AKA Never Apologise (UK title)
This has not been released on DVD in the US and I have a copy shown at Cannes if you want contact me.
Cast | Articles | Interviews | Introduction & Production Notes | News | Notes | Pictures | Q & A with Malcolm | Quotes | My Summary | My Review
Only Malcolm is there live, the rest are discussed & shown (only on DVD)
|Bette Davis (Whales of August)|
|John Ford (Lindsay's favorite director)|
|Sir John Gielgud (Home, Caligula)|
|Lillian Gish (The Whales of August)|
|Richard Harris (This Sporting Life)|
|Jocelyn Herbert (if..., O Lucky Man!)|
|Laurence Olivier (The Collection)|
|Joan Plowright (Britannia Hospital)|
|Alan Price (O Lucky Man!, Home, Britannia Hospital)|
|Rachel Roberts (O Lucky Man!, TSL, Old Crowd)|
|David Sherwin (if..., O Lucky Man!, Britannia)|
|David Storey (In Celebration, Home)|
|Ben Travers (The Seagull)|
|At the Luncheon|
|Sir Alan Bates (The Collection, In Celebration)|
|Clive Donner (She Fell among Thieves)|
|Noel Davis (A Christmas Carol)|
|Eleanor Fazan "Fizz" (if..., O Lucky Man!)|
|Jocelyn Rickards (Blow-up)|
|John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy)|
|Mary Steenburgen (Time after Time, Whales of August)|
|Directed by Mike Kaplan|
|Conceived by Malcolm McDowell|
|Edited by Eric Foster & Kate Johnson|
|Producer Performance Footage - Peter Crane|
|Lighting - Brian Lofthaus|
|Camera - Matt Walla, Jesse Hagy, John Paul Meyer, Christoph Faubert|
|Recording Mixer Jim Corbett CAS/MPSE|
|Sound - Larry McMillian|
|Post Production - Kris Crookham, KBC Productions & Michael Masucci, EZTV Media|
|Produced by Mike Kaplan & Malcolm McDowell|
Pieces by and about Lindsay Anderson are from:
Never Apologize: The Collected Writings
Going Mad In Hollywood: And My Life With Lindsay Anderson
by David Sherwin
Andre Deutsch, London
The Diaries of Lindsay Anderson
Edited by Paul Sutton
Cecil Beaton, John Haynes, Jonathan Levine, Sandra Lousada, Kelley McDowell, Sarah Zelkha
Twelfth Night painting of Malcolm by
The Mike Kaplan Collection
From the Misa Luba an African mass sung by Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin conducted by Fr. Guido Maazen O.F.M.
O Lucky Man!
Music and lyrics Alan Price
This Sporting Life
© Independent Artists Ltd./J. Arthur Rank
© Paramount Pictures Inc
O Lucky Man!
© Warner Bros. Inc.
The Whales of August
© Alive Films/Circle Associates Ltd.
Bette Davis Arrival Footage
© Bob Howard
David Storey, Gavin Lambert
Karl Magee, curator
The Lindsay Anderson Archive
The University of Stirling
The University of Stirling holds Lindsay Anderson's personal and working papers, photographs, diaries, memorabilia and book collection.
For more information see:
Ojai Film Festival
Ojai performing Arts Theatre & Academy
Kathy Burke, Susan Bloom, Bret Copeland, Shane Danielson, Karen Donleavy, A.J. Eaton, Lauren Hutton, Joan Kemper, Sonia MacGuinness, Kelley McDowell, Nicola Pierson, Michael J. Shapiro, Joan Tewkesbury, David Thomson, Traci Trotter, Lois Smith, Julie Vukas, The Lindsay Anderson Memorial Foundation
was filmed at Ojai Mantakilla Hall
It premiered on stage at
The Edinburgh Festival
The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
The National Theatre, London
The Cottesloe Stage
Red River Valley
Performed by Lindsay Anderson
Guitar, Frank Grimes
© 2007 Travis Productions Inc. and Circle Associates Ltd.
all rights reserved
If only Anderson were here...After several years in the making, our tribute
to director Lindsay Anderson, Never Apologize, is screening at Cannes - and I
think he'd approve
Mike Kaplan | Guardian Unlimited 5/19/07
Malcolm McDowell is describing the scene in a London
screening room in late 1972, as he, director Lindsay Anderson, composer Alan
Price and producer Michael Medwin look for scenes to cut out of O Lucky Man!
Warner Brothers have refused to release the film at its nearly three-hour
length. By accident, the projectionist jumps from reel eight to reel 10.
Anderson yells "Stop!" McDowell counters, "Great cut!" He
knows, mistake or not, that it will satisfy the studio's demands. Anderson balks
vociferously, then reluctantly agrees. Five years later, he bamboozles Warner
Brothers into restoring reel nine, but the original negative has been lost and
when the duplicate negative is printed, reel nine looks a little grainy - unlike
the rest of the film. Anderson, however, loves the difference in texture. As he
tells McDowell: "Art is sometimes a happy accident."
This line emerged as the motto for our film Never Apologize. It is ostensibly a film version of McDowell's one-man show about Anderson - who died in 1994 - but is the result of several years' effort. The odyssey began in 2003 when the Edinburgh film festival told me they wanted to hold an Anderson retrospective the following year to mark the 10th anniversary of his death. When I called McDowell about the Edinburgh plans, he said, "I can do a show about Lindsay. You'll have to help."
So over McDowell's dining room table in California and between his daily golf dates, we went over the proofs of Never Apologize: The Collected Writings. McDowell had lots of stories about Anderson, who had cast him in 1968's If ... and changed his life. As he recounted his tales in full throttle, I took extensive notes.
Having never staged any theatre before, our efforts at this point reminded me of the Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland musicals when they'd put on a barn show to raise money for some enterprise of our own. It was an analogy that Anderson might have appreciated. He loved the Golden Age Hollywood films. His flat was filled with a file index of hundreds of old movies he'd tape from television and almost always, he'd select a scene from some 30s or 40s musical to test one's film knowledge.
McDowell recalled his own introduction to Anderson's film history course with a quiz about Jean Arthur's credits. Feigning knowledge and innocently referring to Arthur as a "he", McDowell was berated by Anderson for not recognizing Arthur as a great comedy actress in Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Then Anderson indoctrinated him in the glories of American cinema, particularly the poetry of John Ford. He told McDowell: "If you're going to be in the film business, you'd better know something about it."
The Whales of August, Anderson's last film was filmed in Maine, Ford's birthplace, and between takes he would delight in singing with the actor Ann Southern, duetting on numbers from her command performances at the London Palladium after the second world war. I remember seeing them seated side by side singing Lily of Laguna. This was while Bette Davis, who had commandeered the only free room for her on-set residence, chain-smoked behind the closed door amid the kerosene-heated fumes. It was before Anderson and Bette's major row when, in front of the entire crew, he told her she wasn't "taking over the picture". Production ceased as I shuttled diplomatically between their warring camps.
Through the performances at the Traverse and three months later at the Cottesloe, our happy accident succeeded despite difficult conditions. At both venues, we couldn't get on stage until the day of the show, though we did have a rehearsal room at the National. Then there was the sudden discovery of Anderson's "letter of apology" to Alan Bates at the Anderson Archives at the University of Stirling, in which the apology turns into a diatribe of how Anderson viewed his career and the state of society. We'd both been guests at that inebriated afternoon when Anderson needled the ordinarily mellow Bates into an explosive confrontation. We always knew that the "fascinating lunch party" hosted by director Clive Donner and his wife, designer Jocelyn Rickards had to be a part of the show.
In transforming Never Apologize to film, the challenge was to maintain the impact of McDowell's magnetism so that the cinema experience would be as potent as being with him on stage. Visuals were added but every directorial decision had to ensure there was no separation between McDowell and his audience. He's either seen or heard through the entire film; his physicality and voice rhythms are inherently cinematic.
I think Anderson would have approved, because he was the one who forced me to direct. When we finally got the money to make The Whales of August, he suddenly decided that the script needed fixing. His changes mainly cut dialogue from David Berry's adaptation of his play, most of which had to be restored. Anderson and I were great friends before and after the film but during production, it was a battle every day. He viewed film-making as a war, with the producer the enemy (perhaps taking his lead from Ford).
When Anderson cut half of Lillian Gish's anniversary soliloquy to her dead husband - the scene that confirmed my buying the property - I finally hit the roof. Blinded by rage, I told him, "You'll cut that scene over my dead body." Either as a test or a deliberate decision, he said: "Then you direct it." I agreed. He'd ask/needle me weekly if I was ready, and when I told him I wanted to re-conceive the scene as a voiceover, hearing Lillian's thoughts as she looks at her husband's picture and the red and white roses, he supported the idea. He understood it as a homage to Lillian's silent screen days, and ability to convey emotion through pantomime.
When the time came to shoot the scene, I suddenly realized I was actually directing Lillian Gish. "Well, are you ready?" he queried. At "action", the playback of Lillian's thoughts began as she takes one of the roses, touching it down her cheek. I asked her to do it a second time, moving the rose slower. She was perfect.
In Gavin Lambert's double memoir, Mainly About Lindsay Anderson, he writes of Anderson's duality - imperious and caring; demanding and concerned; difficult and compassionate. Anderson allowing me to direct that scene was an act of generosity no other director would have permitted. But if I'd failed, he would have pounced.
Whales premiered in Cannes out of competition before the Prince and Princess of Wales. Anderson famously asked Diana, "Have you ever thought of becoming an actress?" Her reply was devastating: "I am an actress." With Never Apologize, Anderson is again back in Cannes, which he loved; which he first covered as a critic; where all his major films had their international premieres; where Richard Harris won the best actor award for This Sporting Life; where Anderson took the Palme D'Or for if....In other words I like to think of him as back in full force, cheering us on.
Arbiter Online with Mike Kaplan
Arbiter Online with Malcolm McDowell 5/1/08
Idahostatesman with Malcolm McDowell 1/4/08
Q: What was it that impelled you to create a piece of theater around Lindsay?
A: I was called up by the people who ran the Edinburgh Festival. They wanted me to be present at a retrospective they were going to have of Lindsay's films the next year. I rather glibly said, 'I'll do better than that. I'll do a show about him.' And I (cleared his throat) said that not really knowing what I was getting into, actually, but I did feel that a lot of people had forgotten who he was. And that I felt he was one of the greatest British directors ever. He's the nearest I've ever come to a genius. And I just wanted people to understand more about him and where he was coming from.
Q: What made him great?
A: He could smell bullsh-t from a million miles away. Just having dinner with him was fabulous fun. He was an immense human being, a humanitarian if you like. Not in the sense of giving money out or something. His feeling for people was so immense. Lindsay and his world were very exciting during that period, which was the last really great period, I would hasten to say, in British film. Some people would argue with that. I think it was. Lindsay Anderson's work, along with Tony Richardson and Karel Reisz, was really the golden era of British film, and I got to be on the end of it, thank God.
Q: Who is continuing the legacy?
A: The truth is, there really is no one like him. He was a rarity, like John Ford - the genius, the man himself. There are other great directors. They're very different. The thing that made Lindsay so special was that he took the classics at Oxford. I think, honestly, studying Greek theater had a great impact on him. Of course, Greece is where drama started. His sort of ethos was simplicity. You get to the point, without cluttering it. Keep it simple and then move on. He was such an original in that way. He was a great man of the theater who was a brilliant film director. He had a brilliant eye for the camera. Some of his shots were so poetic. I bet he lifted most of them from John Ford, I hope he did, because he lifted them from the master. But he used them with his own ironic sense. He was a unique voice that is sorely missed."
From the Cannes Program
Never Apologize, the documentary of Malcolm McDowell’s celebration of
Lindsay Anderson, their times and their colleagues, is a unique hybrid of film,
theater and literature. It has been selected for presentation in the 2007 Cannes
Film Festival, Cannes Classics section, where it will have its world premiere on
May 25, 2007 in the Bunuel Theatre.
Anderson, the award-winning director, critic, essayist and anarchist, cast McDowell in his first starring role as the rebellious “Mick Travis,” in his film, if…., winner of the Palm D’Or, Cannes (1968). Their working relationship continued through five additional film and theatre productions spanning several decades, including O Lucky Man! (Cannes 1972) and Britannia Hospital (Cannes 1982).
McDowell: “Lindsay definitely changed me forever. This film is an evocation of his life and also signifies an era of intellectual movement in England. He’d be delighted to have Never Apologize in Cannes for he loved coming to the festival, which he covered for many years as a critic before becoming a filmmaker. All of his major films had their international premiere in Cannes.”
Directed by Mike Kaplan, whose friendship with McDowell began on Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and who produced Anderson’s last feature film, Whales of August (Cannes 1987), Never Apologize combines McDowell’s personal reminiscences with his readings of pieces written by and about his friend and mentor. These are brought to life by the actor's often hilarious and moving impressions of not only the provocative Anderson, but also the notables in their circle, including Alan Bates, Bette Davis, John Ford, John Gielgud, Lillian Gish, Richard Harris, Laurence Olivier and Rachel Roberts. We visit a group of colorful personalities and witness the cultural, social and political climate of the period.
Never Apologize had its first incarnation as a theatrical evening to help commemorate the 10th anniversary of Anderson’s passing at the Edinburgh Festival in 2004 and was subsequently performed at the National Theatre, London. In transforming Never Apologize to film, the challenge was to maintain the impact of McDowell’s live magnetism so that the cinema experience would be as potent as being with him at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre or the National’s Cottesloe Stage.
