Transcript: The Making of a Motion Picture 1 | Aug 12, 1988

Elwy appears in the studio. He’s in his fifties, mostly bald with some dark hair on the sides, and he has a moustache. He wears glasses, gray tweed suit, a gingham shirt and a red and blue striped tie. He hosts the program sitting on a chair against a black background with a red film reel. The reel reads “Talking Film” several times, alternately in white and orange.

He says GEORGE CUKOR DIRECTED
BORN
YESTERDAY,
MY FAIR LADY,
AND
GASLIGHT.
HENRY KING DIRECTED
JESSE
JAMES, THE SONG OF BERNADETTE,
AND
THE GUNFIGHTER.
VINCENTE MINNELLI DIRECTED
GIGI,
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS,
AND
THE BANDWAGON.
THESE THREE MEN ARE AMONGST
THE FINEST DIRECTORS EVER
PRODUCED BY THE MOTION
PICTURE INDUSTRY.
ON THIS PROGRAM, EACH WILL
DISCUSS THE MAKING OF ONE OF
HIS FAVOURITE MOTION PICTURES.
HERE THEN ARE GEORGE
CUKOR, HENRY KING,
AND VINCENTE MINNELLI,
TALKING FILM.

A caption reads “A star is born directed by George Cukor.”

Elwy sits in a living room with George Cukor.

George is in his late seventies, clean-shaven and with short receding white hair. He wears glasses, gray trousers and a white shirt.

Elwy says GEORGE CUKOR, I WOULD LIKE TO
DO AN ANATOMY OF ONE OF YOUR
PICTURES IF YOU COULD GIVE
US A KIND OF STEP-BY-STEP
DESCRIPTION OF WHAT
YOU WENT THROUGH.

George says LEAD ME, LEAD ME.

Elwy says ALL RIGHT, SIR.
WE'RE THINKING, I'M
BEING VERY BIASED HERE,
AND I THINK HALF THE
WORLD IS BIASED, TOO.
A STAR IS BORN.
1954, I BELIEVE IT CAME OUT.

George says THAT WAS ALSO AN ANATOMY AND
AN AUTOPSY AT THE SAME TIME.

Elwy says ANATOMY AND AUTOPSY
AT THE SAME TIME.
THE CONCEPTION OF
DOING THAT MOVIE.
WOULD YOU TALK ABOUT THAT?
WHO GOT IT?
HOW IT WAS DEVISED.
HOW THE IDEA CAME UP.

George says WELL, ACTUALLY, I HAD DONE
A PICTURE BEFORE CALLED
WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD?

Elwy says THE EARLY '30s.

George says THAT WAS ABOUT THE SAME
SUBJECT EXCEPT THE LEADING MAN
WAS NOT AN ACTOR,
HE WAS A DIRECTOR.
THAT WAS WITH LOWELL SHERMAN
AND CONSTANCE BENNETT.
DAVID SELZNICK, THAT ALWAYS
INTERESTED HIM A GREAT DEAL.
AND THEN IT HAD BEEN
DONE AS A TALKIE.

Elwy says BY WILLIAM WELLMAN.

George says WILLIAM WELLMAN.
AND THEN THEY ASKED ME, WOULD
YOU LIKE TO DO IT AS A MOVIE,
AS A MUSICAL WITH
JUDY GARLAND.
I'D ALWAYS WANTED TO
WORK WITH JUDY GARLAND.
WE ALWAYS TALKED ABOUT IT.
AND SHE, I HAD LUNCH WITH HER
HUSBAND, AND BEFORE
WE SAT DOWN, I SAID 'YES'.
HE DIDN'T EVEN ASK ME.
SO THAT WAS IT, I
WAS ANXIOUS TO DO IT.
BUT I DIDN'T REALIZE WHAT
RICHES THERE WAS IN HER.

Elwy says WHOM CAN YOU GIVE CREDIT
TO FOR DEVISING THE IDEA,
MISTER CUKOR, OF INDEED,
DOING A MUSICAL REMAKE
OF
A STAR IS BORN?

George says WELL, I BELIEVE
MOSS HART DID IT,
AND HE HAD HAROLD
ARLEN DO THE SCRIPT,
BUT IT WAS GIVEN TO ME
AS A FAIT ACCOMPLI.

Elwy says AH.
COULD YOU GO OVER, BRIEFLY,
THE PRODUCTION STRUCTURE
OF THAT PICTURE?
WHO DID WHAT FROM THE TOP,
LIKE THE PRODUCER RIGHT DOWN?

George says PRODUCER WAS SID LUFT
AND WARNER BROTHERS.

Elwy says YOU WERE THE DIRECTOR.

George says I WAS THE DIRECTOR.
AND THEN THEY HAD THE
BEST OF EVERYTHING.
THE BEST CAMERAMEN, THE BEST
WARDROBE, THE BEST EVERYTHING.
IN FACT, ALL STUDIOS GAVE
YOU QUALITY OR TRIED
TO GIVE YOU THE BEST.
THAT WAS THE GREAT LUXURY
OF WORKING WITH A STUDIO.
THEY WOULD BUY THE BEST
STORIES ACCORDING TO THEIR
LIKES, AND THEY WOULD PROVIDE
YOU WITH ALL KINDS OF
SERVICES WHICH YOU HAVE
TO DO NOW ON YOUR OWN.
YOU HAVE TO DO ALL KINDS
OF BUSINESS THINGS
AND ALL KINDS
OF SHENANIGANS.
BUT THAT WAS DONE, AND VERY
WELL DONE, AND VERY SKILLFULLY
DONE, BY THE STUDIOS.

