Sunday, January 31, 2010

John Francis Lane on MACISTE ALL' INFERNO

John Francis Lane: MACISTE ALL' INFERNO [aka THE WITCH'S CURSE] became one of those little films that acquire a small cult among the French critics and the very young. Really the value of [director Riccardo] Freda was that he filmed quickly. I acted for him in MACISTE ALL'INFERNO and remembered that having placed the camera in a certain position, he called: "Now scene one, then 50, then 122," always from the same position, and he shot half an hour of film in a morning!
A French critic wrote that I wanted to work with him because having worked with other great Italian directors like Fellini and Antonioni, I should now be in a film by Freda! In reality, I did it for the money - a miserly forty thousand. Freda was a real tyrant! With his dog, his women, his court. He was rather sadistic, too, with the people, with the animals that he used in the scenes. The actors, the technicians, detested it, and it was something that everybody knew about.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Woody Strode gets hired by Sergio Leone

by Woody Strode and Sam Young

In this country, Sergio Leone was known as the king of spaghetti westerns. He's the guy that made Clint Eastwood a star. And I remember him telling me, "I'm going to make a star out of Charlie Bronson." That's how he said it, no hemming and hawing. In the United States, Charlie couldn't get arrested, but when the Italians got a hold of him, with his beautiful character face, they made a star out of him.
Sergio Leone knew me through THE PROFESSIONALS and the westerns I made for John Ford. He offered me $7,500 for fourteen days' work; Sid Gold countered at ten grand. They finally settled at $8,000 because Sid knew that this would be an outstanding film for me.
When I met the production team they were staying at a big hotel about two-and-a-half hours from the location. I wanted to meet Sergio, so I asked the production manager where I could find him. He said, "Mr. Leone is staying in the little town of Guadix," which was about ten minutes from the job.
I said, "That's where my wife and I are going to stay," and they drove us over. We moved into this little joint with Sergio, and he picked up the tab. Sergio, who loved to eat and was pretty big as a result, bought us dinner every night. I remember him asking me in his thick Italian accent why Hollywood had never made me a star. The Italians could never understand why I wasn't a star at home.
I told him, "I don't think they've gotten used to me coming off the mountain on a horse with John Wayne by my side." But Sergio saw what I could do, and that was enough for him.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Dollhouse series finale tonight.

And Fox is showing it an hour earlier than its usual time slot.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


by Woody Strode and Sam Young

Well, thank you, Italy. I've spent a lot of time over there, and made a lot of Italian pictures. The first was SEDUTO ALLA SUA DESTRA; SEATED AT HIS RIGHT. From there I went to C'ERA UNA VOLTA IL WEST; ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. After that, the Italians just beat a path to my door carryin' a bag full of money. I ended up living in Rome from 1969 through 1971, and in all that time, I never learned to speak Italian. The Italians never cared that I learn their language. But they made a star out of me, and for that I'll always be grateful. For me, Italy was the promised land.
It was 1968 when a director named Valerio Zurlini hired me to star in SEATED AT HIS RIGHT. Zurlini was a short man with sandy-colored hair from northern Italy. He was an artist and a poet. He'd make a picture every three or four years just like it was a painting or a sculpture.
SEATED AT HIS RIGHT is a biblical reference to Christ when he said to the priest Caiaphas, "Hereafter, shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming into the clouds of heaven." Originally, the film was supposed to be a forty-minute segment for a five-part film called RAGE IN LOVE, but Zurlini must have found some extra passion for the story because he blew it up into a full-length feature. It became Italy's official entry at the Cannes Film Festival.
In the movie, I play a Christ-like character who tries to establish peaceful reform within an unnamed African country that's controlled by an overbearing white rule. I travel from village to village preaching to the people. I tell them, "As long as we are united we cannot be defeated, they know this and this is why they will try and infiltrate among you setting brother against brother, and relying on your greed."
The government arrests me for being a revolutionary and orders me to sign papers that would make me forsake my teachings. I refuse. They begin to torture me; I suffer and anguish. They nail my hands to a table. They beat me until I lose my sight. My left side is pierced. The life slowly drains out of me. My face is twisted in pain, and my legs go limp as they drag me from the interrogation room back to my cell. The violence is unbelievable.
Zurlini was trying to show the total devotion to violence of the men who were torturing me, and the horrors of a dictator-style government. For a good third of the film I anguish in pain, and that was probably my most difficult performance ever. The courtroom scene in SERGEANT RUTLEDGE was probably my most emotional scene, but SEATED AT HIS RIGHT had the most sustained emotion. And Zurlini was a good director; he got everything out of me.
We shot the film inside an old warehouse in Rome. The Italians are great set designers, and they built everything we needed. Most of the movie takes place in my prison cell, but all of the exteriors were also done on stage. It took about ten days to shoot the whole thing, and right after I got finished was when Sergio Leone came after me to star in the opening scene of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rock Hudson on HORNETS' NEST

by Rock Hudson and Sara Davidson

Rock came home for a few months [after making THE UNDEFEATED in Durango, Mexico with John Wayne] and then went to Italy to make an action adventure picture, THE HORNET'S NEST, with Sylva Koscina. He had been told Sophia Loren would be his co-star; Koscina had been substituted at the last minute. Rock wrote Jack funny letters. "This is my new Italian secretary (actually she is a portable Olivetti). She doesn't spell very well and you have to press her kind of hard, but she's a faithful girl." Rock wrote that he had a good feeling about the film and that one of the young boys in the cast was a "great natural talent". Rock was never able to tell, while shooting a picture, whether it was working, but in the process of investing himself in the character, he became emotionally involved, and inevitably he was infused with hope.
More often than not, he was disappointed, as he was with THE HORNET'S NEST. Rock returned to the Castle in time for Christmas, and his concerns with career and business fell away.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Woody Strode on Sergio Leone and John Ford

by Woody Strode and Sam Young

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST was the only picture I did for Sergio Leone, but he always gave me a good word of mouth, and that helped me alot in Italy. And he was quite fond of Luana, too. He called her Mama. One night at dinner, he said, "I need an Indian woman to be the scrub woman that runs out of the train station in the opening scene. Why don't you do it, Mama?" So if you ever see the picture, that woman was Luana. Sergio gave Luana a salary plus an extra thousand bucks when it was over.
The first time I saw the film was in Italy, in Italian. When the lights went down, I said to Luana, "Here we go, Mama." The scene with the water was a complete surprise. And the close-ups, I couldn't believe. I never got a close-up in Hollywood. Even in THE PROFESSIONALS I had only three close-ups in the entire picture. Sergio Leone framed me on the screen for five minutes. After it was over I said, "That's all I needed."
When I got home and I saw Papa Ford, I told him, "Papa, there's an Italian over there that just loves the West, and he's not going to do another western because they call them spaghetti westerns," I said, "Will you autograph a picture for him?"
Unfortunately, Sergio is dead today, but if you checked with his office, you'd find he has an autographed picture from John Ford. On the picture Ford wrote, "If there's anything I can do to help make Woody a star, I'll do it for free." Those are the little things that make those guys immortal.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Riccardo Freda on Maciste

