was] ‘Aiding and abetting in the transportation of obscene matter and filthy material across state lines.’ It’s like I was carrying the film in my luggage! But it wasn’t me. I had never even seen the finished film at that point. So they released me on my own recognizance and said, you know, ‘We’ll get in touch with you when we need you.’” They never called her back.
Over the next ten years Georgina Spelvin starred in over sixty hardcore porn films, including such classics as ‘The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann’ (1974), ‘The Journey Of O’ (1975), ‘Desires Within Young Girls’ (1977), ‘Take Off’ (1978), ‘Easy’ (1979), ‘Garage Girls’ (1980), ‘The Devil In Miss Jones 2’ (1982) and ‘Centerspread Girls’ (1982). During that time she worked with almost every major name in the industry, as well as almost all the established directors – Gerard Damiano, Henry Paris, Anthony Spinelli and Robert McCallum to name a few. Although none of her subsequent films matched the success of ‘The Devil In Miss Jones’, she remained a professional, reliable and enthusiastic porn actress.
She had her limits though, as Bill Margold found out in a film where he had sex with her without his glasses on. “Big mistake! I stuck it up her ass instead of her pussy. She was so mad that she walked off the set afterwards. The next time I saw her, I apologised, and explained what happened. It tells you something though, doesn’t it, that it fit so easily?” Georgina, however, was not impressed with his excuse: “Fit, my ass! Why should I get mad if it fit? I told him to cut it out three times before I went ballistic!” She eventually retired from porn in late 1982, aged 47.
During the mid-1980’s Georgina appeared in a number of mainstream movies, including as ‘Police Academy’ parts 1 and 3, before eventually quitting films altogether. She then began working as a desktop publisher and graphics designer living in Hollywood Hills with her husband, actor John Welsh. In 2003 Vivid decided to re-make the original ‘Devil In Miss Jones’ and contacted the 67 year-old Georgina about making a guest non-sex appearance. “Paul Thomas called me months ago, but I was not interested. Then about a week ago, he called and said, ‘We’ll give you X amount of dollars for one day’s work.’ And I looked at my husband, and he shrugged, and I said, ‘Sure!’ Which proves the old adage, yeah, anybody will do anything for enough money.”
Although Georgina Spelvin was much older than the average porn star and did not have the stunning looks of her contemporaries Marilyn Chambers or Tina Russell, she remains one the fundamental pioneers of the US adult film industry and probably the most accomplished actress of the genre. As a result she won the Adult Film Association of America award for Best Actress in 1977 for 'Desires Within Young Girls', and in 1981 for 'Dancers'. She also won the award for Best Supporting Actress in 1979 for 'Ecstasy Girls' and in 1980 'Urban Cowgirls'. Furthermore, due to her starring role in ‘The Devil In Miss Jones’ – one of the three original groundbreaking films of the industry (the others being ‘Deep Throat’ and ‘Behind The Green Door’) – she is assured a permanent place in the history of US pornography.
Georgina Spelvin: “Pornography has existed as long as any kind of ‘ography’ and will continue to exist as long as human beings procreate. I will defend to the death the right of mature adults to create, own and view any literature or images that have not broken any laws, moral or civic, in their creation. Molesting children or anyone, sexually or otherwise, is against all laws… I find most explicit sex scenes either boring or disgusting. Consequently, I do not seek them out and would not appreciate them being foisted upon me in a situation where I could not avoid seeing them. Fortunately, I can choose what movies and television programmes I watch, books and articles I read and sites I visit on the internet. Why is this such a difficult concept to grasp by those who would legislate the world to their concept of heaven?”
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