Elwy says DID YOUR PRODUCERS, GENERALLY
BECAUSE OF YOUR REPUTATION,
LEAVE YOU ALONE IN
THE MAKING OF IT?
WERE THERE EVER PRODUCTION
INTRUSIONS, MISTER CUKOR?

George says YES AND NO.
YES AND NO.
THAT HAD A SAD HISTORY BECAUSE
WE DID A PREVIEW OF IT,
AND IT WENT EXTREMELY WELL.
I THOUGHT IT WAS TOO
LONG IN CERTAIN PLACES.
THERE WAS A NUMBER
INSERTED IN THE MIDDLE,
AND IT WAS THREE HOURS.
AND WHEN THEY FOUND THEY
COULDN'T GET ENOUGH TURNOVER,
IT WAS CUT.
AND THE PIECES, ODDLY
ENOUGH, HAVE DISAPPEARED.
I NEVER SAW THE CUT PICTURE.
I KNOW WHAT WAS CUT.
AND JUDY GARLAND
NEVER SAW IT EITHER.

Elwy says WHAT WAS CUT?
CAN YOU TELL US NOW?

George says WELL, ALL SORTS OF SCENES AND
SONGS RATHER CLUMSILY CUT.
AND I ASKED THEM, I SAID, YOU
KNOW, IF YOU LET MOSS HART
COME OUT, WE COULD SWEAT OUT
25 MINUTES, AND IT WOULD
BE ABSOLUTELY PAINLESS.
BUT THAT WAS NOT TO BE DONE.
I WAS IN PAKISTAN MAKING A
FILM, AND IT WAS AWFULLY SAD.
SAD.
AND THE PIECES WERE LOST.
SO THEY CAN'T PUT IT TOGETHER.

Elwy says WHAT WAS IT LIKE
WORKING WITH JUDY?
I WANT TO TALK ABOUT
JAMES MASON, TOO.
DAY BY DAY, TELL ME HOW
YOUR RELATIONSHIP WENT?

George says WELL, MY RELATIONSHIP
WAS THE GREATEST.
SHE HAD DIFFICULTY WITH
HERSELF GETTING THERE,
YOU KNOW, BEING PROMPT.
BUT WHEN SHE ARRIVED, SHE
WAS ABSOLUTELY GLORIOUS
AND TERRIBLY FUNNY.
VERY SATIRICAL.
SHE WAS THE BEST RACONTEUR.
SHE WAS JUST MARVELLOUS.
AND SHE'D NEVER DONE
A SERIOUS PART BEFORE.
SO SHE WAS FINDING OUT ALL
SORTS OF THINGS IN HERSELF.
AND SHE WAS THRILLING,
THRILLING TO WORK WITH.
TOO BAD BECAUSE SHE COULD
HAVE GONE ON AND DONE
ALL KINDS OF THINGS.

Elwy says WAS SHE UNDERGOING GREAT
PERSONAL PROBLEMS AND HEALTH
STRAINS AND VARIOUS --

George says WELL, THAT ALWAYS HAPPENS.
GREAT TRADITION.
VERY COMPLICATED
CREATURE SHE WAS.
ONE DOESN'T KNOW.
PEOPLE GIVE THESE GLIB
EXPLANATIONS, 'OH, HOLLYWOOD
THIS, HOLLYWOOD...'
BUT IT WAS MUCH MORE
COMPLICATED THAN THAT.
BUT SHE WAS A DARLING,
AND SHE WAS VERY FUNNY.

Elwy says WOULD THERE BE MANY RETAKES
WITH JUDY DURING THE MAKING?

George says NO, SHE WAS AS CLEVER
AS SHE COULD BE.
I REMEMBER WE DID A SCENE,
A RATHER DIFFICULT SCENE
WHEN SHE WAS THINKING
THERE THINKING OF IT,
AND IT WAS A SCENE WITH
THIS SORT OF OUTBURST.
AND I SAID, YOU KNOW
HOW TO DO ALL THIS.
THINKING TO MYSELF,
YOU KNOW ALL THIS.
AND SHE LOOKED AT ME.
AND WE WENT IT.
AND THEN WE DID THIS
EXTRAORDINARY SCENE THAT
SHE HAD IN THE ROOM
WITH HER PRESS AGENT.
AND SHE DID THIS SCENE.
AND I HAD GOOSE PIMPLES.
AND I THOUGHT, WELL, MAYBE
SHE'LL SCARE THE ACTOR,
YOU KNOW?
NO, HE WAS RIGHT WITH HER.
AND THEN WHEN SHE DID IT,
I JUST SAID CUT, LET'S GO.
BECAUSE THERE'S ALWAYS A
SCRATCH IN A GOOD THING.
AND WHEN IT WAS OVER, I SAID,
YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY MARVELLOUS.
AND OH, SHE SAID,
IT'S NOTHING.
SHE SAID, I DO THAT EVERY
AFTERNOON AT HOME.
BUT, SHE SAID, I CAN
ONLY DO IT ONCE AT HOME.
BUT SHE WAS THE MOST
UNCONVENTIONAL ACTRESS.
AND VERSATILE.
AND MOST... WELL, I CAN
JUST SAY EXTRAORDINARY.

Elwy says JAMES MASON.
VERY URBANE MAN
OR... WHAT IS HE?

