- ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ opens – a WB release, directed by Michael Curtiz, with Errol Flynn, Olivia DeHaviland, Basil Rathbone, Alan Hale. Also opening – ‘Vivacious Lady’ from RKO – George Stevens directing with Ginger Rogers and James Stewart.
- The WB publicity department to promote their Robin Hood film planted nearly 4,000 arrows in the lawns of local residents (Hollywood and LA). Particular attention was paid to the lawns of local newsmen, reviewers and columnists.
- Jackie Coogan faces off with his Mom and stepfather over the money he claimed was from his earnings as a child star. He claimed his earnings totalled 4 million, his mother counters that it was only 1.5 million, of which only $500,000 remains. They further claim that he had no rights to any of it before he became of age, and in addition had no claim to anything his father had bequeathed after the auto crash that ended his life. Jackie does not accept their answer and vows to press on in court.
- Director George Stevens is reported to be headed for Mexico to look for a location where an Indian (make that East Indian) village could be built. RKO is budgeting $800,000 to built it. But then again there is concern that Mexican President Cardenas could confiscate the site. [This would be for ‘Gunga Din.’ Stevens ended up going elsewhere].
- At RKO writers Ben Hecht and Charlie MacArthur have turned in the first draft for ‘Gunga Din.’ They solved the problem of turning a poem into a film by borrowing from their successful play and film ‘The Front Page.’ They transferred the story element in which the newspaper editor is trying to retain the services of his reporter who wants to quit – over to a military setting. In this instance a soldier who wants to return to civilian life has his fellow sargeants plotting to keep him in harness.
INT BEN’S STUDY – NIGHT
For crying out loud!
Abigail comes in on the run.
(not seeing a cause for his outburst)
What’s the matter, Babe?
(holds up the journal)
Lon was just about to describe his new command. And he switched ciphers.
ABIGAIL No key?
None. Zip. Nada! I got to go over there.
I’ve got to go to France. She’s there. I know she is.
She gives him “a look.”
I’m serious, Abigail!
I see. Is there any thing I can do to help?
An extra pair of eyes would be handy.
She picks up the journal.
I’ll scan these pages and convert it to a text file and between us we should be able to crack it. Meanwhile, you get some sleep, we’ve got that meeting in the morning.
Hon, I’m not a two year old.
No, you’re not, you just sound like one.
THE GATE’S KITCHEN – EARLY MORNING
Ben picks up his coffee cup and drains the last drop, sets it down and strikes out five words from a column on a paper full of keyword combinations. Abigail sits across from him, also in her bathrobe, hard at work on her laptop. A news program drones on from a TV set installed under the cabinet.
(refilling his cup)
What about you? Anything?
Making progress. I’m just rechecking the text file now for scanning errors. Maybe Riley can program something to hack it.
A report just in this morning – a gold heist–
(both look to the screen)
occurred overnight at a local museum. Details when we return.
What’s this? A pajama party? Why didn’t you tell me?
As the program is resuming, Ben holds up a hand to hush him.
The curator of the museum Mr. Conrad Toombs —
–tells us that an exhibit had been broken into last night and burglarized. Stolen were 16 crates of gold ingots. The gold had been found —
Oh, crap! I’m going now!
(shuts the TV off)
I’m not going to get caught up here in any investigation.
Do you think that’s wise? You’ll end up a suspect for sure.
As if I’m not one already. You know I didn’t take it and I know I didn’t take it.
Actually I don’t know if that’s true or not, so you better take me with you.
If you’re going to France, I’m going to Mexico.
You heard me.
What are you talking about?
Lon was there after the war. He says so in your first journal. I did some checking and the KGC was headquartered there then.
(realization sets in)
And the perfect spot to look for a paper trail, perhaps their archive.
I’ll go with her if you like.
No, I need you along with me.
Don’t worry, I won’t be alone. I owe a visit to a colleague at the Mexican archives.
I’ve always wanted to see Paris. When do we leave?
Monday March 25th, 1968. When they showed up that morning, the asphalt streets of Parras, Mexico were covered with dirt and some of the buildings outfitted with add-on facades, all to give it the look of a Texas border town.
Cliff Coleman, the brand new 1st AD had not arrived yet. The studio had put him on a plane with a copy of the script. He would be a good choice, because he was excellent when it came to managing crowds, just what was needed on the first day. For the first scenes to be shot were the first scenes in the film, and if you remember the film there were lots of crowds to be pushed around.
