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

Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Films, TV shows, and books of the 'modern' era

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

User avatar
moira finnie
Administrator
Posts: 8175
Joined: April 9th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Location: Earth
Contact:

Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby moira finnie » August 23rd, 2012, 8:21 pm

93 year old producer Paul Gregory tells it like it is, from his POV, in an article in today's The Desert Sun Newspaper on Aug. 22, 2012, brought to my attention by Alan K. Rode. Enjoy...:

Bruce Fessier: Producer Paul Gregory finds happiness in Desert Hot Springs
Aug 22


Paul Gregory lives in a middle-class neighborhood in Desert Hot Springs, belying his elite position in show business history.

He's responsible for bringing George Bernard Shaw's “Don Juan in Hell,” Norman Mailer's “The Naked and the Dead” and Herman Wouk's “The Caine Mutiny” to the stage, screen and television.

He convinced the master British thespian Charles Laughton to direct iconic American tough guy Robert Mitchum in the 1955 film, “The Night of the Hunter,” which became one of the most acclaimed films of all time. The American Film Institute ranked it in two of its “100 Best” categories — for best thrills and villains.

Gregory, who turns 93 on Aug. 27, also was married to America's first “sweetheart” of sound and silent films, Janet Gaynor, until her death two years after a 1982 San Francisco car accident. As such, he played host at their former 100-acre ranch in Desert Hot Springs to a span of cinematic heroes Walter and Leonore Annenberg would have envied — legends ranging from Greta Garbo to John Travolta and, he said, Marilyn Monroe.

But Gregory, who walks with a cane but can clearly recall casting calls from 60 years ago, never really enjoyed working with actors. Ask him his favorite stars from such colleagues as Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Tallulah Bankhead and Ed Harris, and he can't pick one. Laughton was his most talented actor, he said, and Mitchum, well, Gregory says he was overrated.

“He never acted a day in his life,” he said during an interview at the Miracle Springs Resort. “He played himself always. He was to me the coarsest man. I didn't understand him.”

Miracle Springs is sort of a home away from home for Gregory. He has his own table at its restaurant and is on a first-name basis with the wait staff.

He gave a talk there in March, sponsored by the DHS Historical Society, and told a story illustrating Mitchum's “coarseness.” It's such a famous tale that film historian Alan K. Rode added its punch line in a telephone chat this week.

“Mitchum got drunk and got into a snit about something,” said Rode, director of the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, “and he urinated on Gregory's car. Laughton said, ‘You know, Bob, we all have our skeletons in our closet, but, Bob, you must not brandish your skeletons publicly.”

Artistry in acting


Mitchum and Laughton were both known for being difficult, so Rode gives Gregory the utmost respect for their collaboration.

“Anyone that can bring Charles Laughton and Robert Mitchum together to work harmoniously on a project in the order and magnitude of ‘The Night of the Hunter' deserves everyone's unvarnished respect,” he said. “‘The Night of the Hunter,' I don't think there's ever been another movie quite like that. Certainly it's noir, or noir-stained, but it's really almost lyrical — a phenomenal achievement as far as movie-making goes.”

How Gregory wound up pairing the distinctively different actors is the stuff of legends.

Gregory, a successful theater producer, was sent an adapted screenplay of Davis Grubb's novel about a conning, Bible-pumping sexual predator. The character reminded Gregory of his father, who deserted his family in Des Moines, Iowa, and ran off with his wife's $240,0000 Indian allotment, forcing Gregory to live with his aunt and uncle in England through his teens.

Gregory gained a cultural education in England that proved propitious upon his return to America. He recognized Ruth St. Denis while working in a Hollywood drug store, which led to him promoting a show by the modern dance progenitor. More promoting opportunities arose, and Gregory was soon hired by MCA to book “class acts.”

Gregory wanted Laurence Olivier to play the lead in “The Night of the Hunter” and Laughton to make his film directorial debut. But Olivier was tied up in other projects, and Laughton liked Mitchum for the role.

“So, I'm stuck with him,” Gregory said. “I had taken out a loan for $700,000 to make the picture. I had a starting date to start using that money.”

