Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rodd on Amerigo Anton

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
Video WatcHDog No.143 Sep 2008

It would only ve a matter of time before you would find yourself in the Spaghetti Western genre.
My agent had a friend, Amerigo Anton [real name: Tonio Boccia], who was putting together a Western script. He asked me to read it and give him some reliable feedback, since he knew I was born and raised in the "vero-ouest" [the true West]. I never told him I thought the script was awful but, after a couple of sit-downs, he asked if I would like to the do the lead. I said, "Sure," and that was that. I don't know if you've seen KILL OR BE KILLED, but as bad as it is, it was a lot of fun [to make]. After that Amerigo called my agent and said he had another script, this time a dark-psychological Western [GOD DOES NOT PAY ON SATURDAY, 1967], and asked if she would let me play the heavy in it. She said I was off in Tunisia doing a film, but she would ask when I returned. When I got back, she let me read the script (which, again, I thought was awful) but, since I had never played a vengeance hungry killer, I said, "Why not?"
I played the part of Randall, one of the gang of bad hombres, who is shot in a bank robbery escape and left by his friends for dead. However, in the end he returns, dressed in black, to avenge his betrayal... ho hum, and more ho hum... and he is at last permanently dispatched by the good ole good-guy played by my friend Larry Ward. This was just another long, long party, and Amerigo was a real character, right out of Fellini's SATYRICON. He was always trying to get some lady into the proverbial sack and behaved like he thought he was Cecil B. DeMille, at the very least. He even wore the tweeds and jodhpurs with the glossy red leather boots to work, but we all loved him.

[Richard Harrison worked with Amerigo Anton on a film called LA LUNGA CAVALCATA DELLA VENDETTA, aka THE LONG RIDE TO VENGEANCE, which Anton told Richard that he had written. Richard called that into question by noting that his script was the same script Richard had made a few years prior under the title JOKO INVOCA DIO... E MUORI, aka VENGEANCE; a script credited to Antonio Margheriti. So, Anton rearranged the order of the scenes in LONG RIDE and went ahead with the production. By the way, GOD DOES NOT PAY ON SATURDAY is now available on DVD from Wild East on a double-bill with KILL OR BE KILLED under the title KILL THE WICKED.]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Franco Giraldi on the death of the Italian Western

Franco Giraldi: The Western became bloated and buried through the abuse our productions had inflicted on it, by the nearly endless series of half-baked entertainments that almost immediately started to pop out of the oven. And it was a great shame, because more than anything, the Western is a magnificent vessel which one can fill with an infinity of things; from Greek tragedy to Shakespearian drama to psychology, everything, everything. And furthermore, it's the quintessence of cinema in its innocent state. Within its parameters, with its solitary heroes, its elemental conflicts, one could have worked numerous fine variations, and in my opinion, have come up with well-made commercial product that would never bore the public, and at times be expressively made. Its demise was just the latest crime of our production system...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shavelson on shooting in Naples

by Melville Shavelson

Before the company made its hegira from Rome to Naples, an Italian friend had inquired, Who was our Company Thief? While we felt there were several in our employ we didn't think they cared to be identified by title; but our friend complained we didn't understand. Every motion picture company going to Naples hires a Company Thief. He saves incalculable shooting time. Obviously, in Naples our equipment was going to be stolen, and since the Naples thieves' market is moved constantly to avoid the carabinieri, only a bonafide Thief in good standing would know exactly where it was every minute. Thus he could quickly buy back, at quite reasonable rates, our lenses, cameras, and whatever else of our equipment had disappeared during the balmy Neapolitan night, thereby reducing delays and costs to a minimum.
Obviously, we needed someone fast, efficient, and reliable, and our friend could heartily recommend a Thief with excellent references from both MGM and Warner Bros. (NOTE: I hasten to mention that, although in subsequent years both MGM and Warner Bros. have been in considerable financial difficulties, these difficulties had nothing to do with our Thief. Right is right.) We hired him on the spot.
I must say he proved invaluable. There was never any delay in getting back any of our equipment that had mysteriously disappeared, and on several occasions he returned equipment to us that hadn't even been stolen. He did such an excellent job that at the end of shooting I presented him with my watch, although I wasn't aware of it until later.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Rodd on some of his female co-stars.

Spela Rozin as she appears in TESTA O CROCE, aka HEADS OR TAILS.

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
Video WatcHDog No. 143 Sep 2008

HANDLE WITH CARE [1967] was another spy film.
That was a ball to make. The gal who played the femme fatale, Spela Rozin, was a gal-pal at the time, and we had a lot of fun filming in Spain and Tunisia. She was from Yugoslavia and we did some traveling in her country. Luisa Rivelli was a good friend and run to work with, also. It was just a down-and-out great group of people to work and play with. In the Italian cut, there is a long sequence in which I run all over Sidi Busaid, Tunisia, in bathing trunks. Don't know why they cut this out of the English-dubbed version, but a friend in Rome says that many of these films were bought for later circulation in Muslim countries, and they might not have approved of a half-naked American male running from the bad guys through Tuniaian markets. So some of the scene got trimmed for international release.
Being around so many lovely actresses during this period, did you date any of them?
I suppose, like all actors, when you are thrown into constant contact and relative short and fast intimate relationships, you have the occasional fling. For the most part, my romances were with people far removed from the cinema, with the exception of my co-star in SICARRIO 77, Alicia Brandette. We were very close for quite a while - for many years, in fact.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shavelson on shooting in Naples.

