As Associate Producer on the show, much of my year was spent combing through the AMPAS Margaret Herrick Library (which holds a massive MGM collection), and the Warner Bros. Archives at USC, for photos and ephemera. We used over 1000 stills in the movie! I was also present at all of the taped 'talking head' interviews for general coordination purposes. My favorite interview subjects were: Judy Geeson, Betsy Palmer, and Vincent Sherman. My least favorite: Christina Crawford (4 1/2 hours of tape and you couldn't get that woman to say one nice thing about her mother, whom she referred to as either "my adoptive mother" or "Crawford", sheesh let it go already!)
|Truck Driver in a blonde wig.|
Without a doubt the most bizarre day was the interview with silent screen star Anita Page. I was waiting outside the rental sound stage on the lookout for her on one of those hot, still, smoggy LA days when, 25 mins. after the scheduled arrival time, a beat up 10 year old silver Chevy Caprice came careening around the corner and screeched to a halt. Then, in a well rehearsed, oft-performed kind of chinese fire drill, three sycophants sprung into action, produced a wheel chair from the trunk, and loaded a shrunken, bent fossil of a being into it. She had about three hairs on her head and was wearing sweats, slippers, those scary old-people-wrap-around-cataract-sunglasses, and the placid, vacant look of the feeble minded.
Once inside the soundstage, they never stopped for introductions, they just whizzed her through and back to the dressing rooms area, yelling lighting instructions over their shoulders and saying they would bring "Miss Page" out when she was ready. Two hours later:
We were informed that her mind had "slipped a bit recently" and that she was experiencing "not a good day". I suppose that's one way to look at it. What I saw was an elderly woman who should have been let alone in comfort with medical supervision instead of painted, plastered and trotted out like some Sunset Blvd./Baby Jane circus pony. The poor thing had no purchase on reality. But just after they hoisted her up in her interview chair the strangest thing happened that still brings chills at the thought. From some cellular memory, very slowly she shifted in the chair and tilted her face up and back, straight into the key light, and smiled.
Her mind had become a many-holed whack-a-mole game with random thoughts popping up here and there. As sad as it was, a good deal of money from our humble budget had been dedicated for the day, and for the next few hours Peter valiantly trudged forward to get the few lucid sentences that we wound up using. Anita seemed to actually enjoy herself and the attention she was getting there in the lights.
When it was over and they were leaving, her "people" said that if we could use her in any other interviews or heard of any suitable acting jobs to let them know. Miss Page was available.
|Anita & Me having an unfortunate hair moment.|