PETER USTINOV (1921 – 2004)
[Espousing the difference between acting and politics]: ‘Two members of my profession who are not urgently needed by my profession, Mr. Ronald Reagan and Mr. George Murphy, entered politics and they’ve done extremely well. Since there has been no reciprocal tendency in the other direction, it suggests to me that our job is still more difficult than their new one.’
Ustinov as the Emperor Nero in Quo Vadis
‘Mervyn LeRoy, the director of Quo Vadis (1951), gave me this gem of advice on how to play the Emperor Nero: ‘The way I see Nero, this is the kinda guy who plays with himself nights.’
[Ustinov’s views on Russian-American relations]: ‘There was a great campaign to make life difficult for Vladimir Putin when he came in. Nobody ever mentions that George Bush was head of the CIA. What’s the difference between the CIA and the KGB? Except that probably the KGB are more thorough, intelligent and more respectful of foreign traditions.’
‘Rita Hayworth wanted to be the next Mrs. David Niven. Rita was a great deal of fun and extremely beautiful – all that glorious red hair. David loved her, but not enough to want her for his wife. I don’t know if he loved Hjordis [his wife Hjordis Genberg], but when she became Mrs. David Niven it made him safe from all the others who wanted to be his wife.’
[On playing the old man in Logan’s Run (1976)]: ‘Slightly depressing, because I turned up in Hollywood and I said to Mr. Westmore, one of the famous family of make-up men, ‘It’s terrible! I’ve got to play a man of a hundred years; it means I’ll have to be at the studio at 5 o’clock every morning to be made up!’ He said, ‘No, no, I think ten minutes will be enough.’
CLORIS LEACHMAN (1926-2021)
[This fine actress died in January 2021, from complications following a stroke, with COVID-19 as a contributing factor]: ‘For many, many years, I thought that God would get even with me or punish me because I didn’t believe in him, or her, or them. And nothing ever happened except for good things. So I don’t believe at all in God, and I’m very relieved that I don’t. Extraordinary miracles, billions and trillions of them, happen all the time, but not because there’s a God.’
‘If I were to do some outlandish role, I always made sure I’d be on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, to show that I wasn’t that person that I played. I’d be myself. And so people got to know me, I think, and I think they know that I’m honest and truthful and real.’
ALMA RUBENS (1897-1931)
[A fully-fledged star at 19, Alma had the silent movie world at her feet until her addiction to heroin made her unemployable in the mid-twenties. In her last interview in the Los Angeles Examiner (she was dead at 33), she spoke of her addiction]: ‘As long as my money held out I could get drugs. I was afraid to tell my mother, my best friends. My only desire was to get drugs and take them in secrecy. If only I could get on my knees before the police or before a judge and beg them to make stiffer laws so that men will refuse to take dirty dollars from the murderers who sell this poison and who escape punishment when caught by buying their way out.’
EDDIE MURPHY (1961 – )
[Lacking ego has never been a problem with the former host of Saturday Night Live, as evidenced by this 1982 comment]: ‘If I don’t die in a plane crash or something, this country has a rare opportunity to watch a great talent grow.’
ERROL FLYNN (1909-59)
‘I intend to live the first half of my life. I don’t care about the rest.’[Booze and drugs killed him at 50]
‘I felt like an impostor, taking all that money for reciting ten or twelve lines of nonsense a day.’
‘Women won’t let me stay single, and I won’t let myself stay married.’
[His last words] ‘I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.’
GORDON JACKSON (1923-90)
[He was asked by an interviewer from The London Times in 1981 about his acting]: ‘I wish I had the nerve to really surprise myself or an audience, but I don’t; I go on stage so totally pre-programmed that if a bomb fell I’d still say my next line. That’s the only way I know how to do it.’
SHIRLEY KNIGHT (1936-2020)
[Shirley worked on three episodes of The Fugitive (1963) with the series star David Janssen]: ‘I loved him. He was so sweet. I felt sorry for him toward the end. Now, they have several people as leads in a show, they have these huge casts, but David was that show. He had those long, long, long hours, and a role where he was always doing physical things.’
TOM SELLECK (1945 – )
[Discussing how he got into the acting profession]: ‘I was planning to go into ‘Architecture’. But when I arrived [to sign up for courses], ‘Architecture’ was filled up. ‘Acting’ was right next to it. So I signed up for ‘Acting’ instead.’
Tom & good friend Charlton Heston
[He had this to say when he was being considered as the next President of the National Rifle Association (NRA), following the retirement of his close friend Charlton Heston in 2003]: ‘If a guy as good and decent with as much grace as Chuck Heston can stand up for an issue that I think is very important…then I certainly could stand up and I plan on remaining a life member for life. Popularity is the pocket change of history. The true measure is courage. There will never be another Charlton Heston.’
‘I was offered Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992), with Marlon Brando, who in my generation was ‘the Man’. I said I’d only do it if Brando was in it. But when I got on set, instead of seven scenes with Brando, there was only one and he didn’t speak. I tried to quit, but I was warned I’d be sued. It was a horrible movie! I realized that wanting to act with someone, even Brando, was a bad reason to take a role.’
