My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink
There is one kind thing I must say about Dick Pack: He never took long to make up his mind on stories or scripts. He realized it would be impossible for me to fulfill the contract if I didn't have approved projects to plan ahead, so he reserved his recalcitrance for casting, and in that he was a real tyrant. I still wonder what would have been the result of this model alliance if Dick Pack and I had been able to get along better. We needed each other, we really wanted the same things, and our goals were attainable. I never really understood why he would never permit us to do the job we contracted for and allow us the freedom to use our own creativity as we deemed necessary. Alas, that is a mystery to which I will never have the answer.
I had to go back to New York for casting. My ability to work with Jack Gilardi was severely handicapped by the need to remain in New York for frequent casting consultations with WBC, so I found it necessary to get a New York agent who would be interested in handling our needs. I was introduced by Eli Landau, a client of the Gettinger office, to the Famous Artists agency which soon thereafter became Ashley Famous. It was one of the five most powerful theatrical agencies and represented some of the most important star names of the time.
Paul Rosen was one of the agency's higher-echelon vice presidents and some sort of relative to Arnold Kopelson, so he took a personal interest in our accounts. In addition, he knew that what we lacked in quality and cast budgets we made up for in quantity. At that time, no one else was making five to six pictures per years, and we were the talk of the industry. By handling us, Paul also had the opportunity of using some of his new and promising actors, actresses, directors, and other technicians. Another bonus in working with us was the opportunity for an all-expense-paid trip to Europe, and many of the actors we used had never been abroad before. It was a mutually beneficial alliance that worked out very well.
Pack approved all of our material, and I worked with Paul getting names for the projects. For the Pancho Villa film he suggested John Ericson, who was in Italy at the time working on a Ponti production. He was a well-known young leading man who had been a contract player at MGM for six years. During that time he had played romantic juveniles opposite Elizabeth Taylor, Pier Angeli, Judy Garland, and others. He was well thought of and had never been associated with B-pictures (Pack's foremost criterion). He was accepted.
We encountered some trouble casting the ARABIAN NIGHTS script, but in the end, Pack agreed to accept an unknown American actor if we were able to get Raf Vallone and Lucianna Paluzzi, both of whom were clients of Ashley's Italian branch. Raf Vallone was generally considered to be a leading character, and he too was never associated with B-pictures. Lucianna Paluzzi was fresh from great reviews and spectacular success in the latest Sean Connery 007 effort and added some luster to the cast.
Before I left Madrid, I learned Cameron Mitchell was working in Rome and would be available in a few more weeks. Although he was not in the Ashely stable, the agency was able to get him for us and an overjoyed Pack gave rapid approval. While these names may today seem almost meaningless, it must be remembered that in the sixties any well-known motion-picture name was extremely leery of any TV ties. Since there was industry-wide knowledge of our associations with Westinghouse Broadcasting, any contract with us carried with it the threat of studio boycott attendant to signing for TV programming. I like to believe we played an important role in the breakdown of that taboo.
Paul advised me he was able to get Louis Hayward for a three-week contract for the sum of $15,000 and suggested he would be a real addition to any cast at that price, and I agreed. I had admired the work of this very fine actor for many years, and the thought of being able to work with him was exciting. I knew I would have no trouble with Pack in signing Hayward. Pack was as excited as I at having him as one of our troupe. The New York trip was a whirlwind visit but eminently successful, and I returned to Madrid with a full lineup enthusiastically approved by Westinghouse. Now I was chafing to get back to work.