Saturday, August 15, 2009

Eli and family in Almeria

From THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND ME In My Anecdotage
by Eli Wallach

I did little to no wandering around Almeria. Worn out after a week of shooting, I'd have my usual cocktail-hour drink with our English landlord, have a fish dinner, memorize some of the scene we would film the following week, then drift off into a deep sleep. After filming one Saturday night, Leone asked if I would like to join him, his wife Carla, and his young daughters for a Sunday at the beach. I happily agreed and spent the day playing games with his young children, eating tapas and sardine-and-egg sandwiches, and drinking good Spanish wine. Being with the Leone family, though, brought on a fierce longing for my own wife and children. My letters to Anne were filled with pleas to come join me in Spain and bring the children and fervent vows never to go off to these crazy locations again.
About ten days later, my hands shoot as I opened a special airmail letter from Anne. "You go off to all of these exotic locations; now the whole family will come join you," she wrote, and asked me to pick them up when they arrived in Almeria. The letter was signed, "Love, from your lonely wife and abandoned children."
"What had I done?" I wondered. I remembered Clint saying the he didn't trust Spanish airplanes, but thank god my family arrived safely. I rented a suite for us at a newly opened hotel near the beach. It was a joyous reunion with Anne, Peter, Roberta, and Katherine. Leone invited them all to the set. They would watch me do a scene, then have lunch, where they would open their little white boxes and be surprised by the size of the chicken sitting between two slices of bread; but they were pleased by the red wine. In the evening, we'd all take a swim in the hotel pool. Leone even gave me a day off so that the Wallach family could wander around and do some shopping in Almeria.
After a week of filming, the cast learned that we would be flying north to do some location shooting near Burgos - the land up there looked like the Virginias and would serve perfectly for the Civil War battle scenes. Leone had spent a year doing research on that war, studying Mathew Brady's book of photographs. Generalissimo Franco had agreed to lend a thousand of his regular army soldiers for the battle scenes. He also allowed Leone to borrow American Civil War cannons and guns from the Madrid army museum. Leone's costumers were able to reproduce the blue and gray uniforms for the soldiers so that they'd look authentic.
Anne, the children, and I flew up to Madrid and from there were driven to a little town called Covarrubias. Our hotel looked out over the town square. After we settled in, I stepped out onto the tiny balcony and about a million mosquitoes flew in. We slammed the French windows shut. Roberta said that the town looked like the shtetl in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. Katherine suffered from stomach cramps. Anne took her to the drugstore only to find that all the bottled medicines were covered in dust. After three days, Anne decided that she and the children would return to Madrid. "I'll never call your locations exotic again," she said.

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