Monday, October 24, 2016

Alan Ladd Finishes ORAZI E CURIAZI


"On the last day of shooting his beloved dachshund pup Ciao, which he bought in Italy, suddenly died - which was one straw too many. A local socialite, Gilda Dahlberg, had planned a large cocktail party in Alan's honor, and he was finally persuaded to make a brief appearance, even if two hours late. Broadway columnist Earl Wilson, in Rome at the time and a guest at the party, recalls Alan mournfully telling him, 'Never fall in love' (with a dog).
"On March 23, Alan, Sue and Alana boarded the U.S. United States and gratefully sailed for home. Arriving in New York on the twenty-seventh and still bitter about the whole experience, Alan grimly told Hy Gardner of the Herald Tribune, 'It rained steadily for twelve weeks, and I broke my hand and hurt my knee in the dueling scene because of a peculiar Yugo custom - they don't believe in using wooden swords there, just steel.' (One reasonably suspects by now that he would have found a way to afflict himself if they'd been made of feathers.)
"Back in Los Angeles on April 1, he told Hedda Hopper, 'This has taught me a lesson. I'll only make pictures abroad for major American companies, but I'd rather make them here.' Hedda further reported that Alan had not yet received compensation for the picture, though the money was being cleared through an Italian bank, and that he had given the company an extra week without pay so they could finish the picture.
"He needn't have bothered. OJARIO, HORATIO, or DUEL OF THE CHAMPIONS - whatever the title - was trimmed from its projected running time of more than two hours to ninety-three minutes and then to a humiliating seventy-one. No major studio wanted to release it at any length or price. Eventually it was shown at the E.M. Loew Center Theater in Boston in August 1964, booked by little-known Medallion Pictures. The trade journal Motion Picture Herald reviewed it from Boston, noting that 'with any kind of exploitation endeavor on the community level [it] can be depended on for satisfactory grosses.' About Alan's performance, the Herald's critic observed kindly, 'Ladd impresses as the grim-visaged warrior.' (That wasn't acting.)
"Medallion, however, still found no buyers, and six months later, in February 1965, Allen Eyles' review in Films and Filming made sure the movie would never be bought. Eyles wrote that '...[the] film is a thoroughly indifferent spectacle, and there is little pleasure in watching [Alan Ladd] rather spent and ill-at-ease, reduced to playing a part for which he is many years too old in a setting that is cheap and familiar.' After this, DUEL OF CHAMPIONS vanished forever. It would not even be considered fodder for the 'Late Late Show' at three o'clock in the morning. However, Alan would be mercifully spared this knowledge..."
(Alan Ladd died on January 29, 1964 at the age of 50 of an accidental combination of alcohol and sedatives. DUEL OF CHAMPIONS, however, was resurrected thanks to home video and can rather easily be found on various DVD collections of Sword & Sandal films.)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Alan Ladd Goes To Italy.

