Irish-born Pierce Brosnan was chosen to play James Bond in 1986 and was given the script for The Living Daylights (1987), despite him being contracted to play the title character in the TV series Remington Steele for a full seven seasons. He was greatly relieved to learn that NBC had decided to cancel the series at the end of the fourth season, thereby leaving him free to play 007 in the upcoming movie. His relief was short-lived, however, when NBC executives had a sudden change of heart about cancelling the series. It was back on. The network attempted, unsuccessfully, to strike a deal with Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli, one that would enable Brosnan to play both Remington Steele and James Bond. Broccoli famously told them, ‘James Bond will not be Remington Steele and Remington Steele will not be James Bond.’ He then gave NBC a 60-day deadline to revoke their decision to cancel the series. At 6.30pm on the sixtieth day Brosnan was informed that there would indeed be a fifth season of Remington Steele after all. He had lost the 007 role, so Timothy Dalton became the new James Bond. After completing just six episodes of the fifth season, the series was cancelled for good anyway!
Just one day before he died from a heart attack at sixty in January 1977, Peter Finch appeared on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show on U.S. network television NBC. On the programme he entertained the host and the audience with tales of his youth. He even spoke of his psychic grandmother and, (ironically), joked about dying from a heart attack. The following day, January 14, he suffered a fatal heart attack in the lobby of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Carson closed his show the next evening with some words about Finch’s passing.
George Clooney recalled the early days, prior to him getting acting jobs, when he agreed to drive his Aunt (Rosemary Clooney, the singer), as she toured the region with fellow singers Margaret Whiting, Martha Raye and Helen O’Connell, as she endeavoured to rekindle her singing career. ‘I remember once’, George recalled, ‘when Rosemary and Martha were in the back and my cousin Rafael and I were in the front. Martha was drinking as Martha could do, and at one point she made us pull the car over so she could hang one leg out and go to the bathroom!.. You turn around and you learn a little too much about the ageing process! The next morning she somehow misplaced her dentures, so there were all of us looking for them because otherwise she couldn’t do the show. Nobody really wanted to find them, but eventually we did.’
JAMES FOX in Performance (1970)
After filming Performance (1970) with Mick Jagger, James Fox left the acting profession for nine years (1970-79). A combination of the recent death of his father, plus the strain of filming, coupled with his partaking of the hallucinogen DMT with Jagger, led to a nervous breakdown. James subsequently joined a religious organization, (closely associated with the ministry of Billy Graham), known as ‘The Navigators’. ‘People think Performance blew my mind’, Fox has since commented, adding: ‘…my mind was blown long before that. Before that I had been completely involved in the more bawdy side of the film business. But after that everything changed…I did start going back to church and I started to read the New Testament.’
ROSEMARY CLOONEY at her peak
Through the early 1950s, Rosemary Clooney racked up no fewer than fifteen gold records, including # 1 hits ‘This Ole House’ and ‘Mambo Italiano’. In 1953, at the pinnacle of her fame, she eloped with Oscar-winning actor Jose Ferrer, a man sixteen years her senior. The newlyweds moved into the mansion formerly owned by George Gershwin and their marriage lasted eight years. By 1955, however, her highly successful world started tumbling down. Why? Her kind of music (and jazz) were suddenly no longer very popular. Rock and Roll had arrived. As her career and marriage began to crumble she turned to tranquillisers and sleeping tablets to give her the will to face each day. And her addiction worsened.
Rosemary in later years and still looking good
Then, in June 1968, she was literally just yards away when her close friend Bobbie Kennedy was gunned down in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, and his assassination triggered her eventual mental breakdown. After several public collapses she checked herself into the psychiatric ward of the Mount Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. She would be in and out of there for the next two decades.
Throughout much of the making of Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) the relationship between Clark Gable (Fletcher Christian) and Charles Laughton (Captain Bligh) was strained. The primary reason for this was Laughton’s habit of not looking his co-star in the eye during scenes together. To Gable, whose acting relied upon re-acting, this was fatal. He needed a clear and real relationship with his fellow actors. Time and again he stormed off the set, bitterly denouncing Laughton for trying to exclude him from scenes. This conflict was actually good for the movie, however, and the relationship between the two stars gradually warmed over the shoot. In fact, as a supreme gesture of comradeship, Gable had taken Laughton with him on a visit to a brothel! Evidently, the British actor was deeply touched.
Mitchum & Billy Chapin in The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Director Laughton and Robert Mitchum established an instant rapport when Charles offered him the lead role as the evil Preacher in his upcoming film The Night of the Hunter (1955). ‘The character I want you to play’, Laughton told him, ‘is a diabolical shit!’ Mitchum’s one-word response was typical of the man: ‘Present!’ he said. As for the child actors, Sally Bruce and Billy Chapin, (especially the boy), Laughton had no time for them. Chapin played John, the lad that Mitchum’s character terrorizes. Bob tried to help the child out when he handed him a note that read: ‘Do you think John’s frightened of the Preacher?’ ‘Nope’, replied Billy. ‘Then you don’t know the Preacher and you don’t know John’, said Mitchum. ‘Oh really?’ retorted the boy. ‘That’s probably why I just won the New York Critics’ Circle prize.’ Laughton overheard the conversation. ‘Get that child away from me!’ he roared. From that point onwards, Mitchum alone directed the opinionated youngster – with, as it happened, quite remarkable results.
Bernard Fox (centre in Titanic (1997) and inset as lookout Fred Fleet in A Night to Remember (1958)
Bernard Fox hailed from Port Talbot, West Glamorgan, Wales, yet made his name (on both screen and stage) portraying bumbling, stereotypical, stiff-upper-lip British gents. Students of the ‘Titanic’ sea tragedy of 1912 will, no doubt, be aware that he actually appeared in the 1958 version of the disaster, titled A Night to Remember, and again in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic. In the earlier film he played the lookout Fred Fleet who utters the immortal words: ‘Iceberg dead ahead, sir!’ In Titanic he played Colonel Archibald Gracie. Sadly, this delightful character actor left us in 2016 at the age of eighty-nine.