Riccardo Freda: The series was not launched by me, but it was I that gave it a resolute tone. The audience loved the type of superman embodied by Hercules and Maciste. Unconsciously they were also loved, because in the final analysis you want to deal with a strong or bold or brave hero, with which the public can identify, for all those who dream of proving themselves a superman in front of a woman. The love interest had an importance that had great relevance, because it dealt with a love that was romantic and touching. The sadistic side of love was nonexistent.
There was instead simply adventure for the sake of adventure. For MACISTE ALLA CORTE DEL GRAN KHAN (SAMSON AND THE SEVEN MIRACLES OF THE WORLD) I was able to do the earthquake of Peking in a meadow on the outskirts of Rome. I really enjoyed shooting it and it gave me great satisfaction to see the footage in projection, because it seemed as if it was the real Peking that came crashing to the ground.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sergio Corbucci on his Westerns

Sergio Corbucci: Let's take it once more from the top: on principle, I shot a series of three Westerns in what one can call, alternatively, a Japanese or a Noir style. Then slowly, very slowly, the political content started to emerge in the the three, and I then made a sort of trilogy about the Mexican Revolution: IL MERCENARIO, VAMOS A MATAR COMPANEROS and CHE C'ENTRIAMO NOI CON LA RIVOLUZIONE? I was drawn to Mexico for two reasons. First of all because I've always liked the history of the revolution, and then because of the fact that our films were called "Spaghetti Westerns". That bothered me, as well as Leone, Tessari, Sollima... This label came from abroad, where John Ford himself had coined it in regard to my films and Leone's which seemed to him to be trespassing on American territory - as if they hadn't done their fake papier-mache version of Ancient Rome with their various BEN-HURs! - And because here our critics regularly referred to them as imitations of the American Westerns. We wouldn't tolerate this, because our Westerns don't resemble theirs at all, we subverted the rules to such a point that the Americans started imitating us, with dusters and stubbly beards, the violence, guts dribbling out... All these aspects, and the fact that Spain, where we shot, was much closer to Mexico than to Texas, led me to embark on the "Revolutionary Mexican" genre, a truly inexhaustible source.
[I'm certain that Corbucci would like to think that John Ford saw his movies, but it is wrong to believe that John Ford coined the phrase "Spaghetti Westerns". In Woody Strode's book GOAL DUST, Woody talked to Ford about working with Leone and Ford seemed to be unaware of the Italian's movies. But as Woody liked Leone, Ford wrote the Italian a note of encouragement.]

Friday, January 22, 2010

Domenico Paolella on Maciste

Domenico Paolella: The Maciste name was invented by (Gabriele) D'Annuzio for CABIRIA, from the Latin word "magis" (wizard) which nowadays might be expressed as "Er Piu" - "the most". (i.e. The Man!)
There was then a series of Maciste films, both in costume and contemporary settings. As a boy, I remember having seen an old Alpine Maciste in the first world war; he seized the Austrians in groups and dashed them against the mountain. Camerini had done a silent MACISTE CONTRO LO SCEICCO (MACISTE AGAINST THE SHEIK) that I have also remade. One of the first to make sense of this type of thing was (Pietro) Francisci, who had also made documentaries for INCOM. A nice, jovial man, who had a flair for this type of thing, and whose chubby euphoric face was adept at concealing the problems that came up. Then (Mario) Bava, who was a volcano - a one-man special effects department. In America the job that he did would have needed an entire corporation in a purpose-built skyscraper. With a piece of paper and a bag of tools he could create effects for STAR WARS.
Maciste was liked becausehe put in motion a mechanism which re-evaluated man - the unarmed individual; naked in a society of arrogant people, bad and armed. Maciste with only his muscles beats the armies. In the Western too, there is the one who makes justice with his fists, and even this is a form of rehabilitation of a man as the center of justice. I think that this mechanism can function in many ways, also because the story is very simple - always this: a girl, fallen into the clutches of the tyrant must be saved, and Maciste the saviour arrives with nothing and by chance comes across this situation. The fine thing is that he absolutely does not go to bed with the girl, nothing happens. It is difficult to find a real-life Maciste that takes care of a girl in this way. And that pure justice, the wandering rider, is a tradiational ancient theme.
My Maciste films were very serious. I took account of the mechanism, but I tried to make them in a style that made minimal demands on the audience. Putting aside even a pinch of irony that would show up the pretense. My adventures were not ever exaggerated, and I defined Maciste as a thinking being, at least to the same level as the audience.
They were not Maciste in a pure state. They were in a setting and ambience that was very believable, and with a little historical credibility thrown in.
They were exported a lot: they cost more than any other type of popular Italian film, but less than an equivalent American adventure film, and they struck it rich at the box-office. One of my films came to be sold in 56 foreign countries! They had an unbelievable export value.

[Mike Eustace comment: In CABIRIA, Maciste was a muscular negro slave, played by former Genoan dockworker Bartolomeo Pagano. Pagano continued to portray the character of Maciste in many other films which transcended time and place. MACISTE ALPINI, where Maciste was a member of the Italian Alphine troops in World War I is the film that Paolella is remembering seeing as a boy. The two "serious" Macistes that Paolella made were MACISTE CONTRO I MONGOLI (aka HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS) and MACISTE NELL' INFERNO DI GENGHIS KHAN (aka HERCULES AGAINST THE BARBARIANS), both with Mark Forest. Note that outside Italy, the distributors had trouble with the name Maciste, and preferred to re-name him to something more familiar and pronounceable to their target audience, such as Hercules, Samson or Goliath.]

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New book on European Westerns

Hi Bill,
I've been working on a book on SWs for a number of years - your compatriot Tom Betts (who gave me your email address) is among those who kindly helped along the way with images and encouragement.
Well, the publisher is finally getting it ready for publication and I'd be grateful if you could mention it on your blog.
Thanks and all the best,
Kevin Grant

[Sure thing, Kevin.]

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sidney's last movies and Margaret Lee's arrest

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

[Away from Westinghouse, Sidney prepared his next project. He had a script by John Melson called IF THE SHROUD FITS with which he sought to interest singer Tony Bennett in making his motion picture acting debut. Bennett eventually passed on the project. Sidney then offered the female lead in SHROUD to Anita Ekberg, with whom Sidney almost made a film called GOLD LOVERS with Barry Sullivan and Broderick Crawford before the Westinghouse deal. Anita accepted.]