(At the time Alan Ladd made ORAZI E CURIAZI in 1960, he was married to his second wife, Sue Carol - with whom he had two children, Alana and David. With his first wife, Marjorie, he had Alan Ladd Jr.)
"Aware of the cruel Hollywood bromide that 'an actor is as good as his last picture' and unable to fool himself about the outcome of his last five pictures, Alan still felt that one blockbuster could put him back up in the polls again.
"HORATIO would be his first spectacle - complete with lavish sets and the obligatory 'cast of thousands.' The screenplay, dramatizing the details of the celebrated feud between Horatio and his brothers and the Curati family of early Rome, complete with a Romeo and Juliet-type love story, appeared to have greater substance than most of the genre. The finale, depicting the legendary duel unto death (the film title would eventually be Americanized to DUEL OF THE CHAMPIONS), was written to contain the dash and derring-do likely to show off Alan Ladd to best advantage.
"'My father,' David Ladd recalls, 'did not make that movie because he thought "Hey, I got a movie, so I'm going to do it." It was made because the elements in that movie seemed right. My God, working with director Terence Young in those days was an honor. This was meant to be Terence Young's SPARTACUS, but as it turned out, it was his disaster.'
"Sue agreed. In mid-January she wrote Hollywood Reporter columnist Mike Connolly from Yugoslavia: 'It was so cold today that the extras refused to work and I can't blame them. Those togas are cold. Ask Alan!'
"A month later, chilly togas were the least of the Ladd's problems. From Rome, Sue called Louella Parsons to explain why Alan, for the first time in his career, had walked off a picture in the middle of production. Louella printed her account:
"'Alan has worked eleven weeks without a cent. He reported on the set every day and performed under the most grueling locations in Yugoslavia. Alan's agent, MCA, and his lawyer were given a check for $50,000 by the company, partial payment for his services, which MCA has not been able to cash. We have informed Tiberia (Paramount) we are leaving for Paris tomorrow to board the S.S. United States for home.'
"Louella sympathetically observed that she was 'sure Alan's previous fine record as a dependable performer will stand him in good stead in the legal fireworks bound to explode.' A couple of days later, however, Sue was back on the transatlantic wire and Louella dutifully reported:
"'Alan Ladd, who walked out of his Italian picture, HORATIO, and sent all of his luggage home, is staying in Rome to finish the picture. Lux Pictures have assumed payment of his salary. It's fine with Alan, only he hasn't any clothes - just one suit. Everything else was sent on ahead.'
"The lack of a wardrobe was distinctly underwhelming - by now Alan knew that HORATIO was easily the worst movie he had ever made, and that critics would most likely savage both the picture and his acting. 'And I had wanted so much for it to be a good picture,' he would tell friends later.
"And in Rome a sinus infection that had bothered him for years flared up, and he retched so long and so violently that an Italian doctor predicted gloomily, 'If you don't stop soon, you'll die before morning.' At the moment it seemed a benediction.
"But he went on working. It was what he did."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Roger Moore Completes SABINES and makes NO MAN'S LAND.

From: MY WORD IS MY BOND A Memoir by Roger Moore with Gareth Owen

"Folco Lulli was playing King Titus, and was always complaining about the cheap production. I remember we were in the back of a car together going to location one morning, and he was chattering away in Italian - and even though I spoke very little, I got the drift of what he was saying and it was none too complimentary. Just then he hacked phlegm from the back of his throat and spat it out of the window. Which would have been fine had the window been open. I was in hysterics.
"As our shoot progressed on location, the beautiful Luisa Mattioli and I became more than just members of the cast. We were both away from our native lands and, as I said, language was not barrier. In fact we enjoyed many long conversations during which it didn't seem to matter whether the words made any sense whatsoever. I found out that a nod is, indeed, as good as a wink.
"We somehow managed to complete the film and I have to say that the finished thing was really quite horrendous. Had my payment been forthcoming on time, it might have eased my disappointment and frustration. Eventually I did get paid, but only, I suspect, because Bomba wanted to offer me a second picture, NO MAN'S LAND. Of course he dangled the fact that Luisa would again be co-starring, and as I wanted to stay on in Rome with her, it suited me. Our romance was developing and our feelings for each other growing stronger; soon we became quite inseparable.

"In another wonderful bit of casting, I was to play an Italian soldier, a deserter. Max Schell's brother, Carl, played a Nazi villain and our leading lady was Pascal Petit. It was all haphazardly stitched together by director Fabrizio Taglioni. One wonderful actor who had a small role in the film was Memmo Carotenuto. He had a nose that didn't quite know which direction it should be pointing in. By this point I had picked up a little more Italian and was able to converse, so I asked how his nose had become broken in such a fashion. He said he had been playing Jesus in a production, and for the crucifixion he was tied to the cross, which was erected on top of a hill. All of the extras fell to their knees to worship Christ in his dying moments. The vibrations caused the cross to sway, but as he didn't want to draw too much attention and spoil the shot, he quietly called, 'Help me, help me!' The extras must have thought it was part of the script, so did nothing. At which point the cross fell forwards, and with him being tied he had nothing between himself and the rapidly approaching ground except his nose - which duly took the brunt of the impact.
"Lack of communication and a bad script led to friction on the set. It wasn't a happy production. I wasn't in a position to turn the work down however, and so had to make the best of it. Mercifully I didn't have to think about a third Italian epic, as I received word from Britain about a new TV series that they wanted me to star in.
"...My Italian films had certainly not catapulted me to international superstar status, as Clint Eastwood's did him, and, Luisa aside, I wasn't sure how much longer I wanted to spend in Italy pursuing a career in, shall we say, somewhat unremarkable films."
(It took years before Roger Moore's second wife, Dorothy Squires, granted him a divorce and he married Luisa. When they married in 1969, they had already had three children.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Roger Moore on the first day on SABINES.