George says JAMES MASON WAS A
NATURAL CREATURE.
BEAUTIFUL MANNERS.
FUNNY, ALSO.
MAYBE I BRING OUT
THE FUN IN THEM.

Elwy says I THINK YOU DO.
I THINK YOU DO.

George says VERY, VERY COOPERATIVE.
AND THERE WERE LONG DELAYS
WHICH HE DID BEAUTIFULLY,
AND THEY GOT ON VERY WELL.
I KNOW THERE'S A SCENE WHEN
HE, BY ACCIDENT, HE'S DRUNK,
AND HE SLAPS HER IN THE EYE.

Elwy says YES.

George says WE DID THIS TAKE, SEVERAL
TAKES, AND HER HEAD WOULD
ROLL BACK, LIKE THIS.
AND I THOUGHT,
WELL, WELL, WELL.
AND YOU KNOW, SHE -- THE NEXT
DAY SHE HAD A BLACK EYE.
AND SHE SAID, MY HUSBAND SAID,
SAY THAT I DID NOT DO IT.
BUT, YOU SEE, WHAT WAS VERY
CLEVER ABOUT HER, YOU KNOW,
SOMETIMES THEY SAY RIGHT
BEFORE A TAKE, THEY SAY,
OH, PLEASE DON'T DO THIS.
I'M WORRIED ABOUT IT.
THEN THE ACTOR IS INHIBITED.
SHE DID NO SUCH THING.
AND I'VE SEEN THAT
WITH AVA GARDNER.
THERE WAS A SCENE WE
DID IN
BHOWANI JUNCTION
WHERE SHE WAS BEING RAPED,
AND HER CLOTHES TORN OFF,
AND ALL SORTS OF
THINGS, VIOLENT.
AND WHEN IT WAS OVER, THIS
MAN WHO WAS PLAYING WITH HER,
HE SAID, SHE'S AWFULLY STRONG.
AND SHE SAID, OH, HE'S TOUGH.
BUT WE WENT AND SHE PREPARED
HERSELF, THEN DID IT.
THEN SHE SAID WHEN IT
WAS OVER, SHE TOLD ME,
I'M TERRIFIED OF
PHYSICAL VIOLENCE.
BUT SHE NEVER TOLD ME THAT
BEFORE TO MAKE A HAZARD.
AND THEN SHE SAID TO THE MAN
WHEN IT WAS OVER, WE WORKED
ALL NIGHT, AND SHE SAID, 'COME,
COME, BECAUSE IF YOU DON'T
COME NOW AND HAVE
A DRINK WITH ME,
I'M GOING TO HATE YOU FOR
THE REST OF MY LIFE'.
AND SHE DID THAT.
BUT THEY ARE GOOD SPORTS.

Elwy says YES.

George says THEY REALIZE WHAT IT IS.

Elwy says RIGHT.
GREAT PATIENCE.
PATIENCE, I THINK, MAY BE
ONE OF THE -- WHAT ABOUT THE
DESIGN OF THAT FILM?
IT HAD A LOOK ABOUT IT.
AND I WANT TO KNOW THE
PRODUCTION DESIGNER,
OR SOMETHING ABOUT HIS WORKING
RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU TO GIVE
THAT FILM THAT LOOK.

George says WELL, WE WERE ON HOME
TERRITORY, REALLY.
AND THERE WAS A NEW DESIGNER
WHO HAS BECOME FAMOUS,
GENE ALLEN, WHO WAS
JUST A SKETCH ARTIST.
AND VERY INVENTIVE,
AND VERY HELPFUL TO ME.
HE WOULD DO PRODUCTION DESIGN.

Elwy says HE'D BEEN WITH
MGM A LONG TIME?

George says NO.
I SAW HIM.
I WENT TO THE ROOM, AND HE WAS
AN ILLUSTRATOR AT THAT TIME.
BUT HE'D BEEN EXPERIENCED.
THEN WE DID A GREAT MANY
PICTURES SUBSEQUENTLY,
GENE ALLEN AND I.
AND HE'S A VERY GIFTED MAN.

Elwy says YOUR WORKING RELATIONSHIP
WITH THE DESIGNER,
IT'S A CLOSE MATTER OF
DIALOGUE, OF WEIGHING IDEAS.

George says AND ALSO, TAKING
SUGGESTIONS FROM HIM.

Elwy says YOU'RE NEVER AGAINST
THAT, ARE YOU, MISTER CUKOR?

George says OH, NO, NO BECAUSE PEOPLE SAY
OH, THAT WAS A WONDERFULLY
DESIGNED PICTURE, AND WASN'T
GEORGE CUKOR CLEVER TO GET THAT.
WELL, NO THEY
DON'T SAY THAT.
THEY DON'T SAY, OH, THAT WAS
GOOD, BUT GEORGE CUKOR,
LET ME SEE WHAT THEY DO SAY.
I LOVE TO TAKE CREDIT,
AND I LOVE TO GIVE CREDIT.

Elwy says HOW CLOSELY DO YOU WORK WITH
THE CONSTRUCTION, THE DESIGN,
AND THE BUILDING OF
THE SETS, FOR EXAMPLE?

George says THAT I DON'T BUILD, THAT I
DON'T KNOW, BUT I'M FULL
OF HARD SUGGESTIONS.
AND THE DAY WHEN YOU GO --

Elwy says IS THE PRODUCER WORRYING
MORE ABOUT THAT THAN YOU?
OR, INDEED, IS THAT A VERY
SPECIAL CUKOR PROBLEM?

