Otto Preminger: a man so mean he warms his hands with barbed wire.
John Huston, in his autobiography An Open Book, reminisces on acting in THE CARDINAL for director Otto Preminger ~
‘Otto is the kindest and most considerate of men in everyday life, but he is notorious for his behaviour on the set. His tirades are legendary. It usually turns out that a reputation like Otto’s has little basis in fact, but as I came onto the set the very first day I was to work, Otto was already roaring like a lion, and his roars never ceased. Most of his roaring was at Tom Tryon. They were a couple of weeks into the picture, and I was told he’d been roaring at Tom since the opening shot. Poor Tom was a wreck!
‘We had a scene where we entered a room together. Standing outside the door, waiting for the cue light to flash, I could actually feel Tom quaking beside me, and I put my arm around him to steady him. He said in an undertone, “I’m going to quit acting.” After we played the scene, I drew Otto aside and told him that I thought, as things were going, Tom was heading for a nervous breakdown. “He’s a nundle of nerves. If you don’t get him to relax, he might not even finish the picture.” Otto was astounded. he hadn’t even realised that he was raising his voice at Tom.
‘Tryon’s next scene was practically a monologue, and he wasn’t doing that well with it. He was tense. His eyes were desperate, and in a final rehearsal I heard him groan once between lines. He got through the scene somehow. Otto said, “Cut!” Then he rose, walked up behind Tom, who stood isolated and miserable, and screamed into his ear, “Relax!”
‘True to his word, Tom Tryon left acting and became a writer of best-sellers.”
One of those, THE OTHER, became a remarkable film directed by Richard Mulligan. It’s emotionally draining like very few “horror movies”, and the ending of is one of the most horrible I have ever seen.
So, maybe it was all worth it!