The material McDowell and Kaplan drew upon was rich and varied. Lindsay Anderson was a trenchant critic and generous friend so his published writings of John Ford, Lillian Gish, Bette Davis and Rachel Roberts were insightful and bristling; his diary entries about Richard Harris during the filming of This Sporting Life (Cannes 1966 , “Best Actor”) revealed a tragic vulnerability; the entries of the final scenes of O Lucky Man! showed his vanity and fears; and his description of the World Trade Center had a startling prescience.
And then there was the title letter to Alan Bates, in which the apology evolves into an assessment of Anderson's career and the state of the world. The letter was only discovered a few months earlier, in Scotland, at the University of Stirling, where the Lindsay Anderson Archives are held.
When McDowell and Kaplan first discussed the material around McDowell’s dining room table, they knew that the luncheon hosted by director Clive Donner and his designer wife Jocelyn Rickards had to be included. Both had been guests at that explosive afternoon and over the years it had taken on a surreal stature. McDowell sets the scene, first as the jovial, then the astonished raconteur, before transforming into Anderson at his most complex - acerbic, sardonic, defensive, playful, painful.
Equally important were McDowell’s memories of the man who changed his life. All of his friends know McDowell as a consummate storyteller and mimic. As he recounted his many stories in full throttle, Kaplan took extensive notes to prepare the roadmap that McDowell would more or less follow. An organization emerged, with key lines and phrases highlighted between the written pieces.
Kaplan: "It was apparent from the beginning that this could be a tour-de-force and an absorbing entertainment. Malcolm conveys a wide range of emotions from his first diplomatic teasing with Lindsay at the auditions for if... through the heart wrenching scenes at John Ford's bedside and at the site of Lindsay's passing in France. There was a genuine dramatic arc amid the laughs and cries. Plus his uncanny impressions are embodied with gusto and relish. The audience expects a one-man show’; it's often an inside look at an all-star extravaganza."
The stage set was simple. On the right, a podium and lamp. On the left: a Union-Jack as tablecloth; water pitcher and glasses; several chairs, one draped with Lindsay’s leather jacket and the Anderson tartan scarf. The actor would be centered between the two areas. He held forth between the podium and stage center for the first half, moving to the table during the latter part. This second location offered another focus.
Blow-ups backed the two areas, one of Lindsay as a 5-year old; the second of his directing Malcolm during O Lucky Man! These were the only visuals.
Eighteen months after the London shows, McDowell offered to do a benefit performance for the Ojai Film Festival, which he had long supported. He called Kaplan.
The venue, Ojai's 40 year old Mantillija Junior High School auditorium, created some problems. Unlike the open thrust stages at the Traverse and the Cottesloe, where McDowell and the audience were at the same level, this was a traditional proscenium with a high rise. The contact with the audience would have a barrier space. The lighting would also be more difficult. And McDowell would have less room to move about on the narrower stage.
One of the perks of doing the benefit was having it properly recorded. There had been videos from Edinburgh and London but from a static bird’s eye angle.
Thanks to a local Ojai entrepreneur, Kaplan found himself with five cameras at his disposal. He gave the video crew the single-camera videos from London and Edinburgh to familiarize them with the blocking and McDowell's movements. Cameras were placed on either side of the stage, one in front; one backstage. The last watched from the rear, the bird’s eye shot.
Halfway through Never Apologize, McDowell describes the scene in a London screening room with Anderson, composer Alan Price and producer Michael Medwin. They are looking for cuts in O Lucky Man! Warner Bros. has refused to release the film at its nearly three-hour length. By accident , the projectionist jumps from reel 8 to reel 10. For Malcolm, it’s a great cut, knowing it will satisfy the studio’s demands. Lindsay balks vociferously then reluctantly agrees.
Five years later, Lindsay bamboozles Warner Bros. into restoring reel 9, but the negative has been lost and when the dupe negative is printed, reel 9 looks a little grainy, unlike the rest of the film.
Lindsay, however, loves the textural difference. He tells Malcolm, “Art is Sometimes a Happy Accident.”
This emerged as the motto for Never Apologize.
Looking at the rough footage, Kaplan knew that McDowell’s electric performance before the sold-out audience had been sufficiently captured. But there were some mishaps – not all of the cameras were working all the time; several sequences were covered by only one angle and the static bird’s eye camera, which would have been useful for transitions, was blank. There had been no budget for video monitors.
With the exception of the Richard Harris-Rachel Roberts clip from This Sporting Life, McDowell is either seen or heard throughout the film’s 1 hour, 52 minute length. Actor and cinema audience are never separated, while the theatre audience retains a strong presence through their responses. Visuals had to be added but not overused. Kaplan didn’t want to trick up the film with anything that would distract from the performance: Kaplan: "Malcolm has a commanding physicality: his movements and voice rhythms are inherently cinematic.”
For McDowell, Anderson was always the powerful professor, a teacher as much as a dedicated artist. We discover through him, the fascination of Lindsay Anderson - gifted, grumbling and giving -“in some of his sins and most of his graces” (to steal from J.P. Donleavy, whose classic novel, The Ginger Man, Anderson once wanted to film.)
Finally, as Never Apologize closes, we hear Lindsay Anderson’s warm rendition of “Red River Valley” from John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath. It blends into the image of Lindsay visiting Ford’s Monument Valley before dissolving into Lindsay and Malcolm smiling together in Russia.
“Perhaps one will feel,” says Kaplan, “the emotional bonding of fathers and sons...of Ford and Lindsay...of Lindsay and Malcolm."
Friday, September 5, 8:00 pm
At the Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049
Join the legendary Malcolm McDowell for a screening and discussion of Never Apologize, the critically hailed documentary illuminating McDowell's deep admiration for and friendship with award-winning director, critic, essayist, and anarchist Lindsay Anderson. In the film, McDowell’s reminiscences and readings are brought to life by the actor’s often hilarious impressions of Anderson, as well as of other notables in their circle, including Alan Bates, Bette Davis, John Gielgud, Lillian Gish, and Laurence Olivier. Directed by Mike Kaplan. (2007, 111 min. No MPAA rating.) Presented in association with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts/Los Angeles in celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the BAFTA/LA Heritage Archive.
Free; advance tickets required
Advance tickets available on-site at the Skirball, by phone at (877) SCC-4TIX or (877) 722-4849, or online at www.skirball.org
Malcolm McDowell and director Mike Kaplan will join the Film Society of
Lincoln Center to pay tribute to late film and theatre director Lindsay Anderson
with the NY premiere of Never Apologize.
Fri Aug 15: 1:30 & 6:15*
Sat Aug 16: 1:30 & 6:15*
Sun Aug 17: 1:30* & 6:15
Mon Aug 18: 1:30** & 6:15
Tue Aug 19: 1:30 & 6:15**
Wed Aug 20: 3:50** & 8:45
Thu Aug 21: 3:50 & 8:45
*Malcolm McDowell & Mike Kaplan onstage
**Mike Kaplan onstage
The Whales of August Wed Aug 20: 6:30 Intro by Mike Kaplan
The film will play at the 11th annual Sonoma Valley Film Fest, in its Northern California premiere. Fri. 4/11 & Sat. 4/12/08 at 12:30pm in the Ramekins Screening Room.
Malcolm will appear at the 43rd Chicago International Film Festival to show the film and answer questions on 10/15/07.
The film now has an official site: www.neverapologize.com and will be showing at the Cannes Film festival May 16-27, 2007.
The documentary "Never Apologize" will receive a New York screening Thursday at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center. Kaplan - who produced "The Whales of August" (1987), which Anderson directed with Bette Davis, Lillian Gish and Ann Sothern, and which turned out to be the last film made by each of those once-indestructible ladies - says a high point of "Apologize" is McDowell doing a dead-on impersonation of Bette encountering ex-husband Gary Merrill on her flight to Maine to start working with Anderson on "Whales."
To read about the original performances of the show go here.
Runtime 112 minutes.
Program Design - e.D Brooks Design
Lindsay met John Ford in the late 1940s when he did a special edition on him for his magazine Sequence, which Ford liked, and they took it from there. He also organized a John Ford season at the NFT in the 1950s where he met Ford and they became friends. When he came to London in the 1950s, Lindsay arranged a screening of Everyday Except Christmas for Ford (which Ford was polite about, but doesn't seem to have liked). Ford offered him a job of working as his assistant for a film in Ireland, but Lindsay was busy doing other things. In 1964 Lindsay was going to be on set all through the shooting of Young Cassidy in Ireland and when Ford pulled out of the film, Lindsay was offered the job but turned it down. (Paul Sutton)
Won a Gillo: The Progie Award for Best Progressive Foreign Film 2007 in 12/07.
Played the Idaho Film Festival 1/12/08
Malcolm was in Rome 1/23/08 to introduce the film.
Played the The 14th Victoria Film Festival Feb. 1-10
6 Faces of Malcolm
6 Faces of Lindsay
Malcolm reading at the podium
Cannes Program Cover - English
Cannes Program Cover - French
Promoting the film
MM in Cannes - smiling 5/25/07
MM in Cannes - signing 5/25/07
MM in Cannes - close up 5/26/07
MM in Cannes - in black 5/26/07
MM in Cannes - blue shirt 5/27/07
MM in Cannes - tan shirt 5/28/07
My exclusive mini Q&A from 8/12/07
Malcolm: So what did you think?
Alex: My favorite line is bald porcupine.
He just shakes his head and smiles.
Q: I hope it was the DVD and maybe it could be fixed - you wore a black jacket and the background was black, so your top half disappeared at times.
I don't care. I did see it at Cannes on a huge screen and it looked good, so it might just be from watching it on DVD or the computer. It was lucky the whole thing was recorded in the first place. A new production company had just set up 4 or 5 cameras and was able to get it in one night. I didn't know how it would turn out and I'm just glad it was all saved. I'm so thrilled at how it turned out.
Q: How does it feel at the end of the show?
It was tiring, but I do get to sit down at the end. It's not something I would like to do every night, that's for sure. People really seem to like it and the get emotional about the John Ford part. There's a good reaction about it.
Q: I like how you can't really hear the audience, it's almost like you are doing it for the home audience.
I know! We used up all the cameras on me, it wasn't planned, but there was no camera on the audience.
Q: I think what really makes it special is when you talk about someone like Christine Noonan, then her picture comes up, or showing the John Ford letter. It makes it a more than just watching someone talk.
That's all Mike Kaplan, he did an excellent job.
Q: The section about the World Trade Center was absolutely fascinating.
Yeah, wasn't that amazing? Especially since he said that so early one in 1982.
Q: Is there going to be trouble getting permission to use the movie clips?
Mike's working on it. Warner Bros should be no problem and I just did the commentary for if… so that helps Paramount's sales getting people interested in the film, so that helps. That's why I did it. I'm glad you liked it, thanks so much for coming.
Is Never Apologize your philosophy?