Laughton elicited remarkable performances. He shot the behind-the-scenes action on 16mm film that was recently restored and released on Blu-ray as a special feature of the “Night of the Hunter” DVD.

“Watching Charles Laughton direct children, direct Bob Mitchum, direct the great Lillian Gish to craft this movie, I've never seen anything like it,” Rode said. “He was such a perfectionist, but he directed it by reaching in, (with) the actors giving to him rather than him extracting some sort of performance or intimidating or blustering.”

Show biz team

Gregory and Laughton had formed a partnership years earlier after Gregory saw Laughton recite from the Book of Daniel on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Gregory went to the New York theater where Laughton was appearing and told him he'd be “throwing away a million dollars” if he didn't talk to him about doing a series of readings. Laughton listened, Gregory quit MCA and, a year later they had $200,000 worth of bookings for Laughton's readings.

Their most notable reading was taken from Shaw's 1903 play, “Man and Superman.” Gregory got the idea after walking past a Tiffany's window and seeing four sparkling diamonds on black velvet. He decided to book four stage stars — Laughton, Charles Boyer, Cedric Hardwicke and Agnes Moorehead — to read just the third act of the play, featuring a philosophical dialogue between Don Juan and the devil.

Shaw, at 93, didn't want to let Gregory do it, especially with Boyer, who he thought was too French to play the smooth-talking Don Juan, and Laughton, whom he resented for not fighting in World War II, playing the devil. But a promise of 5 percent of the gross got “Don Juan in Hell” a premiere in Santa Barbara and six months on Broadway. It toured the U.S. three times and ran six months in Europe. It's still frequently presented with other stars.

But Gregory's “six fantastic years working with Charles Laughton” weren't without challenges.

“Handling Charles Laughton was like handling a one-ton elephant with a glass of gin in his hand,” Gregory said. “You had to watch him like an eight-layered bear.”

The next chapter


Gregory said a chapter in his life closed when Laughton died in 1962. He had been fired by Joseph E. Levine of Paramount after an obscenity-laced criticism of a screenplay of “Harlow” that Paramount had sent him, and he had moved to Gaynor's Desert Hot Springs ranch before marrying Gaynor in 1964.

Gaynor painted and Gregory raised cows, hogs and pigeons imported from Marseilles, France. Within five years, he was making $1,000 a week from their working ranch.

“It was the most fun in my life,” he said, “dealing with things that were grateful to get something to eat.”

He and Gaynor also enjoyed Desert Hot Springs for its privacy. Gaynor was widowed from MGM costume designer Adrian, who told Gaynor he had had a gay fling in the 1930s. Gaynor had been linked with her cinematic leading man, Charlie Farrell, before that, and Farrell also had been rumored to be gay. So Gaynor also fended off rumors that she was gay.

“She was severely hurt by the viciousness of wagging tongues,” Gregory said. “She was afraid it would hurt her son. Her son said to me, ‘I heard she was a lesbian. Was she?' I said, ‘It wouldn't make any difference if she were. You're born, and you're here, and you've got a life, and you've got control. The ball is in your court.”

Rumors of Gregory's sexual orientation followed his association with Laughton, who had a long marriage of convenience with actress Elsa Lanchester. Gregory had two more marriages after Gaynor's death, including one to the late Rancho Mirage art dealer Kay Obergfel. He also had a son out of wedlock who died as a young adult. But it was sometimes assumed Gregory's marriage to Gaynor was one of convenience.

“I was very bitter about the whole damn thing,” Gregory said.

“My ire can be raised very quickly if someone looks at me wrong. Thanks to that dear sweet woman, I got over a lot of it.”