The package I was selling was the Melson script and Anita Ekberg plus two other name actors. I needed financing for the picture, but I did not go to Larry Meyers or Sol Jeffe for help. I owed them enough on the Westinghouse deal to keep them busy collecting receipts for a long while. Peter Gettinger introduced me to Stanley Abrams, the son of the founder of Emerson Electronics, who had the itch to be a producer. We negotiated a deal to form a new company that would produce SHROUD as an American-Italian coproduction in Spain, and Stanley lent the company the money to finance the production. He and his wife joined us in Madrid and the picture was shot in Torremolinos...
Anita's co-stars in our film were John Richardson, an English actor who was a popular star of Italian pictures, and Margaret Lee, an English girl who achieved Italian nationality by marrying an Italian politician. Margaret, a petit blonde, gained box-office stardom in two Italian pictures. We rounded out the cast with Fernando Rey playing the effeminate villain in a most astounding performance.
I made my last directorial effort on this picture. We changed the title to CANDIDATE FOR A KILLING, and it was a well-made picture that suffered the same fate as the others of its ilk. There was no longer any room in the movie world for this type of picture, and it founds its niche on TV on the late-late show. But Margaret Lee made history for us by being arrested by Spanish customs officials, and she was in jail for five days before we found her.
It's a story worth telling. Margaret was a hashish user, and when she ran out of it, she journeyed to Tangier on a Sunday to replenish her supply. Margaret was such a beautiful, innocent-looking girl she could get away with anything, but her cupidity betrayed her. She was almost through customs when an inspector noticed she had two cartons of Winstons under her arm. Cigarettes were the one thing the Spanish were meticulous about in collecting duty - it was actually the only import they looked for. The Spanish tobacco industry was heavily protected by government tariffs, and I think diamonds would have been more easily overlooked. Margaret knew that by simply paying the five dollars duty she would have no problem, but she wanted to save herself the five dollars by walking through with the cigarettes unconcealed. If she were caught, she could always say she forgot, and by not concealing them she would not get in trouble.
The scheme worked almost as she planned except for an overly polite customs officer who took the cigarettes to help her to the duty office. He noticed the two cartons were inordinately light for cigarettes, and upon opening the package and checking the hard-pack boxes he found twenty packets filled with enough hashish to keep the city of Rome high for two weeks. Margaret was immediately taken into custody, thrown into the Algeciras pokey, and left there until the busy magistrates could get around to trying her.
When Margaret didn't show up for work on Monday, we began looking for her. It took two days and 5,000 pesetas in bribes to find her. A report that a blond American had been arrested and a sketchy description that could fit Margaret prompted us to call Madrid. Juice applied in the right places brought us to the judge who would hear her case. With the exchange of some under-the-table Spanish green, we were able to get Margaret released without her passports but with permission to finish her work in our picture.
I will never forget the women's cell in that Algeciras gaol. The so-called beds were of straw covered with burlap. The roof leaked and the toilet facilities consisted of a ditch dug in the center of the room. The smell of human excrement and the lack of water and washing facilities made us sick. The sight of Margaret in that cell was the most pathetic thing I have ever seen. We got her out of there as fast as we could and she finished the picture.
How she managed it I never learned, but the day after she shot her last scene, she appeared in Rome without her passport or the 150,000 peseta bond put up to guarantee her reappearance. Appartently, she never learned from this experience; she was arrested two years later for a similar offense. Margaret never achieved more than a fleeting recognition in the world of film.
We finished CANDIDATE FOR A KILLING on time and below budget and turned it over to Stanley. That was my last directorial effort, and, for that matter, my last conventional film. I returned to the States determined to try something I thought I never would, making a sex picture. I realized that the old saying "If you can't lick 'em, join 'em" had to hold some truth, so I decided to join 'em. The vehicle I chose was the paperback series of tongue-in-cheek sex spoofs, THE MAN FROM O.R.G.Y.

[Sidney ended up making his one-and-only X-rated film in Puerto Rico. Settling there, he created Commonwealth Commercial Productions, which made TV and radio commercials as well as documentaries. After six years, he closed that company and built 16 movie theaters in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. Eventually he retired and wrote SO YOU WANT TO MAKE MOVIES.]

I guess I really have had it all, for now that I think of it, in my efforts to make a great picture, I ahve had the good fortune to succeed by proxy. The man to whom I taught the principles of movie production, the man I regard almost as a second son, proved that if nothing else I was a good teacher. I am referring to my friend and student Arnold Kopelson, who in producing the movie PLATOON, presented the world with a truly great achievement in moviemaking. His peers agreed, and he was awarded an Oscar for that film.

[Sidney Pink died on October 12, 2002 in Pompano Beach, Florida after a long illness. A short interview with him can be found on the Troma DVD for PYRO, during which he again commented about how much he disliked working with Westinghouse.]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Claudia Cardinale on Sergio Leone

Claudia Cardinale: Leone is a director who really loves actors, and in fact his camera scrutinizes you. He's famous for those extreme close-ups of every detail of the actor. I was very happy to be chosen for that role. Leone used a very sweet and intelligent trick with me: every time I was going to recite a scene, he put on my music - the music of my character. And this is important. It helps. We went to work in Monument Valley, truly in the heart of that American world, and those majestic, stupendous places communicated a certain emotion. We stayed in a deserted hotel, we were practically the only ones there. We didn't have much contact with Americans. Even so, we did encounter Navajo Indians while we were shooting in their reserve - discreet, silent people who watched us from a distance. One thing that struck me was that in front of their compound they had erected the entire skeleton of an old car as a totem pole. In that setting, Sergio was in his element. He was always on the go, happy as a little boy; euphoric...
In this film, Fonda shot the first true love scene of his career with me. It was also our first scene together. I remember that at Cinecitta they'd called in a hundred journalists from all over the world. It was terribly embarrassing. I was embarrassed above all by his embarrassment!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sidney ends the deal with Westinghouse.

