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Author Preston Neal Jones Q & A November 1 & 2

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Re: Author Preston Neal Jones Q & A November 1 & 2

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » November 3rd, 2014, 7:23 am

OK! See you tomorrow! :D
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Re: Author Preston Neal Jones Q & A November 1 & 2

Postby Preston Neal Jones » November 3rd, 2014, 12:31 pm

As to what continues to draw fans to the movie, two words: Star Trek.

The intrinsic qualities of the film itself remain controversial, even among -- or perhaps I should say, especially among -- Star Trek fans. This was an incredibly troubled production, a tale which I get to explore deeply in RETURN TO TOMORROW. When I was first offered the gig by Fred at CFQ, I thought to myself, "I'll get to talk to Robert Wise, Isaac Asimov, and Jerry Goldsmith," and quickly responded, "Yeah, I'll take it." In the event, I''d say that artistically the most successful component of ST-TMP is Goldsmith's superb score, perhaps his all-time-best. And I have to say that although ST-TMP is far from Robert Wise's best film, (it's not even his best science fiction film), if it hadn't been for him they never could have gotten the picture made, and certainly not made in time for their drop-deadline date of 12/7/79. Wise's professionalism and humanity make him the hero of ST-TMP, and as far as I'm concerned the hero of RETURN TO TOMORROW.

Just to give you one idea of the kind of hurdles confronting Wise and the movie: To handle the all-important special effects, Paramount hired an outfit much admired and respected for their work in TV commercials but which had never before tackled a feature film. After a year, they had produced virtually nothing useable, so they had to be fired, which left the studio with only one year in which to do two years' effects work. Which is why they hired the two F-X kingpins, Douglas (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS) Trumbull and Richard (STAR WARS) Dykstra and gave each of them his own crew. The massive effort was grueling, and around the clock. The last shot wasn't in the can until literally days before the film had to open, and Wise personally carried to Washington, DC the print which premiered at a NASA gala the night before the movie opened worldwide.

***

In HEAVEN AND HELL TO PLAY WITH, Mitchum says that his "Preacher" Powell was probably his best performance -- "That, and CAPE FEAR." I like to pontificate that for the CAPE FEAR re-make, in order to portray Max Cady, Mr. De Niro had to do a lot of acting -- all Mitchum had to do was show up. As one of the movies' great villains, the actor simply embodies evil, calmly, quietly, no muss, no fuss.

When we had our NIGHT OF THE HUNTER interview, an hour had been allotted. We finished discussing HUNTER after about 45 minutes, and I was ready to be kicked out, but Mr. Mitchum enjoyed filling out the hour discussing other films, mostly CAPE FEAR. What struck me particularly was the fact that Mitchum spoke of the film not just from an actor's limited perspective of his own role but from the over-all point of view a producer might be expected to have. (Co-star Gregory Peck, if memory serves, was one of the film's producers.) For instance, Mitchum talked about story values, including the importance of never showing on screen some of the evil he's inflicting on Peck's family, which thus emphasizes the frustration of Peck in trying to bring the law to bear on the man he's convinced is guilty but against whom he has no real evidence.

Mitchum also recalled shooting the climactic confrontation with Polly Bergen. According to him, after pushing her around and shoving her against a wall, Mitchum apologized for having to treat her so roughly, but she cooed, "No, I LIKE that…" Only a few weeks ago, I met a fellow who knew Miss Bergen, and he said she had talked about how Mitchum roughed her up as a very difficult experience for her. So, as I said in an earlier post above, you never knew how much to believe or disbelieve in a Mitchum anecdote…

Just for fun, I'll add what Mitchum told me about one of his then most recent gigs. He said the producers of MIDWAY had offered him the plum part of one of the historical naval figures in the saga, (I forget which one, but it's on my tape), but Mitchum turned down the part because he didn't relish the idea of spending the summer on a battleship. A little while later, the producers offered him another major naval character, one which would require only a few weeks on the battleship. Again Mitchum said No thanks. Finally, they offered him the role of Admiral Halsey. Mitchum asked, "What's this one entail?" and they told him, "Two days in the studio, in a hospital bed." Mitchum said, "You got it."

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Re: Author Preston Neal Jones Q & A November 1 & 2

Postby Preston Neal Jones » November 3rd, 2014, 1:01 pm

Hi, Joseph, thanks for the greeting.

(NON SEQUITOR: By any chance, does your screen name have anything to do with the late, great jazz man Mongo Santa Maria?)