No, it's Lindsay Anderson's and my film is an homage to him. My philosophy is enjoy yourself, life is not a dress rehearsal. Malcolm 6/07
"I met the Easy Rider posse back in 1969 and spent the festival getting stoned with Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper." - Malcolm 5/23/07
"Cannes is a madhouse. It's kind of like a fairy tale because it began over Malcolm's dining room table. Cannes is the most important film festival in the world, and it's a very singular honor to be invited officially." He's spoken with an important distributor in Cannes about the movie "It's all quite hush-hush and I hope it will get the backing for wider play in theaters. I hope it comes to Boise. If he (the distributor) picks it up, it will make life easier and it will be shown everywhere. We just have to wait for the reaction now." - Mike Kaplan 5/24/07
"I can reveal for the first time that The Rolling Stones used to own the rights to Anthony Burgess' book before director Stanley Kubrick got hold of it and cast me as Alex. Thank God no one ever gave the Stones the money to make it because Mick Jagger had set his heart on playing Alex the rapist and murderer and the rest of the band were going to be his hit squad The Droogs. Can you believe it? Thankfully for the history of cinema and music, I got the role which turned out to make my career and Mick went on to be Sir Mick. I don't think it would have gone that way if he'd been Alex!" - Malcolm 5/25/07
“I was really quite lucky to be like an apprentice of two great directors, Karel Reisz and Lindsay Anderson. I’m really here because of them. They were two of the men who changed British cinema. In the late 50s, they started to make films about the working class, and in Lindsay’s case, surrealist films. In 1968 I worked on If, and then Malcolm got cast in it. Lindsay was the most extraordinary man and a huge rebellious person in British cinema, iconoclastic, very well educated, very clever, funny and ironic.” - Stephen Frears, president of the Cannes Jury, and an assistant on the film if.... 5/26/07
“The Edinburgh Festival asked if I would be present for the retrospective of Lindsay Anderson, to be in the following year. And I said, ‘I’ll do better than that, I’ll do a show about him’…and very soon it was six weeks before the opening night. And I called my dear friend Mike Kaplan to help out. We had all this archive stuff. I was amazed; I had so much fun going through the archives.” - Malcolm 5/26/07
“It started at Malcolm’s dining room table. To be here in Cannes, the temple of cinema, it’s really a fairy tale. We are all thrilled to be here in a place that Lindsay loved more than anyplace else – all of his major films premiered here and he was a critic here.” - Mike Kaplan 5/26/07
Six boxes with pictures of Malcolm's most famous
characters appear in two rows - Mick Travis (if....), Alex Delarge, Mick Travis
(OLM!), row 2 - Caligula, Harry Flashman and Dr. Soran. Then the text: Malcolm
McDowell, followed by Never Apologize. Then the same style of six boxes with
pictures of Lindsay Anderson - by a staircase, smoking behind the camera,
Inadmissible Evidence, O Lucky Man!, Is that All there is? and outside with
sunglasses. A personal visit with Lindsay Anderson appears, then the Sanctus
from if.... plays. A picture of Lindsay as a boy, then Lindsay directing Malcolm
from OLM!. The camera pulls back and the podium on stage lights up and the boy
picture is behind it. Malcolm walks out in a black sports coat, black shirt and
He starts with, "I first met Lindsay Anderson in December 1967. I was rehearsing at the Royal Court Theater a William Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night." It wasn't very dress, designed by Elizabeth Fish, so you can imagine what it was like. I had an appointment for a film, had no idea what it was, was running late, came out on a stage like this, couldn't see anything, a bright light in his face, thought it was a cattle call. A little man jumped on stage, 5 foot 5 or so, a little rotund, he had piercing eyes, a rather sardonic mouth. He said 'I'm Lindsay Anderson who are you, what are you doing?' I am doing a play at the Royal Court. It was prestigious for a young actor. I said it was doing a dress play. Lindsay said it sounds awful, who's directing? I told him. 'Oh god, she's so pretentious.' Then we started gossiping about the theatre, forgetting about the audition. We had a great gossip, Lindsay loved to gossip, I didn't know I did too. Then he told me of course you realize I'm a director at the Royal Court. I went oh, I guess that the audition is over. 'Not necessarily.' I went back to the theater then was told not to take another job, I was moving up the ladder and being considered for the role. In the meantime I learned who Lindsay was. I learned he would be working with one of the greats. I went back to the dressing room with 8-10 people they asked how it went. I said great. Then after a week I heard nothing, thought that was it. Then I got a call to go back. I walked in and saw a dark looking girl, dark black hair and dark, dark eyes. I had to do a scene with her. A picture of Christine Noonan appears. I hadn't been given a script, there was some confusion. so I was given one by the write and told to do it quickly. I sort of read it, thought I'll just wing it, pretty much the way my whole career went. I'm reading, there is chemistry there, I adores her and am falling for her. I read 'Mick kisses the girl.' So I reach across and kiss her in the melee and our teeth bang. I saw there was blood, didn't know whose it was, it was pre-AIDS, so it didn't matter. Then the next thing I know I'm on my ass on the floor, she wailed on me. I like to say my eyes were watering, but I was crying like a baby! I didn't read the damn next line! She was throwing out lines, I didn't have my script, don't know what I said, it was animalistic and real, I suppose. The next thing Lindsay says thank you, right we'll let you know. I shrugged. So the writer, a wonderful man who was about my age, David Sherwin (a picture of him appears from that era), I was 24, but I looked 16, comes up. Sherwin asked me what music would I choose for the film. I go back to the play and as the curtain falls on the performance I am told I have a phone call and to take it in the office. It was Miriam Brickman, the most famous casting director in London. She said congratulations, you are gong to star in the next Lindsay Anderson film. I can tell you I've never been happier in my professional career then at that moment. Clockwork Orange, everything else pales in comparison, my first film, it was a magic moment. So I rushed back to the dressing room to tell everyone and they had gone. I went to the nearby pub, no one there. I ordered champagne anyway, thought they would come later. I pour the bottle, look around, no one. Then there was someone I vaguely recognized. I said I know you don't I? You should, I play guitar for your play. Oh yeah, well we've never properly met. I'm playing the worst part Shakespeare ever wrote. So we toasted the film.
The next day I go to see Lindsay to go to this east European restaurant which he didn't like. So I ring the bell at his place, no answer. I go around and see him walking, carrying these two large tins to start his fireplace, so I ran over to help him. I said was there anything you can tell me about this part? He said the first image I have of you is riding on the back of the motorcycle with The Girl standing behind you and that was it, the famous image. Then a clip of it is shown as he talks.
He then reads from Sherwin's diary 'Going Mad in Hollywood' the piece called 'The Best Audition in the World' (1/5/68). That's what I call a title. The scene. A revolving slapstick stage in the Jimmy Edwards Comedy Playhouse, plus props. This audition is make or break. No room for error. A script can be rewritten, a shot repeated a hundred times, but the wrong actor and the film will die. Our struggle for perfection will be down the drain.
The revolving stage is still. Lindsay chats, relaxing the hopefuls. They are to play the most demanding scene in the film - the scene in which Mick makes love to the greasy spoon cafe waitress. The first girl is late, and the second girl is called. She steps forward from the wings, small, dark-haired - a touch of gypsy. The actor who is auditioning for Mick calls out that someone's nicked his script and he hasn't had time to learn his scene.
'Why not?' asks Lindsay acidly.
'I only heard of the job yesterday.'
'A script, for god's sake, someone.'
There aren't any scripts. We could only afford to get 50 printed. I climb up onto the stage and give him mine. He says thank you blandly - he's obviously too smooth for the part. No chance. Poor chap.
The nobody quickly scans his scene, then walks onto the stage still holding his script. He explores Jimmy Edwards's props with suddenly intense eyes. His movements are precise, yet natural. He approaches the girl, who stands behind a table, our pretend cafe counter. He raps the table hard (Malcolm knocks on the podium), still reading from the script. He ogles her as she mimes pouring coffee. Then without warning, not looking at the script, he grabs her round the neck, pulling her across the wide table and kisses her hard and long. He looks at her, smirking, as she lies half off the table.
The actor picks up the script to find out the next action when without warning, the girl rears up and smashes him in the face with her fist. Her fist! he repeats. He reels across the stage, hurt and shocked. What's happening? He studies his script again and goes to a bookshelf and works it like a jukebox.
'Go on, look at me.' says the girl. 'Look at my eyes. I've eyes like a tiger. My eyes get bigger and bigger...' Then the clip from the film is shown. Malcolm continues talking over it.
The actor smells the girl. They are animals. What's happening? Bites, blows, bodies thumping on the boards. Struggling on the floor, he tries to turn the next page to see what's coming next. The girl tears into him, tugging out his hair, ripping the script in two. Maddened, he retaliates, wrestling, breaking the girl's bra under her sweater. Malcolm adds with a smirk, 'An accident.'
'The jukebox has finished,' Lindsay calls to break the battle. The actress gives a final blow and a shriek of laughter. The actor rolls in pain. I go onto the stage, pick up my shredded script and call across to Lindsay: 'I wouldn't bother to go on auditioning. You've got Mick and the girl.'
'Oh, you wouldn't bother, would you Sherwin? That's a brilliant way to cast a film. Piss off.'
I repeat, 'They're brilliant.'
'Then fucking well tell them. Their names are Malcolm McDowell and Christine Noonan.'
Christine has vanished, but I ask Malcolm how he acted the fight so brilliantly.
Malcolm replies with his James Cagney grin (then a comparison shot is shown of Cagney and Malcolm smiling) 'Oh, I'd only looked at my lines - typical actor. I didn't know I was going to get knocked out just for kissing her. I was absolutely stunned, and then I thought, right - I'll give it back to her.'
And so a star is born!
After casting Malcolm and Christine, Lindsay, Miriam Brickman and I rush back to Memorial's officers. The last vital character has to be cast by this evening: Robert Rowntree, the sadistic Head of House.
Lindsay and I go up in one lift, Miriam in the other. She never arrives.
'Do you realize David' says Lindsay, 'this is what making films is all about. Miriam Brickman trapped in Albert Finney's lift - perhaps forever.'
Malcolm returns to speaking. Actually Albert Finney is very important in my life. (A picture of him is shown). I didn't know him that well, I lived in Liverpool and he lived nearby in the north. I watched him in the Odeon in 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning' (a still from it is shown) and thinking I could do that. So Albert - thank you.
At the Greasy Spoon
When we came to shoot the scene it was off the road the A3, it was a real greasy spoon truck driver's stop. I fell in love with Christine, no question about it. She had a real cockney twang, (he imitates it) "No, you don't interest me at all." Dinner? "Are you kidding?" This uniform is a costume, I'm not a school boy. "No." We are doing this bit with all the animal stuff and I sidle over to Lindsay and said wouldn't be fantastic if we cut to us on the floor rolling around naked. He looked at me and said, "You ask her." Christine, Lindsay wants to know if you'd be prepared to did this naked. "I don't mind." Oh, really? So we do it and she comes out in this dressing gown and woosh, completely naked. Lindsay's like come on Malcolm get your pants off. It's difficult for a man to do and the floor is dirty. So I pull my pants off and we do the shot. (the clip of if... is shown) I can tell you now it was a waste of time because I didn't see anything, I was so terrified. It was the most asexual thing that could happen to anybody. I stood up at the end and there was a line of trucks outside with truck drivers giving me fists up in approval. On the first day of if.... it was the three of us on the ropes of the school gym, it was a good thing because it was throw away dialog. The next day we looked at the dailies with Lindsay and I thought I was so bad. My tongue is out, my mouth is open, (he demonstrates making fencing movements) we have to redo it (quick clip is shown) Well, that's a good lesson for you, you have to realize you are acting the whole time. So let's reshoot it. We can't. But we have the money. No we will cut around it and not show any shots of you with your tongue out. He became like a mentor to me, I found him so much fun. We'd have dinner and he'd ask "Name two films Jean Arthur has done." Ok, I know he has...not he, her you idiot! (Image of her is shown) Yes, she is a brilliant comedy actress from the 40s. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (movie posters of them are shown). Then he'd take me to the National Theater to see these films and introduced me to John Ford. What an education he gave me. If you want to work in film you have to know something about them. He loved the films of the 30s, 40s and 50s especially John Ford. He wrote a book on him 'About John Ford' (a picture of it is shown). I think it is one of the best books from one director about another. I asked him once why do you love John Ford so much. "Well Malcolm, there are many great directors, few great poets. John Ford was both." Same with Lindsay.
Poster of if.... is shown
I got the film and it was a public school, which is a private school here. It was to administrate soldiers to send out into the empire. There are many of these schools in England, I went to a minor one as Lindsay often pointed out. Yours was quite minor Malcolm, yes but it was good. Lindsay went to Cheltenham College (a picture is shown of it). He bamboozled the head master into agreeing to shoot the film there. All the beautiful shoots of the college were the real school he went to. He gave him a fake script so there wasn't the great shooting scene at the end a la Columbine (a quick clip of Mick shooting is shown). He didn't see it until later and in fact he sent Lindsay a letter, which was unopened on his mantlepiece for at least 7 years. I got a call from Lindsay the day the film opened all excited. He said to come down to the market, where are you? I'm at my parents. So I had my father drive me down to the market and there was this huge line. I thought they must be at the Odeon, what was there, some piece of crap. They went all the way past to the Plaza and Lindsay was standing there, this is for us, we are a hit. I knew it was going to be a hit when this beautiful girl passed me on King's Road, shrieked and put her arms around me. Hello, do we know each other? I don't think so. She said "I saw your film, oh my god!" I went what film? "the if...! if!'' Oh you saw it? It's brilliant. In England it stuck a knife in the heart of the establishment. They are brilliant at dealing with rebels, so brilliant in fact they showed the film at every public school in England. Only a man who loved his school could've made a film like that.
Next we went to the Cannes Film Festival. It meant a lot to Lindsay because he'd been a variety critic who covered the festival with a wonderful man named Gene Moskowitz (picture is shown). They got together with this great banter about who was the cameraman from this film or that one and on and on. We are walking down the road and won the major prize (picture of Lindsay holding the prize) and Lindsay was so happy. People went nuts for this film. I found myself on the Carlton Terrace, 5 star hotel, everything paid for of course. I didn't have a bean, I was only paid 90 pounds a week on the film and I didn't have a job since. In fact Lindsay had to loan me a few pounds to hold me over. He even let me paint his kitchen bathroom and gave me 20 pounds for the pleasure. I'm sitting there with English stiff upper lips and I notice this other table where they were having a lot of fun. So I go over and introduce myself to Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda, I didn't know who the hell they were. (Easy Rider poster is shown) I said what is that you are smoking? Oh, really? Oh, that's rather good, wow! The joke was that Jack and I were co-hot favorites to win the acting prize, neither of us won it of course. If it hadn't been for this wonderful American director Stanley Donen we wouldn't have won the grand prix. As Stanley told us later all the jurors went out to Sam Spiegel's yacht in the harbor (picture of it is shown). They were to vote, raising their hands and if.... came in third on the first ballot (poster is shown). The other great film that year was Costa-Gavras' Z, an incredible film and then a Swedish film nobody ever heard of or will again and the compromise vote went to if.... We didn't know that at the time, but Lindsay loved him from that day on, everything he did. Have you seen this, made by our friend Stanley, brilliant? Singin' in the Rain right? He's one of the most brilliant directors working in Hollywood. Oh, yes he is. So we are walking down the road (picture of Lindsay and Malcolm from that time) and I said you know Linds you and I are a very good team, really let's face it. I had a nerve, the nerve of youth. He looked at me and I said come on let's do another film together. He stopped, his eyes rolled in his head. If you want to do another film with me you better write it and he walked off. I said all right, (yelling to him) I will bloody well will, I will write it, so I did.