by Melville Shavelson

It was in Italy that I first decided to combine a pleasant European vacation at Paramount Pictures' expense with the leisurely shooting of a technicolor bonbon entitled (by someone who insisted on remaining anonymous) IT STARTED IN NAPLES.
The scene: Ext. Naples Railway Station, Day. Characters: Clark Gable, Vittorio De Sica. CAMERA PULLS BACK ahead of them as they cross through the throng outside the station, uttering brilliant dialogue by Jack Rose and your humble servant. BANG. CRASH. THUMP. A huge crane with a tremendous iron ball at the end of a steel cable is destroying the railway station immediately behind the camera where I am attempting to direct the actors. It seems that, almost twenty years after the end of World War II, the station has been declared unsafe because of bomb damage and is to be torn down. Today. CRASH. SMASH. THUD.
Of course, the workmen will stop the destruction while we shoot the scene - for a consideration in the neighborhood of half a million lire. As the iron ball swings closer and closer, I roughly calculate the dialogue remaining to be shot, the possibility of getting it in one take, the proximity of the steel ball, and the fact that my life insurance has lapsed. To Gable and De Sica I suggest they pick up the tempo just a bit - we don't want it to drag, do we? - and as the camera starts to roll, the Naples railway terminal disintegrates behind us, faster and faster, until the shot is completed in just under fifty seconds, everyone leaps out of the way, and we leave for our next location - and more tsouris - on the island of Capri.
One month later, returning from Capri, I visited the station again. The iron ball was still suspended in mid-air. Not one stone of the building had been touched since the moment I shouted, "Cut!" and ran for cover. For all I know the Naples railway station still stands, waiting shakily for World War III, intact except for a collapsed portion reaching from forty feet behind the camera position to the point where The King had uttered the last line of the brilliant dialogue.

[As I didn't know what it meant, I looked up "tsouris" and found it to be a Yiddish word for "trouble" or "distress". Younger readers who have grown up with "The King" meaning Elvis Presley ("The King of Rock 'n' Roll") may not know that Clark Gable was known as "The King of Hollywood".]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Serge Nubret on his film career.

Serge Nubret: As a bodybuilder, I won the Mister Universe contest, and one day in the gym (in France), there arrived two men who were looking for a black athlete to appear in ARRIVANO I TITANI (aka SONS OF THUNDER, aka MY SON THE HERO), and it seemed as if I had impressed them. They presented me in front of (Alexander) Mnouchkine in the production offices. I took off my shirt and Mnouchkine said, "Great!"
A few days after that, I went to Rome to do a screen test, and spent three months there and three in Spain for the interiors. As soon as I arrived, I met Giuliano Gemma, the hero of the film, with whom I rehearsed for several weeks on the fight between Rator and Crios. He was a gymnast, who could do all the exercises. He had never done cinema either, but, like all the Italians, he had been an extra several times. His hair was bleached for the film. So finally I made my entry onto the set of the Vides production; a rather intimidating experience.
In the first scene that I filmed, I had to smash a stool on the head of a soldier. In the environment of a (flimsy) set built for the production, I think it was solid enough to be used over again.
(Duccio) Tessari, the director, seemed to me a cordial man, nice, eccentric in his behavior and mode of dress. He always laughed. The crew was very nice and helped me as much as they could. I think, though, that an assistant of Tessari helped me for other motives: he almost fainted when I stripped off for the first time, and then he always had to accompany me to the hotel in his car. I hardly saw the principal actors, we had few scenes with them, and then there was a kind of discrimination between them and me and Gemma. The general players instead were very brotherly. They have become accustomed to doing all the ancient films, and it's their specialty. With them I didn't feel an unpleasant impression of being half-naked amongst clothed people.
We filmed the fight in Madrid, which by now we had committed to memory. Fighting with Gemma was a pleasure, he was a friend, an equal. With him, there was no rivalry like that which seemed to exist amongst American bodybuilders, who tell tales when their partner has bigger muscles than their's.
I went to Rome again to do the final scenes, where all the faces around us had changed, a great confusion. And then I returned to France with my 80,000 francs of profit above my expenses. Then I went back to Italy another time to do a film with Gordon Scott, but without half the quality of the first; another thing entirely. A tiny film, something unbelievable. It's a wonder that people would go to see such a thing. A few weeks of work, a single take for each shot, even when some technician said that it hadn't worked. Gordon Scott made two films of this type simultaneously, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. I think that (in a situation like this) the film crews can't help making mistakes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rodd sees KILL OR BE KILLED in India.

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
VideoWatcHDog No. 143 Sep 2008

Who were some of the voice actors and actresses working in Italy at that time?
The greats were Tony LaPenna (who did most of the four-ball voices for the '60s greats) and Frank Latimore, who did Steve Reeves' voice in one of the films I dubbed; Bill Kuehl, who went on to be one of the big voices in the history of the business. I don't think any of these guys are still with us. There was Roland Bartrop, Mel Welles, Mel Gaines, Dan Sturkie, all deceased; Bill Conti, who did the ROCKY score, even did a few stints in the sala in those years when he was a struggling musician studying composition at some music academy in Rome while playing piano at clubs to support his wife and family. There was also Tony Russel (who was also President of ELDA, the English Language Dubbers Association), Roger Browne, Ed Mannix, Chuck Harrison, Chuck Howerton, Ted Rusoff, Bob Spatford, and so many others whose names just don't come to me at the moment. Among the great ladies were Jodean Russo (Tony Russel's ex-wife), Susan Miller (Bob Spatford's wife), Carolyn De Fonseca (now married to Ted Rusoff), Carol Danell, Pat Starke, Sara Collingswood and, again, so many I just can't bring to mind.
I dubbed every film I was in, with the exception of my role in GOD DOES NOT PAY ON SATURDAY in which I was dubbed by Paul Muller. I was in San Francisco doing MY FAIR LADY that summer and they just wouldn't let me do the dubbing over the phone [laughs]! All of my Italian films were dubbed into Italian, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Danish.
In 1983, in New Delhi, I even saw KILL OR BE KILLED dubbed in Hindi. I was with friends one day and one of them happened to be involved in the Indian film industry. He turned to me at one point and said, "I must ask you, my friend. I saw a movie last evening and there is an Italian actor who looks so much like you that it might be your karmic double." When he told me the English title, I wondered if I should really tell him. I was masquerading as my newest life-persona, Jon Christian Eagle, in that period, yet one of the ladies with us knew that at one point in my past I had been an actor. She pressed me into admitting it was me. Well, in spite of my objections, I was dragged kicking and protesting to see Robert Mark, the Italian cowboy, reciting his lines in impeccable Hindi with a north-Urdu accent. It was an awful film to begin with, but to see myself spouting Hindi, I couldn't help it and enjoyed the hour-and-a-half in spite of myself. Never laughed so hard in my life. Everybody in the theater kept shushing me. What an experience! And here I sat, beard and Turban, looking every inch the Western holy-man, laughing wildly over a serious adult Western. I absolutely scandalized my Indian friends, but we had a great laugh about it afterwards.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sergio Corbucci on some of his stars.

