Julie Ege: The Last of the Hammer Queens

From obscurity in a small Norwegian fishing town to international movie stardom is the success story of the honey-blonde curvacious Julie (Dzuli) Ege. She set herself a five year course of fame and won. Born in Sandnes, Norway in 1943, Julie left school when she was 15. She became a teenage fashion model and TV commercial actress in Oslo. She became one of nine finalists whose photos were printed in a national magazine to be judged by its readers as Miss Norway after a photographer who she had been modeling for, submitted her picture. She won the title and part of her prize was a trip to the United States, including New York and Miami Beach, where she was a contestant in the 62 Miss Universe pageant.

By 67 she was appearing in movies. “To be honest I was never really that proud of my performance in films, but I gave it my best and enjoyed the work very much. At an early age I was hooked on films and had a dream to become a movie star, like many teenagers. My career as a model got me started. The Norwegian film industry was very small in the mid 60s and still is. In between work and two early marriages, I was offered a small role in a comedy called THE SKY AND THE OCEAN (67), a typical low budget film made in Norway about a young sailor traveling abroad. I played a German masseuse speaking English. I was dubbed and somebody told me that Liv Ullmann did the voiceover. I moved to England in 67 and that’s when things started to happen.”

To improve her knowledge of English, she went to England to work as an au pair girl and studied at language school for a year. Julie was sharing a London apartment with three other girls when she worked in the Stanley Baker movie Robbery (1967). “First I did one day’s work on a film called Robbery, but I can’t remember much detail. Back then I lived a very hectic lifestyle working and learning English.” She was also in the May, 67 European edition of Penthouse and was on the cover as “Miss Nudest Norway.” “My big chance came in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) starring the new James Bond George Lazenby. As much filming as we did, you could hardly see me in the final print. It was a big disappointment at the time, but at least I was featured in the film publicity, including the album cover.” She played one of the international glamour girls. “Somehow I was noticed and at the time Columbia Pictures and Hammer Films were looking for a new Raquel Welch to star in their upcoming epic Creatures the World Forgot (1971). Competing with over 900 contestants, I was chosen by Sir James Carreras, head of Hammer, as ‘the sex symbol of the 70s.’ I had just completed my first featured role in the British comedy Every Home Should Have One (1970) with Marty Feldman, a lovely popular comedian who was incredibly fun to work with.” She played a sexy Scandinavian au pair in the sex comedy from British Lion, which also featured Shelley Berman and Judy Cornwell. In one of the fantasy scenes, Feldman imagines himself as Dracula fighting the Frankenstein monster. In a segment that spoofs making a Bergman film, Julie has a brief nude scene on a beach. She also appeared in the Dec. 70 Playboy as one of the “Sex Stars Of The 70s.”

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“At that time, I had just given birth to my first child and was sick during the filming, and I knew CREATURES was going to be a tough work schedule as well. Still, EVERY HOME was a huge personal success and the day after its opening, my photo was in newspapers all over England with a caption reading EVERY HOME SHOULD HAVE ONE. That did it and Hammer awarded me with a seven year contract with Columbia Pictures. I was told that I was the last actress to receive the old Hollywood publicity build-up and it brought me opportunities few other girls at that time were receiving.” Headlines followed when French singer Sascha Distel picked her to guest star in Paris on his weekly TV show because there aren’t enough pretty French girls around.” BBC television devoted their MONEY PROGRAMME to the financial statistics involved in making an international star of Julie. By that time, she had been married and divorced twice. “I had been nothing but a tomboy who became Miss Norway, who became a farmer’s wife. I was an urchin who couldn’t take these wifely duties seriously.” Her husbands were a Norwegian Army major (who was 12 years older than her and her dentist (who was 15 years older).

Hammer produced Creatures the World Forgot  as a follow up to their hits ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (66) and WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH, which starred Victoria Vetri, (70). Michael Carreras was the producer and screenwriter and Don Chaffey directed. Julie was top billed as Nala, the chief’s daughter, with a cast of unknowns. “Filming CREATURES took place in South Africa (the Namib Desert) and Peter Sellers could not believe I would give up working with him in order to do CREATURES. I did not care, I thought this film was going to be a great adventure for me. Although Hammer Films had left out the dinosaurs, I felt they were going to groom me to become the success Raquel Welch had been in ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. Instead, I was deglamourized for a more naturalistic look with mud smeared on my body and an old unflattering fur bikini. Yes, they made me look prehistoric all right, and I was not too happy about it. So much for that old glamour treatment. The camera man had a disliking for me and left me out of camera view in many important scenes. To my great relief, Hammer executives, after going through the rushes, were not too happy about it and cabled a telegram saying to focus on me as much as the script would allow. As a young mother, I had to take care of myself instead of socializing every night. The cameraman, obviously, at first, thought I was a snob, since I did not party that much, but we later became good friends. Africa was hot and humid and filming was sometimes tedious. I had a feeling the film would turn out a little strange and it did.”

