The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters.
- Audrey Hepburn

Questions for Scott Eyman

Past chats with our guests.

Moderators: Sue Sue Applegate, movieman1957, moira finnie, Lzcutter

SSO Admins
Administrator
Posts: 851
Joined: April 5th, 2007, 7:27 pm
Contact:

Questions for Scott Eyman

Postby SSO Admins » October 14th, 2007, 8:00 pm

And here's the thread where we will be hosting our discussion with Scott Eyman.

A couple of ground rules. Let's try to keep it to three or four questions a day if possible. We don't want to wear our guest out. And please keep discussion centered on Mr. Eyman's work and the subjects he has written on.
Last edited by SSO Admins on October 19th, 2007, 5:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

SSO Admins
Administrator
Posts: 851
Joined: April 5th, 2007, 7:27 pm
Contact:

Postby SSO Admins » October 15th, 2007, 7:53 am

I'd like to kick things off with a question. I have read the bios of Pickford, Ford, and Mayer (and I have the Lubitsch, but haven't read it yet).

One common theme among the three seems to be that they are all about people who worked very hard to keep their true personalities hidden, not just from the public, but from their families and friends. I'm having a hard time thinking of tougher subjects for a biographer.

So a two part question: was this intentional on your part, and what special challenges does it present to someone trying to document the life of someone who worked so hard to be unknowable?

User avatar
moira finnie
Administrator
Posts: 8176
Joined: April 9th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Location: Earth
Contact:

Henry Fonda & John Wayne's work with John Ford

Postby moira finnie » October 15th, 2007, 9:56 am

Welcome and thanks for coming for the visit, Mr. Eyman.

In "Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford", you mention that "Ford would use [Henry] Fonda in a very different way than he would John Wayne. Wayne's characters are earthy and warm, brawlers by temperament, capable of love and rage. Fonda's characters burned with a cold fire—they displayed strength, but a removed, abstracted, rather asexual strength, tempered by the actor's instinctive austerity".

Subsequently, both actors seem to have done some of their very best work with Ford, though both would also chaff under the sometimes demeaning and heavy-handed "guidance" of John Ford. In Fonda's case, this eventually led to a break with Ford during the tumultuous shooting of Mr. Roberts (1955). In John Wayne's case, the much closer relationship with Ford seemed most strained during Wayne's attempt to direct The Alamo.

Could you please comment on the qualities of these very different relationships that John Ford maintained with these actors? Do you think that Ford appreciated Wayne as an actor? Did he read into Fonda qualities that the actor may not have been able to show—such as the spirituality of the Graham Greene priest-on-the-run in the beautiful looking, but ponderous film, The Fugitive (1947)?

User avatar
Scott_Eyman
Posts: 48
Joined: October 11th, 2007, 1:50 pm

Postby Scott_Eyman » October 15th, 2007, 10:05 am

I would agree that Pickford and Ford worked hard to conceal their true nature, especially Ford. Mayer not so much - he was just constantly shifting emotional tactics to get what he wanted in a given circumstance. And Lubitsch - I know, I know, you haven't read it - wasn't like that at all. He was the same man all the time, at home or at the studio.
I don't think alternate, or shifting personalities is at all uncommon. There are a lot of people who present different faces at work than they do at home. As far as discerning which is the true personality, that's where multiple points of view are so helpful. In othger words, not just interviews, but correspondence. Ploughing through Pickford's business correspondence at the Wisconsin Historical Society gave me a personality that she hid from view as much as she hid her drinking from view.

MikeBSG
Posts: 1777
Joined: April 25th, 2007, 5:43 pm

Postby MikeBSG » October 15th, 2007, 10:15 am

1) One thing that has pleasantly surprised me about Lubitsch's films is that "horror actors" like Lugosi ("Ninotchka") and Atwill ("To Be or Not to Be") show up and give nice comic performances. I guess I would have expected "royalty" like Lubitsch to disdain such actors because of the genres in which they usually worked. Did Lubitsch ever say why he cast such players in such parts? Are there other examples of unexpected casting in Lubitsch that I've overlooked.

2) Did Mary Pickford have a spat with Walt Disney over television rights to his films in the 1903s? Was she that interested in the potential of TV or did she simply not want to give up anything to anybody?

