Archive for Sid Sheinberg


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2019 by dcairns

Bruce Dern, that god among men, appeared at the Telluride Film Festival with NEBRASKA the year Paul Duane and I were there with NATAN, so I got to hear him talk to Leonard Maltin. Dern likes to talk, so my memory is that Maltin asked about four questions and Brucie filled the ninety minutes with ease.

I’ve never gone into his Hitchcock stories here since I assumed they were readily available in the public realm via Dern’s memoir, Things I’ve Said, But Probably Shouldn’t Have. BUT I finally just read the book, which is terrific fun, and the stories I recall aren’t included. So I’m just going to tell them here. I think my memory of them is accurate though of course I can’t vouch for Dern’s. But he seems pretty reliable.

First, Dern reported that on day one of FAMILY PLOT (Hitch’s last movie and his second with Dern), Hitchcock ended the day by thanking his whole crew, individually by name, for their efforts. Sixty people he’d never worked with before. Dern said he’s asked other directors if they thought they could pull off a feat like that, and hadn’t ever gotten a “yes.” He speculated, correctly I think, that Hitch wanted to demonstrate to everyone, aged 76, that he was still sharp.

It’s the other story that’s the real doozy, though. Hitch, said Dern, was approached by Lorraine Gary. You may know her as Sheriff Brody’s wife in JAWS, but she was the real-life wife of Sid Sheinberg Lew Wasserman, Hitch’s former agent and now the head of his studio, Universal — and Spielberg’s casting of her, twice, seems like a shrewd way to keep the boss on-side, though LG is also an excellent actress, well worth casting purely on merit. Anyway, she’s a woman of influence at this time.

Lorraine Gary says to Hitch, reportedly, something like this: “My friend Mary [not her real name so far as I know] is an actress, and she needs to work once a year to keep her union membership, and she would be just perfect for the role of the bra saleswoman in your film.”

“Out of the question,” says Hitch.

“Oh, but-“

“Out of the question.”

But the day comes to shoot the scene, and on the set is not the actor Hitchcock chose for the part, but Lorraine’s friend Mary.

Hitch makes no comment. He sets up his first shot — we’ll be over Bruce’s shoulder on Mary, then at the end of the scene she’ll leave and Bruce will turn and it’ll end as a single on him.

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A bra saleswoman.

Take One. It goes fine. Hitchcock says, “Cut,” and walks up to the camera. Opens it. Unspools the film, exposing it: holds it up to the light.

“Oh dear,” he says to Mary, “It appears you’re not photogenic.”


“Your image does not appear on the celluloid.”

Mary starts crying and leaves, Hitch returns to his director’s chair to await the arrival of the actor he chose (pictured).

Dern had told Hitch that he wanted his chair right next to Hitch’s so he could study the Master of Suspense at work. So he leans over and asks, “What was all that about?”

“What that was about, Bruce, was DON’T FUCK WITH HITCH.”

Silent Night

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on December 24, 2011 by dcairns

A Shadowplay Production.

What I’ve done is, like Sid Sheinberg of Universal, I’ve re-edited a classic Christmas film into a new and more digestible form. I pray history will judge me as benevolently as it judges the guy who tried to butcher BRAZIL…

Visuals — An Edison version of THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

Audio — Basil Rathbone reading the story. This was a novelty record, but it came from a warm place — Baz loved the story, and read it to his daughter. Now we can experience what she felt, down to her toasty-warm carpet slippers.

Of course, the visuals did not seamlessly match the audio, and indeed Edison has taken his own path through the poem, tending to take Santa’s point of view as much as the nameless narrator’s. So I’ve moved things around according to the soundtrack and my own whim, and unapologetically fitted the intertitles to the portions where Basil speaks those verses, gloriously redundant though this is. What I discovered, though, is how closely Edison and his troupe paid attention to the poem — the moment when Santa spins round and touches his nose is straight from Clement Clarke Moore’s verse.

Of course, the best bit turns out to be when Edison has failed to provide any accompanying images to long stretches of poem, so I’m forced to use shots that don’t directly illustrate the words at all — this is how sound and image should work, as a kind of fugue. I should have forced them to diverge more — Edison actually does this in his original film, following the title about the children all being tucked in their beds with a vigorous pillow fight — parody trumps reverence every time.

Here, you can see the original version, which plays around with chronology and point of view and such. Also, by selecting carefully which stanzas to quote, the filmmakers avoid having to deal with Clarke’s miniaturized Santa (so that’s how he fits down the chimney!), a stunted halfling apparently no bigger than a poodle dog.