George says WELL, YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE
SOMETHING IN THE BACK
OF YOUR MIND.
YOU CAN'T GO MAD.
YOU CAN'T BUILD A CATHEDRAL.

Elwy says BUT YOU'RE IN CHARGE OF
THAT, AND YOU'RE OVERSEEING.

George says YES, YES.
YOU'LL CERTAINLY
INFLUENCE IT VERY MUCH.
BUT I DEAL WITH AN
INTIMIDATING THING BEFORE YOU
SHOOT, AND THE SET IS UP, AND
YOU GO ON THE SET, AND YOU
SAY, OOH, DO I HAVE
TO USE ALL THIS?
OH, YOU'RE IMPRESSED.
YOU SAY I HOPE I'LL BE ABLE
TO MAKE USE OF ALL THIS
WONDERFUL SET.
BUT FINALLY, YOU DO.

Elwy says HOW DID YOU WORK WITH THE
WRITER OF THAT PICTURE?

George says THE WRITER OF THE
PICTURE WAS MOSS HART.

Elwy says HOW DID YOU WORK WITH HIM?

George says OH, VERY, VERY WELL.
HE WAS A MOST AGREEABLE,
MARVELLOUS MAN.
HUMOROUS MAN.
HE HAD A SCRIPT TO BEGIN
WITH, AND HE WAS A MAN WHO
CONTRIBUTED A GREAT DEAL.

Elwy says WHAT ABOUT THE
MUSICAL NUMBERS IN IT?
HOW WERE THEY EXECUTED?
DID YOU PERSONALLY
DIRECT THOSE, MISTER CUKOR?

George says NO, NO, NO, THERE
WAS A DANCE DIRECTOR.
BUT I DID -- SOME OF THEM WERE
FUNNY NUMBERS, TOLD STORIES,
AND I CERTAINLY
INFLUENCED THEM.
I DIDN'T DO THE HOOFING, BUT
HOW IT WAS SHOT AND WHAT
HAPPENED, I WORKED WITH
THE DANCE DIRECTOR.

Elwy says HOW LONG DID YOU TAKE
TO MAKE THE PICTURE?

George says A LONG TIME.

Elwy says ARE WE TALKING ABOUT
A YEAR AND MORE?

George says YES, A YEAR OF MY TIME.
A YEAR.
FROM BEGINNING TO THE END.

Elwy says THEN THEY TOOK 30 MINUTES OR
SO OUT OF IT AFTER THE PREVIEW.

George says THAT WAS A SAD THING.

Elwy says VERY SAD THING.
BUT A GREAT MOTION PICTURE.
AND IT'S BEEN A PLEASURE TO
TALK
TO
YOU AND
WITH
YOU
HERE ABOUT
A STAR IS BORN.

The caption changes to “Twelve o’clock high. Directed by Henry King.”

Elwy sits with Henry King.

Henry is in his eighties, clean-shaven and balding. He wears a pale blue suit, a white shirt, a patterned bow tie and a pair of glasses.

Elwy says LIKE TO TALK ABOUT
HOW A MOVIE IS MADE.
AND WE'RE VERY INTERESTED
IN
TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH.
AND I KNOW YOU'VE
GOT A STORY.
AND MAYBE YOU CAN GIVE
US A LITTLE BIT OF IT,
AND WE'LL CONTINUE ON WITH
ANOTHER QUESTION OR TWO.

