My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink
Anyone who thinks that moviemaking is a glamorous career will quickly learn, after only a few days' experience, that it is hard and unglamorous work. After a movie if finally completed, it looks so easily done, but it is really the complex product of extraordinary effort on the part of many talented people. THE TALL WOMEN was a back-breaker, and as it progressed we got more weary and grumpy. Our actresses worked like dogs with very little rest. The script called for them to lie on the ground while the Indians rode around and between them, causing dust clouds that made breathing almost impossible. They became dirtier and scragglier as the movie went on, and soon it took no effort for them to portray a bedraggled-looking lot. The heat was so intense I had to wear gloves in order to protect my hands from the blisters the sun raised. When we arrived back at the hotel every evening, we were a tired bunch, and any thought of romance with so many beautiful women around was quickly dissipated by weary and aching bones. I came to know those women and their limits of endurance very well. That difficult script combined with the heat and unfriendly countryside made this the toughest job I had ever tackled.
My relations with Anne Baxter were deep and full of mutural respect. She was a brilliant actress with a depth I had never seen, even in Alida Valli. My awe and admiration for her talent grew along with my affection that was becoming more and more difficult to conceal. She was my idea of everything a woman should and could be, and it was beginning to show. My wife became as friendly with Anne as I did, and their friendship made it impossible to remain aloof from the continuing problem of the close and intimate relationship of director and star. We were called upon to work very closely together; the entire story revolved around her, and I had to explain exactly what I needed in every scene as we worked up to the final climax of the film. I had only to tell Anne what emotion and feeling I needed for the scene at hand and she delivered it. She was truly remarkable in the way she could set the entire tenor of a difficulat scene for everyone else to follow.
In spite of all the production problems and the hardships involved, Anne made this the most enjoyable picture I ever worked on. I still love this script and the picture more than the other fifty-five I was involved with. I will never forget that Anne Baxter told Dick Pack and the rest of the distribution team that I was the best and most sensitive director with whom she had ever worked. It wasn't true, of course, and the picture was not what it should have been, but that was not the fault of this marvelous actress. I was the one who allowed the budget to get in the way of making what could have been a memorable movie. Anne and I shared moments together that made us know that there was a depth of feeling that could have altered both our lives, but she and I realized that her husband and my wife did not deserve to be hurt and that no future could be built on the wreck of the past. I knew, and she knew, and that was enough for both of us.
When the shooting ended, all seven of our actresses went to the hospital in Madrid. They were worn out, almost dehydrated, and needed rest. Anne left the hospital first and we dubbed her first so she was able to leave two weeks ahead of schedule. I never met with her again, although we talked on the phone. She did something for me she had never done before; she made personal appearances for the opening of the picture in the South. As a token of her friendship, she sent my wife a set of monogrammed towels that we still have, along with the cherished memory of a most gallant, lovely, and wonderful woman. God bless you, Anne, I know you are the brightest star in the firmament wherever you are.