I’m a fan of The Fugitive TV show and David Janssen. I’ve read that he demanded to end the show after its fourth season due to his physical and mental exhaustion. The work hours then (and even today) on one-hour TV drama series usually comprises fourteen to fifteen hour days! That’s a brutal schedule to maintain for cast and crew week in and week out.
Much more difficult when you’re the solo lead of a TV series. And made harder I would imagine given David’s heavy drinking and smoking habits.
If I were a creator/producer for a TV show I would never design it to have one star only. I think it’s inhuman to place that much pressure on one single individual. If anything happens to that lead your show is sunk.
Ensemble casts are the smart way to go. You have a group of people that can share the burdens and it doesn’t all fall onto one poor actor.
Producer Quinn Martin did the same thing in his science fiction TV series The Invaders. Roy Thinnes was the only regular on the show until the second season.
You don’t see many TV shows these days with one lead only. Maybe the producers have learned their lesson on that score.
You make a very valid point (as usual) Mike. Shows such as ‘Bonanza’ got by because each week one of the four principals would usually carry the load in his turn. I really enjoyed ‘The Invaders’ and was disappointed when it was cancelled.
Oddly enough, I never was able to get into ‘The Invaders’ when it was first broadcast, Alan.
My idea of television science fiction was drawn to series that were set far into the future, such as Star Trek.
So watching a guy in the present day battling aliens just did not hold as much appeal for me. Years later I bought the boxset for the show and found that I really enjoyed it.
I’d seen so few episodes of the show over the years that it was almost like watching a brand new TV series. Producer Quinn Martin brought the high excellence to the show as he did with all his series.
The design for the alien starships was very sharp, especially when you compare it to the silly design for the alien spaceship on UFO. They always looked like a toy top to me. A shame as it was an otherwise fine SF TV show.
‘The Invaders’ had intelligent and literate scripts, marvelous guest stars each week, and interesting location filming throughout the series.
The location shooting may not strike some as a big deal in this day and age. However, back in the 60s many television productions were reluctant to stray far from either their studio soundstages or studio backlots. Doing so saved time and money for the productions.
Martin was one of the very few TV producers who insisted on his various TV shows getting away from the soundstages and backlots whenever possible. It gave the audience fresh looking vistas to take in and it gave his shows a more expansive look like a feature film.
I would have loved to have seen scripts penned by noted SF author Harlan Ellison for ‘The Invaders.’ Harlan had written the award winning scripts for The Outer Limits (Demon With a Glass Hand), and Star Trek (The City On the Edge of Forever.) He was called in by the producer of the show to pitch story ideas. The mercurial Ellison went ballistic over what he felt were nincompoop suggestions by the producer to Harlans’ ideas and told the producer in just those terms.
That ended his chance for scripting the show.
That was the end of Harlan, what a shame. Whatever he had written would most likely have been brilliant.
I am also a huge fan of location shooting, Mike. In fact, I think my enjoyment of John Ford westerns stems from his use of the magnificent scenery in Monument Valley. Funny how, with the marvelous exception of ‘Sweet Smell of Success’, location shooting in cities is never as effective. I LOVE a lot of westerns because of it, however, although I am especially partial to horses (having owned three and leased a few more thoroughbreds over the years). The only animals I love even more are dogs. I have a Shiht-zu named Squirrel and I simply adore her. (As you can see, I have no idea how to spell the name of her breed). My wife is a huge fan of sci-fi, supernatural shows etc, but apart from the Original Star Trek, I have never gotten into them. Mind you, she LOVES the original ‘Lost in Space’, which I avoid like the plague. Watches it all the time. Personally, I think she is re-living her childhood. Then again, I would happily re-watch ‘The Mickey Mouse Club’, just to catch a glimpse of my first true love – Annette!
“My gross habits exceed my net income.” “Hollywood has great respect for the dead and none for the living.” Errol Flynn.
I’m a fan of both Charlton Heston & Tom Selleck but not of their politics.
Heston starred in four science fiction films when few of his stature ever went near the genre. Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, and The Omega Man were the SF movie he did.
All were interesting and Planet of the Apes is hailed as a classic. He only did the sequel to Apes because he was contractually obligated.
By all accounts Tom manages to treat everyone he works with with respect and keep his ego in check. Can’t say that about too many actors.
Tom guest starred on The Rockford Files in a couple of episodes with James Garner. Tom said that he learned a lot from watching Jim and how he interacted with the guest stars and the crew. Garner had very few folks ever speak badly about him regarding how he treated other people he worked with over the course of his terrific career.
Heston lost me at the Oscars the night Russell Crowe won for ‘Gladiator’, and Chuck whispered to him ‘From one gladiator to another, I salute you!’ Gimme a break! Besides, I refuse to say anything positive about ANY NRA President!
You might want to think about getting a better internet provider.