I went back to London and wrote my experiences of being a coffee salesman, between school and being an actor I somehow got involved in selling coffee in Yorkshire where they only drink tea. I wrote it all down, got 40 pages, thought it was really good, but it was like pulling teeth writing when you are an actor you don't know how to write, it's tough. I did it because I wanted to work with him because I knew he was the master. I took it to him, he read the first page. He said is this supposed to be funny? I said I'm from the North of England, I have a sense of humor, you are from the South, you wouldn't understand it. He said I'm actually a Scot. But you've never been to Scotland, you are only a Scot when the bill comes. Through 40 pages he huffed, puffed and rolled his eyes. When he was done he said it's not very good is it? I said it bloody well is and it's going to be your next film. Is it? Then you better call David Sherwin who was the writer of if.... I needed to stuff him, to get him. David comes over and he reads and says it's bloody brilliant, I love it. You must be from the North. Yeah! It's great, fantastic, we can really work on this, I'm dropping my other stuff. Coffee Man, brilliant. So for the next 6 months we worked on it in pubs, coffee bars, pounding it out. Soon David and I realized we couldn't go to Lindsay with a scene because he thought we were ganging up on him and would throw it out. So after a couple times of that like Pavlov's dog I decided I'll go in with a scene, you go in with one David and it worked 10 out of 10. Then I said Coffee Man wasn't really a catchy title, can we think of a better one? He said I don't know, what is this film really about? I don't know...luck. Luck, that's it! Lucky Man! Brilliant, let's go to Lindsay right now, both of us, broke the cardinal rule. We pounded on his door and he asked what on earth are you doing. I said sit down Lindsay I'm going to whisper the title of your next film in your ear and I want it to permeate down through you. For god's sake Malcolm shut up and get on with it. I said sit down whispered lucky man. He looked down that senatorial nose...O Lucky Man! Yeah, brilliant! My god. (picture of OLM! teaser poster) He had to be the director to the end and he was right, it made it epic. He had a vocabulary. (the definitions appear on screen) If it was Mini, it was unimportant, rubbish, realistic, not interesting, not layered. Epic was layered, important, poetic. So there we had it the mini and the epic. OLM! was epic. I didn't write the film, I would never claim that. I just started the scenes, they poured water on it and let it grow. Of course the hand of god was over everything on everything he did. As always he was a genuine auteur, he would never write it himself. It was interesting he would always push an area, but didn't want to write it. David came up with the most extraordinary lines I think. For example in the film Ralph Richardson has two lines, "Try not to die like a dog" and "Watch out for her treatment tart because many a fly got stuck in that." I had quite a good one myself when I was working at Chase & Sandborn which is an American company, the catering manager actually said this, 'Now look here Malcolm remember this. You'll be a failure in catering unless you know what to do with your leftovers." I remember saying to Lindsay, about the ending, I have no idea how I'm going to end it. He said, look Malcolm, what happened to you? (Clip of the end of OLM! starts to play) I said well, I became a movie star I suppose. Well, that's how we end it. Lindsay played the director and here's a little piece of what he wrote.
He reads from Lindsay's diary 6/16/72. I played my part for good or ill, we tried to shoot the smile and not surprisingly at the end of an exhausting day we failed. The sequence may be regarded as the heart of the film, the dialogue with the director is not cynical, at least it's not intended to be. It's meant to challenge Mick and the audience with the proposition that maturity and understanding can only be achieved when we can look the facts of life directly in the face not obscured with materialism. A touch of zen if you will. The whole end of the scene he should've worn make up, should've played much more out of desperation of the gutter. He didn't play the smile scene with enough despair, this had been Jocelyn's point, but Malcolm stopped her from speaking to me. Because whenever I tell you something you always tell me I'm wrong she said. He stops reading. Jocelyn was Lindsay's muse. (a picture of her sitting next to a guitar) She was the designer of all his films and the most remarkable women I've ever met. (picture of her with Lindsay on set, picture of them in a yard) She really was the one he went to sound off on. (picture of her working on a mask) They had the most alarming fights. He'd always say things like you are a monument to good taste. He'd say it with a snarl. What's wrong with good taste? It's awful. He used to love that word - awful.
He goes on. I seem OK, good I don't know, I think so, but I fear the sequence insufficiently poetic. (the scene starts with a close up on Mick) I should've checked the setups, framing too high for my tastes. The final smile remains an unsolved problem, how am I going to shoot the final sequence? He stops reading, takes off his glasses. That's good, I'm wearing too much makeup and he's good. Back to reading. June 18 - the call had to be switched from 10am to 9am and when Malcolm walked on to the floor I sensed something wrong. He hadn't seen the rushes and hadn't had a call since 7:30. He'd been to bed late after being out all afternoon playing cricket with Harold Pinter. He stops reading, you don't want to play cricket with Harold Pinter. Back to reading. Poor Malcolm, I understood we did the reshooting and I fear it'll never be what I envisioned. We did get the setups and the 'why' dialog with more depth behind it. We even did a couple hits with smiles. (clip of the scene plays) I shant soon forget the site of Arthur Lowe in the corner of the room having to wait while I was bashing poor Malcolm with my script (back to the clip). At least it illuminated how the smile has to be achieved, shallow of me to have thought it would be adequate for poor Malcolm just to explode into enlightenment. (clip of the hit) We'll have to go back no matter how hard Mirak says it is too match. Maybe a hypnotist, Malcolm is very game. He stops reading. Well, he hit me 35 times with that script (clip again) and we used the third take.
To celebrate the start of filming of OLM! we had a great party at Jocelyn's farm (photo is shown). It was a very beautiful small farm house. She decided to get with it with all the young people and got a block of hashish and my sister Gloria decided to bake some brownies. (Photo of her) So she baked them and we went down and were having so much fun playing French cricket. Alan Price was there with his band, everyone was invited. Lindsay was in the kitchen talking and I said have you had a brownie yet? No. Gloria made them special. Oh alright. What are you looking at grinning like an idiot? I said I'm not, I've had one. I went off played a bit more cricket, came in asked how was that brownie? Oh shut up. Well you haven't stopped talking for 5 hours, it was laced with hashish. Then Alan came in and said you are stoned (does accent) He was from the northeast. Lindsay said absolutely not, I'm not stoned, I don't believe there was hash in those brownies. There was, I cannot feel my feet. That's the way we started the film.
There was a group of us around Lindsay we used to called ourselves the Old Crowd. One of my favorites was this wonderful actress called Rachel Roberts. (photo of her drinking coffee from OLM!) She was delightful, adorable, I loved her dearly. Unfortunately she was what they now call bi-polar. She tried many times to commit suicide and eventually she succeeded sadly. Lindsay tried to so hard with her, he adored her. He even had her over to clean his flat to give her something to do, physical work. She was a big movie star in dark glasses and a fur coat. (He makes moves like he is dusting) Doing a bit of that. (picture of the 3 of them on the set of OLM!) God, Rachel was just a beautiful person. This is a piece Lindsay wrote about her. When her then husband Alan was acting in my production of Sgt. Musgrave's Dance at the Royal Court in the program notes about the cast I wrote that Alan was married to the actress Rachel Roberts. When she was outside at the premiere leafing through the program she was so excited to see her name 'The actress Rachel Roberts!' I recognized I was warmed to her send up, self send up and astonished outrage in the days before she was noticed by taxi drivers. She was simpler and happier. That was before my friend Karel Reisz cast her in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. (photo of it is shown) She showed how she could respond when the material was first rate. She was a terrific actress. Her emotional power could be frightening. At first I didn't think she was right for This Sporting Life (still of her being held down is shown) But she was exactly the violent temperament that created that unforgettable performance. She was not English, totally Welsh. They find it hard to deal with the cool of Anglo Saxons. The English theater could not accommodate her nor could the English cinema. She scared them. Then she had to fall for Rex Harrison, who brought that establishment class, everything that wasn't Rachel, which she insisted on aspiring to. When she was young she wanted to look like Heidi Lamar (photo is shown) She had such distinction in a little black dress I tried to make her wear, but she never lost her yearning for fishnet tights. We tried to stop her. She would sometimes say I wished you'd known me earlier when I was fun, not messed up like I am now. She was messed up and none of us could pull her out of it. And yet what life she had, one of life's incandescent lights. (6 photos of her are shown including This Sporting Life and OLM!)
We entered OLM! at the Cannes Film Festival again. We were past winners and stayed at a magnificent hotel in the hills. It's famous for being the place where Picasso doodled on napkins or menus to pay for his food when he was in his 20s. They have them stuck all over the place, Batiste too. It was me, Alan, Helen Mirren, Lindsay, Medwin, we took a big table, being noisy, scared everyone away, it was great fun. Rachel was late. She came in and was wiped, hair was slicked back, white. She sat down and Lindsay asked what is wrong. I just talked to Hal Prince he offered me a musical on Broadway Linds. She started crying. What on Earth are you crying for, you've got the part. I've got to sing for him, I don't know how to sing. So he looked at Alan, tell her how to do it. He said do it like you are on the phone. She screamed Lindsay and jumped up on the table in the middle of the dining room, luckily there was nobody around. Previous to this she was filming a love scene with Stanley Baker and apparently had to clip the hair on her privates. She leapt on the table, lifted her skirt and wasn't wearing any underwear and said, 'This is what I did for fucking Stanley Baker!!' (he makes a face) We all looked and Lindsay said for god's sake Rachel pull yourself together, you look like a bald porcupine! At that moment Catherine Deneuve walks in, the most beautiful women on the planet, (Photo of her) and Rachel goes 'Oh my god, I love her, I want to fuck her.' I went Rach I didn't know you were a lesbian. 'I'm not a lesbian, but I want to fuck her.'
When we first showed OLM! to the brass (posters of OLM!) we all had seen it, it was very long then we all rushed out to the men's room and were standing in a long line. Then John Calley comes and stands next to me and says (while peeing) that film is a masterpiece, it's better than Clockwork. I'm like wow, wait until I tell Lindsay. He says it's one of the greatest films Warner's has ever done, boom he's gone. So we take it to Cannes and we think we've got the backing of Warner Brothers, we did, but it's rather long, 2 hours and 50 something minutes. But as Lindsay said, 'Do you tell Goya how big his canvass could be?' I was told by Ted Ashley the head of the company that unless you get Lindsay to cut that film we're not going to release it in the states. He gasps. I said I'll tell him Ted. I come out of the Carlton Hotel, cross over and look down on the beach and there is the great man surrounded by 30 or so journalists eating out of his hand. I look down and think oh my god in a few minutes time you are not going to be so composed when I tell you the film is doomed. So I grab hold of Lindsay and he was like no and started to belittle me in front of them. I said they were not going to release the film and he just stalked off and walked down the beach, he didn't even look, off - gone. I sat and had a drink and he came back and said Malcolm you tell Ted if he wants to cut the film then he can go ahead and cut it. I'd like to see what he does with it. I thought wow, that's a good ploy. I went to see Ted and told him Lindsay says if you want to cut it, then you cut it. He said really? That's what he said. In the meantime we'll look for cuts. We went back to England and had a screening with just Lindsay, myself, Medwin and Alan Price. We are sitting there and just by chance the projectionist dropped reel 9, he went form 8 to 10 and I leaped up and shouted brilliant cut! Great Lins. He said shut up, that's not a fucking cut. Stop it, he's looking for the thing, stop stop. No, no it's brilliant it's only 10 minutes, it's brilliant. Alan said, but I'm losing a song man. (picture of him at the piano in the film) I went I'm losing 5 scenes, Rachel is losing her suicide, but let's get the film shown. Here's a postscript to that. I was in Hollywood in 1979 and was doing a film with Mary Steenburgen (picture of them from Time after Time), we were doing Time after Time, wonderful film and I got this call from Lindsay. Now Lindsay never called long distance, ever. So I knew it was an emergency of some kind. It was that I had to go and look at reel 9 that he talked them into putting it back in the film. The problem is they lost the negative and had to do a dupe negative so if you see it, it looks a little grainy. He said, 'I love that about it, sometimes art is really a very happy accident.'
Lindsay's first film is called This Sporting Life. It's notable (picture of Richard & Rachel struggling in the film) for not only Rachel's fine performance, but for I think the greatest performance by a British actor in postwar England by Richard Harris (picture of him in despair) He reads Lindsay's diary from 4/23/62. Five weeks into the film and I've been keeping a record of it, the most alarming experience in my life in several ways. The most striking feature of it all has been the splendor and the misery of my work with Richard. I think his performance is marvelous, certainly a strength and simplicity I haven't seen before on the screen. I've grown to love him dearly, too dearly of course. I lack the resolve to have the detachment to weather his storms. These have been fierce and shattering, first in Wakefield the night he insisted on getting drunk then after the match when he announced he would not come back to London with us. The first terrible day of rehearsals with Rachel was his last resistance on playing the part without the protection of his mannerisms. All these were highlighted with the meeting that evening in his flat with Karel when he shouted 'Cunt!' at me when I wouldn't argue any further about the check scene. (A long clip of it is shown) Then my special birthday present, he refused to shoot the closeup in the fur coat because he's been accused of holding us up. This is a personality too big for me to cope with. His warmth and willfulness can stop me in a moment, he knows this and exploits it. I shouldn't give in, but I do. We embrace and fight like lovers. I sense a ruthlessness that would destroy me if I seemed to have failed him, a combination of pride and insecurity, sensibility and egoism. The inescapable ego of a star. How can I be expected to resist? When he is embracing me like some big warm dog or ordering me to heel. (A series of photos of Lindsay & Richard) I am at his service completely which means I'm unable to service him as I really should conniving at his self indulgence when I should be calmly, coolly resisting him. I'll say this and we'll see in a year, I cannot see that our paths lie together, certainly if I fail him in the weeks ahead then all will be over, god preserve us.
Of course I didn't know it then but Lindsay was a celebrate homosexual. I used to ruminate with Sherwin, what do you think Lins is? Do you think he's that way? He had plenty of women friends, but I'd never seen him with a man either. The truth is he was born in Bangalore India (picture of young Lindsay sitting on a mini cannon), his father was a major general in the British army. He had that strict upbringing so the thought of him coming out was a non starter. So Lindsay fell in love with the people that played the leads in his movies and plays. I didn't know this, I hadn't a clue, but if I think about it all these spats we had were like a damn marriage. It used to drive me nuts and I'm sure this whole thing with Richard was the same thing. I think Richard really abused his talent, but he really did love him, though he couldn't work with him and all the rest there is no suggestion of that. At Lindsay's memorial Richard showed up, he wasn't supposed to. He flew in from South Africa and I said my god Richard you have to say something. He said, 'Malcolm, it's all been said, I just wanted to be here for him.'
