The actor Divine was so dedicated to his craft that he took trampoline lessons at the YMCA to prepare for a scene in filmmaker John Waters’ 1974 movie, “Female Trouble.”
Pat Moran, the casting director for Waters’ movies and also an actor in that film, told an audience at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway Film Center last weekend that Divine, also known as Harris Glenn Milstead, practiced bouncing on the trampoline at the Druid Hill Y to get ready for his starring role as Dawn Davenport.
In a Q&A session with the audience after the screening, Moran said the staffers at the Y didn’t recognize Divine or know about his movie role.
“We just told them we had a friend who wanted to try out the trampoline,” she told the Parkway audience.
Moran also said it was winter when the crew filmed a scene in which the character of Dawn Davenport swims across a river to evade the police, but the actor did it without complaint.
The Parkway, located at 5 W. North Avenue, opened on May 3 as the new permanent home for the Maryland Film Festival after undergoing an $18.2 million renovation. “Female Trouble” was the first full-length movie shown to the general public after the festival ended.
The film follows the exploits of a schoolgirl, Dawn, who runs away from home, gets pregnant while hitchhiking and turns to a life of crime, triggering the movie’s theme, “Crime is Beauty.”
One of the most memorable scenes comes toward the end of the movie, when Dawn performs in a theater and spends time doing flips on a trampoline. Despite his weight, the actor showed surprising grace and never tumbled overboard, presumably thanks to the Y’s tutelage.
Dawn eventually starts shooting into the audience and ends up in the electric chair.
Divine, who died in 1988, actually played two roles in “Female Trouble,” being cast as Dawn Davenport and Earl Peterson, the man who had sex with Dawn and turned out to be the father of Taffy Davenport, played by Mink Stole. Pat Moran portrayed a prisoner in the detention center where Dawn spent her final days.
The movie will be shown again at the Parkway tomorrow, May 18, at 7 p.m.