Sergio Corbucci: I don't know why some dictionaries give me VIVA LA MUERTE TUA (LONG LIVE YOUR DEATH, aka DON'T TURN THE OTHER CHEEK). The film is Duccio Tessari's.
He accepted it at the last moment. In fact I was supposed to do it with Franco Nero, but I didn't like the title. It had an ill-omened ring to it, and I wasn't wrong: the film didn't earn a lira.
I borrowed Tessari's favorite actor, Giuliano Gemma, for a Western called IL BIANCO, IL GIALLO, IL NERO (THE WHITE THE YELLOW AND THE BLACK, aka SAMURAI), putting him side by side with (Tomas) Milian and (Eli) Wallach; three giants!
Eli Wallach was born with the Western. Both Leone and I called him up after seeing him play the bad guys in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. He knew how to ride a horse, he was an great actor and an excellent collaborator, always a little surprised by the way Italians worked. From the start, he was taken aback by never knowing what he was going to say till the very last minute, and then he learned that with us the lines were the last things we write, and he adapted. He was stingy when it came to food, however; in the evening he brought a little lunch pail to his hotel room and ate there so he wouldn't spend money!
Gemma? According to me, Gemma is one of hte noblest actors of the '60s generation; a very serious lad who did everything himself without doubles or stuntmen. And he remained himself, with that fine face of his, so open, reflecting exactly what's in his soul. I only did one film with him, but I'd work with him anytime for free because he's a serious person in his life as well as his work; someone you can trust.
Telly Savalas is Greek. He has this half-friendly half-mean looking face. When we worked together he was hung up on the ladies. He had to have two or three around him at a time, he said, or he didn't feel up to par. We shot J&S CRONACHE CRIMINALI DEL FAR WEST (SONNY AND JED), a film that didn't do well, but is one of my best. Tomas Milian and Susan George were in it, and even Laura Betti. It was an offbeat story that didn't work out I believe because "She" was in it. The woman. It's very difficult trying to do something truly new, giving the woman the same importance as the man if not more, since, as we know, women only play marginal roles in Westerns. Even so, I chose George for this, who was famous in America and England. I wanted to do a BONNIE AND CLYDE type story, and, in my opinion, I succeeded. The film was very good and very romantic, but the public for Westerns wouldn't accept it, and it was a fiasco.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Duccio Tessari on Cottafavi and Giulano Gemma

Duccio Tessari: With Cottafavi, I very much enjoyed writing the initial scene of the reunion of the four kings in ERCOLE ALLA CONQUISTA DI ATLANTIDE: (Gian Maria) Volonte, (Enrico Maria) Salerno, (Giancarlo) Sbragia and (Ivo) Garrani. It was at the time that the four had put together a Company of Associated Actors and gave us "Sacco e Vanzetti" (on stage). We were all good friends and one wished to give a helping hand to their group, which clearly wasn't awash with gold. I gave their names to Cottafavi for the scene of the kings. Then I spoke to Sbragia, advising that with these four in place on the film, their pay would be good enough to resolve their existential problems for the next couple of months, and likewise for the other in the cooperative. So the matter came to fruition, and an amusing scene came out of it, with these neurotic kings in a parliment not too different from ours.
I had chosen (Giuliano) Gemma for a tiny role in MESSALINA VENERE IMPERATRICE (MESSALINA, 1960), that of the beheaded man. In the sense that he was beheaded off-screen and then Messalina, during the banquet sequence, lifts the lid of a tray and finds his head beneath it. He was forced to stay in this position all day with a tray that had been built around his neck, and on which they had placed strips of cow meat to make the edges less clean and the effect more realistic, whilst underneath the rest of him was dressed as a fireman because, as soon as he had completed the scene, he was obliged to represent the vigilant body of firefighters who were attached to miliary service.
Gemma had struck me with his good character and patience. However, after MESSALINA, I totally forgot about him, up to a morning four years later, when I ran into him by chance while I wandered betweent he market stalls of Porta Portese in search of Gramophone records. At the time I was completing the auditions for ARRIVANO I TITANI (aka SONS OF THUNDER, aka MY SON THE HERO). I wanted him, (Franco) Cristaldi was undecided, and I had to perform a small opera of convincing arguments before I was able to offer Gemma the role. Then Gemma again disappeared from my horizon, and I made several other films but without finding too much success, until three years later, after I had written PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS), it came into my head to do a Western and I took him on as my protagonist.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rodd works as a dubber.