Another partner in the old crowd was John Gielgud, he was the greatest actor and I admired him so much. Of course everyone admired Olivier and I did too. I remember going to see him in all these great productions. In fact when we were shooting if.... I got to see Olivier doing Days Journey into Night. In the middle of something, it was one long scene, they all are aren't they? He suddenly...(he goes over and sits in a chair) apropos of nothing did this (he crosses his legs madly). The audience went nuts! (He gets up) I don't know why, it's just that physical thing. I thought my god what a brilliant thing to do, when are we shooting? Tomorrow, yeah I'll do something to zip that scene up. I don't know what I did, something ridiculous, then 'Cut! What are you doing Malcolm!?' Well I just thought...no, no! Well, I saw Olivier do it. Oh, Olivier that old ham? For god's sake just do what you are supposed to do.' No such thing with John. I was very fortunate to work with John in the most horrendous movie called Caligula. John loved it, he came to me and said, (does accent) 'I heard you have a villa?' Yes John I do, I'm staying there. 'They are not paying me very much, I wonder if I could stay there?' Absolutely, I'd be thrilled, you can come. He came and stayed with me for 3 weeks while we were shooting. I would just look down on him from the deck in his fedora hat on a deck chair doing the Times crossword puzzle moving around to get out of the sun. (painting of John and a still with an umbrella is shown) In the evening he'd play Noel Coward (sings) Mad Dogs and Englishmen. I'll never forget going to the set, I had a train of 10 assistants holding up this ridiculous costume with the garland and whatever and I see John like this (rushing over) 'Oh Malcolm have you been to the set?' John, I'm just going to the set. "Well, I've never seen so much cock in all my life!' I said really? 'Oh do tell me if you think they are pubescent or shaved.' I said John I think they are all heroin addicts from the plaza. 'Really? I think it's a frightfully good film.' (picture of the Home playbill and stills.)
He reads. Lindsay was never content to assemble a cast for just a star performance. He had a way of coaxing and nudging them beyond the bag of tricks the most talent performer had. He describes the experience of directing Ralph Richardson in David Storey's play in the early days as riding a rather difficult horse (picture of Ralph). David has this recollection of him directing Gielgud in Home. (as Gielgud) It isn't possible for an actor to sit on stage without moving for 25 minutes. Is it 25 minutes? Well, it feels like 25. Move in that case John, move to a point. It's strange...while sitting here I don't want to move again. Well don't in that case! I shant. (picture of John sitting)
David wrote this wonderful play called In Celebration that Alan Bates did. If there was one person in this whole life of mine, this journey through this business I would have to say he was the most lovable, adorable person. (poster of In Celebration) In 1987 Lindsay called me and said what are you doing, one of those awful films? I said no I've just finished doing an awful film. He said why don't you come to New York and do In Celebration? I said what!? What part? Alan's part. I said I couldn't follow Alan, I can't, no way. Come over, we'll talk about it. He said of course you can do it, are you telling me only one person could play Hamlet? Nonsense. You bring your quality to it, he had his. What's Alan's? Jocular charm. What's mine? You are rather dangerous. Really? No charm? No, not much. I said OK, I'll do it then. So we do the play at the Manhattan Theater and the audience was much closer than this, you were down and the audience was level. I come on stage and a wonderful lady playing my mother had a strange look in her eye. I knew something up was wondering what it was because I'm always up for a bit of fun. She gave me that look and I heard snoring. I thought my god it's only been on 5 minutes, someone is snoring? Christ sakes, that's a bit much. I heard the snoring, it was very peaceful. So I do my thing, the other actor comes out, I give him a look, he heard it, we all look around. I was on the sofa, got up, casually dropped a pillow on the floor, got up, kicked it, boom! And I missed the guy, so he slept all the way through the damn interval. At the interval I rushed to the assistant stage manager and said quick give me 10 bucks. He did, so I rushed out, woke the man, slammed the money in his hand and said look, go home, get a cab and go to bed for Christ's sake. Go on, go to bed. The man got up, he was so startled. The man sitting right behind him was Steven Spielberg. I thought oh my god. I looked at him, he looked at me and I thought I will never work for that man. I'd broken that fourth wall. (He shakes his head) I thought to myself why the hell didn't he wake him up?
Lindsay defined epic to Sherwin as 'The epic is concerned with narrative structure, not decoration. Decoration is bourgeois.' There was a very famous luncheon at Clive Donner's with his wife Jocelyn. (photo of the house and the couple) He was a very good director, he's directed me in a couple things but is known for What's New Pussycat and those kind of things. (a montage of movie posters from his films) He was married to a wonderful costume designer of many, many films (picture of Jocelyn and movie posters of her films) She worked with Schlesinger and on Sunday Bloody Sunday. I used to love talking to her, she slept with almost every writer in London. John Osborne? Yes. Graham Green? (photos are shown) He was lovely. Every single good writer, she seems to have bagged the lot. The luncheon was in honor of not only Lindsay, but my then wife Mary Steenburgen (photo of her) and myself as we'd just opened Holiday at the Old Vic which Lindsay had directed. At the luncheon there was Fizz, (photo) she was one of the great choreographers who goes back to the early 60s. She is one of the most wonderful people in the London Theater scene and we all loved her. Then you had Mike Kaplan who was the producer of Whales of August (picture of him in a Bugs Bunny t-shirt). He was there because Whales had been invited to Cannes and Lindsay loved going back there, a real masochist for that. John Schlesinger and his casting director. He was famous director who did Midnight Cowboy and others. (a few posters are shown) John was at Oxford with Lindsay and there was always a little bit of tension going on there. Lindsay thought John's films were a sellout to Hollywood, of course he'd like to have one. John thought he was an art director who only did art films, which was pretty much true. And Alan Bates, the star of this story (photo of him) Lindsay was late, I don't know what the reason was and the champagne was flowing, oh my god. I had stopped drinking around 5 years earlier so I think I was the only one who wasn't ripped. I don't think Mary was either because she had a performance that night. (photo of Mary & Malcolm in Holiday) The food didn't come for hours and Lindsay arrived and got sloshed. We got to the table and the dialog was poisonous, there were barbs flying, it was unbelievable. John wasn't saying much, Lindsay as usual was doing most of the barbs. Then he turned his attention for some extraordinary reason on Alan Bates, the nicest man in the world. First he said, Alan why do you always wear those stupid scarves? Of course we all knew why he wore them (photo of Alan in a scarf, then 5 more movie stills with his neck covered), because he had a double chin, so big deal. He was very uncomfortable about it, you see him in any picture of anything it's (he covers his throat with his hand) one of those. I would kid him about it and he'd say can you see it, is it there? I said why don't you shave it? He said I can get it done, nip & tuck. I said don't bother, really you are crazy, you look great...for an older guy. Lindsay then asked who was that dreadful director you worked with three times? What do you mean? That miserable bourgeois Alan Bridges, he's so middle of the road, how could you work with him? At which point Mary turned to Clive and asked do all English artists speak to each other this way? (photos of Mary & Clive coming together) Then Lindsay started this game (photo of Lindsay in a theater seat) and it was who would you have rather come through the door? Glenda Jackson or Joan Plowright? (photos of both) These two great ladies, their ears must've been burning. And Fizz who said nothing all night says Joan is so bourgeois. Alan erupted 'Bourgeois!? You bastards!! You bastards!! I'm leaving, you are all bourgeois, I'm so sick of you all, I'm getting out here.' He left and I said Jesus and went after him. He was trying to get his coat. I said Alan they are all drunk, come on, come back. He said no, I'm so sick of that Lindsay Anderson. I said, I know, his tongue goes when he gets drunk, forget it. No, I'm off. That's it, I never, ever want to talk to him again. He left and I went back. I said Lindsay you better apologize to Alan, he's really upset. He said pass the wine. What? He'll get over it. He's old enough, ha ha. Lindsay you've got to apologize. The next day I get a call from Alan Massie, what happened at that luncheon? The whole of the London theater world is talking about it. You are kidding? Why don't you tell Lindsay? I think I'll leave that one to you. I call Lindsay and say please apologize to Alan. No Malcolm I never apologize. I never apologize. This went on for months. Please Lindsay, have you spoken to Alan? No, I haven't. So as far as I knew that was it, he never apologized.
This is the letter of apology June 4, 1987. 'My dear Alan, you will be surprised and I hope gratified by the number of times I've reproached myself for not getting in touch with you. Not for not phoning because I'm really getting an aversion to the telephone, but for not writing. I'm certain you felt you were owed and apology for that distressing comic incident of which we were involved. When was it? It must've been months ago, for which I've felt sorry and guilty for ages.' It sounds like a very sweet apology. (he holds up his finger to say 'but wait') 'I think in the first place I must plead the excuse, though not the justification of drunkenness. Clive & Jocelyn really laced us with champagne, which reminds me I've not written to thank them for their hospitality. Which inevitably led to high spirits and runaway tongues. Of course I was not at all expecting such a high powered gathering, especially the presence of John and Noel. Which to someone of my prickly sensibility created something of an insider/outsider atmosphere. So naughtiness, stimulated by alcohol then as I say defensive aggressiveness exacerbated by that element of successful satisfaction which I found myself surround. Of course you will feel it unjust that you should be identified with any such element. Of course you weren't really, except by your actions of your friendly professional relationship with Alan. It's only another aspect of the comedy that I should be scornfully outraged by Bridges congratulating me on the first night of Holiday on a first class professional job. And that I should have it in for the aforesaid Bridges for winning the Cannes Grand Prix for a film I despise. (poster of the film) The Hireling. In a year when we and I'm including Malcolm in this had unsuccessfully offered O Lucky Man! It is comic too I suppose that Bridges tasteful passionless respectability, I'm talking subjectively, should somehow come to symbolize the kind of art that could only arouse my contempt. The word bourgeois can always be relied on to inflame any discussion. I'm not sure, I didn't clearly hear how poor dear Fizz used it.' Now she is getting blamed.' I'm sure inaccurately, she would've done better to keep out of the lacerating crossfire. Jocelyn I seemed to remember was going great guns. John was wisely keeping very quiet. Anyway Fizz interjected something which was rather silly and you put an end to our nonsense with abrupt, undesirable and wise departure. I'm sure that we the smart, destructively tongued party seemed to be the party of the stronger. The only thing I want you to understand is that what you were experiencing, certainly beyond my malicious tongue was concerned was the offensive anger of dissidence in a complacent and conforming world. Impotent dissidence because the conformists have won! Alan Bridges to take the example of the day is never going to find himself ruled out of employment for nonconforming tastes or opinions, for being difficult or dissident or being anything than a first class perfectionist. (photo of Lindsay & Gavin) 30 years ago we could image ourselves actually changing things, winning the battle (Free Cinema group shot, Malcolm & Lindsay at a protest) or at least of achieving the security of a sizable mutually supportive minority, but the establishment won. By the good old English ploy of assimilating rather than attacking its attackers. It's not particularly nice to feel one's self perpetually forced into scorn, rejection and outrage both rejecting and rejected. I won't go on and honestly I'm not meaning to self justify. (Malcolm makes a face, touching his nose) As long as you understand all that happened at that fascinating lunch party was that you fell victim to the drunken vulnerability of one or two outsiders. Momentarily, but only momentarily in the ascendant they behaved badly, they regret it and I'm sure you'll forgive them. Cannes was horrible, Princess Diana whom next to I had to sit, spent 3/5 of the Whales of August fiddling with an earring in her lap. Alan, I hope the play is going excellently and you are getting as much enjoyment from it as you are giving which I know will be a great deal. I do hope and I confidently expect you will triumph, good luck always, Lindsay.'
An amazing footnote to that letter is that Princess Diana did go to the premiere (program announcing the Prince and Princess in attendance) in Cannes and she did sit there as Lindsay said fiddling with an earring. NBC did a film on her (photo of her at the premiere) a year ago and apparently on the way in the car to the premiere Prince Charles told Diana that her former lover Barry had been killed that day in a motorcycle accident. I know that Lindsay said to Diana have you ever thought of becoming an actress. (photos of Lindsay and Diana and Lillian Gish) She said I am an actress. (photo of Diana in a crown).
Lindsay made a film in Maine (Japanese Whales of August poster) called Whales of August which was produced by my dear friend Mike Kaplan, in fact Mary was in the film and she played the young Lillian Gish (photo of Mary & Lillian). It stared Bette Davis and the amazing thing was John Ford was actually from Maine. His name was John Feeney and Lindsay went to some descendants of the Feeney's and they had a market and he bought a baseball cap (photo of Lindsay in the hat) with Feeney's Market on it and he wore it through the whole of the filming. This was one of the famed pieces that wrote. Malcolm sits next to a table draped with a Union Jack flag and a pitcher of water.