“During the film’s publicity tour I was traveling all over the world. While in America, I enjoyed appearing on the Johnny Carson TONIGHT SHOW and some other talk shows. It was a dream come true to travel like that. I think my refusal to go along with the long line of suggestive proposals from Hollywood producers prevented me from pulling a larger deal with the American film industry. For some reason, it did not matter that much to me, I felt more at home in England and preferred to be close to my family.” In 71, during all the publicity she recorded a single for CBS, “Love” (written by John Lennon) b/w “One Of My Weakest Moments.” Her boyfriend at the time was Tony Blackwell, a producer and recording manager at Apple Records. “God knows why they wanted me to do these recordings. I can’t sing.” The sleeve contains a pin-up photo of Julie.

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Despite the all around failure of CREATURES, Julie spent the next five years appearing in a dozen more British films, several in Norway and one in Holland. “I went on to star with many great actors including Leslie Phillips, Frankie Howard, Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, Vincent Price, Jack Palance and Diana Dors, to mention a few. Most of my roles were in comedies.” In The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins (1971) she stars in the Gluttony segment with Leslie Phillips. Rentadick (1972) was Monty Python’s John Cleese and Graham Chapman’s first film script. “It’s about a private spy who tries to find out about this new nerve gas my husband had developed. No huge success, but the producer Ned Sherrin wanted me in it. I had already done UP POMPEII (71), as Voluptua, a Roman lady who is plotting with her husband to assassinate the Emperor Nero, THE ALF GARNETT SAGA (72), as Warren Mitchell’s dream woman, and EVERY HOME SHOULD HAVE ONE for him. Another film in those early years was GO FOR A TAKE (72), for Rank Films, which featured Reg Varney, who once saved Hammer films from bankruptcy with ON THE BUSES. This time he played a runaway from the mob who ends up taking refuge in a film studio and playing a stunt man. I played a film diva making a vampire film with Dennis Price as the aging Count. NOT NOW DARLING (72) was more of a challenge for me, acting wise and was tremendous fun being the mistress of Sir Leslie Phillips. It was a typical saucy British farce with Barbara Windsor and Joan Sims. It was filmed in just two weeks using a new, early type of video recording for the cinema.” Julie has a nude scene (taking and getting out of a bath).

“My command of the English language was insufficient and prevented me having demanding dialogue. As far as my talent was concerned, I felt limited as the years went by. I was destined to play in comedies and later the horror genre. CRAZE (73) with Jack Palance was a strange experience as Jack was as sinister in real life as he was in the film. He played this character who worshipped and offered sacrifices to an African god named Chuku. We meet in a bar and I end up violently beaten up and put in an oven, just because I did not want to dance for old Chuku. As many times as he (Palance) invited me out for a drink, I always gracefully declined. That man gave me an erie feeling. I also had a small role in he science fiction comedy THE LAST DAYS OF MAN ON EARTH (73), as a barmaid.”

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“My next project for Hammer films was The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)  a joint production with the Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong. The film was o be the first kung fu vampire film ind it became my one and only. Roy Ward Baker, our director was temperamental, but wonderful to work with. Hammer had arrived in Hong Kong believing they would have the use of ten large sound stages at the Shaw studios in Kowloon. In reality, the studio compromised of numerous unsound-proofed Nissen sheds. Baker was not too happy with Shaw’s decision to shoot in Panavision, but this was just the first of many problems to plague the production. Still, the opportunity to act with Peter Cushing was very exciting. A gentleman to his fingertips and always so polite and concerned of my well being. He was very interested in local culture and went constantly on expeditions. A rumor was going around that he would still deck the dinner table for two even though his devoted wife had passed away years before. Peter usually stayed in his room in the evenings when the crew and actors enjoyed the city life. The whole British film team was plagued with food poisoning during our weeks there. Filming was sometimes slow and I recall I was a bit upset when I had to stay against a wall, helpless, during every fight scene. Ward declined my suggestion to give some of the zombies a punch in the nose. I became a vampire at the end of the film and was impaled on a bamboo stick, Oriental style. The film looks surprisingly scary, years later.”

Percy’s Progress (1974) teamed me with another favorite, Vincent Price. Once can always feel the presence of a great actor and he took his role very seriously even if the film was absurd. Percy is the only surviving male that is still potent after a gas spill leaves the male population impotent. I played Vincent’s private secretary and pretty much came in and out of doors. My next project is my weakest film, T The Amorous Milkman (1975) which I personally detest due to its tacky finished look. It was great working with Diana Dors. We did not share any scenes but we met at the studio canteen every day. Once a sex symbol herself, she claimed to have said on a British talk show that she was my aunt. A great lady that everybody misses. As for the film, I played a mobster’s girlfriend who the poor milkman gets romantically involved with. He’s nearly beaten to death. The funny thing is that I tried to forget the film and, would you believe it, 15 years later, a patient in a hospital where I work gave it to me as a gift on video. It certainly made my day.”

