Camelot as a Warner Bros. project was Jack Warner’s baby. But he only put in a couple of appearances on set. Joel Freeman, listed as the “associate producer” (and Howard Kazanjian’s friend), actively produced the movie.
Howard Kazanjian was at a good age – fresh from the DGA training program and full of questions and wanting to excel in his craft. He found a willing mentor in Joel. Howard learned more from Joel than anyone else in the business.
Joel Freeman is now 93, and still active. (In fact, Howard talked to him recently about some projects that Joel was trying to launch). At the age of twenty, Joel started as a messenger at MGM (where his uncle, Dore Schary then worked). During WWII, he served in an Army Air Force film unit. After the war he became an AD at two of the smaller studios, RKO and Selznick. In the late 40s he made the move back to MGM, where his uncle Dore had taken over the reigns from Louis B Mayer. Later in the fifties, Joel became an independent supervisor for film and TV, then followed his uncle to WB for two projects – Sunset at Campobello and the Music Man.
Joel was extremely cautious – he would call on Howard to supply him with numbers, lots of numbers. If extras were used – how many? How many hours did they work? When did they start the day? Could extra crew be sent home early? What time did they go to lunch? Howard learned to count everything, right down to the amount of lunches consumed. [Howard – (on their next project together – Finian’s Rainbow) – “buses were used to transport extras to off locations – seats on one bus numbered 32; on the other 33 – how many empty seats were there? Remember there were no vans in that day. You recorded what time you left one stage and what time you arrived at another, and what time you started shooting. Optimally you would move around lunch time. All this was recorded in the Production report, from which you could see your money savings”].
But there was another side to Joel.
Once, when they were still in the midst of shooting Camelot, a big press junket was announced for the studio. Joel took Howard aside and told him he was invited.
Howard replied – But I’m not dressed for it. And that he’d have to go home to get a proper change of clothes.
Instead, Joel ordered him to the wardrobe department. There they fitted him on the spot – selected a suit, marked and pinned it up and told him to come back. When he did, they were just pressing it. They supplied him with socks and proper shoes and he was off to the junket.
Howard noticed that on the suit there had been a tag with an actor’s name. He attended the press junket in a costume originally made for Christopher Plummer for his role in another recent WB film – Inside Daisy Clover.
Be sure to return next week for the last Camelot post – The Iconic Ending – in The Adventures of Howard Kazanjian.