Avatar: Frank McHugh (1898-1981)

The Skeins
TCM Movie Morlocks

User avatar
Professional Tourist
Posts: 1703
Joined: March 1st, 2009, 7:12 pm
Location: NYC

Re: Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby Professional Tourist » August 23rd, 2012, 10:02 pm

Yes, that's a good article. It was actually published online on the 14th at MyDesert.com, where I found it last weekend. The online article contains a photo of Mr. Gregory as he is today, holding a portrait of himself from his prime. I think he looks pretty sharp for someone who turns 93 in a few days. He talks pretty sharp, too. Click here for the online article. :)

User avatar
moira finnie
Administrator
Posts: 8175
Joined: April 9th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Location: Earth
Contact:

Re: Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby moira finnie » August 23rd, 2012, 10:09 pm

Thanks, PT.
Avatar: Frank McHugh (1898-1981)

The Skeins
TCM Movie Morlocks

User avatar
Sue Sue Applegate
Administrator
Posts: 3313
Joined: April 14th, 2007, 8:47 pm
Location: Texas

Re: Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » August 23rd, 2012, 11:02 pm

I'd read this earlier at Desert.com, too, PT. I hope I can view that DVD sometime as I'd love to see that added footage.

Night of the Hunter is one of my favorites.

Thanks for posting this, Moira, and thanks for the link, PT.
Blog: http://suesueapplegate.wordpress.com/
Twitter:@suesueapplegate
TCM Message Boards: http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/ ... ue-sue-ii/
Sue Sue : https://www.facebook.com/groups/611323215621862/
Thelma Ritter: Hollywood's Favorite New Yorker, University Press of Mississippi-2018
Avatar: Ginger Rogers, The Major and The Minor

RedRiver
Posts: 4209
Joined: July 28th, 2011, 9:42 am

Re: Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby RedRiver » August 30th, 2012, 1:02 pm

Love NIGHT OF THE HUNTER! Laughton's only directorial effort?

User avatar
Rita Hayworth
Posts: 10098
Joined: February 6th, 2011, 4:01 pm

Re: Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby Rita Hayworth » August 30th, 2012, 1:14 pm

Is Producer Paul Gregory is any relationship with Actor James Gregory? ... Just Curious?

User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby JackFavell » September 1st, 2012, 3:05 pm

Wow, I had no idea that he was still alive! There was an auction of Gaynor's and Gregory's collected artwork and personal belongings a year or so ago and I guess I just assumed he was no longer with us. Good for him! What a lot of stories he could tell us here at the SSO. hint hint

User avatar
Professional Tourist
Posts: 1703
Joined: March 1st, 2009, 7:12 pm
Location: NYC

Re: Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby Professional Tourist » September 1st, 2012, 3:22 pm

kingme wrote:Is Producer Paul Gregory is any relationship with Actor James Gregory?

His professional name is Paul Gregory -- he was born Jason (or James) Lenhart.
He started out as an actor, and it was movie scouts in Hollywood who changed his name.
Last edited by Professional Tourist on September 1st, 2012, 3:52 pm, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
Professional Tourist
Posts: 1703
Joined: March 1st, 2009, 7:12 pm
Location: NYC

Re: Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby Professional Tourist » September 1st, 2012, 3:29 pm

JackFavell wrote:There was an auction of Gaynor's and Gregory's collected artwork and personal belongings a year or so ago

Yes, that was quite an auction! A PDF version of the catalog can be downloaded here (33MB).

User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby JackFavell » September 1st, 2012, 4:02 pm

Wasn't it amazing, PT? My goodness, there were so many things I would have liked to bid on, but could never afford.... most notably a miniature of Adrian inscribed to Janet.

User avatar
Rita Hayworth
Posts: 10098
Joined: February 6th, 2011, 4:01 pm

Re: Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby Rita Hayworth » September 1st, 2012, 4:13 pm

Professional Tourist wrote:
kingme wrote:Is Producer Paul Gregory is any relationship with Actor James Gregory?

His professional name is Paul Gregory -- he was born Jason (or James) Lenhart.
He started out as an actor, and it was movie scouts in Hollywood who changed his name.


Thanks PT ... for this post!

User avatar
Professional Tourist
Posts: 1703
Joined: March 1st, 2009, 7:12 pm
Location: NYC

Re: Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby Professional Tourist » November 25th, 2016, 2:31 pm

Paul Gregory is no longer with us. He died in December of last year, by suicide, but there was little to no press about it until this fall, when there was a memorial service for him in Desert Hot Springs where he resided. Here is the article I came across in the online edition of The Desert Sun: click here.