Henry says WELL,
TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH
WAS THE STORY OF THE
8th AIR FORCE.
AND IT WAS WRITTEN BY
BERNIE LAY AND SY BARTLETT.
AND ANOTHER PRODUCER
HAD IT AT THE STUDIO
WHEN I CAME BACK FROM ITALY.
AND MISTER ZANUCK HAD BEEN
WORKING WITH HIM ON IT.
AND HE SAID HE HAD PUT
THREE SCRIPTS TOGETHER.
AND HE SAID I'M GETTING
SORT OF TIRED OF IT.
HE SAID, IF YOU'D LIKE
IT, I'D LIKE IT TO BE
YOUR NEXT PICTURE.
BECAUSE HE KNOWING MY
INTEREST IN AVIATION,
HE THOUGHT THIS
WOULD APPEAL TO ME.
WELL, OF COURSE, IT DID.
AND FURTHERMORE, I SAW
SOMETHING PROBABLY IN IT
THAT SOME OF THE OTHER
PEOPLE DIDN'T SAY.
ANYWAY, I STARTED ON A
SCOUTING TRIP FOR THIS.
IN PRODUCTION-WISE, THE
PRODUCTION COMPANY, I MEAN
THE PEOPLE LIKE HEAD OF
PRODUCTION, HAD ARRANGED FOR
AN AIRPORT UP AT SANTA
MARIA, CALIFORNIA, TO DO IT.
THEY ARRANGED TO DO MOST OF
THE SCENES WITH AVIATION ON
THE STAGE WITH PROCESS AND
ALL THAT KIND OF THING.
WELL, TO ME, THAT WAS THE LAST
THING IN THE WORLD FOR IT.
SO THE HEAD OF PRODUCTION KNEW
WHEN I GOT IT, WELL, HERE GOES
ALL OF OUR IDEAS BECAUSE
HE WON'T GO FOR THAT.
I TOOK MY AIRPLANE AND
STARTED FROM MAGUIRE FIELD.
I FOUND THEY HAD NOTHING
THERE, BUT ELEVEN B-17s.
I WENT FROM THERE TO THE
PENTAGON, AND I HAD A COUPLE
OF DAYS SESSION THERE
WITH GENERAL VANDENBERG
AND COLONEL NUCKOLS.
I WENT FROM THERE TO THE WAR
COLLEGE IN MAXWELL FIELD,
FROM THERE TO EGLIN FIELD,
AND I MET GENERAL KEPNER,
WHO WAS THE COMMANDING
GENERAL THERE.
AND HE SAID I HAD A LETTER FROM
GENERAL VANDENBERG ASKING ME
TO HELP YOU IN ANY WAY HE
COULD BECAUSE HE THOUGHT
THIS STORY SHOULD BE TOLD,
OF THE EIGHTH AIR FORCE.
AND HE WAS VERY GENEROUS.
HE LOANED ME AN AIRPLANE
TO LOOK AT ALL THE BASES.
THEY HAVE NINE FIELDS ON THIS.
THEN I TOOK MY AIRPLANE AND
STARTED TO LOOK FOR ONE
THAT WAS GONE.
THE ONE THAT HAD GROWN UP IN
WEEDS, LIKE YOU SAW IN THE
BEGINNING OF THE PICTURE.
I FLEW ACROSS FLORIDA WITH MY
CAMERAMAN ABOUT FIVE TIMES
ONE DAY.
AND COMING BACK FROM SOME
PLACE, I CAME OVER A FIELD
WHICH HAPPENED TO BE OZARK,
ALABAMA, AND THERE UNDER US,
THE CAMERAMAN
CALLED TO MY ATTENTION.
HE SAID, LOOK AT THAT.
AFTER WE LANDED, THE FIELD WAS
JUST LIKE IT LOOKED FROM THE
AIR, THE WEEDS WERE RIGHT
UP TO YOUR CHIN ALL THE WAY
AROUND IT.
IT WAS OVERGROWN.
HADN'T BEEN USED, YOU SEE,
SINCE THE WAR WAS OVER.
THIS WAS NOW, '46, THE WAR
WAS OVER THE END OF '44.
IN THE SCENES IN THE RUNWAY,
THE GRASS WAS ABOUT THIS HIGH,
BETWEEN THAT.
SO SHAMROY SAID, IF YOU
LOOKED ALL OVER THE WORLD,
THAT'S THE CAMERAMAN, YOU'D
NEVER FIND ANYTHING BETTER.
I SAID IT'S PERFECT,
HE SAID GREAT.
SO WE CLIMBED
INTO THE AIRPLANE.
I TAXIED BACK TO THE END OF
THIS RUNWAY, WHICH WAS CLOSED,
AND TOOK OFF.
AND IN TAKING OFF, I SAW AN
AUTOMOBILE APPROACHING FROM
THE OTHER END OF THE FIELD.
I PAID NO ATTENTION TO IT, AND
I WENT ON BACK TO EGLIN ONE.
AND GENERAL KEPNER SAID TO
ME WHEN I WENT BACK THERE.
HE SAID, WERE YOU AT OZARK?
AND I SAID YES.
AND HE SAID, WELL, YOU
KNOW, YOU SEE ANYBODY?
NO.
THAT FIELD IS CLOSED, AND
TABOO, THEY WERE COMING OUT,
MPs WERE COMING OUT TO ARREST
YOU WHEN YOU LEFT THERE.
HE SAID, THAT'S NOT
UNDER OUR COMMAND AT ALL.
THAT'S AN ARMY BASE.
IT'S NOT AIR FORCE.
IT'S AN ARMY BASE.

Elwy says GOSH SAKES.

Henry says HE SAID IT'S NOT UNDER
OUR COMMAND AT ALL.
SO, ANYWAY, I HAD THE
ART DIRECTOR COME DOWN.
NOW WE HAVE WHAT WE WANT.
WE FOUND, NOW, THE NUMBER
THREE FOR WHERE WE WANT TO
BUILD OUR SETS AND FOR OUR
TAKE-OFFS AND LANDINGS.
NOW THE SET WHERE DEAN
JAGGER LEFT HIS BICYCLE WAS
ON THE ROAD BETWEEN EGLIN
AIR FORCE BASE AND OZARK.
THAT'S WHERE I
MADE THAT SCENE.

Elwy says HERE I THOUGHT IT WAS
ENGLAND ALL THESE YEARS.

Henry says WELL... THOUGHT IT WAS WHAT?

Elwy says I THOUGHT IT WAS ENGLAND.
IT LOOKS SO ENGLISH.

