Another incident popped into my mind about a visit with the Old Guy. As usual he began with a statement, which would have come across to an untrained ear as totally out of reasonable context.
I had long since become a trained listener. I’m one of those people who get a variety of oddball clues from apparently nothing. Perhaps it was cultivated by the melting pot of humanity I was raised with. Immigrants had their own language cultivation systems in place almost from the instant they set foot on land here in the United States. As an example, the Jewish immigrants change their Yiddish language into a combo of English, as we know it, and Yiddish as they spoke it;”wellah” a thing called “Yinglish”. They brought a special music and lyric to conversation. The sounds always struck me as funny. The East side of Manhattan was like a continual stand up comedy routine. Initially the players had little idea of how funny they sounded, especially when they co-mingled an assortment of dialects. The most entertaining for me was the sound of a person with a heavy-duty Irish brogue, conversing in Yiddish. In other words, actually speaking “Yiddish” with an authentic Irish accent.
You folks, who think you’re good at dialects, try doing an Irishman with a Yiddish accent. As a point of fact, I heard “James Cagney” as a lark, at a private party, speaking perfect Yiddish with an Irish brogue. As if doing those two things simultaneously wasn’t enough of an accomplishment, Jimmy without missing a beat, added a perfect impression of “John Wayne” to the mix. And at that same party, a gentlemen named “Hermes Pan”; Fred Astair’s choreographer, pointed out to all of us, the fact, Jimmy could do all of this while dancing an Irish jig. If you think I’m making up this story about James Cagney, think again. And while you’re thinking find someone like the “Old Guy” to talk to.
He grew silent for a few moments. I’ve learned when it happens to stay patient, another image of the past was taking shape. The Old Guys next assessment:
And as I gazed at him, (the) from whence it came will remain without my understanding. The name of a restaurant popped into my head. It was during an evening of adventure, at the old “Frascoti’s” restaurant, on Wilshire near La Cienga Blvd. in Beverly Hills. I believe I was about twenty-three years old at the time. Following a show run through I had been working on; a rather attractive woman offered me her business card and suggested I come by her place to end the evening. It turns out she was the recently widowed, newly inherited owner of the “Frascoti’s restaurants. When I arrived at her Beverly Hills restaurant it was already one in the morning. The year was 1956.
It turns out the lady had spent the entire evening inviting people to her restaurant. At 2AM it was a large, well-oiled entourage, which left her restaurant, en route to an area, which is now known as “Trousdale Estates”. To this day I can’t imagine why in the world I was invited. Other than being in the same business, it would have been a more likely scenario if I were there as a parking lot attendant. Never the less, make no mistake, I was there, and the event helped to shape my future. I learned during the evening, the bigger and more successful they are, the nicer they are.
Fifty-Five years ago; It was 1956
The United States presidential election of 1956 saw a popular Dwight D. Eisenhower successfully run for re-election. I doubt if Eisenhower had ever been to “Frascoti’s”. That of course means, I was one up on the president of The United States. …And in the event you’re wondering, “Frascoti” was named after a township in Italy.
As a reference to who was in attendance on this evening in 1956, I’m duty bound to mention the previous year 1955.
“Marty”, (1955) Paddy Chayefsky cinematization of his television play was originally presented in 1953 as a 60-minute TV broadcast, with leads played by (1)Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand (2). It was the only film based on a TV drama to ever win Best Picture award. (“Steiger” came across to this young guy (me) as a man who was in the process of impersonating himself. My first thought after meeting him was; he’s just like Rod Steiger.)
As a feature film, Marty was one of the biggest ‘sleepers’ in Hollywood history, from the independent production company of Harold Hecht and actor Burt Lancaster (Hecht-Lancaster). It’s $340,000 production budget yielded over $5 million in gross proceeds. Marty was nominated for eight Academy Awards, Including best actor (3) Ernest Borgnine, and Best Screenplay (4) Paddy Chayefsky. (These two people appearing in the same private social happening, in retrospect, would most likely be deemed as highly unlikely today.) I’ve never seen any other individual in my lifetime that smiled more than Ernest Borgnine. As an aside…I never spoke directly to either of them. It’s difficult to speak when your mouth has dropped open and remains in awe like freeze for an entire evening.
Oh, did I mention (5)Humphrey Bogart showed up with this attractive (6)tall girl, just staying long enough to give (7)Cagney a hug, and compliment him about having so much to do with starting the Screen Actors Guild, back in 1933.
Surprisingly, the talk did not center on Ernie Borgnine, or Paddy Chayefsky, and how they had scored the year before. That was far too shallow a conversation for this group. The crowd was zeroed in to the present; to what was happening then, and what was about to happen within the movie industry during 1956. My comment today, simply, they really knew what they were talking about.
Rank Title Leading Star Studio Gross
1. The Ten Commandments Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Anne Baxter Paramount $43,000,000
2. Around the World in Eighty Days David Niven, Cantinflas and Shirley MacLaine United Artists $23,120,000
3. Giant Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean Warner Bros. $14,000,000
4. War and Peace Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda Paramount $12,500,000
5. The King and I Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner 20th Century Fox $9,000,000
6. The Searchers John Wayne Warner Bros. $8,500,000
7. Bus Stop Marilyn Monroe 20th Century Fox $7,269,000
8. High Society Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra MGM $6,250,000
9. The Girl Can’t Help It Jayne Mansfield and Tom Ewell 20th Century Fox $5,878,000
10. Written on the Wind Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone Universal $5,712,000
So another of The Old Guy’s word gestures, as I refer to them, has come to pass. Nothing of utmost incredibility to challenge ones mind set. I guess anyone in my position in life who forgets an evening of his past, similar to the one I just described, has some faulty brain waves, or a lack there of.
Each and every time the Old Guy offered a word, it served me as a hand reaching out. There are those who preach the gospel of our industry; then there are those who have lived and shaped, and given me an indescribable wealth, which money could never purchase.