From: MY WORD IS MY BOND A Memoir by Roger Moore with Gareth Owen

"Our first assistant director was a lady called Beka. Never content with instructing the crowd and extras before calling 'Action', she would continually shout instructions, in her local dialect, at them during the scene and all over my and the other principal's dialogue. I found it very off-putting, but when I challenged her as to why she did this she replied, 'Because they are stoopid.'
"'I may be stupid too,' I replied, 'but I find it very hard to concentrate.'
"Anyhow, my first scene was with Mylene Demongeot, who spoke her lines in French. As soon as her lips stopped moving, I chipped in with, 'You mustn't be afraid, we mean no harm.' She then replied in French about all men being liars and, again as soon as her lips stopped moving, I knew it was my turn. We managed to get through some of this, with Beka continually shouting her Serbian directions in the background, when a man in the crowd wearing a white toga emerged and punched me squarely in the jaw; knocking me flat on my back.
"'Cut! Cut!' called the director. 'Roger, where are you?'
"'Here on the floor.'
"'Why are you on the floor?'
"'Because that man just punched me,' I replied.
"'Beka! Why did that man punch Roger?' the director asked.
"'Because he is drunk,' was her reply.
"'Hang on,' I chimed in. 'He should be fired if he's drunk.'
"'No,' said Beka. 'He's acting drunk.'
"'Look, we normally discuss and rehearse things like this,' I said, 'so I'm prepared for someone to hit me!'
"We broke off for lunch... with a lot of red wine. Then Pottier said, 'In this next scene you gallop in, your horse stumbles, you fall off your horse and then get up and pull your sword - '
"'Hang on!' I cried. 'I come riding in and then we cut to a double falling off the horse.'
"'Ce qui? Un double? Je ne comprends pas.' All of a sudden, Pottier didn't speak English any more.
"At first I didn't quite understand why my agent had specifically listed in the contract that I should have a dressing room, make-up and costumes supplied, as that was the norm I had come to expect. He's also specified that a double should be available for stunt work. My agent was obviously wise to how Italians made movies. I reminded Pottier of this. He called Beka over, and they mumbled something between them. She then pulled a chap out of the crowd and said to me, 'Take you clothes off.'
"'What?' I asked.
"'Take your clothes off. If he is to double you, he needs your clothes.'
"'Oh no. On ho! If he is to double me, then you will make clothes for him,' I replied. It was an ordeal. And that was only the first day."

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Roger Moore Prepares For SABINES

