The Crack of Dawn
The Crack of Dawn
I start, it’s night.
I’ve seen any number of interviews with Charlton Heston (real name, John Charles Carter) over the years. When asked how he got into movies, Heston always did the same song and dance as every other actor about struggling, persevering, not taking no for answer, and following your dream. Heston got out of the air force in 1946, appeared in a couple of plays in NY, got a few parts on early TV shows, was spotted by big-shot producer, Hal Wallis (Casablanca), and then starred in his first movie, Dark City (1950). Cecil B. DeMille saw Heston and immediately cast him in the lead of his new movie, The Greatest Show on Earth, winner of Best Picture 1951, and Heston was a star. Of any actor in Hollywood, I think Heston struggled the least.
In 1977 I saw the brand-new movie star, Robert DeNiro, speak at the long-defunct Writer’s Guild Theater. He was a terrible interview—Q: “What do you think of the violence in your movies?” A: “I don’t think about it”—and after a painful hour, they showed clips of his films. I went to the empty lobby and had a cigarette. A moment later the door to the theater opened and out stepped Robert DeNiro. I stepped up to him, said hello, told him he was great in Godfather II, then they called him back into the theater. I went back in and watched another hour of the inarticulate DeNiro begrudgingly answer questions. After the interview I exited the building, stood in front of the glass doors to the lobby and had another cigarette. Through the glass I watched as about 500 people swarmed DeNiro and his girlfriend, Diahnne Abbott, literally crushing in on the two of them so tightly that theater employees had to fight their way into the crowd to save them. When DeNiro and Abbott finally got outside, where I was standing by myself, they were both shaken and disturbed. They pulled themselves together, Robert DeNiro turned to me and said, “Nice talking to you,” waved, and they both left.
My buddy, Rick Sandford, worked as an extra and stand-in in Hollywood for 25 years. Rick was working as a stand-in on the TV show, Falcon Crest, and found himself standing-in on the set directly next to Jane Wyman, who was seated in a chair. He leaned over and said, “You were brilliant in Johnny Belinda,” for which she won Best Actress in 1948. Jane Wyman smiled happily and told Rick, “Oh, that was a good show, wasn’t it?” Rick’s comment to me the next day was, “Johnny Belinda wasn’t a show, it was a movie.” As a note, Jane Wyman was Ronald Reagan’s first wife.
In 1984 Rick was a stand-in on monumentally bad film, Rhinestone, with Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton. Rick said that Dolly Parton was the nicest, most joyous and charming movie star he had ever seen. She knew everybody in the cast and crew’s name (including Rick), and literally inquired every day how each and every person was doing. However, every time the camera rolled, all of Dolly Parton’s charm evaporated. As soon as they called cut, it returned. Rick’s assessment was, “She is the exact opposite of Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn’s life was a complete disaster, and she only became charming when the camera rolled.”
I end, it’s day.