'Bette arrived first. We were an hour and a half out of Portland, Maine by the ferries, which made the trip around the islands or 40 minutes by water taxi whose passengers were limited to 4 or 5. But the vessel which brought Bette (a clip starts of home footage from the set of Bette arriving by a cabin cruiser) I'd never seen before. It looked high, almost dreadful, very high and wide, white in the water like a miniature ocean liner. They had forgotten the tides, the water was low and Bette's vessel was too large, too high in the water to berth comfortably at the jetty. The gangway would not reach the landing. A tiny potent figure in a smart black dress, a tiny hat perched on an exuberant hairdo stood perched waiting impatiently on the deck. Everyone was indecisive, intimidated. Come on, I yelled, you'll have to lift her down. Hands reached forward for Bette. Lift me down she commanded. She was swung out and down, unperturbed at all. She said my god would you believe it, I just knew that was going to happen. On the plane from New York and I hadn't seen him in 14 years, Gary Merrill! I got on the plane and looked around and there the bastard was. Would you believe it?' Now Bette had been married to Gary (photo of them) who had been her leading man in All About Eve. (autographed French photo of her) 'She cackled and taunted as her feet touched the landing. Hold on I heard. I just knew that would happen, the first time I'd been back since we lived here, I told him to come forward and sit with me in first class, but he wouldn't. He looked pretty good. She ran off. Should I give her a welcome embrace? If I did she took no notice. Mike came forward and smiled. Good morning Mrs. Davis, I'm Mike Fash your cameraman. She said hello there. She was susceptible to one of them. Lillian arrived the next day having arrived from a festival out west honoring her beloved sister. (vintage photo of them) This time there was no pageantry, she came by watercraft and wore a useful mackintosh coat, a white scarf around her face and a man's hat on top of her. She managed the steep gangway respectively and admires applauded, Lillian waved.
We drove to her bungalow looking out toward the bay with it's lovely view of the water, sky and wooded island. She remarked we really shouldn't be paid for enjoying all this beauty. One of the endless fascinations with this extraordinary star partnership is their absolute difference in everything except god given talent and life acquired professionalism. Lillian's reputation is angelic, Bette's is devilish. It didn't take long for them to justify it, provided one remembers there's nothing sappy about an angel and a devil can have it's own peculiar charm. Neither of these two ladies had ever made exceptions. When we shot the film Lillian's principals were the same as in Birth of a Nation. Her job was to serve the director and the script, it didn't not oblige her to digress her standards of artistry or taste. If she did not like a line of dialog she would change it or cut it out, always with her director's permission. Firmly requested and readably granted. (the clip starts of Sarah entering her room) I was particularly happy with one such scene. Lillian was preparing for an evening visitor, the camera followed her around the room setting out her clothes, finding an old telegram of wartime loss, sitting to read and remember as the Atlantic waves rolled in. I sensed she wasn't entirely pleased and I asked her why. She pointed out that she ended the shot in profile, to her feeling was expressed through the eyes. But it's a lovely expressive image I said. Struck by sudden inspiration I added remember Whistler's mother? (the image on the screen gets small and a large picture of the painting joins it) Ah , yes she said, but think of the Mona Lisa. (picture of Mona Lisa takes the screen and changes to a young Lillian) She had me there.
Bette's method of conveying reservation was cruder, a contest rather than collaboration seemed to her to be the essence of the actor/director relationship. Rubbish! or Ridiculous idea! would be her usual comment. That's twice I've given in to him today she would announce to the unit on accepting an idea. I must be slipping. She liked to give direction herself to move furniture around to bully some humble member of the crew. Only once I was driven to snap. You are not taking over this picture Bette I said. She stiffened in outrage and walked off the set. (photo of Lindsay and Bette on set) Both she and I called the producer and it was quite exciting. Bette had defeated a hysterectomy, a stroke and a vengeful daughter, but she had no relish for the freedom of location shooting. We should be doing this in the studio, she would grumble, remembering the days of Old Acquaintance, The Letter and Now, Voyager. (images of posters from each) Lillian had no such nostalgia after all she laid for hours on an ice flow, not in a studio tank, while Griffith shot her going towards the falls, her hand and long hair trailing through the icy water. (images from Way Down East) Shrewd, though innocent, Lillian liked to repeat her mother's advice as to how most sensible people get through life. 'You can be rude to people, but you'll find things a great deal easier if you treat people well.' Kindness and courtesy, that's how Lillian does it. Bette's mother on the other hand gave her no such advice. Bette's impulse is to treat the world with hostility. She can be fearfully rude and often so. The sad thing is that this can make a splendid spectacle. Journalists love it, calling it feisty. Chat show hosts grow fat on it. In Whales they have the lady and the vamp heart of the movies side by side no holds barred. (pictures of Lillian & Bette from young to old) Ah, so they once slept so shall they lay, here they are, you can forget the rest.
He gets up and walks to the podium. Cathy Burke typed all of Lindsay's letters. (photo of the two of them in Lindsay's office) This one I found that I had forgotten about, remember the date April 12, 1981. Dear Malcolm, Chariots of Fire and my double act with John Gielgud. I went to the show largely out of courtesy to my friend High Hudson. But I wasn't invited to the principal presentation lineup, so I missed my chance to be presented to her majesty (photo of the queen) with 24 executives of 20th Century fox. (He names a bunch of them) It really was an embarrassing suburban affair. I've no idea what I'm like in the picture. When my first sequence arrived I closed my eyes. Later I peeked through half closed lids. All I can say is I didn't seem to be much worse than Gielgud. (photo of John & Lindsay in suits) I suppose they thought it was a good idea to flood the queen mother the moment the lights went down images of her dead husband and assorted dead film stars. A morbid kind of jolly that only the English could've thought appropriate. Things are really crowded now, Britannia Hospital is set to start shooting at the beginning of August. The script has, I think, a splendid conception, some excellent invention, a few holes and dialog that could be improved, I recognize that. Listen Malcolm you have to let me know if there really is any possibility you'll be able to play in it. It's not a great central role, but it does have some good outrageous stuff and you do end up as a transplant monster (picture of the spring head poster) clamping your teeth into Graham Crowden's hand and having your head pulled off in the ensuing melee. Please say yes and I'll send you the script immediately. I had a late supper one evening with Treat Williams. He is really nice (photo of him) and an impressively generous fellow. We went for a trip around nighttime Manhattan, an incredible and somehow touching sight. I wondered why all that energy survives the struggle, creativity and corruption magically transformed into light. We passed so close to the World Trade Center building that we could see the diners innocently enjoying themselves in the restaurant. In the late 20th century it's impossible not to see the whole great heart of the city as vulnerable and exposed to attack. He closes the book and turns out the light.
Last Meeting: Palm Desert
He sits again, reading from Lindsay's diary. In the summer of 1973 I was in Los Angeles for a few days on a publicity tour for O Lucky Man! The Warner Brothers publicity department asked if there was anything I'd particularly like to do in Hollywood. When I said I'd like to call on John Ford I'd sensed a certain unease. I knew Ford wasn't well, I knew he'd moved out to Palm Desert, but I'd wanted to call. The telephone number was produced and to my surprise it was the correct one. My friend Marion who was shepherding me on the tour put the call through to my room in the Beverly Hills Hotel. We both felt strange about it and she went pale when she realized she was talking to John Ford. I took the phone. His voice was vigorous and welcoming as though we'd met a month or two ago. Hello Lindsay, what are you doing in L.A.? I explained and said I'd like to come and see him if it was at all possible. Yeah, come on out, it would be good to see you. I told him I was only in town over the weekend. Well, I've got my lawyer coming over tomorrow, I've got some business to talk over with him. Can you make it Sunday? Come over any time in the afternoon, have you got the address? It was difficult to believe he was dying of cancer. I drove out on Sunday afternoon in a large limousine provided by the studio. We stopped at the garage and asked the way to old prospector trail, that was where Ford had come to make his last home. No sound, no breath of air blew through the intense desert heat outdoors. Then there was a sound of the unlocking of the door and it opened a little way cautiously. I made out a little lady standing in some kind of house dress. I explained that I'd come to see Mr. Ford at his invitation. Barbara Ford who greeted me introduced herself as Ford's daughter and asked who I was. Her father had mentioned someone would be coming to see him, but had given no details. I realized that my name meant nothing to her, but she was very friendly. She padded back in her slippers and told me that her father was waiting. Could you tell me your name again? Daddy only said that he had an old friend from England coming. I told her. Are you a filmmaker? I said sometimes. Oh, daddy didn't tell me anything about you. He was determined to look smart. It's the big one you know, she said and I knew she meant cancer. It's only a matter of time. He's had the last rites. Last week, we thought he'd gone. He'd had a giant hemorrhage and they'd rushed him into the hospital in the middle of the night. He fought his way out of it insisting on coming home. What shall I call him I asked. Barbara seemed surprised. Who daddy? Call him Jack, that's what he likes to be called. We went down the passage, past the light into a small room mostly occupied by a bed. Ford lay there propped up on pillows, smoking a cigar and drinking brandy. Revolver shots rang out from the TV screen, figures were chasing each other up and down a ships' gangway . Hello Lindsay, he said warmly. Hello Jack, good to see you. He looked gaunt and old, it was easy to see how disease had eaten him, but the pugnacious commanding spirit was still strong. It only took a moment to get used to his appearance and then he looked the same. It was easy to forget he was ready to go. I glanced at the TV screen. A boggy figure came down the stairway firing blanks at the deck above. Is that Victor McLaglen? (poster of Lost Patrol is shown) No, Tommy Mitchell. Ford leaned across and switched off the set. Some rubbish. Ford asked me what I was doing in L.A. and I gave him a copy of the book we published of the O Lucky Man! script. I missed that one of yours, but I enjoyed that football picture that you did. (This Sporting Life poster is shown) Oh, did you see it? I said surprised. Of course I did, good picture. I couldn't help wondering if he'd really seen This Sporting Life. I couldn't think of any good reason why he should have, not that it mattered. I asked him if he'd been working on any projects, knowing that there had be several in the last few years. Oh, I had a couple of scripts, he said, but I'm beyond that now. This has put a stop to all that. I haven't got the strength. He didn't say he was sick, it was almost as if that was a truth he'd long avoided and was now glad to face. We chatted in a relaxed way, the send up tone had gone, no need for that now. We had no store of common experience and not much acquaintance, but I knew in a strange way the fact of my visit mattered to him. I was glad. We talked a bit about picture making now and in the old days. He talked contemptuously about producers and I asked him if there was anyone he liked working with. Oh Zannock, he knew the business. When I'd finished a picture I could go off in my boat to Catalina and fish. I didn't have to hang around, I could leave the editing to him. None of the others knew a damn thing. I congratulated him on his award from the American Film Institute. The ceremony had been a few months back, the presentation had been made by Richard Nixon. (photo of them) Jane Fonda had protested outside against his presence. Did they do it well I asked? Oh, it was fine. A great presentation. The president made a speech, of course he didn't know much about it. He did it very well, I was very touched. People had been to see him. Hawkes has been over a couple of times, he was here last week. (photo of him) Hank Fonda, nice man Hank. (vintage photo of him) Maureen O'Hara was somewhere on an island in the South Pacific. (photo of her) He reserved his coarser tone for John Wayne. Duke's up in Seattle, shooting some rubbish playing a goddamn policeman. (photo from the film) After 20 minutes or so Barbara came back. Well Jack, it was a piece of great luck that brought me out to California, I'm glad I could come to see you. His hand lay on the bed cover freckled with age and I held it for a moment, then kissed it goodbye. Thanks for coming said Ford, it's a long drive out. It was good of you to come. I turned at the door. Anything I can do for you in England? Oh, give Brian Hurst a call and tell him you saw me. Anything else you want? Only your friendship. You have that.
I left him with his brandy glass and cigar stub. I'd called Barbara a couple of times on my American tour. From Washington I'd sent him a postcard of Lincoln with his son Thad. (picture of Young Mr. Lincoln poster) Six weeks later back in London I'd switched on the radio and heard that John Ford had died. (picture of a large signed photo of Ford. It reads, "To my colleague Lindsay Anderson with best regards from his friend of many years. Jack - John Ford"
I was in my house in Italy when Mary called me and said, 'I'm sorry Malcolm, I'm so sorry.' (Makes a startled face) It's one of those calls that one doesn't like to get. What, what? What is it? Oh, haven't you heard? Lindsay is gone. So of course for me it was such a great loss. I rushed to where he'd been at a friend's house in the Dordogne, France to Lois Smith's. Actually life is a circle as they say, Lois Smith was a great friend of Lindsay's who'd encouraged and invited him to make his first film. (photo of young Lindsay filming) It was a documentary about her then husband's engineering works. He made 3 or 4 short documentaries for Lois. He was at her house (picture of the 2 of them) swimming in a lake, very much like a Chekov lake with the silver birch trees, no houses, nothing. There would've just been mirrored in this beautiful lake. Apparently he was swimming in the lake, he got out, Lois got out, he went to change his clothes, went up a bank and had such a massive heart attack that it threw him back 15 feet into the lake with his head submerged into the water. The doctor said that he died before he hit the ground. So we went to that lake. I met Jocelyn Herbert there and Jocelyn and I swam in the lake and that was the end of an era for me, to see this great man gone. Of course he's not really gone because the movies are there and so are the memories. He goes back to the podium.
This is what David Storey wrote. Lindsay told David he would like a line from a Yates poem as his epitaph. 'A revolutionary soldier kneeling to be blessed.' (the words appear on screen) It fit him well, although Storey gently remarked he didn't kneel for very long. He turns out the light and puts his glasses away.
One of my favorite stories about Lindsay is on the occasion of Ben Travis's, a wonderful playwright in London, 90th birthday. Lindsay was directing one of his plays The Bed Before Yesterday. He went with Ben and a circle of critics to the Ideal restaurant in London. Now these are all the critics that of course he loathed and fought with through the years. They were questioning both of them and first they asked Ben Travis what he would like on his tombstone. He stood up and said 'Now the fun begins.' Then they asked Lindsay for his epitaph. He looked down the room at every one of them slowly, down that Roman nose, looking like a Roman senator. He said, 'Surrounded by fucking idiots.' (He bows twice, says thank you, blows a kiss to his right and a picture of Lindsay and Malcolm shooting O Lucky Man! appears, then he blows a kiss to his left and a picture of a young Lindsay appears. A clip of the end of OLM! with Mick and Lindsay hugging plays).