There were four groups to be co-ordinated – the Wild Bunch (in town to rob the railroad), the bounty hunters (there to trap the Wild Bunch), the townspeople (innocents caught in the crossfire), and a subset of the townspeople – teetotalers, preparing and conducting a temperance march.
Howard Kazanjian, as the 2nd Assistant Director was attached to the second unit and put in charge of the last named subset. He was in the revival tent and had as his task to teach the Mexican extras that made up the temperance procession how to sing Shall We Gather at the River.
And he was very busy indeed. In fact he wore two hats that day. Peckinpah intended to shoot the master scene for the entire flow of the action from the entry of the Wild Bunch into the town, the shoot out and their exit. Because there were five cameras rolling to catch all the interaction among the actors and the two hundred plus extras, and because there were not enough crew to man them, Howard served on this unit’s camera crew, pulling focus.
By the afternoon, Coleman had arrived and took up his tasks as 1st AD. By the end of the day the master shot was in. The next few days, as was the practice, the coverage was closer, little isolated snatches of action and close ups for the name actors. It was a smart and economical way of doing things. The number of people in front of and behind the camera were pared down. By the end of the week they moved inside to shoot interiors.
By that time, Howard had another reason to check out the interiors too. He had worn out his socks, and went in search of replacements in the only place at hand – the one General store in the town of Parras.
Tune in next Wednesday for the further adventures of Howard Kazanjian – in “Shooting Time to Pieces,” here on Watch this Space!
Landing a Job as an A.D.
After a stint at the TV company Four Star Productions right out of college, Howard Kazanjian had the opportunity to settle in at WB for his trial period as an assistant director. Four Star, the TV firm begun by Dick Powell, Joel McCrea, David Niven and Charles Boyer had been a good training ground. In the three short months there, he had helped on the TV series Amos Burke – Secret Agent, Honey West, and the Big Valley. He even gained some experience working on a couple of pilots, one a western, a spin-off of the feature High Noon, and another one The Sea Wolves which showcased a submarine. Neither of them made it past the pilot stage.
With the move to WB, Howard continued to work in TV, on the series Mr Roberts and The F.B.I., before switching to feature films (see credits below). It was during this period that Howard worked on two musicals Camelot and Finian’s Rainbow. (Both of which I hope to touch on in future posts). With his assignment to Finian his trial period with the DGA was over and he was now a full fledged assistant director.
Then, word was out that Sam Peckinpah was looking for ADs for his next feature, The Wild Bunch, to be produced at Warners. The buzz about town was that another western was in the works. History had been made with the $400,000 sale of William Goldman’s script for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” to Fox. Peckinpah with his $100,000 script in hand wanted to beat it into production and onto the screens. (He did.)
Peckinpah’s normal practice was to give a candidate a copy of the script, then call him in to grill him on his read of the project. [Howard – “I never was interviewed regarding the script by Peckinpah. His team had overlooked me in the interview process, or perhaps thought I had been interviewed. WB was pushing for me to be on that show.”] So he never heard those words – “We’ll call you later.”
Instead he was sent for, but when he entered Peckinpah’s office suite it was anything but promising. The outer office was empty. A female voice called out from behind the closed door to the next room. ”Be right with you.”
Howard stood waiting.
When the woman popped her head out of the door to call him in, Howard could’t help but notice that she was not an office worker, but rather a nurse, her tell-tale cap giving that fact away. No sooner had he entered the room and the door closed, than she instructed him to pull down his pants. Right then and there out came an hypodermic and she injected its contents into Howard’s gluteus maximus.
Howard says his muscles must have tensed up automatically, and it was much more painful than it should have been. In fact, a rather large knot developed that stayed with him for the next month.
One plus though. He knew immediately that he had the job, and would soon be going south of the border, down Mexico way.
Amos Burke, Secret Agent
The Big Valley
The Smothers Brother Show – one week only
Honey West – one week only
Ace of the Mounties – Pilot
Sea Wolves – Pilot (Submarine)
High Noon – Pilot
Mr. Roberts (TV)
The House of Wax – Pilot
The F.B.I. (TV)
Not With My Wife, You Don’t
An American Dream
The Cool Ones
Cool Hand Luke
I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!
The Wild Bunch
Once You Kiss A Stranger
The Great Bank Robbery