From: MY WORD IS MY BOND A Memoir by Roger Moore with Gareth Owen

"I flew from LA to London, and then on to Paris to meet the producers, Enrico Bomba being the Italian one, and Alexander Salkind the French partner (Alex, and his son Ilya, went on to producer SUPERMAN among other films). After lunching with Alex, we walked along the Champs-Elysees - Alex lived just off the famously expensive thoroughfare, very near the lavish George V Hotel - and as we passed a tailor's Alex said, 'Just a minute.'
"He took me in with him and addressed the tailor in French; I gathered he said something about making a major movie, me being the star and that he wanted me fitted out. The tailor, obviously registering that this could be a very lucrative opportunity, wrote down all my measurements. Alex thanked him for his kind attention, picked up the measurements, and we walked out of the shop. He then called Rome and gave them my measurements to make my costumes - which were really just togas in any event. Maybe Alex's methods should have warned me how cheap this production was going to be!
"I next flew to Rome for fittings and met some of the cast and crew. Richard Pottier was our director; he was Hungarian-born but had spent much of his working life in France. Mylene Demongeot was our French leading lady, Rea. Schilla Gabel was the Italian leading lady, Dusia. Then there was a very beautiful young lady named Luisa Mattioli, who was under contract to Enrico Bomba. Luisa was to play Silvia.
"While we were in Rome, a press conference was set up for Italian television and Luisa, who had previously been a TV presenter in Italy, was asked to interview me. As I spoke no Italian and she spoke no English, it was an interesting interview, as you might imagine. I still don't really know how we got through it, but we did. We seemed instantly able to communicate - language was no barrier between us.
"I was fitted for my costumes and then we were shipped off to Zagreb in Yugoslavia. It wasn't a film studio, but a sort of converted warehouse, all very makeshift; and I felt rather lonely, as one of the few English-speaking people around the place. The first day's shooting was upon us. The Romans, under the leadership of your truly, rode into the Sabinian's town with plentiful supplies of wine to get the menfolk drunk. Once they were incapacitated, the Romans carried the Sabine women off for the inevitable rape. The big problem was that my French was not very good; my Italian was non-existent and as for my German and Serbian, well, you can guess. Everyone was speaking in their own native language and it was chaos."

Monday, October 17, 2016

Roger Moore Goes To Italy

From: MY WORD IS MY BOND A Memoir by Roger Moore with Gareth Owen
(Under contract to Warner Bros., Moore appeared in the TV series The Alaskans and Maverick as well as the feature films THE MIRACLE, THE SINS OF RACHEL CADE and GOLD OF THE SEVEN SAINTS. When it became obvious that Warners wanted him to do another TV series, he asked to get out of his contract.)

"I had a business manager at this point, Irving Leonard, who was also Jim Garner's manager. In fact, he handled most of the people who had been under contract to Warner's, and also Clint Eastwood. In fact it was he who persuaded Clint to go to Italy to do a picture for $15,000, which was a lot less than he was used to being paid in Hollywood. That was THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, the first of the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, which led to Clint becoming one of the biggest motion picture stars."

(There are a couple of problems with this paragraph. Clint didn't go to Italy until 1963; Roger went in 1961, so Clint's success had nothing to do with Roger's trip. Also, Clint's first movie with Sergio Leone was A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY was the third movie Clint and Sergio made together.)

"I had a certain profile in Italy by this point, and so when I was offered the lead in an Italian picture, Irving encouraged me to take it; even though the money wasn't brilliant. So I left Hollywood behind me, again, and departed for Rome to make THE RAPE OF THE SABINE WOMEN or IL RATTO DELLE SABINE, as the natives say.
"I received the script for SABINES, one of the scripts I should say, as many different language versions existed to accommodate the real Heinz 57 nationality mix of all the actors involved: English, French, German, Yugoslav, Italian and the rest. The film was about the founding of Rome, the story of Romulus and Remus. I was to play Romulus. Casting a blond, blue-eyed Anglo-Saxon as the twin of Remus, raised by a wolf and becoming the founder of Rome, seemed somewhat ambitious to me. However they were paying, so I said nothing."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Roger Moore and Lee Van Cleef

From: MY WORD IS MY BOND A Memoir by Roger Moore with Gareth Owen
(After starring in the Warners Bros. TV series The Alaskans, Moore was cast on Maverick as Brett's English cousin, Beau.)
"Again, we had some lovely guest stars and when Lee Van Cleef was appearing in a episode my parents came to visit. It was their first visit to Hollywood, and quite an eye-opening experience for two ordinary folks from south London. My mother, in particular, was a huge Western fan, and Lee Van Cleef was one of her favourite actors. So to be in Hollywood, on a Western set, meeting Lee was a thrill and a half."