Farewell, Mr. Gregory.

Image

User avatar
Professional Tourist
Posts: 1703
Joined: March 1st, 2009, 7:12 pm
Location: NYC

Re: Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby Professional Tourist » November 25th, 2016, 2:36 pm

Since the article may be taken offline eventually, here is the content:
Producer Paul Gregory died the way he wanted to in Desert Hot Springs
Bruce Fessier , The Desert Sun 4:31 p.m. PST November 7, 2016

Paul Gregory was one of the great film, TV and theatre producers.

His classic film noir, “The Night of the Hunter,” starring Robert Mitchum, was ranked the second-best movie of all time, behind “Citizen Kane,” by the French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema. He produced Herman Wouk’s adaptation of Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial,” in Santa Barbara and took it on a journey that ended up with 415 performances on Broadway and an Emmy for a live TV production.

Gregory died last December at age 95, but few people knew about it. He wasn’t given a public memorial service and he didn’t receive the kind of appreciations show biz luminaries usually get. Film historian Alan K. Rode, who produces the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs, was shocked to learn just last month he had died.

Noting that Gregory worked with British actor-director Charles Laughton on both “The Night of the Hunter” and “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial” stage play, and national stage tours of “Don Juan in Hell” and “John Brown’s Body,” Rode said “Paul Gregory and Charles Laughton were one of the more significant entertainment collaborations of the 1950s. During a time of Cold War and the Blacklist, American popular culture was significantly bettered by their work.”

The Desert Hot Springs Historical Society finally gave Gregory his just desserts Oct. 27 at a dinner at the Miracle Springs Hotel, where Gregory could be seen enjoying a martini or lunch — often by himself.

The historical society passed out commemorative bookmarks in Gregory’s honor, saying, “We have lost a great talent, a gentleman, as well as an international celebrity with the passing of Paul Gregory.”

I went there to cover the event, only to have the host, Audrey Moe, ask me to say a few words about Paul. I could only say how badly I felt that I never wrote a news obituary about Gregory. His death was kept so quiet, I said, I didn't find out until at least a month later. I got the feeling he didn’t want any fanfare for his final curtain. I was glad the Desert Hot Springs Historical Society was giving him a public remembrance to give me an opportunity to write about him.

After my talk, I asked Audrey and Mike Bickford, the owner of Miracle Springs and the Desert Hot Springs Spa — and the apartment building where Gregory lived in his final years — if anybody had talked about how Paul died, and they said no. Audrey said she didn’t think I should mention it in my story.

I talked to another speaker who eulogized Gregory that night, 84-year-old business journalist Jim Newman, who befriended Gregory in New York when he had aspirations of becoming an actor. They met again in Kansas City in the early 1960s while Gregory was producing staged readings with husband-and-wife stars Patricia Medina and Joseph Cotten, who would become the Desert Theatre League’s first lifetime achievement award winner in 1988. Newman and Gregory often got together in the desert when Newman had a home in Indian Wells.

Newman didn’t see any reason why I should not report that Gregory committed suicide in the apartment Bickford provided for him. Gregory was an individual who didn't live his life by other people’s conventions. Why shouldn't he have the right to die his way?

Newman said he last talked to Gregory last fall, and he was still sharp and in good spirits. He didn’t take his life because he was suffering from some mental illness. His body was failing and most of his friends were gone. He didn’t want to live that way anymore.

Remembering Gregory

Newman was working with Gregory in Kansas City when Gregory proposed to Janet Gaynor, Hollywood’s first Academy Award-winning Best Actress. She was 14 years older than Gregory – an eternity in those days. But those kind of things didn't matter to him.

What Newman remembers most about Gregory was “his humanness. Although he was dealing with weighty matters in the theater, he always remained just a guy from Des Moines.”

Gregory grew up in Iowa with a mixed heritage: He was a part Cherokee Indian and he said he had African-American cousins. Newman, also part Cherokee, called him by his Cherokee name, which translated to Feather.

