Friday, November 5, 2010

Making Trax

In the fall of 1960, 20th Century Fox began filming a picture based on the 1896 Olympic Games, held in Greece. Jayne Mansfield, perhaps as compensation for having been loaned out to cheapie European studios for her last three, fairly horrid films (Too Hot to Handle; The Challenge; and The Loves of Hercules), was given star billing in what was intended to be a rather lavish costume drama. Fox president Spyro Skouras personally visited the location filming in his native Greece, and declared that the film would make Jayne Mansfield a bigger star than Marilyn Monroe. Dorothy Kilgallen predicted in her newspaper column that It Happened in Athens would be the biggest Fox hit of the year.

Good old Dottie may have been a shark at guessing the occupations on What's My Line?, but she was way off the mark with her estimation on this one. It Happened in Athens wound up sitting on the shelf for nearly two years; and then it was only released as a double-bill offering and marketed as a farce. No one escaped the wreckage unscathed: Fox unceremoniously dropped Jayne's contract, and newcomer Trax Colton, whose star-making vehicle this was to have been, and who was our latest Mystery Guest, never made another film. To be fair, as illustrated in the clip below, Colton may have been pretty to look at; but anyone who makes Jayne Mansfield's acting seem nearly as accomplished as Katharine Cornell's probably would have had a relatively short shelf life under any circumstances.

The handsome actor was born Louis Morelli; "Trax Colton" was the invention of Henry Willson, the notorious Hollywood agent who renamed, groomed, and created (and most likely fellated) such SSUWAT favorites as Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, Guy Madison, Rory Calhoun, and scores of other would-be heartthrobs. By the time Morelli/Colton arrived at Fox in 1960, however, Willson's golden touch had tarnished to the point where the agent's own homosexuality was such an open secret in Hollywood, that his handsome male clients were almost immediately assumed to be gay, bisexual, or at least "cooperative" with Willson -- and in the aftermath of Confidential magazine scandals involving Hudson and Hunter, this didn't always set Willson's novice clients' careers up for success.

Presumably disillusioned with Hollywood, Morelli/Colton disappeared after filming Athens; his one other, previous credit was a small role in another 1960 Fox production, The Marriage-Go-Round, which more successfully introduced another newcomer, Julie Newmar. We haven't been able to dig up any more information about him before or after his brief Hollywood sojourn, other than the fact that he had been a used car salesman at the time of his discovery. We can only hope that Louis Morelli has lived a contented and happy life since 1960, and that he would be pleased that Trax Colton still is of interest to a discerning few today. Thanks for playing, darlings!


  1. Terrific! I saw this as a kid and can barely remember it, it never surfaced anywhere here since. I have a copy of Marriage Go Round though - I must see if I can spot Trax in it!


  3. Perhaps they should have set the story even further back in Athens to when the Olympics were performed in the nude! It wouldn't have been on a double bill then. Ha!

  4. My bad. I should have guessed Trax. He is wearing more makeup than Jayne too, and seems to have had his belly button surgically removed. Btw, what's up with that set?!! Looks more like Athens, Georgia than Athens, Greece.

  5. We can only hope that this ain't him! See:

  6. @ ilduce
    I hate to say it, but the eyes look very similar.

    However, back in his Trax days, I would buy a used car from that man any day!

  7. @Poseidon3
    " It wouldn't have been on a double bill then. Ha!"

    Would so - Jayne's rack.

    Granted, what happened to Louis Morelli is a shame, but the real tragedy is what happened to Jayne Mansfield and how she destroyed her career.

  8. I'll go with the hunch that the unfortunate Louis Morelli that ilduce uncovered is not Trax Colton -- the birth date for the incarcerated Morelli is 1942, making him a mere 18 at the time Athens was filmed; Colton appears somewhat older than that, particularly since he's paired with the then-27 year old Mansfield.

    I'm a little obsessed with this film, since it stars one of my cult faves (Mansfield) and the kind of obscure, studio-groomed heartthrob (Colton) whom I obsessively try to dig up data on. Also, the production values seem reasonably high, Mansfield looks splendid, and it would have been nice if Fox had included this in their Mansfield box set a few years back.

    Some more trivia I've stumbled (or Googled) upon:

    * Nana Mouskouri recorded a single (in Greek and English) of this film's theme song! If anyone has it, please send me the mp3!

    * Trax/Louis once owned a 1957 Corvette; the collector who eventually purchased it found his SAG card tucked behind the dash.

    * Someone created a Myspace page and website for Trax, with what look like personal, candid photos; yet the text and biographical info is practically nonexistant. Also, the Myspace page credited to Colton lists his current age as 59, which would have made him all of 12 when he signed with Fox. (Maybe he had Ann Miller's publicist.)

  9. Lord have mercy. You know you're in for a scene when it starts out as a period striptease. And that get-up that Jayne is wearing! It's positively archetechtural. Then Colton comes on, like he overdosed on Vicodin while in the bathroom. As usual with these kinds of things, I lay the blame on the director.

  10. MAN! I want Henry Willson's job!

  11. I am Louis Morelli-"Trax Colton" when acting. I was in another gig and that was the last episode made by Herbert B. Leonard who produced the series "Naked city" the episode called "the carrier". I played opposite the actress Sandy Dennis who went on to win an academy Award. I was born May 26, 1929. Have worded out and have physical fitness at my advanced age that is pretty good if I do say so myself.
    thanks for your comments and God bless you all......Louis Morelli

    1. Mr. Morelli -- Thanks so much for taking the time to respond here, and I hope you take ALL of our comments in the spirit of fun, affection, and respect that they're intended. If it wouldn't be imposing on your time or privacy, any memories you may have of working on your films and television shows would be greatly appreciated, I'm sure! Warmest regards, Todd (TJB)

  12. I just watched OUT OF ATHENS, and I love the film! It is to me, Jayne's best movie. Trax is perfect in his role, and gorgeous! I looked him up, right away, to see his other credits. He is particularly excellent in the scene where he goes back to help his dog. I cried during that scene. Any movie that can make me feel that kind of pathos, is good. I love you for this film, Trax Colton! Thank you for it!

  13. I meant It Happened In Athens!....Would love to meet Trax and give him a big hug and kiss!

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