Henry says THAT'S WHAT I
WAS TRYING TO DO.
I WAS TRYING TO MAKE
IT LOOK LIKE ENGLAND.
WHEN THE ART DIRECTOR CAME
DOWN, AND I HAD SY BARTLETT
COME DOWN.
COURSE, WHEN I GOT THE STORY,
MISTER ZANUCK HAD SAID TO ME,
HE SAID, HENRY, HE SAID, I WANT
YOU TO TAKE SY BARTLETT AND
GET THE HELL AWAY FROM THE
STUDIO WHERE NO ONE CAN BOTHER
YOU, AND GET THIS SCRIPT
THE WAY THAT YOU WANT IT.
THEN I WANT TO READ IT.
SO WHILE RANSFORD, WHO WAS
THE ART DIRECTOR, WHILE HE
WAS GOING OVER, I LAID OUT
WITH HIM THE SETS, THE WAY
THEY WERE GOING TO BE BUILT.
AND WHILE HE WAS MAKING THE
DRAWINGS, WHERE IT WOULD BE
AND ALL OUT THERE, I TOOK
SY BARTLETT, AND WE STARTED
MAKING THE SCHEDULE.
WE STARTED AT 8 O'CLOCK IN THE
MORNING, WE WORKED 'TIL 12:30.
WE HAD LUNCH.
WALKED OUT ON THE BEACH FOR
ABOUT 30 MINUTES, THEN WE WORKED
FROM THAT UP TO 7 O'CLOCK,
HAD DINNER AND NOTHING ELSE.
THE LAST NIGHT HE WAS THERE,
WE WORKED 'TIL 2 O'CLOCK IN THE
MORNING AND GOT IT FINISHED.
HE CAME BACK TO THE STUDIO AND
GOT THIS ALL DOWN ON PAPER.
GOT IT ALL DOWN, YOU KNOW,
I MEAN, THE WRITING OF IT,
COPIED AND EVERYTHING,
READY TO BE MIMEOGRAPHED.
HAD IT MIMEOGRAPHED.
WE WENT OVER THAT.
HE GOT IT READY, AND AFTER WE
WENT OVER IT, WE MIMEOGRAPHED
IT AND I SENT ZANUCK
A COPY OF THIS.
HE READ IT.
AND HE CALLED ME
ON THE PHONE.
HE SAID, HENRY, IT'S THE
BEST SCRIPT I'VE EVER READ.

Elwy says HOW ABOUT THAT?

Henry says SO THAT'S HOW
TWELVE
O'CLOCK HIGH
CAME IN.

Elwy says MY GOSH.
AND WHAT A FINE PERFORMANCE
FOR GREGORY PECK.
WHAT A FINE ROLE FOR HIM.
IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.

Henry says GREGORY PECK IS
A FINE ACTOR.
A GREAT EXAMPLE, MY HEAVENS,
JUST SAW HIM THE OTHER NIGHT,
GENERAL MacARTHUR.
HE GAVE US THE
GREATEST PERFORMANCE.
IT'LL GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS
THE GREATEST CHARACTERIZATION
EVER BEEN DONE IN
MOTION PICTURES.

The caption changes to “Lust of life. Directed by Vincente Minnelli.”

Elwy sits in Vincente’s office.

Vincente is in his seventies, clean-shaven, with shirt receding black hair and thick eyebrows. He wears a mustard yellow suit jacket and a polka dotted shirt. He holds a cigarette in his hand.

Elwy says VINCENTE MINNELLI, I'D
LIKE TO DISCUSS WITH YOU,
IN SOME DETAIL, THE
MAKING OF A FILM.
AND I'D LIKE TO START OFF BY
ASKING YOU, IN YOUR LONG LIST
OF INCREDIBLE MOTION PICTURES,
WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE?

Vincente says WELL, I ALWAYS SAY THAT
LUST
FOR LIFE
IS MY FAVOURITE
SUBJECT BECAUSE IT'S, HE'S ONE
OF THE, VAN GOGH IS ONE OF
THE GREATEST CHARACTERS THAT
I'VE EVER KNOWN, YOU KNOW?
HE WAS MAD, AND HE
CUT OFF HIS EAR,
AND HE DIDN'T DO WHAT WAS
EXPECTED OF HIM AT ANY TIME.
AND ALSO, WE MADE THAT IN
THE PLACES WHERE HE LIVED,
YOU KNOW?
THE BORINAGE IN BELGIUM,
AND PARIS, AND ARLES, AND
SAINT-REMY.
WE USED THE INSANE ASYLUM IN
WHICH HE WAS INCARCERATED
FOR SO LONG.

Elwy says HOW DID THE CONCEPTION
OF THE FILM COME ABOUT?
GETTING THE IDEA OF IT?

Vincente says WELL, I'LL TELL YOU.
DORE SCHARY WAS THE HEAD
OF PRODUCTION THEN.

Elwy says MGM.

Vincente says HE WANTED ME TO MAKE LILLIE.
BUT I'D MADE LILLIE.
THEY DID
AN
AMERICAN IN PARIS.
THE FRENCH ACTRESS, AND
THE BALLET AT THE END.
IT WAS ALL FRENCH
AND SO FORTH.
SO HE SAID, WELL, YOU
OBVIOUSLY DON'T WANT TO MAKE
LILY, AND IS THERE ANYTHING
ELSE THAT YOU LIKE?
AND I SAID, YES.
YOU HAVE THE OPTION, TEN YEAR
OPTION, ON A PIECE OF FILM
HERE THAT, A BOOK THAT
I THINK WOULD MAKE
A MARVELLOUS PICTURE.
AND HE SAID, WELL,
WHAT IS THAT?
AND I SAID
LUST FOR LIFE.
AND HE SAID, WE'VE TRIED THAT
SO MANY TIMES IN SCRIPTS,
AND THERE'S NO STORY THERE.
AND I SAID, I DON'T AGREE.
I THINK THERE'S A
MARVELLOUS STORY.
AND I TOLD HIM WHAT MY
INTERPRETATION OF IT WAS.
AND THEN HE GOT EXCITED, AND
GOT A WRITER, AND A PRODUCER,
AND SO FORTH.
AND PUT THEM TO WORK.
IN THE MEANTIME, I'D BEEN
ASKED TO DO
KISMET.