The song O Lucky Man! plays and the credits roll. Directed by, (photo of Mike & Lindsay from Whales of August) Conceived by, (photo of Lindsay talking and pointing at Malcolm on the set of if....) Edited by, (photo of Lindsay showing Mick how to hold the gun in OLM!) Producer Performance Footage, (photo of a smiling Lindsay walking away from a laughing MM on the hospital table in OLM!) Lighting, (photo of Lindsay sitting on the floor holding his head with people at a table behind him) Camera, (photo of Lindsay and a dirty Richard Harris from This Sporting Life) Recording Mixer & Sound, (photo of Lindsay and Malcolm drinking coffee on the set of OLM!) Post Production (photo of Lindsay pointing something to Lillian Gish on the set of the Whales of August) Produced by (photo of Lindsay in a leather jacket and hat holding the lens of a camera a boy is holding) Pieces by and about Lindsay Anderson scrolls up (photo of Lindsay & Ann Sothern sitting on the set of the Whales of August) Film Posters (photo of Lindsay directing Alan Price at the keyboard on the set of OLM!) Music and lyrics Alan Price (photo of Lindsay fixing Malcolm's collar on the set of OLM!) Bette Davis Arrival Footage (photo of Lindsay & Bette on the set of The Whales of August) Special Thanks, (photos of David Storey, Gavin Lambert & Lindsay sitting reading) The Lindsay Anderson Archive, (photo of Lindsay holding Rachel on the set of This Sporting Life) Plexus (photo of Lindsay demonstrating how to walk on stage for Geilgud) Ojai Film Festival, (photo of Lindsay talking to Vincent Price on the set of The Whales of August) Soundtrack music switches to Red River Valley. Thank You, (photo of Lindsay in shades and Malcolm gesturing to something on the set of OLM!) It premiered on stage at (photo of Lindsay sitting on a tall chair next to shelves of boxes) It ends with a color shot of Lindsay in the desert, then switches to a photo B/W of Malcolm in a large hat with his arm around Lindsay near the end.
"Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness." - John Wayne in John Ford's She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
I liked how he called it a Travis production,
giving tribute to the character that launched his career, but I was surprised to
see Malcolm used Caligula as one of the 6 characters he played in the intro as
he's always hated the film. Where was HG Welles from a film he loves? Then it
goes into the Sanctus as Malcolm emerges, which is a great way to get the flow
right into a story about if….
He spends time in three places during the show - center stage, behind a podium to the left when he reads something and at the end he sits in a chair on the right. The only problem is on DVD it's hard to see sometimes when he's standing in front of the black curtain with a black jacket. Hopefully they can lighten it a bit, or it looks better on the big screen, but it doesn't take away from the story.
The crowd was muffled which was perfect so they didn't take away from it by coughing, making nose or laughing distractingly. All you could hear was light laughter and clapping and you never saw them. I enjoyed this as I find seeing or hearing a crowd distracting. It makes you feel more like you are there when you don't see them. I can't stand when a director has a closeup on some nobody in the crowd like I care what they think, I'm not watching to see them, just what's on stage. Later I found out from Malcolm that it wasn't planned, they just didn't have enough cameras to put one on the crowd. Like Lindsay Anderson said, "Art is sometimes a happy accident."
The direction was simple and the editing was very smooth even though there were 5 cameras and the angles changed, but not too fast, there wasn't an intense amount of cuts every second. It flowed along nicely. The forward shot showed very little of the crowd, only the two and the side cameras showed close ups on Malcolm's face. Mike did a masterful job of adding pictures, posters and clips to enhance the story, something you wouldn't get in person.
I've never seen Malcolm live in a play and this is the first stage production of his released on video, so this is as close as you can get to seeing him in person. Look Back in Anger and The Collection were filmed, but not in front of a live audience.
Even if you've read everything on this site, there are still a few new stories to be heard. When talking about if… he starts out talking about meeting Lindsay and he had no idea who he was or what the part was or anything. He just showed up blind not even really looking at the script. It's funny to think Lindsay was messing with him by getting him to gossip about the Royal Court, then telling him he worked there. Even better that Malcolm was so clueless he didn't even know that Lindsay worked there or connect his name. I don't think he's changed at all, he still has little interest in the whole movie scene and doesn't know who is in some of his own films. I like how when he talks about a person, a picture of them appears on screen. This starts with Christine. It's such a shame this was in an age before they really recorded rehearsals, it would've been amazing to see Malcolm & Christine fighting. There are also a couple of accidents that led to him getting the job - he was running late, had no script, didn't read far enough ahead and the first girl he was supposed to act with never showed up which allowed him to do the scene with Christine. If he wasn't attracted to her he wouldn't have kissed her so hard, if she was into it, she wouldn't have hit him so hard. If any one of those things changed he wouldn't have gotten the job. In Sherwin's diary he thought at first there was no way he would work because we was just too smooth.
It's funny how when he got the job he wanted to celebrate and everyone he worked with was gone. He had to settle for the guitarist he didn't know. I wonder what happened to him? Would he even remember he was the first one to know of Malcolm's debut film? Maybe he was too hung over to remember. It's also interesting to hear the casual relationship with Lindsay, talking, gossiping, going to his house, out to eat and the first image he had of Mick was him on the motorcycle, not the famous opening or ending of the film.
Then he reads page 20&21 from Sherwin's book only adding a few comments along the way. I wonder what it's like to read about yourself like that. Since it's 40 years ago the distance makes it almost like it isn't him I suppose. I wonder what Lindsay thought of the audition. I know Malcolm has said he didn't throw out compliments and was a real ball buster. Even when he liked something he would play it down. It sounds like he was more upset that Sherwin upstaged him by saying they were right for the part, instead of letting Lindsay say it first. After all he did give them the job.
Later he said how he had such a crush on Christine Noonan and kept asking her out and she had no interest whatsoever and he imitated her thick accent - "nahw!" I guess he didn't know then or even now that she was married already, Noonan was her first husband's name. So it's no wonder she wasn't interested, but why didn't she just say so? The funny thing is she'd be willing to do a nude scene with him if she didn't like him. He relates how his big plan backfired because he had to be naked, didn't get to see much of her because she was fighting with him and he had an audience outside since it was a real truck stop.
He starts out with his first time meeting Lindsay at the if….audition and tells his side of the story, then he reads David Sherwin's version from his diary. I thought this slowed things down a little because you hear the story, then you hear it again. While it's cool to get both sides, I think there is a way he could combine them into one. He could talk, then read what Sherwin said when it's different. Otherwise it's like separate DVD commentaries on the same disc where you get some overlapping of stories. I would like to see how it turned out if Malcolm acted out Sherwin's role at the same time by doing his voice so it would be like we were there in 1967. After all Malcolm is good at voices and likes imitating most everyone's throughout the show.
For the first time he credits seeing Albert Finney as the one who made him think he could act, so it was later that Cagney became his favorite. He goes into filming in the Packhorse Café and tells the story he revealed in 2002 about how it was his idea to get naked hoping to be able to see Christine naked, but it backfired. It's funny how he orchestrated the whole thing and how it's easier for a woman to get naked implying he's screwed either way looking extremely small or like a pervert if he's aroused. We learn what the first scene shot for if… was the sword fight and how he was so into it that was being natural and not acting. Interestingly he was horrified and Lindsay thought it was a lesson for him, but wouldn't refilm it and not saying why. It sounds like Lindsay tricked him liking the naturalness of it all and not wanting to redo it and lose that. He also reveals that he was totally out of his league when it came to Lindsay and film history Lindsay knew all these minor & major details about all things to do with filming and Malcolm embarrassed himself by thinking Jean Arthur was a man. It's cool how Malcolm reveals stories that make him look bad as he could keep that to himself. It makes him much more real and down to earth.
It's funny how Lindsay goofs on Malcolm's school. I know Malcolm's said before how he didn't like it, but here he defends it a little. One story he started I would like to hear how it finished. What was in the headmaster's letter to Lindsay all those years later about the filming of if….? I wish they had a camera, because it would've been a great image to have Lindsay and Malcolm standing in front of the premiere of if… with a huge line in front of it and the people not even knowing who they were. It is a surreal moment to think about how it looked. Another new story is how even after the film opened and was a big success Malcolm was still broke. He had no work, was still living at home, his dad had to drive him to the theater and he had no car of his own, he might not have been able to drive! He reveals Lindsay hired him to paint his bathroom so he could make some extra money. He had his hotel paid for in Cannes and was even borrowing money from Lindsay while up for a best actor award. It's a funny vision to think of this hot new actor in painters garb struggling to make ends meet. He was 25 at the time and just getting started in film and think of stars today who are washed up by 25 having peaked in their teens and are more known for their stupid personal lives then their work. One thing I don't agree with is when he says 'Only a man who loved his school could've made a film like that.' Lindsay would've had to have hated his school to have that vision and go through all the trouble of deceiving the headmaster to get his way. The other thing that seems hard to believe is that the HM wouldn't have found out about the ending until the film was realized. Surely there was talk during and after filming with the sound of guns and explosions right there at the school in broad daylight
At Cannes he says he didn't know who the Easy Rider cast was or what marijuana was having tried it their for the first time. It's funny to picture all 4 of them brazenly doing something illegally and that no one cared. It's also a little hard to believe that by the end of the 60s he hadn't discovered pot yet. Also the story of how if…. won is interesting because they really didn't, they came in third, and it was a fluke. They had no idea at the time, they just thought they won outright. I wonder what the Swedish film was? There were only 26 films shown that year, so it was probably Adalen 31. The only conflict is David Sherwin says in his diary they didn't find out until they were back in England weeks later and Malcolm talks like they won while they were there.
This ends with one of his most famous stories about saying he would write Lindsay's next film even though he had no experience doing it. I wonder if the 40 pages he wrote survived. It would be great to publish them in an OLM! script book to see how they compare. Of course it's would've been great if Warner's released any kind of extras like that on the OLM! DVD, but they have no vision at all. They would've never have released the film at all it if it wasn't for Malcolm forcing them too. He has told the story of giving Lindsay the pages before. This time he is much nicer about it. Before when Sherwin told him it was good Malcolm said Lindsay was a bastard for lying to him about it not being funny. He felt he did that to him on purpose to test his faith in what he wrote. This time he attributed it to Lindsay not being from the North of England. I thought this might lead to him talking about how the film was one of the first to explore all parts of England as the cards title state in the film. He talks about the title and he's told this story before. It did need a better title than Coffee Man because it stops being about coffee pretty quick. He also talks about how they got Lindsay to agree to put scenes in by going to him one at a time. I wonder if Lindsay kept them all during filming and are there deleted scenes in a vault somewhere. The vocabulary lesson was a new story. I would've liked to heard more of this if there was more to be told and it seemed like it there was. I thought it was interesting that he wouldn't claim he wrote the film. But he did get it started and talks about constantly working on scenes, so I don't see why he shouldn't take some writing credit, especially how the end is based on his life and becoming a star. He mentions how Lindsay didn't like to write and this is fascinating. I wonder why not. After all the man wrote books, articles, reviews and published magazines so why not screenplays?
He then reads from Lindsay's diary for the first time. The only problem I have with this is when he reads from something commercially available, it's something we can read ourselves. Only he can tell the stories from what he saw in his time with Lindsay. The good part is it's not like an audiobook as he does stop and interject comments which makes it better. Interesting to me is the filming of the final scene of OLM! took place 6/72 and the film wasn't released until the next year. There were no special effects so you would think it could've been released in a few months after shooting wrapped. Yes, it was a 3 hour film which meant more editing, but only if there was more things tossed out. There is an interesting story about how Lindsay didn't like good taste. I wonder what that meant. I saw his apartment and it wasn't decorated in some ghastly manor and he always dressed normally, so I don't know what in his life he liked garish. Awful is such a fun word to say, so I can see why he liked it.
Malcolm cryptically says you don't want to play cricket with Harold Pinter. What does that mean? Another story waiting to be told. He goes into detail about the end smile, but not why Malcolm actually had to get hit in the face. They couldn't have faked it and added a sound effect? It sounds painful to be hit so many times, I would think it would've given him a headache too. He reveals Lindsay wound up using the third take, so he was hit 32 times for no reason. I wonder what changed his mind? He felt it wasn't working for so long, but suddenly it was OK. The best of the takes?
Then there's a new story about a party to start filming and it's the first time a picture of one of Malcolm's sisters has been seen. She was very pretty. It seems crazy that they set out to get stoned, but it was the early 70s. Sounds like another great event lost to time, if only someone had filmed it. All these stoned actors with Alan's band playing, I can imagine some wild dancing going on. The image of Lindsay rambling on for 5 hours is also a great funny visualization.
He then goes into a touching and hilarious section on Rachel Roberts, but I wonder why he didn't also talk about Jill Bennett? She was also part of the crowd and also killed herself. Maybe because he hadn't worked with her as closely as Rachel. It's interesting when he talks about Lindsay having her clean his place to keep her out of trouble since Malcolm once painted his bathroom to make some money. It makes it seem almost like a halfway house for actors down on their luck. Sounds like there's a movie in there. It's such a tragedy when someone can't be saved from themselves and couldn't be helped. It must've been painful for Malcolm and Lindsay to see this. He doesn't go into exactly what put her on the dark path and maybe he doesn't know, but it seems like she couldn't handle the fame and had a bad divorce. He talks about her not being able to make it in the UK, but she did the right thing going to Hollywood like Malcolm if she couldn't make it in her homeland. It also sounds like she knew she was a mess and it still didn't help I always hate it when talented people end their lives much too early.
