Continuing memories of leading men….and of course leading ladies, how could I leave out Katharine Hepburn and the three I started with…..my first job as Assistant Stage Manager (I wasn’t very good!) and understudy(I was good at that) to the juvenile lead in Toys in the Attic by Lilian Hellman. You may never have heard of these actresses, but they were all major theatre stars of their day: Dame Wendy Hiller, Diana Wynyard and Coral Browne. I would check on them each evening to make sure they were alright, had their props and anything else they needed. They were kind, full of advice and Coral put me on a diet, when I got my first film and checked my calorie consumption each day until I lost what was needed! There’s some real women for you!!
Kate ( as we called her) loved masculine attention – Peter adored her and she him. She looked out for and after the crew, bringing treats on to the set and treating them all like family. She did not like visitors on the set as she felt they were not part of the”family” and therefore not in tune with what we were doing. Kate was generous and patient with us actors and shared her considerable experience…however we were never allowed to forget that she was a star….modest and unassuming she was not. She and I got along well and I enjoyed dinners and stories, when we were staying in the same hotel in France. There were a lot about Spence as she called Spencer Tracy and his understated brilliance on screen. But there were also wonderful stories about John Huston….a great friend…Humphrey Bogart and his wife Lauren Bacall and the adventures they had making The African Queen.
Anthony Hopkins was also in The Lion in Winter (here we are on the set ) and at the time was unknown, but successfully building his reputation at the National Theatre in London. Although our characters were engaged to be married in the story, I really did not have any scenes with Tony, but did watch him on set. His powerful work, his strength and charisma were riveting and we all knew that he was headed for major stardom. This was his dream….he loved working in the movies and was not so keen on the theatre and the repetition of doing the same thing night after night. I do know that his preparation process is highly impressive…much research and study of the part, inside and out…he fills notebook after notebook and his focus and concentration are extraordinary.
And …..Tony is an amazing mimic and kept us all in stitches of laughter, especially when he did whole scenes from Becket, the film that O’Toole did with Richard Burton, playing both parts. Peter enjoyed this hugely. I have not worked with Tony again, though would love to, but got close to him and his second wife, Jenni, now my closest friend, when we were all living in LA and then London. Tony is a thoughtful man of great depth and perception and he helped me through a particularly difficult time of my life with good advice and support. I was grateful.
I can go on and on about the actors I have worked with, but will pause for now and pick up the subject again later. I have been extraordinarily lucky, working with some real and often great talent.
Last word for now on the subject, is for Anthony Harvey, the Director of Lion in Winter. We became good friends and he was an excellent Director. He came from editing, much with Stanley Kubrick, which meant he came to the actual shoot almost with the cut in his head. So many good Directors come from an editing background, David Lean being one. They see the finished film in their mind before they start. Tony Harvey and I were the only one’s available to do the PR tour around the US prior to the film’s premiere. We had a great time and many laughs, became good friends….we took the film and its promotion very seriously……ourselves not so much….an important ingredient of being successful in showbiz. Tony fell foul of Hollywood and the politics in the end. You have to be a master of diplomacy and learn how to navigate its treacherous waters, when to speak and when to shut up. It wasn’t Tony’s forte and I think it made him unhappy and frustrated in the end. Even Kate, the Master Survivor in Hollywood was not successful in teaching him, how and when to stay silent.
Bye for now!