Elwy says OH, YES.

Vincente says IT TURNED OUT TO BE SUCH
AN ABSORBING PIECE OF WORK,
THE WAY I MAKE MUSICALS, THEY
KEPT A CORN FIELD ALIVE,
A WHEAT FIELD, CHEMICALLY
ALIVE, FOR A WEEK, YOU KNOW?

Elwy says TO WAIT FOR YOU.

Vincente says AND I FINISHED
KISMET
ON
ONE DAY AND HAD TO FLY THE
NEXT DAY, WELL, BEFORE I'D
WORKED ON
LUST FOR LIFE,
YOU KNOW?
SO I GOT THERE AND DID THE
ENDING FIRST, YOU KNOW?

Elwy says OH, SAY.

Vincente says THE DEATH OF VAN GOGH.
FORTUNATELY, I WAS WORKING
WITH JOHN HOUSEMAN,
AND HE IS A FINE WRITER.
THINGS CHANGE, YOU
KNOW, CHEMICALLY,
AS THE PEOPLE PLAY THEM.
SO WE MADE A GREAT MANY
CHANGES IN THE SCRIPT BEFORE
WE FINISHED SHOOTING.
AND WE WORKED IN AMSTERDAM,
HIS FATHER'S HOUSE, AND THE
CHURCH THAT HIS FATHER
EXPOUNDED FROM.
IT WAS VERY THRILLING TO ME.

Elwy says YOU USED SEVERAL
DIFFERENT PHOTOGRAPHERS,
CINEMATOGRAPHERS ON
THAT, DIDN'T YOU?

Vincente says YES.

Elwy says BECAUSE FREDDIE
YOUNG'S NAME CROPS UP.

Vincente says YES.
WELL, HE SHOT ALL OF
THE THINGS IN EUROPE.

Elwy says AND YOU DID THINGS IN AMERICA
IN THE STUDIO, DIDN'T YOU?

Vincente says YES.

Elwy says AND DO YOU REMEMBER
WHO SHOT THOSE?
OR MY QUESTION, I GUESS, IS
WHY YOU WOULDN'T HAVE JUST
USED ONE CINEMATOGRAPHER,
MISTER MINNELLI?
WHY SEVERAL IN THAT PICTURE?

Vincente says BECAUSE FREDDIE YOUNG WAS
ENGLISH AND WAS CLOSER
TO THE CONTINENT, YOU KNOW?
AND ACTUALLY, I FORGET THE
NAME OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER,
BUT WE USED ONE THAT HAD BEEN
SHOOTING MOSTLY WESTERNS.

Elwy says OH.

Vincente says AND HE DID A MAGNIFICENT JOB.

Elwy says YEAH.
THE ART DIRECTION IN THAT
WOULD SEEM TO HAVE BEEN OF
VITAL IMPORTANCE.

Vincente says OH, YES.

Elwy says CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT SOME OF
THE CONSIDERATIONS ARE THAT
GAVE THAT PICTURE THAT
INCREDIBLY UNIFIED LOOK?

Vincente says WELL, IN ARLES, WHICH WAS A
GREAT PERIOD OF VAN GOGH, ALL
THE, WHEN YOU LOOK AROUND,
EVERYTHING SUGGESTS VAN GOGH,
YOU KNOW?
AND WE SPENT THREE DAYS GOING
AROUND THE COUNTRY IN A CAR,
WITH TWO TRUCKS FOLLOWING
US, AND ONE VAN GOGH
AND HIS COSTUMES.
AND WHENEVER I'D FIND
SOMETHING THAT LOOKED LIKE A
VAN GOGH, I WOULD
SHOOT IT, YOU KNOW?
TELL KIRK WHAT
COSTUME TO WEAR.

Elwy says DID CERTAIN COLOURS
PREDOMINATE IN THAT PICTURE
THAT YOU PICKED?

Vincente says YES.
IT WAS THE TIME WHEN
CINEMA SCOPE HAD JUST COME IN.

Elwy says YES.

Vincente says AND THAT'S WRONG
FOR VAN GOGH.
ONE SHAPE, IT'S MORE LIKE
A MURAL THAN A PAINTING.
ALSO, IT WAS DEVELOPED
FOR
THE ROBE
, YOU KNOW?
AND THE COLOURS WERE
SHOCKING, YOU KNOW?
DAZZLING PINK, AND BLUES AND
BRIGHT GREENS, AND SO FORTH.
AND VAN GOGH'S PALETTE ISN'T
THAT STRONG, YOU KNOW?

Elwy says NO, NO.

Vincente says SO WE HAD COMPLETELY SET
UP A LABORATORY AT ANSCO.
USED AN ANSCO NEGATIVE AND THE
POSITIVE WAS THE OTHER THING.
AND AS A RESULT, THE
COLOUR WAS BEAUTIFUL.
YELLOWS.

Elwy says OH, THE YELLOWS.
THAT'S WHAT I WAS GOING
TO DISCUSS WITH YOU.
BECAUSE VAN GOGH, HIMSELF, WAS
OBSESSED WITH SUN, WASN'T HE?

Vincente says YES.
OH, YES.

Elwy says LIGHT.

Vincente says BUT HE, YOU KNOW, VAN GOGH,
HIS ENTIRE PAINTING LIFE WAS
WITHIN EIGHT YEARS.

Elwy says I WASN'T AWARE OF THAT.

