Accidents Will Happen

Oops

Anecdote from the documentary series Hollywood UK ~

At the end of the Losey-Pinter collaboration ACCIDENT, there’s a shot duplicating the opening: a wide view of the Bogarde residence. Only this time it’s day and not night. The Bogarde children (girl, 3, and boy, 7) and dog play on the lawn.

In the script, Pinter had written that the little girl trips and falls. Losey then planned to pull out slightly, mirroring the push-in at the start of the film, while the sound of the original car crash is heard, part of the film’s strategy of dislocating sound and image and fragmenting time.

There was no way to get a three-year-old to convincingly trip on purpose on a gravel driveway. They don’t have the Robert Mitchum spirit, those three-year-olds. So a trip-wire was hidden.

Some of the crew were rather unhappy about this. Losey didn’t like it either, but saw no other way to get the shot. Like the firing squad in KING AND COUNTRY, they all prepared to do this horrible thing they knew was wrong. It’s a one-take deal, obviously (unless there are a dozen identical weans squirrelled away somewhere, just for the stuntwork.

Action! The unsuspecting kids and dog take off. The wirework works — almost too well. Down goes the hapless tot, down goes the boy, down goes the dog, almost. But the girl is first, so she registers on camera as the important one. The parents emerge and shepherd the kids indoors. The camera starts to pull out.

Then the dog, for reasons known only to himself, bananas off around the garden and charges straight at the camera. Fortunately he decides to run past it, perhaps to be reunited with a favourite crewmember, rather than, say, leaping up and licking the lens. Then Losey lays in the sound effect of screeching brakes and smashing metal and glass, causing many audience members to imagine that the dog has caused yet another car crash.

It’s a good shot though.

An excellent, slightly different account of the same shot can be found at Jim Emerson’s excellent Scanners blog.

6 Responses to “Accidents Will Happen”

  1. Someone, I forget who, said that when the sound of the final car crash is heard at the film’s conclusion they expected to hear “Bluebottle” from The Goon Show cry out “Ack — You have dead-ed me!”

  2. Heh! Fiona thought the car-wreck sound followed by the jazz tune from Mr Cleo Laine was kind of funny already.

    I like that music though, it has a nice LAZY sound.

  3. That it does. There’s a truly lovely moment where the main themes starts up on the harp, as oars are dipped into the river at Oxford for Michael York to take Jacqueline Sassard on a lazy afternoon tip upstream — with Boarde and Baker steaming with envy on the shore. Dankworth was a real wiz at theis sort of thing.

  4. That whole boating scene is just lovely.

    Trivia — Britt Ekland was up for the Sassard part. She might have been slightly more convincingly “German”, I guess.

  5. But much too knowing for the role. Sassard is alternately cunning and naive — which is perfect for a Losey femme fatale.

  6. Well, Ekland does blank quite well. But Sassard is fantastically unreadable. There’s certainly a tendency to ignore nationality in Losey’s work, as witness just about everyone in Trotsky, and Secret Ceremony, where Liz plays American and Mia British!

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