The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
Video WatcHDog No. 143 Sept. 2008
In which you seldom appear, despite working on the picture for more than a year!
By the time CLEOPATRA arrived in [Darryl F.] Zanuck's hands, it was judged far too long for public consumption. After battling with [Joseph L.] Manklewicz for days, he cut out two hours. I went with most of the cuts. If you look hard and concentrate with all your might, you will see me here and there throughout the Egypt footage. I really didn't care; I worked for nearly a year on the epic and made so much money that I decided to quit the medical scene and study opera, which was something I had always wanted to do.
With your voice, that was a good choice.
I had always been a singer and now that I was in the "Verdi heartland", I just couldn't resist. After singing around here and there, I met a teacher who thought that, because of my high baritone tessitura, he would take me to his teacher in Germany and make me a heldentenor. These are the guys who can stand on the stage for four hours and reach all the high notes that Wagner wrote and still be heard over the massive orchestration that kills most lyric baritones - and even some tenors. I gained sixty pounds, did a lot of Wagner, a couple of Othellos, and for a time did remarkably well. Then one night, I blew my voice completely out. The following week in Milan, I was diagnosed with a kind of debilitating arthritis that affects the cricoid cartilage in the larynx, and that was the end of this Wagnerian Tenor.
Around that time, I also started scoring the leads in some really bad Italian Westerns and spy films. I got into this end of things through actress Janine Reynaud. I had just dubbed her husband, French actor Michel Lemoine, in an Italian science fiction epic. [Probably Antonio Margheriti's WILD WILD PLANET or WAR OF THE PLANETS, 1965. -Ed.] Janine and I had met at a party and she insisted I go with her to meet her agent. This lead to OPERATION WHITE SHARK , which led to further staring roles in Italian and Spanish co-productions. However, this all ended in a heap at the base of a very large pine tree in the mountains outside Madrid, when a stunt with my horse went terribly wrong (on a Western that was never finished). I smashed into said tree, breaking my neck. I was rushed to the nearest pronto soccorso (First Aid station), where I was pronounced dead and left on a gurney for seventeen hours while they waited for the head medico to come up from Madrid (it was Easter Sunday, after all) to make a decision as to what was to be done with the dead American actor. You will have to read Chapter Four of my book to know the rest.
Needless to say, my life was changed forever and I didn't remain in the role of Italiano-American playboy. As soon as I could get my head back together, I set off to find answers to the myriad questions that the incident had provoked and my book tells the rest of that story.
Are you still in touch with Janine Reynaud and Michel Lemoine?
Yes. Janine is now married to a wealthy Texas oilman. I spoke with her about a year ago. Her ex-husband, Michel Lemoine, and I are still friends. He is living in Paris and still acting and directing. I dubbed him in several Italian films in the '60s.