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
VideoWatcHDog No. 143 Sep 2008

How did you get involved in the dubbing end of the business?
While working on CLEOPATRA, somebody heard my voice and said, "Boy, you ought to look into dubbing." A gal-pal from Australia insisted I go along to a test for a new project a few days later, and I scored the lead antagonist, played on film by Jacques Sernas, in a Steve Reeves sword and sandal film. I seemed to have a knack for "sync" and had fun doing it. That was the start; over the next ten years, I dubbed over 360 Italian, Spanish, German, French, Japanese and Indian films. By 1967, Dan Sturkie and I were being touted as being the highest-paid "dubbers" in Europe. I don't know if this was so, but I made some good money at it and met a lot of great people.
How does the whole process of dubbing a film unfold? For instance, how do they cast the voices? And how many times must the voice actor watch the movie as it is being dubbed?
First of all, there are what are called "voice tests," when dozens of people try-out for different characters by standing before a podium, watching a small strip of film called a "loop," until they think they have the sync, or synchronization with the actor's mouth, labials, fricatives, etc. - and hopefully the inflections that portray what it looks like the actor is attempting to depict. Then you try it; sometimes many, many times. Getting the synchronization of lip movements and vowel sounds, especially fricatives - where the lips and teeth can be seen coming into contact - was damn near impossible on Japanese films, where the movement of the lips hardly lends itself to English. The Japanese don't move their mouths like we in the occidental do at all, and they have so few fricatives or "M" (as in mother) sounds to lip shapes - very difficult if not impossible to dub convincingly.
Some people find syncing next to impossible and others adept with ease. You have undoubtedly seen dubbed films in which the "M"s, "P"s and "B"s don't even come close to matching the lip movements of the original. Sometimes you have a director like the late, great Nick Alexander, who would actually spend the time (sometimes 50 to 60 takes) to get a line letter-perfect, then others who take anything they can just to get it into the can and move on to the next job. Gene Luotto was one of those directors I loved to work with, because he would not settle for anything mediocore. It was either right or you just didn't get out of the sala doppiaggio [dubbing salon] until it was.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cottafavi on Hercules.

Vittorio Cottafavi: Ridicule is one of the elements of love. If something is not loved one cannot make fun of it. That today Hercules seems a little bit ridiculous is a fact, even though at the time of the Greeks and Romans he was certainly not ridiculous. Let's look at the legends: this is the son of a god, a powerful being, who was forced to clean the shit from the Augean stables. That's a little bit ridiculous, no? Therefore perhaps we could amuse ourselves a little bit. Secondly: he was a true hero, but with an everyday life. I liked the fact that, in ERCOLE ALLA CONQUISTA DI ATLANTIDE (HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS, aka HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN), he doesn't ever have any desire to fight. Also in LA VENDETTA DI ERCOLE (THE VENGEANCE OF HERCULES, aka GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON) there were many amusing things. All the feats of strength that he did, substituting himself for the beasts of burden, demolishing a tree all alone that four oxen were not able to budge. Hercules was a man of serious goals and good humor, but humor in a sense of justice. Not an Asterix, but rather part of a certain tradition. One of us. Whereas (in Westerns) a sheriff is perhaps someone with whom we could identify, but is much more distant from us. I have the feeling that Hercules is a character that we know intimately. A friend. In ERCOLE ALLA CONQUISTA DI ATLANTIDE, we have also employed elements of science fiction: for example the idea that the blood of Uranus, murdered by his son, falls to the Earth and forms uranium!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rodd is contaminated.

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
Video WatcHDog No. 143 Sept. 2008

OPERATION WHITE SHARK was one of the first of many European James Bond copycats.
It was the first of some laughable spy films, that's for sure, and it was my introduction to Pippo Ratti and the insane world of 1960s filmmaking in Italy! I had done a series of TV commercials with Brunella Tocci, Miss Italy of 1955, so I was fairly accustomed to their rather polemic way of dealing with the everyday crises that come up during filming. But, on this nutty film, there was a fight each day twixt producers, director and writers, and a party every night - just to cool everybody out after the madness of the day! It probably took three months to film, and we were all over Italy and several spots on the coast of Yugoslavia. I think I was 29 or 30 years old, so it was like playing a funky kind of cops-and-robbers game. Every little boy in that era loved to play with guns, and I got to play with all sorts of noisy playthings. Most of the time they jammed or wouldn't fire, "all' Italiana". I'm not joking: half the time nothing mechanical worked.
There was plenty of action in this film... Were you doing your own stunts? Was there much real danger involved for you or the rest of the cast?
I always did my own stunts. The only place where there was any danger was crossing a rushing cataract in the cave sequence. Had I slipped, I would still be underground somewhere in Northern Italy. The drop-off, just a few feet from where I staggered across, was estimated at 200 feet into unexplored nether regions of Hell [laughs]. The other sequence that left me wondering why the heck I had gotten myself into the cinema occurred in the La Casaccia Atomic Plant facility outside Rome. If you saw the silly film, I am running around in a wet suit and hanging from a moving gantry crane at one point. We were actually filming inside the plant reactor area.
Wait a minute. You filmed inside an actual atomic power plant!?
It was completely nuts. To this day, I can't believe I actually went along with it. The producer had a friend who was a physicist in the hierarchy of the Atomic Energy Commission in Rome, and he found out that they were shutting down for a week while they changed the fuel rods in the reactor core. Don't ask me how, but he got permission to film in this very dangerous part of the plant. We were issued protective clothing to wear while filming, and wore heavy insulated boots to protect us from the possibility of radiation spillage. We were instructed that, if any dust or water from the floor got inside our clothing, it could have serious consequences. So, guess who got to run all over the facility in his wet suit with rubber-ducky booties? Right.
They raised Cain when the director decided that he could not have his actor running around shooting at bad guys wearing these heavy yellow protective boots. The supervisor of the area finally acquiesced, but I was severely admonished to be terribly careful not to tear the suit or the footwear, otherwise I could be sterile for life... or worse. After six hours of filming in and around the reactor, we finally wrapped up the shoot. As we left the facility, we all have to pass through a screening chamber that checked for any kind of radiation exposure. Well, when I went through it was like the million dollar slot machine in Vegas. Bells and whistles went off, and ever read LED in the place lit up. They immediately found that I had a two-inch long tear in the left foot of my suit-booty. They quickly called in the detox-team and I was forcibly stripped, thrown into a huge shower facility, and manually scrubbed by four guys in yellow suits who looked like Spielberg's baddies from E.T. They scrubbed me for twenty minutes until I didn't have any skin left, then checked me with a Geiger counter. I remember they shook their heads ominously then placed me in some kind of steam chamber with a green light. I was certain it was a crematorium that would prevent my spreading the deadly radiation to the outside world - ever. At last, I was taken through a series of screening devices and told that I was very "fortunato" that my peepee would, hopefully, still work. They said that, if they hadn't punished me so mercilessly, all that it would have been good for was to pee through, and that any future hoped-for children would have never glimpsed the light of day. Thankfully, the rest of the movie was a walk in the park - by comparison.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A tale of woe from an extra.