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Howard Berk was having a real problem with THE BANG-BANG KID. He was unable to find a place in the script for the additional footage we needed. No matter what I tried, it seemed that I was unable to bypass the use of either Tom or Guy. He was ready to give up, when I arrived at a solution.
In the original script, we talked about the gunslingers who had come to kill Kissick in response to the urgent ad in the paper placed by the mayor of Limerick. I suggested to Howard we could fill twenty minutes by showing different gunmen who answered the ad and took Kissick on only to meet their demise, culminating with an attempt to get rid of Kissick by means of an evangelist. Through the age-old trick of narration and a flashback to Bear Bullock's dream to bring a castle to Limerick, we were able to place all of the characters in medieval roles in the town of Limerick. Bear Bullock rides through the town in his kingly robes and visualizes a successful conquest of the fair maiden, making the time setting of the film temporarily unclear. It added comedy as well as needed flavor to the film footage.
We finished with eighty-eight minutes of action that came to the full ninety minutes when we added a second set of credits at the end of the picture. BANG-BANG KID and RAGAN were both excellent films that could find no market outside of television. By the time they were ready for release, the new wave of violence and sex had taken over, double features were doomed, and the market for these entertaining B-pictures was gone.
Today the pendulum is slowing swinging back, and audiences are once again appreciating funny and entertaining films that do not require nudity or profanity to make them palatable. Anyone who is lucky enough to catch THE BANG-BANG KID on the tube will enjoy a delightful comedy with inspired and funny performances by Tom Bosley and others.
We finished the last two pictures, delivered them to a hostile Westinghouse, and I prepared for my new career without any presold committments. Television needed pictures, the new wave of films were totally unfit for TV viewing under the existent taboos of the medium, so I was certain that for at least the immediate future we could profitably produce low-budget destined for television showing and foreign theatrical release. I returned to New York to talk with my friends and make new plans. An entire phase of my life had ended and the future was once again uncertain.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Duccio Tessari on the Grotte Di Solone

Duccio Tessari: The Hercules and Maciste movies were all filmed as interiors; all in the studio because it was just a matter of illusion. And also quite a lot in the caves of Solone (Grotte Di Solone), here near Rome, whose price soon rose as they got overused - so much so that they were only missing a set of traffic lights to regulate the film crews going in and coming out. The caves of Solone were good for everything. They became the place for all types of subterranean scenes; of jails, of the descent of Orpheus and also of Dracula, because later they were also used in the vampire films. The fact is that between these caves and the studio everything was done.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shooting RAGAN

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Tony Recoder told me about an American director, Gilbert Kaye, who might be available if we could get him cleared through the red tape to allow him to work in Spain. Gil came to Madrid because he had been promised a directorial job with Bronston. The film fell through when the Bronston empire collapsed, and Spain's movie industry began crumbling slowly. It became evident that Franco had lost control of his government and the senility that finally felled him was now taking its toll. Censorship was once again taken over by the fanatical arm of the church known as Opus Dei, slowly strangling every producer with its demand for complete control over everything produced by both foreign and local consumption. They demanded an official work permit for everyone, and the more liberal interpretation of the coproduction law ended. Gil was unable to get a job.
Gil impressed me with his obvious experience, so we took the short cut used so many times before. Gilbert Kaye became an Italian and a member of the Italian Directors Guild. We paid an Italian director for the use of his name, and that Italian name showed in all of the European prints, but Gil got his credit in the U.S. and the rest of the world. Finally we were able to shoot RAGAN.
Since the entire story took place in a mythical South American country, we got Italian permission to shoot all of it in Spain. The dusty plains to the south of Madrid made a perfect setting. We cast another Italian name star, Antonella Lualdi, as well as Rosella Como of THE TALL WOMEN as the female leads, while Gustavo Rojo took over the part of the heavy. Gustavo played a comedic Roman police captain in MADIGAN'S MILLIONS, a simpering hotel manager in FICKLE FINGER OF FATE and a handsome legion commander in WITCH WITHOUT A BROOM. He was so damned versatile that it was like having Reggie Jackson for every possible position on the team. RAGAN was the easiest film I ever made in Europe, thanks to the smoothly functioning production team we had developed and the competent and sure direction of Gil Kaye. I wasn't needed more than three or four times during the six weeks of shooting.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sergio Leone on actors

Sergio Leone: For me, actors are extraterrestrial creatures. I love them greatly and forgive them everything. How can you be mean with an actor, when so often he's a little boy without a personality of his own - every time assumes a different personality, does what the role imposes on him, carries that personality home with him for the entire length of filming; is so massively professional. How can you be mean to beings like these? One needs to insinuate your ideas into him. You know, they aren't creatures with the nicest of lives. When they finish one film they must continue playing the character for the benefit of a batch of people; the journalists, the reviewers, the public. And then when they're finally freed from one character, they have to throw themselves into the character for the next film, and so their true personalities may not surface, or rarely, for very long periods, and who knows if they can ever really become themselves again after ten years of a career. The actor who can is generally an actor disenchanted with acting, and so not really an actor at all.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The world changed for Sidney

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

The movie world was completely changing with whirlwind speed. All the rules and morals of filmmaking were tumbling down around our heads. The Swedes embarked upon their program of uninhibited sexual explicitness, and their two I AM CURIOUS films brought about a complete revolution in movie morality. I AM CURIOUS YELLOW brought to the first-run movie screens the first intimate close-up of the male penis. The shot in which a woman kissed and fondled it rocked the foundations of Hollywood. Since this was a foreign film and considered Art by the New York critics who screened it at the Little Carnegie Theatre, the courts were not interested in hearing any cases on its pornographic impact.
Thus the floodgates were opened, and the depiction of explicit sex and intimate close-ups became commonplace to the point of triteness. Little theatres off Broadway, like the World, that had struggled to stay alive as art theatres suddenly became the mecca for absolute pornography masked in the cloak of Art. Inexplicably, films like DEEP THROAT assumed the same mantle and were allowed to run for months.
Although I didn't realize it until much later, this singular change in attitude by the public was so widespread that pictures like THE BANG-BANG KID and other family movies were totally murdered. The rush was on to make movies more and more daring, with more and more four-letter words and holding back nothing, which culminated in even the biggest and most important stars baring their assets to public view. I never dreamed that Brando would show his bare behind to the world or that Julie Andrews would bare her bosom for all to see. That revolution of sex in the cinema came faster and dirtier than I could have imagined. But I didn't realize that until much later.
I still didn't have a director for RAGAN, and we were having real problems with THE BANG-BANG KID. By contract we had to deliver a first-class motion picture of not less than ninety-minute duration, and we couldn't find more than sixty-seven minutes in all of the footage shot. In the midst of this, Mitch and his family left Madrid for California where he was to work on his script at MGM. I hated to see him leave. Mitch made a lot of mistakes, but he was a very knowledgeable movie man and I would miss him.
My priority became getting a director for RAGAN so I could concentrate on THE BANG-BANG KID. I called Howard Berk to write some additional scenes to stretch the film, but they had to be without Tom Bosley, who had left for New York, or Guy Madison, whose whereabouts were unknown. Howard went to work, and I continued to search for a director.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Arnold Schwarzenegger on Steve Reeves

