"Everybody out of the pool!"
O ver the last month I've had four meetings with a duo of tv producers. I can't say more about that right now, and will have to leave it dangling there. But we got talking about shared enthusiasms, one of which is the films of Norman Jewison, and one of these fine chaps lent me the recent autobiography (sept 2005) of the esteemed director. Jewison is the only movie director I can think of that I ever followed movie by movie as they came out, from Fiddler on the Roof through Rollerball, while simultaneously scrutinising the tv guides to catch up with his back catalogue (this was even before home videotape). Thus virtually everything he had done previously came within reach: In the Heat of the Night, The Cincinatti Kid and the gorgeously stylish Thomas Crown Affair. Even his early Doris Day/Rock Hudson comedy and The Art of Love with Dick van Dyke and James Garner, a daft story of which I was fond enough that it brought itself to mind and was referred to in the Fate of the Artist (page 27). I lost interest in the details after Rollerball, which interestingly, Jewison also does in his own book (making exceptions for Moonstruck ('87), and The Hurricane ('99) and maybe he did a little in actuality too.
Reading Jewison's book reminded me of a few things I'd forgotten, such as that In the Heat of the Night won the oscar for best movie the same year Mike Nichols won for best director with The Graduate. And it filled in a couple of later things I had wondered about.There are not so many movies made these days that a large number of people can eke careers out of the big screen. You find yourself impressed with an actor but never ever see him or her again. What happened to Carl Anderson, the black guy who played Judas in the 1973 Jesus Christ Superstar? He played the part again on on stage, it's estimated, another twelve hundred times. He died of leukemia in 2004 while gearing up to launch a worldwide revival of the show that was to begin at the Vatican.
I got hold of Rollerball a couple of years back to rewatch it with wee cal. He loved it. I think he even appreciated the original's superior sense of drama in comparison to the remake, which was aimed more at his generation and was full of all sorts of violent novelties. I actually didn't mind the remake, in the way that I don't mind all the rest of the mindless and meaningless blather of life on Planet Earth, though I gather it wasn't a success. And for meaningless blather, to be sure, I'd be much happier watching James Garner accidentally drive his convertible into the swimming pool in The Thrill of it All.
Which reminds me of the brilliant scene in the Rockford Files ten or so years later, where Rockford/Garner is driving a bunch of mafiosi who mean to do him harm, and he veers suddenly through a high wooden fence into a residential property and the car comes to rest in the pool. Rockford gets out first and is sitting on the diving board holding a gun which he nabbed in the confluffle. And he speaks the immortal line which prevailed in our house for many years at the end of bathtime (and you can ask wee hayley campbell) (the series was showing daily in the mornings in the year I am about to refer to, 1988):
"Right, everybody out of the pool."
It was Fiddler on the Roof that won me in the first place (and recently enjoyed afresh with director's commentary). Hard to believe now, but this movie came out back in the days when for big special movies they would sometimes produce a glossy souvenir brochure, and there would be an intermission halfway through the movie like half time at the football. In fact it was the lobby cards that drew me in. They were out in the street behind glass. I was fifteen, in London for the first time (from Glasgow. I am at home in the big city) it was a cinema off Holborn, around the Southampton Row area I think. I fell in love with one of Tevye's daughters in the still photo. Years later I was doing a five pager for The Comic Book of First Love (Virago 1988), which the editors resold to Penguin (1991... and partnered it with The Penguin Comic Book of the Facts of Life, for which I also drew a five pager, but that's another story). It was a great idea, a little book slightly larger than a regualr paperback. Anway, 1988, just short of twenty years ago and I was now living I Australia. I couldn't think of anything to say about an actual first love, so I drew my story about my unrequited movie love. Here's a page from the story: Somehow I've got myself into the story wth Tevye, and things are already going so badly for him that I haven't the heart to tell him that a worthless art student has a crush on his daughter, so I end up just helping him load his milk wagon. The year after I drew this was the first year I count in which I made a living from my art. If memory serves, I made around six or seven thousand bucks in 1988 and was otherwise supported by the wife of my bosom. The following year I was up to $18,999 and continued my fast rise from there to the high and mighty perch from which you now see me dangling, where I please myself with the thought that some of my own meaningless blather might make it onto the (small) screen.