Live by Night
The key question behind Live by Night isn’t so much “Why did they bother?” as “What went wrong?”
It's finally happened. I went to interview a star, and she was eating caviar and drinking champagne. To be sure, Carol Lynley was wearing a kiddie sweater instead of a mink negligee, but what the hell. They probably don't even make mink negligees anymore.
Carol was visiting Chicago to promote "The Poseidon Adventure," a movie about an ocean liner that is turned over by a tidal wave. A handful of passengers (including Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, Jack Albertson, Stella Stevens, Red Buttons and Miss Lynley) desperately try to escape by climbing through the upside-down ship.
"It was the most physically demanding role you can possibly imagine," she said. "We had to swim underwater, climb across tiny catwalks, walk over flames . . . and they kept us wet all day long. They hosed us down at least 20 times a day. And there were no safety precautions for the first two weeks of shooting. I'd be up there on a catwalk, and if I slipped, it was six stories straight down through flames to a concrete floor."
Did they use nets or safety belts or anything? Stunt men maybe?
"We couldn't. Ronald Neame - he was the director - didn't want to restrict his camera. If you use stunt men, you have to get camera angles where you can't see their faces. He didn't want to do that. When we look scared, it's real."
Why did you take such a difficult role?
"Everybody in town wanted it. This is, you know, a major motion picture. And I'm such a movie buff, I just loved working on it. Some of the others . . . well, for example, Red Buttons wouldn't climb up on those ladders until I did. I had to go first. Then he'd follow. He'd always go a little higher than me or swim a little deeper, but I had to go first, Red didn't like me very much. He made my life miserable because he thought I had a better part than he did. Of course, I did . . ."
She smiled and made herself a little caviar sandwich with some onions and egg yolk on it, and popped it into her mouth. She looked - how can I say it? Almost exactly the way she looked 15 years ago when she was the adolescent fashion model with the perfect skin and the perfect figure, the one all the skinny little girls with acne HATED when they read Seventeen magazine. I asked her how it had felt to be teenage idol.
"It was strange being an adolescent fantasy for other people. I was so cut off from the real world. I went straight into the movies as a teenybopper, and had a very protracted adolescence myself. I was divorced when I was 20, but I was an adolescent until I was 26. Then I was in Europe, living with this fellow and he kind of helped me out. Told me some things about myself."
Carol Lynley unhappy? And every other adolescent girl in the country dying to be Carol Lynley, with her perfect complexion and . . .?
"Actually, I had acute acne," she said. "It's the truth. They had to shoot me in long-shots because close-up the pimples showed. Finally, when I was 13, this director sent me to a dermatologist. He paid for my first visit, which was good, because my mother wouldn't have taken me otherwise. And the dermatologist peeled me. For two years. He had this method. I still have three tiny little surface scars."
She pointed them out, but I couldn't see them.
"They're hard to see," she said, "but they're there, all right."
I asked her what it was like working with such an interesting cast, including all those Academy Award winners like Hackman, Borgnine, Albertson, Buttons and Miss Winters.
"It was incredible," she said. "There was no vanity on this movie. There couldn't be. No makeup. No hair arrangement, because our hair was sopping wet all the time, Shelly Winters really looked awful. She SAYS she puts on weight for her roles, but actually she's that way to begin with. She lost a little weight on this picture. I defended Shelley a lot to everyone who hated her."
"She can be so selfish. Of course, I make a point never to get into fights with other actors. It's destructive. It depletes your energy. But Shelley can drive others to almost punch her in the nose.
"I was the one who defended her. Then she went on television a week ago and forgot my name. We worked together every day for four months and she forgot my name! She had her secretary call me up the next day and say how funny it was. I said I didn't think it was very funny. After all it was at my expense.
"I have a chance for the Academy Award nomination this role. SHE'S had TWO nominations, and I'VE never had ANY. She gives nothing away."
Silence. Carol ran her finger around the rim of her champagne glass.
"You know what I told her secretary?" she said. "I told her I was going to punch Shelley Winters in the nose!"
"I just love the idea of me leaping at her and putting hands around her neck," she said. "You know, Shelley responds to threats by physical violence. It shapes her up and gets her to cooperate. She was rather unpopular, because of her behavior. I was the one who stood up for her, and then she can't even remember my name.
"It's such unprincipled behavior," she said at last.
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