by Arnold Schwarzenegger with Bill Dobbins

The winner of the Mr. America title in 1943 was a man whom many believe to be the first truly modern bodybuilder. Clarence (Clancy) Ross's physique would not look out of place on any stage today - wide shoulders, flaring lats, narrow waist, good calves and abs. By this time the distinction between lifting weights purely for strength and training with weights to shape and proportion the body had been clearly made. The bodybuilder's physique, as opposed to other types of muscular development, was now recognized as something unique.
However, bodybuilding still remained an obscure sport. No champion was known to the general public - that is until Steve Reeves came along. Reeves was the right man in the right place at the right time. He was handsome, personable, and had a magnificent physique. Survivors from the Muscle Beach era recall how crowds used to follow Reeves when he walked along the beach, and how people who knew nothing about him would simply stop and stare, awestruck.
After winning Mr. America and Mr. Universe, Reeves made movies and became an international star with his portrayal of the title roles in HERCULES (a role that both Reg Park and I were later to undertake for the movies), MORGAN THE PIRATE and THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD. As far as the general public was concerned, in the 1950s - except for the perennial Charles Atlas - there was only one famous bodybuilder: Steve Reeves.
Probably no human being in the history of the planet had ever achieved the level of development of men like [John] Grimek, Ross, and Reeves. Bodybuilders began to learn things about the physical potential of the body that even medical scientists could not have predicted. Soon there were more and more great bodybuilders coming along every year - Bill Pearl, Chuck Sipes, Jack Delinger, George Eiferman, and one of my great idols, Reg Park.
[Gordon Mitchell told me about how during the old days of Muscle Beach, he and other bodybuilders would hang around with Steve, until Reeves decided which of his female admirers would accompany him that evening - afterwhich Gordon and the other men would try their luck.]

Monday, January 11, 2010


My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

THE BANG-BANG KID had already been cast with Guy Madison and Tom Bosley and would be directed by Stanley Prager. Again we had to use Italian actors to make up for the lack of Italian technicians. We chose a superative Italian actress, Sandra Milo, who was a Fellini star and well liked in her native land. She was a very pretty, buxom blonde with unquestionable talent, but she had absolutely no interest in doing her part in English.
Since Stanley was unable to communicate with her, I hired a special interpreter who did nothing but communicate to Sandra exactly what the director wanted her to do. For the part of Killer Kissick, we used Riccardo Garrone (who played the Mafia chief in MADIGAN), and he made Killer Kissick a most formidable caricature of all the bad men in Western history. Some of those Italian actors, like Riccardo, were remarkably talented, and I often wished that they could have spoken English; life would have been so much simpler.
THE BANG-BANG KID was almost director-proof. Tom Bosley had studied his role so well he needed no help from anyone. Since the robot dummy was to be his double, we made up plastic masks that allowed one of our stunt men to appear in those scenes where Tom was tinkering with the robot. The rest of the time, Tom played the robot as well as himself and he was great. THE BANG-BANG KID was a good script and was emerging as a funny picture.
With no cast or production problems, Stanley did not discern that he was not directing the picture. I was constantly on the set and unobtrusively rehearsing the actors in order to give him the time to work with the camera crew and set up his shots. The combination of Bosley, Madison, and that excellent cast worked magic, and we were getting excited about the film's potential. The picture finished one full week ahead of schedule and I couldn't understand why. We shot every page of the script in less time than that allotted by our production chief. We were, of course, pleased with the savings and went into editing. I thanked Stanley and sent him home early.
Meanwhile I was frantically trying to find a director for RAGAN. I was not about to do it myself, and I refused to use any of the available Italian and Spanish directors. Ty Hardin was in town enjoying himself at our expense and was in no hurry to go to work, so I looked around for someone who knew the American tempo.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Director Sergio Corbucci on Steve Reeves

Sergio Corbucci: Body-builder, winner of the Mr. Universe contest, Reeves had muscles like cornflour. For one scene, he couldn't even lift Virna Lisi between his arms, and she hardly weighed 50 kilos. For all his efforts he fell to the earth with his feet dragging behind. Gordon Scott, instead, had been one of the last to play Tarzan. An authentic sportsman, serious, healthy and to the contrary of Reeves - who was stupidity personified, very intelligent. On the professional level, these two hated each other and took care of their muscles with the same care that a woman takes of her body; perhaps even more so.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sidney prepares for the end of the deal with Westinghouse

My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

MADIGAN'S MILLIONS proved I made a mistake in signing Stanley Prager to a two-picture contract, but I was unable to get out of it. Stanley was a very sincere and lovable man, but he never learned how to use a camera or to really understand filming. On the stage he was great, and his own sense of timing gave him the ability to direct actors and action, but he was lost in a medium that uses cutting and close-ups to set the timing and pacing of comedy and drama. A movie director must know exactly what his next move will be in order to set a rhythm for his work. Some directors never learn that, and Stan was one of them. The enormity of my mistake in selecting Stanley Prager over Mike Nichols was amply demonstrated by the success of THE GRADUATE and other Mike Nichols films. MADIGAN'S MILLIONS was not one of our best efforts, and after THE BANG-BANG KID, Stanley never made another film.

[What is curious about Sidney's version of events is that THE GRADUATE was not Mike Nichols' first movie; he had made WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? the year before. Did Nichols make WOOLF after not getting MADIGAN'S MILLIONS and started casting THE GRADUATE in the time it took Pink to get MADIGAN made? Also, if you look on the Internet Movie Database you'll find someone thinks that Stanley Prager is a pseudonym for an Italian named Giorgio Gentili, even though they do list the American Stanley Prager as the director of numerous episodic TV shows - but not the director of his two Sidney Pink productions.]

Westinghouse got the undeserved benefit of Dustin Hoffman's name in their TV sales. A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS was a successful film, but Jeff Cooper turned out to be a dud. I don't know how Mitch got so sold on him in the first place.
Now we only had two more films left to finish the first leg of our new WBC deal. Meanwhile Pack was chafing at the bit and wanted to know what our future plans and scripts were going to be. It was time for me to return to New York and request a release from our contract...
Pack's involvement might have been possible prior to the Dustin Hoffman decision, but now I was totally unable to even enter into discussions with him...
With Westinghouse and Dick Pack I was unable to play the role of businessman. In dealing with them I became what I never liked in anyone else, temperamental. It is weird that I was able to recognize the desease, know the cure, but be completely unable to accomplish the sane thing. Pride goeth before the loss of a lot of money and is the major asset of fools. In any event, I determined to get out of the contract and the Gettinger office set about doing it.
Our first overtures were rebuffed, and we were told we had a contract that we were expected to fulfill. Arnold [Kopelson] politely reminded the WBC executives that their contract was with a corporation and not with me personally. If they insisted, we could just walk away or sell our stock to some other producer, and they would be unable to enforce it anyhow. An angry Dick Pack replied that we would be very sorry if we carried through with our decision, but he eventually realized there was no way he could legally or otherwise force me to make any more films. He then became vindictive, agreeing to permit us to cancel our contract only if we gave him permission to re-edit the films and remove my name from them. I still don't know why he wanted to do that, but at that point, I was so disgusted that it became a matter of no importance to me, so we agreed. When I completed THE BANG-BANG KID and RAGAN, I was through with Westinghouse after delivering nineteen pictures in a little over two years.