Gregory was truly a man of the world. His mother shipped him to England to live with her sister, who had married a wealthy Brit, after his philandering father abandoned them when Paul was 9. He stayed there 10 years, absorbing their culture and returned with an English accent. He returned to Des Moines and got involved in radio, competing against a station featuring Ronald Reagan.

He became a producer after moving to Los Angeles and meeting a choreographer he had admired in England. She was so unknown in L.A., she hired him to promote her show.

He produced his “Don Juan in Hell” in Santa Barbara after meeting the legendary playwright, George Bernard Shaw, the year before his death in 1950. He met Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Serge Diaghilev and Gertrude Stein after producing some Laughton readings in Paris.

"It was like 'Midnight in Paris',” he told me in 2013. “I've seen that movie four times.”

Personal reminiscences

I met Paul when he was living at this cool, old Western-type ranch he developed with Gaynor in Desert Hot Springs called the Singing Tree Ranch. I later visited him at his home in The Springs Country Club in Rancho Mirage after Gaynor died following an automobile accident and Paul married art collector Kay Obergfel. I also had lunch with him at Miracle Springs.

I told the Historical Society audience that Paul loved Obergfel, but he was miserable going to the society parties she dragged him to. I recalled being surprised to see him standing alone at one such party. I went over and had a pleasant conversation with him.

He said the 26 years he knew Gaynor, including the six before they were married, “were the happiest time of my life.”

They met when Gaynor was married to the designer, Adrian, and Gregory had Adrian do some work for him. When Adrian died in 1959, Gaynor, one of the first movie stars to own a home in the desert, put a small house she had in Hawaii up for sale. She asked Gregory if he’d like to look at it and he bought it on the spot. After spending $40,000 to fix it up, he invited Gaynor to visit.

“That was the beginning,” he said. “I had no more idea that I'd end up marrying Janet Gaynor than I'd think of being an astronaut to Mars.”

The Hawaiian humidity was bad for Gregory’s arthritis, but Gaynor had another small house on 50 acres in Desert Hot Springs. Gregory bought 50 acres next to that and fixed it up. Marilyn Monroe was one of their first visitors. Gregory also bought 200 pairs of specialty pigeons from Marseilles, France, where they have famous pigeon races. After five years, he had 5,000 pairs of breeding pigeons. Then he added cows and sow hogs to his working ranch. Within five years, the farm was making $1,000 a week.

“It was the most fun in my life,” he said. “We were dealing with things that were grateful to get something to eat.”

Stars such as Tallulah Bankhead, Truman Capote and even Julia Child visited them in Desert Hot Springs. It became a place where stars could enjoy the real desert instead of the artificial desert of Palm Springs.

Newman said Gregory used to wonder why he would come to the desert and live in Indian Wells. When asked about Desert Hot Springs' winds, he’d say, “Wind? You mean therapeutic breezes.”

Bickford never realized how internationally renowned Gregory was. He said Gregory owned restaurants before coming to DHS, so they shared war stories about that business.

“He was a very humble, very salt of the earth kind of guy,” Bickford said. “We were always happy to have him dining with us and sometimes staying with us.”

The Desert Hot Springs Historical Society designated Gregory as “A Living Treasure” in 2005 and called him the greatest promoter the city ever had.

Newman said simply, “He loved this community.”

User avatar
Sue Sue Applegate
Administrator
Posts: 3313
Joined: April 14th, 2007, 8:47 pm
Location: Texas

Re: Producer Paul Gregory on His Career & Night of the Hunter

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » November 26th, 2016, 10:59 pm

Thanks for posting this, PT! One of our Guest Stars, Preston Neal Jones, interviewed Gregory extensively for his book, Heaven and Hell to Play With: The Making of Night of the Hunter.".
Here: viewtopic.php?f=36&t=6791
Blog: http://suesueapplegate.wordpress.com/
Twitter:@suesueapplegate
TCM Message Boards: http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/ ... ue-sue-ii/
Sue Sue : https://www.facebook.com/groups/611323215621862/
Thelma Ritter: Hollywood's Favorite New Yorker, University Press of Mississippi-2018
Avatar: Ginger Rogers, The Major and The Minor


Return to “General TV and Media”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests