by Richard Fleischer
There were some things I could never figure out about the whole business. Sam Bronston was one of them. He was a tiny, birdlike man with a ready smile and a mild manner. A mogul type he wasn't. His presence was hardly discernible in all the goings-on. He seemed to rely completely on Washinsky. I never saw or heard Bronston make a decision on his own. The question remains: Was he an innocent dupe, unaware of the stealing going on around him, or was he in on the plundering?*
The other puzzler was Pierre S. Du Pont. Could anyone be so unbelievably naive as to keep on signing those completion guarantees, picture after picture? Didn't he want to know what was happening to the money he was so generously supplying?
A clearer picture of Du Pont's concern about how his money was being spent comes from the deposition he gave my lawyer, Stanley Handman, in Wilmington, Delaware, on February 1, 1967. A limited partnership called Bronston-Bengal had been formed for the production of THE NIGHTRUNNERS OF BENGAL. Du Pont was a limited partner in that company.
Q. Do you know of any activities of Bronston-Bengal, the limited partnership, other than what you testified to about the formation?
Q. You don't know that there was any activity commenced with the respect to the production of the picture itself?
Q. Did you ever ask Mr. Bronston for any type of reports regarding production?
Q. Did you ever receive budgets in connection with proposed productions?
Q. You had no idea how much Mr. Bronston intended to spend in connection with this film?
Q. Had you any idea of how the film was to be cast and who was supposed to play the leading parts?
[Du Pont's lawyer, Mr. Costikan, asks the next question.]
Q. Do you know whether they had a script?
Someone once said, if you want to know what the Lord God thinks of money, you have only to look at those to whom he gives it.
Things were not looking too great for me. For the past three years I'd worked on two films and, outside of expenses, had been paid for neither. Equally discouraging was the fact that I had had no screen credits in all that time. It's bad enough that in Hollywood out of sight is out of mind, but out of the country is even worse. I needed a job, fast. Something to put me back in the mainstream. The first person I thought of was my old friend, my colleague, my pal Elmo Williams. He was now head of the Fox office in London and making lots of movies. I'd saved his bacon innumerable times with Darryl Zanuck; now it was time to call in some markers.
I could have saved myself the trip to London. Elmo listened to my story the way an eminent surgeon listens to a patient's minor complaint, polite but distracted. When the director of his next production walked into his office, he hurriedly ushered me out.
I headed for California.
Things had changed in Tinseltown. And for the better. Dick Zanuck was now ensconced as head of production at Twentieth Century-Fox. I got no short shrift there. When I headed back to Rome I carried with me the treatment of my next film, FANTASTIC VOYAGE, to be made in Hollywood.
So the circle was complete. I was getting kicked around in Hollywood, so I ran to Europe, where I got kicked around some more. Now I was running back to Hollywood. Professionally, the sum total of my accomplishments after five years away was: one big, good movie; two small, fair movies; three pending lawsuits; and a partridge in a pear tree.
*Phil Yordan kept his skirts clean in the ensuing litigation. He had a valid contract with Bronston to deliver screenplays for a fixed price. If that price was high, it was still perfectly legal, since both parties had agreed to it.