Friday, January 8, 2010

New Dollhouse tonight.

The title of the episode is "Getting Closer" which is appropriate as there will be only two more installments after this one airs.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bernardo Bertolucci on Italian Westerns

by Joseph Gelmis

This interview was held in Bertolucci's hotel suite with the assistance of Michele Barbieri, an interpreter, in the fall of 1968 at the sixth annual New York Film Festival.

G: Is it difficult for young Italian filmmakers to get financing because the Italian film industry is in trouble?

B: No, it's just the opposite. It's because the Italian industry doesn't have any problems. They won't risk any money. It's very established. "Ah, now we go western." We make a hundred westerns every year.

G: Isn't it possible for young filmmakers to work within that system and turn out an interesting western or gangster film, to make a few action films well and make a success so they can get the money for more personal films? It would still take less than four years in any case.

B: Yes, I can, I can. All the time the producers are asking me, "Why don't you make a western?" But I don't want to. Because I love westerns very much. The western means Howard Hawks and John Ford. It would be like asking John Ford to make a Pasolini film. The Italian westerns are not very good.

G: Even the Sergio Leone films?

B: Ah, Sergio Leone I like. But they are not westerns. They are something else. He is a very genial man. I wrote the first draft for the latest Leone film ONCE UPON A TIME...IN THE WEST.

G: The plot for that film sounds like a remake of UNION PACIFIC.

B: I was thinking of JOHNNY GUITAR, actually. Anyway, you know, that was a curious experience. My serious friends in Italy have accused me of selling out because I wrote for Sergio Leone, who is considered just a commercial moviemaker. But I worked for Leone because I admired him and thought it would be a good experience. And it was very educational. If Leone reads this, he will have to blush because the film had a $5,500,000 budget. I was paid $700 for a hundred page treatment, or $7 a page.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Back in Rome, the fighting began again as soon as my absence was noted. This time, Stanley tried to direct Dustin in how he wanted a tender moment with Elsa to be played. Dustin wanted no part of that and repeatedly played it his own way until, in total frustration, Stanley closed the set to await my return. Again we lost another day of work.
When I arrived at the set and found it closed, I was as angry as I have ever been. I rued the day I first saw Dustin Hoffman, and I could find no solution other than to finish the picture as best I could and get him out of our sight. By my constant presence and supervision of the set, we were able to get back the three days we were behind and finish our principal photography.
Dustin was still committed to another two weeks of dubbing in the studio. He was at the hotel awaiting his first call when I received a phone call from Mike Nichols. Mike was familiar with Dustin's work, but he wanted to know whether I felt Dustin was good enough to play the lead role in a picture he had signed to do for Joe Levine, THE GRADUATE. He explained the demands of the part and asked if I felt Dustin could play it. Disgusted as I was with the unprofessional way in which he acted with us, I had to tell Mike that in my opinion Dustin was so talented I honestly felt there wasn't a role written he couldn't play, then jokingly even Joan Crawford! Later events and TOOTSIE proved how right I was!
Mike asked if I would release Dustin for about ten days so he could fly back to California to test for the part. I told Mike we needed Dustin for dubbing in Rome for another two weeks, then I could release him. But Mike needed him immediately in order to close his casting and meet the start deadline imposed by Joe Levine. He added he would be personally responsible for Dustin's return to Rome to complete our work.
I told Mike that my experience with Dustin made me almost positive he would not return, but Mike insisted he would guarantee it. Against my better judgment, I let Dustin leave. I was right; Dustin never came back, and Mike was forced to pay for the studio, the dubbing crew, and Mitch Grayson's fare and expenses to do the work in Hollywood. Dustin was most uncooperative about even doing that, and Mitch had a rough time finishing. I never heard from Dustin again, nor did he ever attempt to help make the picture better or more playable.
I have never before voiced any of this but I think I am entitled to tell the story now. I recognize and appreciate Dustin Hoffman's great talent, but we did not deserve the treatment he accorded us. We gave him his start in motion pictures; we gave him the opportunity to appear in THE GRADUATE; and we paid him for his best efforts, which we never received. When our picture was released after THE GRADUATE had opened, his only comments were destructive. He disowned the picture by stating he was forced into doing this lousy European stinker. I wonder what his excuse is for ISHTAR, his bomb with Warren Beatty. I have never known anyone who was as ungrateful, but I still wish I had secured that three-picture option.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gianetto di Rossi on Henry Fonda

Gianetto di Rossi (Makeup): Henry Fonda has the patience of a Carthusian monk, a quality he shares with a great many American and English actors. For certain scenes in the film he had to be made up to look thirty years younger. In addition to all the other makeup, I applied four layers of extremely rigid skin-tightener. He was very satisfied when Sergio Leone, encountering him on the set, greeted him without recognizing him. That evening, several layers of skin came off with the makeup. Well, the next morning he ordered me to make him up exactly the same way, and for love of the character, he endured this species of torture without complaining.