3) How did John Ford get to know Meriam C. Cooper? Since Cooper is best known for "King Kong," it has always surprised me to realize that he was the producer for many of Ford's best-known movies.

MikeBSG
Posts: 1777
Joined: April 25th, 2007, 5:43 pm

Postby MikeBSG » October 15th, 2007, 10:16 am

Aargh.

The Pickford-Disney dispute took place in the 1930s. My fingers have a mind of their own today.

User avatar
Scott_Eyman
Posts: 48
Joined: October 11th, 2007, 1:50 pm

Postby Scott_Eyman » October 15th, 2007, 10:33 am

Every director has to use different approaches to reach different actors. John Wayne's attitude toward Ford was indicated by his nickname for him: "Pappy." For Wayne, Ford was a straight father figure, a tough, demanding father figure, the sort who never throws his arm around his kid and tells him he loves him. If Wayne came through magnificently for Ford, Ford would just figure he hadn't set the bar high enough. The love was never verbalized; rather, it was indicated by the amount of time they spent together, and the fact that Ford always cast Wayne in his movies if the part fit him.
Fonda he had to treat differently. He instinctively knew that Fonda simply wouldn't stand for the same kind of abuse that Wayne would stand for. And he was right - look at the way Fonda froze Ford out of his life after the fistfighting incident on Mister Roberts. It wouldn't have happened if Wayne had been starring in the film, for the simple reason that Wayne would not have told Ford he was unhappy about the way Ford was directing the picture, as Fonda did.
Also, I think Ford had more respect for Fonda as an actor than he did Wayne - remember, Fonda did New York theater work all the time, and Ford respected that.

User avatar
mongoII
Posts: 12345
Joined: April 14th, 2007, 7:37 pm
Location: Florida

Postby mongoII » October 15th, 2007, 10:43 am

Welcome Mr. Eyman. I's a pleasure having you here with us.

It is a fact that Mary Pickford was to make her screen comeback in the role of Vinnie in "Life with Father" (1947) opposite William Powell?

Did John Ford actually punch an unsuspecting Henry Fonda during the shooting of "Mister Roberts" (1955)?
Joseph Goodheart

User avatar
MissGoddess
Posts: 5108
Joined: April 17th, 2007, 10:01 am
Contact:

Postby MissGoddess » October 15th, 2007, 11:11 am

Hi Mr E---I'm afraid the "three or four question" limit has been past but I have a very naughty habit of being oblivious to rules, so if you have the patience to answer just one more question I have the nerve to ask it:

Tonight TCM is airing Ford's MARY OF SCOTLAND, a movie I haven't seen in a while but will sit down to watch in light of my own recent love affair with Ford's movies and because of one or two positive references you have made which piqued my curiosity. So far, you are the only one I've come across who has anything positive to say about the film. Certainly you seem to like it better than Thomas Mitchell did. :wink:

My question is, what do you think are the strengths or good points to the film I should watch for, or what should I keep in mind? I'm wondering if the film is of interest more for the "backstory" about Kate Hepburn and John Ford--or if, in fact, his personal feelings somehow influenced some artistic decisions in how the story, how Kate, was filmed.

Thanks in advance for any reply.

Miss G

User avatar
moira finnie
Administrator
Posts: 8176
Joined: April 9th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Location: Earth
Contact:

Postby moira finnie » October 15th, 2007, 11:12 am

I'm a big Ernst Lubitsch fan and enjoyed your commentary on the "Trouble in Paradise" dvd and your biography of him, Laughter in Paradise.

Since Lubitsch's films were concerned, in a very sophisticated way, with sex and money, as well as the numerous masks that people try to wear in public and private, do you think that the reason that most of his films were set in Europe was to avoid confronting America's puritanical self-image?

Do you think that one the few movies to show Lubitsch's chosen country, "Heaven Can Wait", was affected by the fact that it was set in an American milieu?

Thanks.

User avatar
Scott_Eyman
Posts: 48
Joined: October 11th, 2007, 1:50 pm

Postby Scott_Eyman » October 15th, 2007, 12:34 pm

Mr. Goodheart,

True on both counts. Pickford screen tested for Life With Father, but WB chose Irene Dunne for what I would guess were commercial reasons. It was an expensive picture, they had borrowed William Powell from MGM, so they probably figured it made more sense to spend the extra money and hire a free-lancer like IRene Dunne than take a risk on an actress who hadn't made a movie in 15 years.
And yes, Ford punched Fonda during a meeting after Fonda said that he didn't like the way Ford was directing the movie.