Sergio Emidi: They were successful making Maciste because they always used the same sets. They filmed at De Paolis (studios), modifying the scenery a little bit, so that where there was na arch, they would put a door. They paid the extras 1500 to 2000 lira a day - so many for so little. But the fact is it was all done at a reduced rate. Once I joined a production that wanted to make a series of four Maciste type films. It was a time or crisis for cinema, not many years ago.
When I turned up with the crew on this production, they told me that they had to do these four films, but they didn't have much money. "Ok," I said. "Union minimum pay." And they replied, "You must be joking with Union minimum. We do a set price, with unlimited hours."
Well, it was a matter of drink or drown, so we accepted. And we started this series with MACISTE GLADIATORE DI SPARTA with featured Giuliano Gemma and Lisa Gastoni; in other words, a pretty good cast.
Saturday came, and we presented ourselves for the week's pay and they said, "No, the first week we don't pay. We already told you, the first week starts after the second week of working. So the last one isn't taken, however. When you start the second film, you pocket the first week's pay that you lost in the first film."
I put up with a couple of films, and then, because the standstill in cinema production had ended, I said that I wanted to go work on something else and turned up at the office to collect what was owed me. Well, there was nobody in the office that would give me anything. Not even a crumb a day, for all those weeks I'd worked.
In the end, they gave in, they paid me to save trouble and I told them that I would not work for them anymore, not even if I was racked with hunger. Well, to take their revenge, they phoned the production to which I was going - which was IL COMANDANTE with Toto - and told them that I was a troublemaker; a dreadful type. By good luck, I was known by the Production Director Antonio Negri, who was a good person, so I was able to explain everything, and he made sure I worked.
You see, this is why those Maciste films became the sort of productions that we have rechristened "Pane e Pezzetti." (Bread and butter.) We were obliged to them for our livelihood, but they were the downfall of cinema and of us. The producers looked after their own interests and instead of paying us the week we worked, they paid the day after the day that never arrives, and if we couldn't carry the pennies home, then who gets to eat?

[Of course MACISTE GLADIATORE DI SPARTA did not feature either Giuliano Gemma or Lisa Gastoni - who have never worked on a film together.]

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Giuliano Gemma on Van Johnson

Giuliano Gemma: In IL PREZZO DEL POTERE (aka THE PRICE OF POWER) by Tonino Valeri, I worked with Van Johnson. He was a sixtyish "signora", a little bit of a mess and very nice. When I first saw him I felt kind of bad because I didn't realize he was in such a shameful state. I'd asked where I could find him so I could introduce myself, and I was told he was at the bar. I found him there, with a big straw hat from which hung a long ribbon with which he dabbed himself like handkerchief, and with those big black eyes... Why he seemed just like Garbo! When we got to be friendly, he told me that the best working years of his life had been sucked dry by Metro and the contract he'd signed. They let him live in a villa, they made him the boy next door, he got to play the all-American type, but they'd banked all his real earnings.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


by Alec Guinness

When, in the winter of 1962-63, I embarked on an epic called THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, Tony Quayle, who was also in the film, rented a lovely sixteenth-century farmhouse a mile or two outside the town [Segovia, in central Spain] and invited me to share it with him... Almost every day during my few weeks in Segovia I visited one or other of these churches to rid myself of the despondency or near-feuds of the film world... I never saw more than twenty minutes of the finished film.
While flying out to Spain I sat gazing forlornly at the script and jotting down a few notes. A tall American came to sit beside me and asked if I was studying my lines. 'Well, re-writing them, where possible,' I said. 'What do you think of the script?' he asked. 'Not much,' I replied. 'For instance, I can't possibly say, as Marcus Aurelius, "Look after my Meditations when I'm dead." It would bring the house down.' (In the film the 'Mediations' looked like rolls of unwanted wallpaper stuck in a basket.) It was tactless of me; I didn't realise until I met him later that my companion was the scriptwriter. The saving grace - apart from Anthony Mann, who was a friendly director and well-disposed towards actors - was Sophia Loren, whose company I enjoyed enormously. An hour or two after we first me she said, 'I have just telephoned Ponti. He wanted to know what you are like. I told him, "He's a Neapolitan."' Which I must say surprised me a good deal and I have spent a lot of time trying to puzzle it out.

[Quite possibly the American screenwriter that Alec refers to is Ben Barzman, another blacklisted Hollywood writer who is now credited as being a writer on EL CID and 55 DAYS AT PEKING for Philip Yordan/Samuel Bronston. He would go on to write THE VISIT, THE HEROES OF TELEMARK, THE BLUE MAX and L'ATTENTAT, aka THE FRENCH CONSPIRACY.]