Monday, January 4, 2010


My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

Just before we left for Rome to start MADIGAN'S MILLIONS, Mitch Grayson phoned me from Hollywood with news he had signed a contract for the development of the AUGIE MARCH script. MGM had budgeted $25,000 for the project but totally refused to discuss Stephen Spielberg as the director and co-scripter. Mitch was very upset since he felt about Stephen as I had felt about Dustin. But he announced he had found the perfect lead for A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS, Jeff Cooper. He was so damned excited you would think he had found another Tyrone Power. I authorized him to sign Jeff Cooper to a multi-picture contract with options, but the only real commitment was for $1,000 a week for the eight weeks of NIGHTS.
Mitch returned five days later with his future star in tow and took personal charge of the production of the film. I assigned the director to Jose Maria Elorietta and my son Philip took the role of assistant to the producer. We shipped that crew down to Granada and NIGHTS became the first movie permitted to shoot in the Alhambra palace of the Moors. The picture was in production simultaneously with MADIGAN, so I received progress reports nightly from Philip by telephone since I was unable to leave the set in Rome.
That was a hairy time for us. MADIGAN was not going well as Dustin was a time bomb held in check only by my constant presence on the set, and my son's reports on the progress in Granada were troublesome. Despite my discussions with him, Mitch hadn't learned how to work with Elorietta, who as usual began drinking more and more until it got to where he started early in the morning. In only three weeks, they were behind schedule by eight days, and the find of the century, Jeff Cooper, was as clumsy as he was unphotogenic. I now had two potential disasters on my hands and was unable to do much about it. But since my problem in Granada seemed easiest to remedy, I flew there on an overnight milk flight from Rome. I arrived in the middle of the night, was met by my son, and went to our hotel headquarters.
The next morning I looked at some footage, and Jeff Cooper was worse than I thought. He had two left feet, and his sword fighting and acrobatics made him look like Grandma Moses without her paintbrushes. I called Mitch and Elorietta together and laid down the law. Elorietta had to stop drinking immediately, and Mitch was to stop interfering with the direction of the picture. He was production head, and his only responsibility was to see that Elorietta got everything he needed and stayed on budget and on schedule. I told them they had to make up the lost time or I would replace them. Elorietta knew me well enough to know that I not only meant it but that I was perfectly capable of taking over the direction myself. He agreed to stay sober if I would keep Mitch out of the artistic end and allow Elorietta to run the set as he had always done. We all agreed, although Mitch pouted childishly at losing face in his debut as producer.
I arranged for construction of the palace interiors in the Madrid studios so we could get off that expensive location. It is always much cheaper to work in the studio, even with the cost of constructing the sets and the studio rental. Control lies in your hands and you can shoot twenty-four hours a day if you wish. Lighting is easier, crews are smaller, and the cost of maintaining a crew away from home can become a major expense. I left Granada satisfied we could bring the film in on budget. I instructed Elorietta to use a double in every action scene of our hero and use Jeff only for close-ups, and that is how it finished.
[With this portrait of Jeff Cooper as physcially incompetent, the mystery of why he was cast opposite David Carradine in CIRCLE OF IRON, a film originally developed for Bruce Lee, deepens.]

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Kirk Douglas on SPARTACUS

90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning
by Kirk Douglas

Dalton Trumbo was one of the Hollywood Ten who received a one-year jail sentence. At the time, my production company, the Bryna Company, was producing SPARTACUS with backing from Universal Pictures. The book had been written by Howard Fast, who was also under scrutiny by McCarthy's committee. We had an all-star cast for this epic: Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov, Charles Laughton, Jean Simmons, and Tony Curtis. I played the part of Spartacus, a slave in Roman times who led a revolt against the emperor. I'm ashamed to admit that I joined the hypocrites by employing Dalton Trumbo secretly to write the script under the pseudonym of Sam Jackson.
Since he was not allowed to come to the studio, we would meet like thieves in the night at his house. He usually received us while soaking in the bathtub, with a parrot - a gift from me - perched on his shoulder. He wrote a wonderful script and we were in the middle of making a fantastic picture.
Our director, Anthony Mann, was a very nice guy whom the studio insisted on using. I was against it. A few weeks into the picture, the studio said, "Kirk, you were right. Fire Anthony Mann." That was very difficult for me but I did it. I felt that I owed him something, though, and a few years later I acted in a picture under his direction, THE HEROES OF TELEMARK.
It was the end of the week. Here was one of the biggest-budget pictures in Hollywood history shooting without a director. Then I heard that Marlon Brando was starring in ONE-EYED JACKS, which was being directed by Stanley Kubrick. Marlon fired Stanley and took over the direction himself. (He did a good job, too.) In a minute I was on the phone with Stanley and during the weekend arranged for him to become the new director of SPARTACUS...
Then the question came up as to what name we should use on the screen for the screenwriter. I felt awkward using "Sam Jackson". It was so hypocritical. Our country was in danger of losing one of our freedoms. Talented people were not allowed to use their names because McCarthy had spread such a veil of suspicion over them. What would happen next? It made me feel unclean.
I talked with my producer, Eddie Lewis, and Stanley. Stanley suggested, "Put my name on the screen as the writer."
I was shocked. "Stanley," I asked, "wouldn't you feel funny taking credit for a script you had nothing to do with?"
"I'm only trying to help you out," he answered.
I looked at Eddie and saw disgust in his face.
That night, in bed, I couldn't get it off my mind. I had to make a decision. I slapped the bed and Banshee [Kirk's dog.] jumped up and lay down next to me. I stroked his back - I could almost hear him purr. "Banshee," I asked, "how would you like to be called Rover? Here, Rover!"
Banshee looked at me quizzically.
I smiled and went to sleep. I had made my decision.
At the studio the next morning, I told Eddie and Stanley, "I've decided to use Dalton Trumbo's name on the screen."
Eddie smiled at me with approval. He was always against the blacklist.
Stanley looked at me, said, "You must be crazy," and left the room.
Eddie and I were stunned, but I was determined to put "Written by Dalton Trumbo" on the screen for the first time in ten years.
The next day I invited Dalton to the studio. I left a pass for him at the gate. He looked at Eddie and me and said with a wry smile, "This is the first time I have been in a studio in ten years. Thanks for giving me back my name."
It was the most important decision that I made in my career. We never held a press conference, but word got out. People said I had ruined my career, that I would never work again. Otto Preminger called from New York, quite upset, He was directing EXODUS, which Dalton Trumbo had also written under an assumed name. In his German accent he said, "Vat are you doing? Are you crazy? Don't do dat!"
I answered, "Otto, it's done."
He hung up the phone. Soon he held a press conference to announce that he would give credit to Dalton Trumbo as the writer of EXODUS. Otto was a smart producer. He didn't want to be caught using a nom de plume for Dalton Trumbo when I was using Trumbo's real name.
When SPARTACUS was released there were lots of reactions, both positive and negative: "Kirk, you're a hero." "Kirk, you're a shmuck!" "What's the matter, don't want to work in this town anymore?" Hedda Hopper, an important columnist at the time, lambasted me: "...from a book written by a Commie and the screen script written by a Commie, so don't go to see it."
A few people wrote threatening letters, but the sky didn't fall in. The blacklist was broken. And the movie was a success.
I can't think of anything in my life that made me more proud. Sometimes you just have to be the person your dog thinks you are.

[Of course Spartacus didn't revolt against the emperor. At the time of SPARTACUS, Rome was still a republic ruled by the Senate, as depicted in the movie. Rome's first emperor, Julius Caesar, appeared as a young officer in SPARTACUS - many years before his rise to power. - The usual story regarding the direction of SPARTACUS was that Douglas wanted Stanley Kubrick, with whom he had made PATHS OF GLORY, while Universal wanted Anthony Mann, with whom they had made a series of successful Westerns starring James Stewart. The usual way the story went was that after a week Douglas finally succeeded in getting Mann replaced by Kubrick, but in this telling Douglas refuted that perspective. Also some disputed Douglas' claim to have broken the Hollywood blacklist because Otto Preminger announced that he was crediting Dalton Trumbo for EXODUS. Here, Douglas established a timeline showing his action was first, and that Preminger followed but with a press conference.]

