Archive for Melina Mercouri

Blind Spots

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2016 by dcairns


Ray Walston, an unsatisfactory substitute for the indisposed Peter Sellers, and Cliff Osmond, an unsatisfactory substitute for the area of wall he’s standing in front of, in Billy Wilder’s arguably-still-great KISS ME STUPID.

One kind of directorial blindness is obvious — Quentin Tarantino giving himself the job of lisping narrator in THE HATEFUL EIGHT. I suppose the idea that he’s a recognizable voice and he IS the director could be said to justify that one, if the idea worked. But Tarantino casting himself in PULP FICTION is harder to excuse — an actor with Tarantino’s limited manner and range and skill set could never hope to get cast in that movie, with more lines than Rosanna Arquette, if not for the fact that he was the guy who could give him that part.

And then there’s someone like Jules Dassin, working with his wife Melina Mercouri, and evidently convinced that everything she did was sexy, adorable, funny and convincing. I like Mercouri, but she does get carried away sometimes, and Dassin was evidently not going to be the man to rein her in. I don’t think it’s because he was afraid to do so, I think it’s because his critical eye relaxed unduly whenever he gazed upon his tall thin Greek wife.


But, excepting such obvious cases of prejudice, what are the cases where someone who really should know better casts badly and fails to notice? I think the most inexplicable case on record is that of Billy Wilder’s affection for Cliff Osmond. Wilder, who had talent and knew talent, did not know that Osmond lacked talent. Not totally lacked, just lacked it enough to make his presence problematic when surrounded by really good people with really good material. Wilder went on the record saying that Osmond might be the new Laughton. And Wilder had worked, very successfully, with Laughton. Interestingly, he had planned to have Laughton play the character of Moustache in IRMA LA DOUCE, but Laughton became terminally ill. According to Maurice Zolotow’s unreliable Wilder bio, the director carried on meeting with Laughton, pretending that the actor was going to recover and play this comic role for his friend, thus comforting the great star on his death-bed. Lou Jacobi eventually took the role — but Cliff Osmond is in the picture too, as a policeman, making his first appearance for Wilder, and it is perhaps this connection that set in Wilder’s mind the curious idee fixee that Osmond was in some way Laughtonish. True, he was fat, and true, he wasn’t handsome, but many people are fat and unhandsome. Only Laughton is Laughton. Wilder might as well have cast me.

Osmond went on to prominent roles in KISS ME STUPID, THE FORTUNE COOKIE and THE FRONT PAGE. He’s in more Wilder films than Marilyn Monroe, Walter Matthau, Ray Milland, Fred MacMurray, Erich Von Stroheim or Audrey Hepburn. He’s level with William Holden.

I’m curious — who else do you think represents a blind spot in an otherwise talented director’s career? And more importantly, why?

The Greek Typhoon

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on November 8, 2012 by dcairns

New Forgotten, old favourite — here.

So illusion.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on December 15, 2008 by dcairns
Awhile back I posted some vague thoughts about 10.30 PM SUMMER, a 1966 Jules Dassin film written by Marguerite Duras which I love, although nobody else ever had much positive to say about it. To my delight, the YouTube clip I put up attracted a very unusual response — Isabel Maria Perez Garcon, who appeared in the film, aged 7, as the daughter of Peter Finch and Melina Mercouri, and who had never seen the film since it had never been released in Spain, got in touch asking if I could provide her with a copy.
I could!
Being nothing if not mercenary, I did require her to answer a few questions, however. Isabel kepy apologising for her English and I kept assuring her that it added character and was a good thing.
Thanks for answer me. I am very happy for your offer. If your copy is in french with no subtitles, don’t worry. We played two versions, one in english and one in french.
-For some reason the English version hasn’t been released in America, just the French one with English subtitles! Anyhow, I have a French copy. I’ll burn a disc and if you give me an address I’ll post it as soon as I can.

I would be enchanted to answer your questions about my work in this film. Then I was seven years old, but I remember many things of those days. Only there is a problem, my english is not very good, but I hope that I apologize.
-That’s OK. I can edit it and fix it for my blog, if you prefer, but I don’t mind leaving it as it is. It proves you’re real!
Thanks for your kindness. I look forward to the DVD, makes me so ilusion!
Of course you can ask everything you want, I try to answer them all, as best as I can.
Now you have a friend in spain for what you need.
I’m sorry, I can’t express myself better, just hope it can understand. You can edit it and fix it or not, as you prefer.
Well, here is the interview.
-Was this your first film? How did you get the part?
Yes, this was my first film, but I worked in TV since 4 years old.
When Jules Dassin arrived in Spain looking for a girl for the character of Judith,
 my agent got me an interview with Mr. Dassin and had to like my way of being,
 because I was the chosen
The three lead actors, Finch, Mercouri and Schneider, are an interesting team.
What are your memories of them?
Of course, they were very interesting. I remember with a special affection for Melina and Peter.
They were very affectionate with me. Peter played continuously with me, he was a man of great tenderness.
Melina to think that I am listening her personal voice saying: BRAVO ISABEL, BRAVO.
Always, when we finished a take, repeating the same thing: BRAVO ISABEL, BRAVO.
Also she was very affectionate, very warm, very mediterranean.
And finally Romy, she was a very reserved woman, very introverted.  She did not speak much with me,
but I remember an anecdote: I had very thirsty and we were about to shoot a scene,
while Dassin gave the typical orders: camera, shooting, action; I said in a low voice that had thirst.
My father was next to the operator, but he don’t  brought me water for not stop work.
Romy was then angered, herself stopped the shooting and immediately brought me water.
Another day we were filming a scene in which Romy and I are lying on a mattress on the floor,
when a flag of which are used to sift the light of the foci fell on us, It  just grazing me a bit in the head,
 but it fell on Romy’s nose, causing a tremendous bleeding and a huge swelling who kept away from
the shooting for several days.
The person who interests me most is the director, Jules Dassin. How did you get on with him?
Mr. Dassin, as I called him it was very nice, very affectionate too,
 he and Melina, his wife,care and pamper me a lot. I spoke with he in English.
The producer put me a particular teacher, she helped prepare the English text
and accompanied me to the filming.
Jules Dassin was a man of great personality. I was absolutely fascinated by those
huge blue eyes and hair that stirred up completely white
-I suppose the reason you never got to see the film at the time is that it’s quite adult. The plot involves adultery, etc. How much did you understand about the story when you were making it?
Though obviously with seven years old had not been able to see the movie, the real reason is that the movie
never came out in Spain. At that time, for censorship and in democracy … I don’t know why.
In that moment I just knew the argument was coming from an English family holiday to spain with a friend
and my mother” was helping a murderer escape. I  never read the script, I just studied my part,
so I did not know the full story.
Any other memories of shooting the film?
I remember the terrible cold that we spent during the filming, because though the story is
in summer, we filming in January. The production’s car came to pick me at 6:30 A.m.
and we were going to the shooting, which was often quite distant from Madrid.
 I loved the smell of makeup in the early morning, have my own caravan to relax in the outdoor filming
my assistant and my own dual lights.
That was a world very different from the TV that was the only one who knew so far and I liked a lot
Thank you again for everything, from heart.


“I like your English, even if it has faults. It’s individual!”

   You have a great sense of humor.