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pasquale Squitieri directed Klaus Kinski

Pasquale Squitieri: I did some Westerns, signing them as was the custom with an American name, William Radford: DJANGO SFIDA SARTANA (aka DJANGO AGAINST SARTANA) and LA VENDETTA E UN PIATTO CHE SI SERVE FREDDO (aka VENGEANCE IS A DISH SERVED COLD, aka VENGEANCE TRAIL, aka DREI AMEN FUR DEN SATAN). I did them for two reasons: first of all for the money, and second - I'd never gone to film school and I needed the experience. That was the moment of one of the great men of Italian film, another great cynic, who nonetheless delivered, and how! In the wake of Sergio Leone, Italian Cinema truly could have inaugurated the great era of the adventure film, but instead they missed the bus. LA VENDETTA was a film seen from the Indian's point of view. Though it was just a little film, it did have one unique twist: namely, I used seven or eight authentic Indians, who were young men studying at the university. Klaus Kinski acted in it - at the time he was making tens of Westerns per year. Back then Kinski was a crazy character. He was an excellent actor, not recognized as such by the public. He came from East Germany, and he had a great desire for money; to get rich. These two ambitions created a tremendous frustration: he hated what he was doing, but he couldn't afford not to to it. I rememeber that he insisted on being paid every day; he didn't trust anyone, and he lived in a spacious trailer, with a bed covered by black sheets and surrounded by grand candelabras. He lived like an American film star of the thirties, but in a squalid suburb of Rome, where everyone assumed he was a bit cracked.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Gisella Sofio as Gloria Guida's mother in 1975's LA LICEALE, aka THE TEASERS.
From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
Video WatcHDog No. 143 Sept. 2008

I can find very little information on your film VACANZE SULLA NEVE [1966].
I think this was done after OPERATION WHITE SHARK, and even though it was finished, I'm not sure it was ever released. I never saw it. I think there was some kind of ruckus over the fact that the producer, who was the leading lady's keeper, didn't like the way she was photographed, so he blocked the release. I have no idea what happened with it.
Any recollections of the cast or director?
Filippo "Pippo" Ratti, who also directed OPERATION WHITE SHARK, was an absolute character, one of the greatest jokers I ever met in Italian cinema. Certainly not a great director, but fun to work and pal around with. I remember there was a party of some kind every night after filming. We were all over Italy and Yugoslavia for WHITE SHARK, which was lots of fun; VACANZA SULLA NEVE was filmed where they had just held the winter Olympics above Torino. And again, just one month-long party. I played the romantic lead, and since I was a ski-buff, spent most of my time on the slopes. Can't remember the name of the gal who played the "femme" lead. [Gisella Sofio.-Ed] Cute, chubbly little blonde.
What was the plot?
Plot, schmott! At this point, all I recall is that it was some kind of silly romance concerning a spoiled rich Italian brat, and a Swiss ski-bum, me. Seems to me he dumps her in the end for a gal with more class. Moreover, like I say at this stage, it is certainly a moot point since it never got further than probably the third screening as far as I can tell!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dick ends his time in Europe.

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?
A. No.
Q. You don't know that there was any activity commenced with the respect to the production of the picture itself?
A. No.
Q. Did you ever ask Mr. Bronston for any type of reports regarding production?
A. No.
Q. Did you ever receive budgets in connection with proposed productions?
A. No.
Q. You had no idea how much Mr. Bronston intended to spend in connection with this film?
A. No.
Q. Had you any idea of how the film was to be cast and who was supposed to play the leading parts?
A. No.
[Du Pont's lawyer, Mr. Costikan, asks the next question.]
Q. Do you know whether they had a script?
A. No.

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.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rodd works with the Duke

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
Video WatcHDog No. 143 Sept. 2008

Did you have other opportunities to use your singing talents professionally?
I made a couple of cuts for Italian TV or arias from TOSCA and OTHELLO; I have no idea what happened to them. The most fun I had singing was when I used to come back to Frisco and Sacramento in the summer season to do musical comedy; MY FAIR LADY, PAINT YOUR WAGON, WISH YOU WERE HERE, THE PAJAMA GAME, OKLAHOMA, KISMET, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, etc. I think I did that for about six years.
How did you come to work on the John Wayne film CAST A GIANT SHADOW [1966]?
I think it was in 1963. I had done a small role in the 20th Century Fox film, GIDGET GOES TO ROME. I was dubbing the part one day, and the future production coordinator of CAST A GIANT SHADOW just happened to stop by to see our director, who was a friend. I played a US embassy marine in the Gidget thing, and he said they needed GI types for various bit parts and would I like to stop over to meet [director] Melville Shavelson. So, bright and early the next morn, I hopped on my 650 Triumph and rode out into a country village where they were filming a scene with the Duke. A couple of days later, we spent the day shooting a scene where a bell tower German sniper starts sniping, and Duke shouts, "Hey, Lt. Whatever-my-name-was, get that SOB." I did a couple of "Yes, sirs!," spent the day with the Duke, who I already knew from LA - and, as usual, got cut from the film.

[Director Shavelson ended up writing a book about the making of CAST A GIANT SHADOW, and a review of it can be read here:]

Monday, March 8, 2010

Dick and the man who got a percentage of the budget.