The section about OLM! at Cannes contains the funniest line in the film comes when Malcolm was at a dinner party and Rachel jumped on the table and flashed her private parts she recently had trimmed and Lindsay remarked it looked like a bald porcupine. Now there's a two-word description that leaves little to the imagination and spells it all out. Though I'm not quite sure how not being able to sing and shaving your privates are linked to not being able to get the Broadway part. Was there also a nude scene in the play that was in a period setting?
Malcolm follows with a personal story that anyone who has gone to see a long film like OLM! can relate too - rushing to the bathroom after. I know there was a mad dash when I saw OLM! in the theater, 3 hours of holding it in is not fun. So it's easy for me to picture all these big shots lined up at the urinals. The film went from being a smash to a problem. It's not revealed what happened to change the bosses' minds though. I know today it's rare for 3 hour long films to get mainstream releases because it's all about showing the film as much as possible to make as much money as fast as they can. But it matters less and less when they can stagger the film throughout the night on 2 or 3 screens at once. Cutting the film down by 10 minutes doesn't make that much difference anyway. I wonder why Lindsay was so confident to suggest Warner's cut the film, that path always leads to the danger of them ruining the film. Did he have final cut in his contract? I wonder if WB ever did make a cut? It sounds like they beat them to the punch by convincing Lindsay to drop Reel 9, but is there a WB cut in a vault gathering dust? I would think they could've cut out the beginning plantation scene and the scene of Alan's band playing and just played OLM! over the soundtrack like they did with "Sell Sell" to tighten it up. I don't need to see the band and the "Sell Sell" sequence works like what we all know as a music video today. He then jumps ahead 6 years about putting the lost reel back in. There is more to the story here. Why was it being put back in? Was there a rerelease or retrospective for Lindsay somewhere? What happened when Malcolm checked out the lost reel? Is there a good story there or was it just that it was grainy. Lindsay sums it up with one of the best quotes I've ever heard about art 'sometimes art is really a very happy accident.' It is so true. Sometimes doing something you never planned on works out better, sometimes when you step back and look at something a different way it can change your perspective.
Then he goes into a long section on Lindsay's first feature film. The only bad thing is Malcolm wasn't involved in it, so he has no personal stories. He was friends with the two starring actors, Rachel more so than Richard. He reads from Lindsay's diary and then the longest movie clip in the film is shown clocking in at almost 2 minutes. There is no explanation of why Lindsay and Karel were arguing about the film, maybe there was no good reason, but since it was Lindsay's film, why would someone else care so much? It's interesting how Lindsay was so starstruck with Richard, maybe he was intimidated by him being such a tough guy and Richard used that to his advantage. Malcolm describes him as a celibate homosexual, but just because you think of something, if you don't act it really doesn't count. If you think about killing a group of people and never do it does that make you a celibate serial killer? He does admit he didn't feel that way at the time though. Maybe it's just the nature of the business back then, the closeness like they are fighting a battle together. Natassja Kinski for example liked to sleep with her directors, but not fall in love with them. Maybe that was just Lindsay's way of working with leading men. I guess it's all just meaningless speculation now.
He only gives the smallest touch on Lindsay's memorial, I would've liked more stories about that. The story about him trying to be like Olivier was funny, too bad he didn't remember what scene it was from. It would be fun to go back and watch the scene in if… and picture him doing something crazy. When he talks about Gielgud coming to stay with him because they weren't paying much I wonder what he did get paid. It took 3 weeks to film the short amount of scenes he was in? If Malcolm had a villa and he was there filming for a year it must've cost production quite a bit to house him. It is also fun to picture 10 people helping to carry Malcolm's costume, could there really have been that many? That would make a fun photo. He's told the stories before about Gielgud on the set, but they are still funny because they are so dirty. Then he goes into a funny little anecdote on Lindsay and John bickering about sitting during a play, I would love to hear more of those back and forth squabbles. When he goes into the section on Alan Bates there's a great little throwaway line where Malcolm says Lindsay called and asked if he was doing one of those awful films. It sounds like Lindsay wanted something more for Malcolm's career, like he'd rather have him do more quality than quantity. It's great how Malcolm doesn't even care admitting he just did an awful film. When he says he could never follow Alan in a play I wonder if that meant he didn't think he was good enough. They are such different personas that it would not be the same by a long shot. There's no worry of copying or confusion. Just look at them together in Royal Flash to see what I mean. I like how brutal Lindsay is in describing the differences between the two of them basically saying Alan's the good guy, you are the bad guy. It's not true that Malcolm has no charm, Lindsay must've really been pushing his buttons. He's told the story before about thinking he screwed his chances of ever working with Spielberg, but I've always wondered if it really was him and if he even remembered it. If I ever get a chance to ask Spielberg I certainly will.
I like the Lindsay Dictionary section and would like to hear more things like this. He mentions working with Clive Donner, but not what the did. It was the rare TV movie Arthur the King. By him not mentioning it I guess it's not one of his favorite films he's done. When he goes into the fact that the luncheon was for the play Holiday, I would've liked a couple words on what he thought about the play. From what little I have heard, he didn't like it much, but I don't know why. It is the last time he worked with Lindsay and Mary, so I think it would hold a sentimental place for him. It was interesting to learn Lindsay went to school with Schlesinger, there's got to be more stories there. Malcolm also dates his sobriety as starting in 1982 which is interesting, I've never heard him blame doing a bad film on drinking and this is why, the really bad films came much later. I never knew Alan had a double chin, but maybe I'm used to his younger roles. He seemed cool with Malcolm busting on him, but Lindsay seemed to have rubbed him the wrong way. It's interesting when you think about it that the film is a tribute to Lindsay and this story makes him look bad! It's also interesting what little things set people off. Why did Alan erupt at that point and not about his chin or Alan Bridges? I guess it all built up. This is where the title of the film comes form, the fact that Lindsay said he would never apologize to Alan, at least not in person. At the very last second of the film we also learn this line came form Lindsay's favorite director John Ford in one of his films. The whole section is an example of Lindsay's flawed side and how he could instantly cut you out of his life for no good reason. It reminds me of a story Malcolm told about Lindsay cutting Warren Clarke out for not appearing in the last scene of OLM! I believe the whole story is after Lindsay's death they found the apology letter he wrote, but he never sent it to Alan. This wasn't mentioned in the film though. He reads the letter and Lindsay talks about not liking to use the phone. He would've hated cell phones then and probably talking online too. It's funny how Lindsay blames it on the hosts for plying them full of liquor and then say he needs to thank them for their hospitality! He wants it both ways. It also shows that he could carry a mean grudge. He claims resentment toward Bridges for beating him at Cannes - 14 years ago! Talking about not letting it go! I can't believe he thought after winning there once he'd ever win again though. I like how Malcolm interjects comments here too about shifting the blame. Then it gets better when Lindsay explains to Alan what he was really feeling! Like Alan didn't know his own feelings? Then he takes it even higher by making it a worldly class struggle - amazing. At the end he says they lost the struggle after all and switches gears about sitting next to Princess Diana during the showing of Whales of August at Cannes. That really must've been something to see especially after he skewered the queen and the English system in Britannia Hospital. I wonder if they talked at all during the film or Lindsay didn't want to ask her if she was all right and open himself to criticism about the film. It was interesting that Malcolm revealed the reason she was distracted was that her ex had been killed. Nice of Prince Charles to mention it on the way to the film instead of after in a hotel room where she could mourn in private. It sounds like he wanted her to squirm in public by intentionally gloating about it and mentioning it right before a long appearance.
Then he goes into a section of Lindsay's life in which he wasn't involved with at all, the making of Whales of August. His wife did have a small part so he must've gotten some insight from her and maybe visited the set himself, but he's never confirmed either point. He reveals the meaning behind the Feeney hat Lindsay is seen wearing in the behind the scenes photos, it was from John Ford's relatives market. This is a cool little fact I hadn't heard before. He then reads what Lindsay wrote about the arrival of Bette and Lillian and how it perfectly exemplifies the well known Hollywood legend's behaviors. Bette is a devil and Lillian is an angel. It's a nice little story about a nice little film. The final part is a nice insight into the creative impulse. Lindsay thinks he did a great scene and asks Lillian why she didn't look as thrilled. The interesting thing was that at the end he admitted Lillian had the better point, but he didn't change the scene which shows he was stubborn I suppose. He then has a fight with Bette, but it leaves us hanging. They both ran to Mike Kaplan like children running to their parents to be the first to blame the other, but what was the final result? Obviously the movie was completed, but more of the fight details would've been fun.
The best part is it features some rare footage from the set that's never been seen before. It left me wondering how much of that is out there since when they released it on DVD it contained nothing extra. It really sucks they have this kind of footage, but didn't give the film the DVD treatment it deserves, hopefully they'll make a special edition DVD release, but I doubt it
The end section starts out surprisingly with a shocking letter Lindsay wrote to Malcolm in 1981. Lindsay saw the World Trade Center by plane as a target for attack, 12 years before it was first bombed. Lindsay was alive in for the 1993 bombing, I wonder if he remembered this letter? I was really glad Malcolm included this section because even though it has nothing to do with his films, it's very touching to me because I have flown the exact same route a couple of times in a private plane and can visualize it so well. The other part of the story is telling that Lindsay couldn't watch his own performance in Chariots of Fire. I wonder if he always felt that way? If so it might explain his struggle to find the perfect smack for the end of OLM! Watching himself clouded his judgment. I love the line, "A morbid kind of jolly that only the English could've thought appropriate." It sums up the weird dour ways of mainstream England and why people like Benny Hill and the Monty Python guys really stand out as comedic geniuses breaking away from that mold.
Then it's cute how Lindsay tries to sell Britannia Hospital to Malcolm. It's hard to believe that four months before shooting Malcolm isn't even on board yet. You get to bite Graham and have your head pulled off, what more could you want? He didn't even mention he would have a large black penis grafted on him!
It ends with a touching story of how Lindsay saw his mentor John Ford for the last time right before his passing. It's a perfect contrast describing the passing of Malcolm's mentor by telling about the passing of Lindsay's mentor. It's also weird to think of Lindsay on a publicity tour for OLM! What happened at Warner Brothers where they were so into the film at first and then acted like it didn't exist for the next 34 years? If it wasn't for Malcolm I doubt they ever would've released it on DVD having let it go out of print for almost 23 years. One of the more interesting parts is almost a throwaway line from Lindsay not believing Ford has seen This Sporting Life. Since they were friends, why wouldn't he want to check out the debut film of a friend? He had at least 7 years to do so, it wasn't like it just came out. Maybe it's just insecurity. It seems to be when he says they had no common experience. After all they both made movies and loved the Hollywood films of old and probably could've talked about those for hours. It's really hard to imagine a current president presenting an award to a director today, so it's hard to believe it happened then, and of course Hanoi Jane had to protest and try to ruin such a nice tribute.
Malcolm learns of his passing from a phone call by his ex-wife, which must've been a weird way to find out. She didn't even call to tell him, just offer her condolences, so I wonder how she heard about it first? After 1987 Malcolm didn't work with him again and I wondered why he wasn't at least in Lindsay's film Is that All there is? Malcolm says life is a circle and it is rather interesting that he died at the house of the woman who gave him his first directing job. Plus she must've been in her 90s at the time. It's really intense and a little scary that you could be walking one second and something so powerful happens inside you that you could be thrown 15 feet and be dead before you land. How violent and fleeting life is.
The first epitaph is weird, 'A revolutionary soldier kneeling to be blessed.' Blessed by whom? Lindsay didn't strike me as very religious and when you are dead, you aren't kneeling. The epitaph given at Ben Travis 90th birthday is easily the best I've ever heard, 'Surrounded by fucking idiots.' The big question I have is which epitaph did he really get in the end? Maybe something totally different? I wouldn't mind having the second one myself. When the credits role make sure to stay and watch to see some rare photos and heard a bit of Lindsay singing.
It must be hard for Malcolm to be sort of the last of the old guard - so many of these legendary artists he worked with are gone - Lindsay, Alan Bates, Rachel Roberts, Jill Bennet, John Gielgud, Peter Jeffrey, Anthony Nicholls, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Arthur Lowe, Philip Stone and on and on. He's one of the few left who can tell the stories.
Much praise has to be given to Mike Kaplan for the editing. I love the close up angels that show only Malcolm's face because it captures the emotions much more that you could get in person. I love the inserts of photos, stills, posters and movie clips to highlight the story. Since he is a huge poster collector, I know they all came from his personal collection. Only the check scene in This Sporting Life goes on too long at almost 2 minutes. It's perfect that there is no audience reaction shots, but as Lindsay would says that was a happy accident as they ran out of cameras. I really hate it when live shows focus on someone making a face or reacting in the audience, that's not who I came to see. When I watch a performer, I'm not looking at the stage, not other people's reactions.
This is a film that crosses all boundaries. Even if you never heard of Malcolm before, this is something you would enjoy. It's live theater, it's a chance to be a fly on the wall amongst artists outside the Hollywood system. It's a way to get close to those we have no way of getting close to, legends who have passed on and are being forgotten, it this film they live again.
I would love to give it a perfect score, there's never a dull moment and it's all wonderful, but the repetition of the if… story, how he wore black with a black background made him disappear a little and that there is so much more he could've said, getting up to 2 hours would've been perfect, I subtracted .1. He told me it was exhausting to do and at his age I understand, so maybe he could've sat most of the time and told more stories about the other people in the Old Crowd who passed on and read less published material. For example we can read the diaries or Sherwin's books ourselves, only he can tell the personal stories.
Summary, review, some notes © 2007-10 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net