Darkest Hour stands apart from more routine historical dramas.
The phone rang a week ago and the guy on the other end said he was a movie producer. He was home for Thanksgiving to visit his folks in Evanston, he said, and he thought he'd give me a call. His name was Rick Herland.
"Hey, man, my wife and I were up until 7 this morning, rapping about things," Michael J. Pollard says, lighting a Camel and taking a mouthful of coffee.
Sinking into an overstuffed chair in Studs Terkel's apartment with her legs curled beneath her, Doris Lessing looked small, vulnerable (and in the best sense) catlike. It was Sunday afternoon and she was sipping brandy and listening to stories about Studs' trip to South Africa. And you thought: So this, after all, is Doris Lessing. And the next moment you thought: Of course.
HOLLYWOOD -- A couple of months ago, Mae West sauntered into Arthur Knight's film class at USC, put her hand on her hip, took her time looking around the room, and finally said: "Hello, boys." It was a co-ed class. Somehow, in the context you understand why Mae West is still the most fascinating personality in Hollywood, and why everywhere you go they're telling Mae West stories again.
DINGLE, Ireland — "I never did see 'Secret Ceremony,' to tell you the truth," Robert Mitchum said. "Did Mia call Elizabeth her daddy?" They did some weird things with that script because contractually they had me for 10 days only. They were in trouble when I got there and I don't think I improved the situation any.
LONDON - Richard Burton said, "It's that long hair, that's what it is." He stroked the hair back from the face of Lisa Todd, Elizabeth's daughter, and looked into the girl's eyes. "It's that long hair getting into your eyes." He shook his head, pretending great solemnity. "We'll have to operate," he said. "The left eye definitely has something in it. We'll operate at...ah, four this afternoon, I think. Very serious." Lisa laughed and shook her hair back into her eyes. Burton took her by the hand and led her into his dressing room. "Gonzales is playing again this afternoon at Wimbledon," he said. "Did you see yesterday's match? It was rather better than 'Hamlet' - the old man against the young man."
NEW YORK -- At 47, Haskell Wexler was one of the nation's most successful cameramen. He'd won an Academy Award in 1966 for his work on Mike Nichols' "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" He had been the cinematographer on films by Elia Kazan ("America, America"), Joseph Strick ("The Savage Eye"), Tony Richardson ("The Loved One") and Norman Jewison ("In the Heat of the Night," "The Thomas Crown Affair"). But he wanted to direct his own movie. And last summer he came to Chicago to do that. The result is "Medium Cool," a movie unlike anything you have seen and possibly unlike anything you want to see. It is likely to be this autumn's most controversial film.
LONDON - There's a photograph of Irene Papas in the files of The Sun-Times, taken when she arrived in Hollywood in the 1950s. It's a typical publicity picture, sort of modified cheesecake; she's sitting on a trunk with her legs crossed and the handout says something about a Greek starlet arriving to star in the new Cagney picture.
NEWPORT BEACH, CA. -- "I've been working all day on the boy's room," John Wayne said. "The boy got it into his head that he wanted a bunk bed. We tore out this wall here and pushed it back - you can see the original boundary on the floor there - and we're going to put the bunk right in here. And there'll be a goddam porthole in the wall." He shook his head, amused.
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama Island -- Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch," which is possibly the most violent film ever made, stirred up a bitter controversy here. Film critics splint into many camps at an extraordinary press conference, and even co-stars William Holden and Ernest Borgnine seemed slightly squeamish about the movie. But just about everyone agreed that "The Wild Bunch" will be this summer's top box-office draw, for better or worse.