by Richard Fleischer

I went about my job of preparing the picture, trying to save money wherever I could. The resistance from everyone was considerable, even nasty. The art directors, Colesanti and Moore, went into a positive snit when I restrained them from building large portions of sets I knew I'd never photograph. The propmakers sulked when I stopped them from making hundreds of props I didn't need. And so it went, right down the line. Everyone was used to wallowing in unlimited funds. Economy and discipline were anathema. Nobody liked me except Samuel Bronston's right-hand man, an obese bon vivant and Russian ex-patriot, Mike Washinsky. He liked the good things in life and seemed to have them in abundance.
The budget I came up with was millions of dollars lower than anyone expected. I turned it in to Washinsky, and he was delighted. It was just what he'd hoped for. Then he said something I didn't understand at all. "Don't talk about this budget to anyone. This isn't going to be the official budget. You'll get a new budget next week. It'll be quite different than this, a lot higher. But I don't want you to question it, just accept it. Hokay?" and he slapped me on the back in conspitorial fellowship. "If you say so, Mike," I answered.
Then I began hearing stories about Washinsky. He had, it was said, a percentage not of the profits of the picture, which would be normal, but of the budget of the picture, which would not. No wonder they wanted to beef up the budget. I would make the picture for the original price I turned in, but the surplus would be skimmed off.
I learned that on the previous picture the materials for set construction were so overordered that an apartment house was actually built with what was left over.
On the day I left Madrid to spend the Christmas holidays in Klosters with my family, six brand-new Rolls-Royces were delivered to the studio. For the use of the executives, I was told.
I never returned to Madrid. Word reached me in Klosters that Pierre S. Du Pont had, as he later put it, turned off Bronston's water. No more turkeys would be laying golden eggs. Happy New Year!
The money owed me by contract had not been paid. All I had recieved for my eight months work were my expenses. The main salary was to have started when we went into production. Legal actions were instituted by me against both Bronston and Du Pont. I had no choice.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rodd sings Cow Boy

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
Video WatcHDog No. 143 Sept. 2008

You sang the theme song in the film MASSACRE AT GRAND CANYON [1965]. How did that job come about?
Carol Danell, the gal who wrote the lyrics for the song, was a good friend and a frequent dubbing partner. She knew I sang and asked if I would do it. I almost didn't, because I thought the song was pretty bad. Nevertheless, they all convinced me that audiences outside of the European market would never hear it, and they wouldn't really care about the English lyrics, so I said "okay."
The funny part happened two nights after I recorded the final take at Fono Roma. It was perfect and everybody loved it. At 2:00 in the morning, I got a frantic call from Gianna Ferrio, the musical director, saying that someone had laid the master-cut on some kind of heating radiator at the studio where they were doing the master copying, and the thing had melted. They said I had to come to International Recording Studios by 3 a.m. to redo it! So I dragged myself out of bed, hung over from a late-night party, met the car they sent for me, and after six cups of expresso, made the bad cut you have heard. I didn't mind since they had to pay me double. I was also too numb to really get too excited about the seeming injustice of it all. Carol and I always had a good laugh over the fact that the guy, Fabrizio, who roasted the master tape was the fonico who mixed most of the films we dubbed at Fono Roma. After that incident, we would always admonish Fabrizio, "Stia attento! Non lascia il nastro adoso' al termosifone!" ("Pay attention! Don't leave the tape on the radiator!") He must have apologized to me a thousand times, down through the years [laughs]...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dick works for Bronston.

by Richard Fleischer

It was a very peculiar company, the Bronston company. The money they spent was prodigious, but there was no lack of it because they had found themselves a "pigeon." Perhaps "angel" would be a kinder word. Pierre S. Du Pont.
This worthy gentleman had signed open-end completion guarantees for all the pictures. He committed himself to making up any shortfall of money for financing the films and/or supplying the funds to complete the movie if it ran over budget. Open the wine! Bring on the flamenco dancers! Spend the money! It was fiesta time in old Madrid!
They had made one successful epic, EL CID, which did so well they built a large studio, with a huge back lot, on the outskirts of Madrid. Then they embarked on making more extravaganzas: 55 DAYS AT PEKING and THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, both miserable failures. At the time of my arrival they were shooting CIRCUS WORLD with John Wayne (also headed for disaster at the box office). Every picture ran well over budget, and Du Pont was there to pick up the tab. It seemed like these turkeys were laying golden eggs. One of the reasons I signed with Bronston was that Du Pont had given his usual completion guarantee for THE NIGHTRUNNERS OF BENGAL. My salary, at least, would be protected.
Yordan was in an enviable position. Even though he performed as a producer for the company, he wasn't one at all. He had his own company, United States Pictures, which had contracted to supply screenplays to the Bronston company. His staff of writers, recruited mostly from the Hollywood blacklist, were paid as little as possible. His rationale was that since they couldn't work anywhere else, they should be grateful for being able to work at all. He was the only wheel in town. The writers felt the same way. They would have starved without him, and they appreciated the work. The word was that Yordan sold these inexpensive screenplays to Bronston Productions for a healthy profit.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rodd gets into Italian movies.

From: Rodd Dana
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 [1966], 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.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dick meets Philip Yordan

by Richard Fleischer

The agony of our situation was relieved substantially when Providence once more intervened, this time in the form of a gentleman by the name of Philip Yordan. I'd known him casually in Hollywood and now he sought me out in Rome. Yordan, a tall, balding writer, smoked huge Zanuck-type cigars; wore glasses that looked like the bottom of a couple of Coke bottles, and behaved like the spring in an overwound, cheap alarm clock. Actually, he was no mean writer, with a list of credits as long as your arm, some of the quite distinguished, such as ANNA LUCASTA, BROKEN LANCE, THE HARDER THEY FALL, and GOD'S LITTLE ACRE.
He could never be described as an attractive man, but he had a string of several young, beautiful wives to his credit and boasted a child by each one. I once asked him why he got married so often. "I'll tell ya," he explained. "Once they start askin', 'Who am I?' I get rid of 'em."
At the time we met in Rome, Yordan was closely associated with Samuel Bronston Productions, which was making big spectacle films in Madrid. He particularly wanted me to make one for them because of their past experience with other directors. They all had spent far too much money. Yordan wanted me because I was able to handle very big productions and knew how to cut budgetary corners without harming the quality of the picture. It was to be an epic about the Sepoy rebellion called THE NIGHTRUNNERS OF BENGAL. The offer (and it was a good one) couldn't have come at a more opportune time. I agreed to work for the Bronston company.
O! I am Fortune's fool.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rodd on making CLEOPATRA

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
Video WatcHDog No. 143 Sept. 2008