“As time went by, it became increasingly difficult to read the film scripts that were offered to me. The Mutations (1974) starring Donald Pleasence certainly had an obscure plot. A local freak show gets supplied with new freaks as Pleasence, a college professor, experiments in mutating humans and plants and gets some horrific results. Donald humorously asked me what a nice girl from Norway was doing in this business. We had a good time. Michael Dunn, the short actor, became a good friend. I have the fondest memories of him. All the side show artists were very sympathetic people. I did five films in 74 and MUTATIONS was one of them, my so called scream queen film.” Julie has a brief bathtub scene but her nude operating scene was done by a stand in.

“In-between the British films I did a couple of Norwegian crime films and comedies.” In KANARIFUGLEN (“The Canary”), she’s a flight attendant who has an affair with a married man attending a seminar on the Canary Islands. In BORTREIST PA UBSTEMPT TID (“Gone For An Uncertain Time”) she’s killed by her husband and her body is hidden in the freezer. DEN SISTE FLEKSNES (“The Last Mr. Fleksnes”) stars Rolv Wesenlund as a popular “fat nerd” character. Julie plays herself as a judge on a panel. “As I got older I felt the need for a change. I was not an educated actress and I felt my talent needed development. I could not go on playing decorative and helpless characters for the rest of my life. When legitimate stage work was offered from one of the regional theatres in Norway, I greeted the opportunity. I ended my two year theatre career as Columbia in an Oslo production of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.” She sang “Time Warp” on the Norwegian cast LP. “My last starring film role was in a Dutch comedy, SHERLOCK JONES (76), as a spy working on a bank robbery. They dubbed me in that one.” The movie starred popular Dutch comedian Piet Bambergen and a dog as the Sherlock character. The next year she recorded a 2nd single, “Touch Me” b/w “Stop It I Like It” (Sonet), which had a European disco sound. Besides some TV appearances, her only 80s role (a small one) was in a social drama, FENGSLEDNDE DAGER FOR CHRISTINA BERG (“Days In Prison For Christina Berg”) (86).

“As I matured and my kids were growing up, I felt the need for a stable lifestyle. For nearly 15 years I had appeared in over 20 films and five theatre productions, taking care of my modeling career and most important, my children. It was sometimes a 24 hour work day, but a wonderful era with some great moments. I knew the time was ripe for a natural change. So I moved back to Norway, went to school and finished high school and pre-nursing. I love my new life and career. My family means very much to me and Norway offers a pace of life that suits me perfectly. As for my film career, I had fun while it lasted and I met some wonderful people, many of whom have sadly passed away. My film career could have taken a different route if I had gone along with the Peter Sellers film project. I was also considered to be Steve McQueen’s acting partner in the early 70s. A meeting was set, but I was too tall compared to his diminutive height. I was also considered to play in several other films, such as DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE and SALON KITTY.”

Today Julie lives in Hokksund, Norway, where she continues studying to become a nurse. She discovered her breast cancer while revising for nursing exams and believes the knowledge from studying helped her to detect the disease early Sadly, though, this was was only the start as she then struggled with ovarian and lung cancer.

“She had a mastectomy and then spoke about plastic surgery and her openness was a breath of fresh air. She refused to let it blight her life and hoped others would feel the same way. The fact that she was studying and determined to create a new life in her 40s also inspired people.” ULIE wrote her autobiography, Naked, and still attended premieres and events in Oslo while holding down a demanding job as a nurse in the Buskerud Hospital in Drammen. “She was a nurse and loved the job,” said Joanna. “You would never have known she had this rich, glamorous past if you’d met her. You would have just been struck by her energy, her smile and her determination to help people.

She died from breast cancer at the age of 64 on 29 April 2008.

“Even at the very end she was strong and stunningly beautiful. The last thing she did was give us a big, blinding smile. It was a beautiful moment and she has gone way too soon.”

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SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY
Robbery (1967) – Hostess (uncredited)
Stompa til Sjøs! (1967)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – The Scandinavian girl
Every Home Should Have One (1970) – Inga Giltenburg
Up Pompeii (1971) – Voluptua
Creatures the World Forgot (1971) – Nala – The Girl
The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins (1971) – Ingrid (segment “Gluttony”)
Go for a Take (1972) – April
Rentadick (1972) – Utta Armitage
The Alf Garnett Saga (1972) – Herself
Not Now, Darling (1973) – Janie McMichael
Kanarifuglen (1973) – Kari, flyvertinne
The Final Programme (1973) – Miss Dazzle
Craze (1974) – Helena
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974) – Vanessa Buren
Percy’s Progress (1974) – Miss Hanson
Den siste Fleksnes (1974) – Herself
The Mutations (1974) – Hedi
Bortreist på ubestemt tid (1974) – Christina
The Amorous Milkman (1975) – Diana
De Dwaze Lotgevallen von Sherlock Jones (1975) – Sondag’s secretaresse
Fengslende dager for Christina Berg (1988) – Krags hustru

CREDITS/REFERENCES/SOURCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
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