(SECOND NON-SEQUITOR: Movie History Trivia= Mel Brooks was criticized in some quarters for giving the name Mongo to the idiotic brute character played by Alex Karas in BLAZING SADDLES, because they felt the writer-director was making a joke at the expense of what were then called "Mongoloid" retarded people. But in fact, Brooks had simply given him that name so they could use the gag of the terrified citizen, upon seeing Mongo, declaring to himself, "Mongo! Santa Maria!")

Are you a Lillian Gish fan? If so, you're certainly a right-thinking American in my book. I can't say that she "catered" to anyone in particular on HUNTER, but Laughton certainly catered to her. He adored and revered her, he saw her as special and magical, and I think that comes across on the screen. (If you read HEAVEN AND HELL TO PLAY WITH, you'll find a poignant moment in which a half-delierious Laughton, on his death bed, invoked Lillian Gish's name.) She had written little about HUNTER in her autobiography, and what was there was almost caustic, so I was pleasantly surprised when I approached her after her one woman show -- titled, as was her book, "The Movies, Mister Griffith, and Me" -- and, when I mentioned HUNTER, her face lit up and she smiled, "Ohhh, one of the great ones!" In my book, she tells how she and every one else on the film was laboring mightily for Laughton, hoping to help him make a success of his first movie-directing job.

That included Mitchum, who indeed always spoke of Laughton as one of the best directors in his career. (There's a remarkable story in my book, about the time they all watched the first day's rushes. Mitchum went outside and vomited. When Laughton asked his star what was wrong, Mitchum said, "I didn't know I could be so good.")

There's nothing in Elsa Lanchester's autobiography, or anywhere else that I've looked, to indicate that she ever visited the studio or location shoot for HUNTER, but I have her to thank for many important pieces of information and revelation in my book, due to the research she and her team conducted at one time for a book she was going to write about her late husband. This project eventually became the Laughton biography by the infamous Charles Higham, though very little of the HUNTER treasure trove amassed by Lanchester & co. made it into his book. Happily, thanks to the library of Congress, I was able to use in my own book a lot of the history she had unearthed and preserved, including the story I just told about Mitchum seeing himself onscreen as Preacher.

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Re: Author Preston Neal Jones Q & A November 1 & 2

Postby Preston Neal Jones » November 3rd, 2014, 1:37 pm

Glad you've been enjoying the ongoing conversation, Lucky, and I'm very happy you like my book title. I earmarked the phrase as soon as I heard it coming from producer Paul Gregory's mouth, describing his and Laughton's decision to make Grubb's first novel their first movie.

As quoted on Page 53: "I'll tell you an interesting thing, I think Charles could see himself in the rendition of it. I've spoken of some of the miseries he could put you through, but there was much that was saintly in Charles Laughton, too. And with the young children aspect of it and the devil in Preacher Powell and all that, you see, that gave Laughton both heaven and hell to play with, and that doesn't happen often, you know. He was the master of both of those at that time. The man was a saint/sinner." Looking back, I can see that this sense of conflicting duality is an underlying theme of my entire book, reflected in the Rashomon element in which two interviewees often contradict each other, and the truth must lie somewhere between the two memories.

As to the "young children aspect" of show business, which you describe very well, I really don't have too much I can add. But I think it's well worth mentioning the fact that child actors are, alas, as vulnerable as any other children, if not more so, to emotionally and/or physically abusive parents. A reading of the autobiography of Billy Chapin's actress sister, Lauren (FATHER KNOWS BEST), will afford a small idea of what the Chapin children had to endure behind the scenes and at home.

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Re: Author Preston Neal Jones Q & A November 1 & 2

Postby kingrat » November 3rd, 2014, 2:29 pm

Thanks so much for all the information about NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and STAR TREK. I had a couple of questions on other subjects:

1. Your bio mentions that you knew Judith Light, Francesca James, and William Atherton before their success. Any memories you would like to share with us? Were you sure at the time that they would go on to have successful careers? By the way, I wish that the TV version of THE HOUSE OF MIRTH were available on DVD--William Atherton is perfect as the weak but honorable leading man.

2. You mentioned that you had interviewed Walter Plunkett. Did he happen to mention his costumes for DIANE (1956), in which Lana Turner wears another spectacular gown every time she appears? Did he mention any favorites among all the films he worked on?

Please don't be a stranger to SSO. We'd love to hear more from you.