Saturday, January 2, 2010


My Life As An Independent Film Producer
by Sidney Pink

I returned to Madrid with all pictures cast, all production preparations in the works, and determined I was through with Westinghouse. Dick Pack was obviously aware I was up to something by the deaf ear I turned to his suggestions and my refusal to return his calls. Jay Shears told him I was making no further plans beyond RAGAN, the last script and cast approved by them. Mitch was receiving daily calls from Dick pleading to be told what we were up to, but to protect Mitch, I kept him in the dark about my future plans.
Mitch informed me he was on the verge of a deal with MGM who would advance the money to develop a script on AUGIE MARCH. He met a young director he felt had the sensitivity to bring the novel to the screen, and he would most likely not stay with us until the last picture of our present schedule was completed. He requested two weeks off to go to L.A. and discuss the deal with MGM and to conclude something with that talented young director, Stephen Spielberg. I agreed, offering to pay for his trip if he could find a promising leading man for A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS.
[Of course, the talented young director is usually known as Steven Spielberg.]
Using our Italian company Domino Films as the official producer, we prepared a five-week shooting schedule for MADIGAN'S MILLIONS in Rome and hired a completely Italian crew with the exception of Macasoli, who was director of photography (the fancy new title the guild had dreamed up for the cameraman). We required a scratch track in sync with the film to make our dubbing job more acceptable. Most Italian actors couldn't speak English, so if we didn't have a soundtrack to guide us, we could never accomplish the quality demanded by American and British audiences. We spent five weeks fruitlessly trying to teach an Italian crew to stay silent while we were shooting, but we did manage to record enough to accomplish the job.
We brought Dustin to Madrid first to establish how the main character should be played, and it didn't take long to find out how unpleasant Dustin was to work with. I wish I could say nice things about him, but in our midst he was nothing but a pain: loud, constantly complaining, and always ready to pick a fight with Stanley Prager, whom he considered totally incompetent. Most of the crew considered Dustin obnoxious, and although they recognized his undeniable talent, his attitude often got in the way...
Those five weeks were pure misery. I had to remain close by every day in order to make certain there would be no repeat of the fracas I had seen develop. We had some very good Italian actors on the set, including Riccardo Garrone who played a comedy gangster in real style, and he was a joy to watch. His scenes with Dustin were truly funny, the only bright spots in what should have been a fun picture.
We were unable to get a date from George Raft when he would be available to shoot his part... The sequence could easily be shot in two mornings, but not without George Raft.
There must be some truth in the axiom that the good Lord keeps an eye on children, drunks, and fools, because I found my way out only after the gloom of despair had almost turned me into gelatin. I was pondering a sudden exile to China when I suddenly remembered I had a friend in Hollywood who could possibly get us out of this mess. Cesar Romero had told me that if I ever needed him and he was available, I could count on him.
My urgent plea for help on a desperate long-distance phone call gave Cesar the opportunity to prove again what a compassionate and warm human being is. He was the savior for my "sick flick". Cesar agreed to do it and didn't even ask, "How much?" He came to Rome on a weekend and did such a marvelous job that his performance stands out as the highlight of an otherwise lackluster picture. It proves that a man is judged by his deeds and not his doubts. This is why to this very day, Cesar Romero (now nearly eighty) is still very popular and still working; his class stands out as a beacon for others to follow.
The difference between Cesar Romero and the Dustin Hoffman we knew was as stark as black versus white. The memories Dustin left with us were sick and sorry.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Kirk Douglas on Elsa Martinelli

by Kirk Douglas

I was very pleased with the cast we assembled for INDIAN FIGHTER, except for the lead of the Indian girl. We thought it would be easy to get somebody who fit the part. It was impossible. Every girl we auditioned seemed to be just some little starlet with a feather stuck on her head.
Then one day, Anne was looking through Vogue magazine. There was a shot of an Italian girl - long dark hair, dark eyes - coming up out of the water soaking wet, a man's shirt clinging to her voluptuous body. Anne said, "This girl would make a fantastic Indian." She did look terrific. We tracked her down - a model named Elsa Martinelli. She was in New York, just arrived from Rome. And she was going with Oleg Cassini. I had to laugh at the way Oleg kept popping in and out of my life. When I met Gene Tierney, she was just being divorced from Oleg. When I met Irene Wrightsman in Palm Springs, she was with Oleg. Now, I try to get Elsa Martinelli, and here's Oleg.
So I talked to Oleg. He said, "She hardly speaks any English, and that with a terrible Italian accent." I looked at her picture. She looked like a beautiful Indian girl to me. Besides, how does an Indian girl talk? Precisely what is an Indian accent, and how many people have ever heard a real one? And how bad could Elsa's accent be? I called her in New York, and told her who I was.
"No, no beeleeva you, no beeleeva you." She had just come back from seeing 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, and thought somebody was playing a joke on her.
I said, "Really, I am Kirk Douglas, and I want you to come out and test for a part in a movie I'm making."
"No, no. You no Keeka Doogalas."
I didn't know what the hell to do.
Then she had an idea. "You Keeka Doogalas, you singa da song inna da movie."
Over the telephone, I had to audition for Elsa Martinelli, three thousand miles away. I started to sing, " 'Gotta whale of a tale to tell you, lads.' "
Elsa started to shriek. "Dio mio! Keerka Doogalas! Keeka Doogalas!"
I arranged for her to come out to California to test. She was gorgeous and had a wonderful gamine quality that was perfect for the part. She had the potential to become a big star. I put her under contract to Bryna for several pictures. We gave her only about a page and a half of dialogue, never more than a couple of words at a time. She was a big hit in the picture, got a lot of publicity, including the cover of Life magazine.
People were after her. She was getting movie offers, became very impatient at the chance to make more money than I was paying her. I kept saying, "Elsa, if you are patient, I will make you a big star." I wanted her to play the female lead in a book I had just bought - SPARTACUS. But it was a big project, and would take time to set up. Elsa kept hounding me, saying I was holding her down because I had her under contract. Finally I thought, the hell with it. I said, "I don't make my money by putting people under contract. You're too much trouble. Here! You're free!" I tore up the contract.
After that, she did some bad pictures that went nowhere and did her no good. She was very unhappy, and realized that maybe I could help her with her career. She wanted to come back and be under contract to me.
I said, "O.K., Elsa, how much money are you going to pay me?"
"Whadda you mean?"
"How much money will you pay me if I put you under contract?"
She said, "No, no, no. You supposed to pay me."
"Oh no, Elsa. You're too much trouble. If you want me to put you under contract, you have to pay me."
And that was the end of my contract with Elsa Martinelli.