Vincente says YES.
FROM THE TIME HE STARTED TO
DRAW, HIS PALETTE FOLLOWED HIS
CAREER, YOU KNOW?
THE CHARCOAL DRAWINGS IN THE
BORINAGE AND THE DEEP GREENS
AND SO FORTH WHEN
HE WAS IN AMSTERDAM.

Elwy says YES.

Vincente says WHEN HE WAS IN PARIS,
HE WAS DAZZLED BY THE
IMPRESSIONISTS, YOU KNOW?
COLOUR, COLOUR,
COLOUR, COLOUR.

Elwy says THE CASTING OF THE PICTURE.
HOW DID YOU HIT ON KIRK
DOUGLAS, OR WAS THAT JUST THE
MOST OBVIOUS CHOICE
IN THE WORLD?

Vincente says WELL, IT WAS THE MOST OBVIOUS
IN THE WORLD BECAUSE HE
PHYSICALLY RESEMBLED VAN GOGH
SO MUCH THAT WE WERE ABLE TO
USE SELF-PORTRAITS BY VAN
GOGH, AND HE DID SO MANY OF
THEM, AND KIRK IN THE SAME.
HE SIMPLY REDDENED HIS BEARD
AND HAIR, AND USED NO MAKE-UP.

Elwy says HE WAS VAN GOGH.

Vincente says HE WAS VAN GOGH.

Elwy says ANTHONY QUINN, OF COURSE,
GOT AN AWARD FOR HIS
INTERPRETATION OF GAUGUIN.

Vincente says HE LOOKED LIKE GAUGUIN, TOO.

Elwy says HOW IS HE TO WORK WITH?

Vincente says OH, MARVELLOUS.
HE CAME ON THE PICTURE LATER.
AND HE SAID, ALL I HEAR
IS GREAT THINGS ABOUT HOW
MARVELLOUS KIRK
DOUGLAS IS AS VAN GOGH.
AND HE SAID, I THINK THERE WAS
GREAT JEALOUSY BETWEEN THEM.
AND I LET OUT A WHOOP, BECAUSE
I HAD BEEN TRYING TO CHANGE
THE WHOLE RELATIONSHIP.
IT WAS LIKE THE HALL
ROOM BOYS, YOU KNOW,
THEY AGREED ON EVERYTHING.
BUT, ACTUALLY, THEY
FOUGHT TERRIBLY.
HE CAME FROM BRITTANY, AND
HE WAS ILL, AND WAS GOING
THROUGH A BAD STATE OF
AFFAIRS AND PAINTING BADLY.
SO WHEN HE CAME TO ARLES AND
SAW THESE GREAT, GREAT, GREAT
PAINTINGS SPREAD
OUT, HE WAS JEALOUS.
AND THAT WAS THE BEGINNING OF
THE CUTTING OFF OF THE EAR
BECAUSE VAN GOGH LOVED
PEOPLE, YOU KNOW?
HE ADORED PEOPLE.
AND YOU COULDN'T STAY IN THE
HOUSE WITH HIM, EVEN THEO,
WITHOUT RUNNING OUT SCREAMING.

Elwy says OBSESSIVE.
MISTER MINNELLI, IN THE HANDLING
OF A BIOGRAPHY, AS YOU DID
THERE, SEVERAL, I MEAN, VAN
GOGH AND GAUGUIN WERE ALL
INVOLVED IN THIS, IF YOU HAVE
THE CHOICE BETWEEN TURNING
OUT A SCENE WHICH IS
EXTRAORDINARILY CINEMATIC,
BUT NOT AS ACCURATE AS ANOTHER
KIND OF SCENE WHICH WOULD BE
FAR MORE ACCURATE, BUT NOT AS
GOOD CINEMA, HOW DO YOU GO?

Vincente says WELL, HE WROTE SO MANY
LETTERS TO THEO, YOU KNOW,
FIVE VOLUMES, I
GUESS, WERE PUBLISHED.

Elwy says OH, YES.

Vincente says SO YOU COULDN'T BUT
STICK TO THE TEXT.

Elwy says YOURS IS A VERY FAITHFUL.
BUT IF I ASKED YOU THAT
GENERALLY HOW YOU WOULD FEEL,
IF IT'S A MATTER OF BEING
ABSOLUTELY TRUTHFUL, AND MAYBE
BEING LESS CINEMATIC,
OR BEING LESS TRUTHFUL,
WOULD YOU FAVOUR --

Vincente says AS LONG AS IT'S IN
THE AREA OF THE PLAY.

Elwy says THE AREA.

Vincente says THE TENSION OF THE PLAY.

Elwy says YES.
BUT YOU BELIEVE
IN SOME LICENSE.

Vincente says FOR INSTANCE, THE STAGE, YOU
HAVE TO DO IT SO DIFFERENTLY
IN PICTURES TO GET THE GREAT
MOMENTS THAT ARE ON THE STAGE
TO ACCEPT, YOU KNOW?
BECAUSE YOU ACCEPT SO MUCH
THAT YOU DON'T ACCEPT
IN MOVIE THEATRES.

Elwy says DID YOU BRING THE
PICTURE IN ON BUDGET?

Vincente says OH, YES.

Elwy says ON TIME?

Vincente says OH, YES.

Elwy says AND IT BECAME A GREAT HIT.

Vincente says YES.

Elwy says OH, WHAT A MOVIE.

A slate pops up. It reads “A learning opportunity by TV Ontario. The Ontario Educational Communications Authority. 1978.”

Watch: The Making of a Motion Picture 1