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Re: Author Preston Neal Jones Q & A November 1 & 2

Postby Lucky Vassall » November 3rd, 2014, 3:10 pm

Thanks for the informative response, Preston. Guess I'll have to add the Lauren Chapin book to my reading list, too. I'd better hurry up and get those new reading galsses.

I envy you the return to New England and hope it will be in time for the Fall foliage. It's the one thing I really miss. I chose Billy De Wolfe in part because he (and Ruth Gordon) also came from Wollaston. I always wondered why both insisted on "Wollaston," since it's a subsection of Quincy (pronounced, as Ruth insisted in one of her autobios, Quin-ZEE; not as the outsiders say, Quin-CEE or worse QUINC-ee!)

Hope you get a chance to contact Jerry Ziesmer. If he pulls a Shelly and refuses to see you, tell him his Ogunquit roommate will take back the sweatshirt!

As kingrat says, please do stay in touch with us. It's really a pleasure getting to know you.
AVATAR: Billy DeWolfe as Mrs. Murgatroid, “Blue Skies” (1946)

“My ancestors came over on the Mayflower.”
“You’re lucky. Now they have immigration laws."

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:–)—
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Re: Author Preston Neal Jones Q & A November 1 & 2

Postby Preston Neal Jones » November 3rd, 2014, 7:27 pm

AAAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!!!

I hate computers.

As you now know, I ran into a technical snag yesterday. It necessitated running out to the Verizon store and getting a new jetpack for internet access. Since then, all was well until right after I posted my answers to Lucky today. I spent a lot of time typing my answers to Kingrat, creating a veritable prose poem of information, wit and elegance. Then, when I clicked on "Submit," my new jetpack died, and I lost everything I'd just done.

Please forgive me, folks, but I just don't have the time any more -- or, frankly, the heart at the moment -- to try to recreate what was lost. Maybe at a future date…

For now, then, some quick and pithy replies. And again, pls. forgive my hasty brevity. You all deserved better. And you would have gotten it, if it hadn't been for that jetpack. Have I told you that I hate computers?

Re: ATHERTON, LIGHT, JAMES et al: Hey, back then, we ALL thought we were going to be big stars! It's the only way to go into the perilous career of show business. (Ruth Gordon's Advice to a Young Actor: "...But above all, never, never, never face the facts."

Re: PLUNKETT: As a matter of fact, if memory serves, DIANE was indeed his favorite, too. He lamented that his best work was little seen and appreciated because the film was not a hit.

BONUS TRACK: I'll leave you all with a rare Plunkett tidbit. When he clothed Bette Davis for her legendary, should-have-won-the-Oscar performance in OF HUMAN BONDAGE, she asked him to provide her with a tattered slip that would be so ratty that, in her words, "I'll hate myself whenever I put it on." Plunkett complied, by making the slip -- and then sewing little pieces of smelly cheese into the lining.

***

That'll have to be it for now, I'm afraid. Thank you all, and especially Christy, for the use of the hall. And thanks for enjoying my contributions.

Tell your friends.

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Re: Author Preston Neal Jones Q & A November 1 & 2

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » November 3rd, 2014, 8:54 pm

Thank you so much for a wonderful visit, Preston! Please feel free to stop by anytime. :D

Preston's latest book,Return to Tomorrow: The Filming of Star Trek, The Motion Picture can be purchased through Creature Features here: http://creaturefeatures.com/shop/books/ ... otomorrow/

Heaven and Hell to Play With: The Filming of NIght of the Hunter can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Hell-Play- ... 0879109742
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Re: Author Preston Neal Jones Q & A November 1 & 2

Postby Lucky Vassall » November 4th, 2014, 1:17 am

I constantly fear the day one of my programs is going to need to be upgraded. (I still use WordPerfect, and if it were possible, it would still be the DOS version.)

Don’t lose faith, Preston, someday computers will be easy to use. Unfortunately, we won’t be around to see it; at that point those too-smart-for-their-own-good computer geek kindergartners will have inherited the Earth. Good luck Earth!

Come to think of it, if you make friends with one of the aforementioned, he—or she—will probably give you an easy tip that will solve all your problems.

Just don’t ask me. They’ve all given up on me as hopelessly retarded!
AVATAR: Billy DeWolfe as Mrs. Murgatroid, “Blue Skies” (1946)

“My ancestors came over on the Mayflower.”
“You’re lucky. Now they have immigration laws."

Mae West, The Heat’s On” (1943)

:–)—
Pinoc-U-no(se)


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