Scott Eyman

User avatar
Scott_Eyman
Posts: 48
Joined: October 11th, 2007, 1:50 pm

Postby Scott_Eyman » October 15th, 2007, 12:42 pm

1) One thing that has pleasantly surprised me about Lubitsch's films is that "horror actors" like Lugosi ("Ninotchka") and Atwill ("To Be or Not to Be") show up and give nice comic performances. I guess I would have expected "royalty" like Lubitsch to disdain such actors because of the genres in which they usually worked. Did Lubitsch ever say why he cast such players in such parts? Are there other examples of unexpected casting in Lubitsch that I've overlooked.

2) Did Mary Pickford have a spat with Walt Disney over television rights to his films in the 1903s? Was she that interested in the potential of TV or did she simply not want to give up anything to anybody?

3) How did John Ford get to know Meriam C. Cooper? Since Cooper is best known for "King Kong," it has always surprised me to realize that he was the producer for many of Ford's best-known movies.

MIke,
1. I don't think Lubitsch thought of them as horror actors; I think he thought of them as actors with a continental touch who could conceivably play Europeans. As for other examples, well, there's Don Ameche in Heaven Can Wait, in a part where the obvious casting would be somebody heavier or more commercial - Tyrone Power? But Ameche gave a career performance. Ditto Jennifer Jones, who's delightful in Cluny Brown.
2. It wasn't personal, it was corporate. Disney would never have been able to retain TV rights if he was releasing through MGM or WB. The more successful the studio, the more they wanted to lock up all rights in perpetuity. That's why they were successful. And that's why Disney released mostly through UA and RKO - they were second tier and willing to compromise.
3. Ford met Cooper at RKO. Cooper was a big Ford fan and when he took over running production after Selznick left, he brought Ford onto the lot with a non-exclusive contract.

Scott Eyman

User avatar
Scott_Eyman
Posts: 48
Joined: October 11th, 2007, 1:50 pm

Postby Scott_Eyman » October 15th, 2007, 12:49 pm

]Hi Mr E---I'm afraid the "three or four question" limit has been past but I have a very naughty habit of being oblivious to rules, so if you have the patience to answer just one more question I have the nerve to ask it:

Tonight TCM is airing Ford's MARY OF SCOTLAND, a movie I haven't seen in a while but will sit down to watch in light of my own recent love affair with Ford's movies and because of one or two positive references you have made which piqued my curiosity. So far, you are the only one I've come across who has anything positive to say about the film. Certainly you seem to like it better than Thomas Mitchell did. :wink:

My question is, what do you think are the strengths or good points to the film I should watch for, or what should I keep in mind? I'm wondering if the film is of interest more for the "backstory" about Kate Hepburn and John Ford--or if, in fact, his personal feelings somehow influenced some artistic decisions in how the story, how Kate, was filmed.

Thanks in advance for any reply.

Miss G

Miss G,

Mary of Scotland is (mildly) interesting for several reasons: John Carradine seems to be playing a gay man, for one thing, and you can intuit Ford's interest in Hepburn because he gives her dozens of big, soft-focus close-ups of the sort he almost never gave leading ladies.
The main problem is that the script isn't very good - the entire romantic relationship between Fredric March - certainly among the least Fordian of actors - and Hepburn is stillborn, probably because Hepburn worked best with jaunty, slightly mocking leading man - Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy - and the material doesn't allow that.
Also, Elizabethan England means a film of manners, and Ford was only interested in manners if they were Irish.

S.E.

User avatar
Dewey1960
Posts: 2514
Joined: April 17th, 2007, 7:52 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby Dewey1960 » October 15th, 2007, 1:38 pm

Hello Mr. Eyman -
I'm curious about the darker issues surrounding the relationship between Louis B. Mayer and Dore Schary. I realize that the "older man / younger man" subtext probably played a part, but were there deeper, more personal matters involved between the two men once Schary became involved with MGM?
Thanks very much!


Return to “Archived Guest Stars”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 38 guests