Elizabeth Taylor was one of the most beautiful and famous women in films - and international headlines - at that time. What was your impression of her while working on CLEOPATRA?
I've got to tell you a funny story concerning Madame Taylor. The first morning on the set, when we were getting ready to rehearse the scene. I was supposed to accost her at the bottom of the stairs, knock the sword from her hands, grab her and pick her up, then bang on the door to Caesar's study with my free hand. When the doors open, I carry her in kicking and squealing and drop her at Caesar's feet. Well, knowing that she suffered from a back condition. I suggested we rehearse it with me wearing the actual breastplate to be worn in the scene, to be certain it wouldn't hurt her back. This was agreed. We did the lift, which worked fine, and when I put her down, one of the gold wings on one of the breastplate's three eagles caught her $600.00 gold lame slacks, ripping the backside out of them.
She screamed and cussed like a New York trucker. I was mortified but, trooper that she was, seeing the look on my poor face, she said, "Aw, c'mon, honey, shit happens," and yelled for a wardrobe lady to get her a change of clothes. We spent two days on this complicated bit of swordplay, etc. and all one sees in the final Zanuck cut, from Caesar's point of view, is what sounds like screaming and commotion outside the door. Then the door opens, I walk in with the screaming, kicking Cleo in my right arm. Caesar smiles and says "Marcellus, put her down." I do so, turn and walk out, and that was that.
All in all, she was a kick to work with. She had a great sense of humor and knew how to use the four-letter vernaculars like a seasoned pro. It was also interesting to watch the intriguing interplay between Eddie Fisher and Richard Burton. I thoroughly liked them all. Rex Harrison was a gentle, kind, though highly volatile man to work with. If things went to his liking, he was an absolute prince, but if he did not agree with something, there could be polemics that would light up the set for hours.
Burton was quiet, serious and professional. I got to know Hume Cronym quite well, and a finer, more intelligent actor there never was. The director Joe Mankiewicz was calm, cool and collected for the most part but, on occasion, he, Rex and Madame would have some wonderful go-arounds. Cast and crew would just sit back and watch, feeling like we had been allowed to sit in on a bit of cinematographic history. All in all, a delightful experience.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's Dick versus Dino.

by Richard Fleischer

With four months of my contract gone we finally hit on a project that looked like it would see the light of day, SACCO AND VANZETTI. The fact the Dino took my suggestion and hired Edward Anhalt, one of Hollywood's most professional and respected writers, to work on the screenplay in Rome gave me reason to hope for the best.
"Hope," as the saying goes, "deceives more men than cunning can," and it surely deceived me. Anhalt finished the screenplay in three months, then left for California. The project languished. Nothing was moving ahead. There was no talk of preproduction.
Then something ominous happened. My paychecks stopped coming. At first I thought it was some bookkeeping slipup. After a few weeks I realized it was no slipup. Dino was on an extended trip to New York and there was no one else to talk to about it. I put the De Laurentiis corporation on notice that my contract was being breached, but on the advice of my agent and an Italian lawyer, I continued to report for work every day. After five weeks I stopped. The De Laurentiis dream was ending with a whimper. But not quite. On July 1 I sent them a legal notice that I was suing them for default of the contract.
Five days later, on July 6, I answered the door to my apartment. A small, shabby man stood there smelling like a process server. "Signor Fleischer?" he asked. "Si, sono Io," I replied. He pulled a long envelope from an inside pocket, handed it to me, tipped his hat, and left. It was, indeed, a summons. I was being sued, it informed me, for default of contract for failure to report for work! Not only that, but there were damages resulting from my nonperformance. The amount? One million dollars!
The De Laurentiis dream was truly over, not with a whimper, but a bang.
There was a lot of hand-wringing going on in my home. In 1963, being sued for a million dollars was staggering. Even today it's no laughing matter. My Italian lawyer was very confident about the merits of my case, but Mickey and I were more than a little apprehensive. I was, after all, a foreigner suing Italy's most important producer. What if we drew a Fascist, or just plain anti-American, judge? There were still plenty of them around. It didn't make for restful sleeping, especially when you didn't have a million to your name.*

*Several years later, after returning to California, the case was about to come to trial in Rome. A judgment there would be valid in the United States. The idea of an unfriendly judge still plagued me. I offered to drop my case against Dino if he'd do the same with me, and that's the way it was settled.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The future Robert Mark begins his Italian career.

From: Rodd Dana
The Actor with the 3-D Name
Interview by Michael Barnum
Video WatcHDog No. 143 Sept. 2008

[After a stint at the Pasadena Playhouse, alot of TV commercials, some TV series work and parts in low-budget movies like WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST and HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER, Roger Neal Francke of Vernal, Utah - who became Rod Dana and then Rodd Dana in Hollywood - decided to leave show business and study medicine in Rome.-wtc]

What prompted you to go back to show business once you arrived in Europe?
After about a year, I found myself disillusioned with the medical picture since the major forcus seemed to always be directed at getting the best possible position for residency and making points for an eventual money-making practice. At the same time, I began making commercials for Italian TV to make ends meet. One night, while doing extra work on Kirk Douglas' TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN [1962], I ran into James Gregory, an old friend from Hollywood. You may remember him as the head of the CIA in the Matt Helm series with Dean Martin. He was in town to do a couple of films and suggested I have lunch with him at Cinecitta the following day. He introduced me to Anna Maria Padoan, who was the casting director of CLEOPATRA. She took me to Meet Stuart Lyons, the Brit who was casting the group of centurions who would be around Caesar during the Egypt section of the film. I was cast as Marcellus. Later, I was given a small part in which Liz and I have a little sword battle when she learns that the Romans have burned down the Library at Alexandra. I wrest the sword from her, pick her up and - in the original version - carry her kicking and screaming to deposit her at Caesar's feet.