This is essentially a recounting of a working life. The interesting bits of it anyway. One’s life is not all about working; there is usually a family attached to most of us. Some of my family appear in the following pages, mentioned but not named. So, to save myself from being taken to task by the aforesaid females, because they feel they have been left out, here they are:
Jennifer Carr, who appears in the Alfred Hitchcock chapter and whose treasured Hollywood autograph book was stolen.
Chantal Carr and Lesley Woodford-Carr, who both feature in the Law chapter. Chantal plays the part of Ally McBeal (just in fun) and Lesley is the head lady lawyer in real life.
Tammy Carr, waiting for me at airports in Fiji and Hawaii.
And in memory of Bette Esmay Yvonne Carr and Faith Jessica Carr.
here are legions of books published about movie and television actors past and present, similarly so about well-known directors and producers. However, very little is written about the less well-known producers and directors and other foot soldiers of the trade. These are the people behind the scenes who really make the films and television shows: writers, cameramen, editors, technicians of all kinds, salesmen, distributors, exhibitors who take the money at the box office and the publicists who beat the drums. This story is about one of those foot soldiers and his experiences with the stars and others in this great, exciting and frustrating industry, the movies and its first cousin, television.
And another thing, reading several books about fifty years of television in Australia, all the publications go back only so far. There is little of the real history of the early days when television was black and white and Channel 9, Sydney, was the first station off the starting block. Nothing about the early sports shows such as 9’s World of Sport with Ron Casey or 7’s Sport with Rex Mossop. To correct that, I have included a chapter on 9’s World of Sport, recounting the years when I was closely connected with the programme. It started in the black and white era and continued when colour transmission began from national and commercial channels in 1975.
However, this is not only about movies and TV but also takes a short look at World War II, various aircraft and the airline industry, mining in the Northern Territory and northwest Queensland, journalism, advertising, the law and for good measure, the cosmetic industry. How did the beauty business get into the act? Life is strange how it casts one in different roles at different times.
And as for title credits, the lists of names that roll on interminably at the end of film features, documentaries and television shows, why still have them? What purpose do they serve? Does anybody ever read them? They now include the caterers, sandwich makers, lawyers and probably the lawyer’s mother-in-law. Finally, in the real world, who knows or cares what a gaffer, best boy or a grip is for that matter. However, leave a name and occupation off that list and the biggest row imaginable will break out.
One thing leads to another in this recounting of parts of what has been a remarkable journey. We are going to start in Hollywood anyway. Where else would you start a book which includes a look at the movie business?
Come with me,” said the beautiful blonde, as she took me by the hand and led me up the stairs. “I want to show you my bedroom.”
I must be dreaming, I thought, and I wasted no time in complying with her wishes. “The rest of you stay there,” she called to the upturned faces looking on with interest … or was it envy? “Gordon and I will be busy for a while.”
Could this be the ultimate fantasy in the minds of millions of men around the world? No, it was real life, very real life.
The beautiful blonde was Hollywood actress, Jayne Mansfield, and I was part of a production unit filming her ‘at home’ in what was dubbed ‘the Pink Palace.’
So into her sleeping quarters we went and she closed the door to her suite and showed me into her wardrobe/dressing room where we looked at racks and racks of dresses. Then dozens of pairs of shoes. I guess I’m not a great judge of female apparel but I think the collection would have been the envy of most of the world’s women including Mrs Imelda Marcos!
Her bathroom followed and she posed prettily, sitting on the side of her spa bath. I can’t remember if it was heart-shaped the same as her outside swimming pool but I am sure it was adequate.
Into the bedroom with a coverlet on her bed embroidered with hearts. She lay back on the bed and her silk dress slipped between her legs and outlined her voluptuous figure. The camera whirred away taking it all in. I desperately tried to keep my mind on the job.
Well, I thought, I can dine out for years on this, me and Jayne Mansfield alone together in her bedroom, when suddenly there was a sound of boots on the stairs and a loud hammering on the door. It was Sam Brody, her lawyer boyfriend and he was shouting, “Jayne, what’s going on in there?”
“Nothing, Sam, we are just getting some television shots, go down and join the others, we’ll be with you soon.”
I could feel the jealousy. However, before we left we sat on the bed for a while and she talked about how the movie and fan magazines were always trying to compare her to other famous blonde actresses such as the late Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn had died some years earlier in 1962.
“It’s unfair to try and compare me with anybody. I suppose I am a lot different to Marilyn and all the others. However, I am just as blonde, just as good an actress but I have played different roles in different kinds of movies. Anyway,” she said brightly, “I have a better bust than most.”
“Oh really,” I said, “I never noticed.” What a lie.
I would have been stone blind not to have seen such a prominent display.
We eventually exited the bedroom and joined the others. Sam Brody shot me a look of venom but he shouldn’t have worried; it was all perfectly innocent. Shooting Jayne in her bedroom was a hard job but somebody had to do it. I was glad it was me.
The year was 1967 and we were in Hollywood to film a series of Inside Hollywood short films for Don Lane’s TCN9’s Tonight show. Our unit consisted of Don, David Tobin and me as cameraman. David was our hard-working unit manager and had arranged all the travel bookings, accommodation and associated details and was lining up a series of film and television stars, famous at the time, to front our camera. He filled in as sound recordist as well.
Earlier in the day, the three of us had assembled in front of the imposing and very high iron gates that barred the way to the impressive Spanish-style pink stucco mansion. Couldn’t miss the place and who it belonged to because the gates were decorated with hearts and the large initials ‘J.M.’
After some delay, while those inside ascertained who we were, the massive gates swung open and we were allowed to enter. Most noticeable was a heavily carved wooden front door.
Jayne soon appeared and was the perfect hostess. We made quite a crowd as Jayne’s children (Zoltan, Miklos, Tony, Jayne Marie and Maria) were present and also Dr Murray Banks, the entertaining psychiatrist, a houseguest.
Jayne told us that son Zoltan was recovering from a very frightening and life-threatening experience at Los Angeles Jungleland. Miklos, Maria and Sam Brody were also there at the time. The Jungleland authorities had persuaded Jayne and her party to enter a compound for a photo shoot with the lions. The animals were chained to trees but could move around as the chains were quite long.
People outside the barrier were all taking pictures when suddenly the big male lion decided he had had enough. He roared and started lashing out and before anyone could stop him, he had Zoltan’s head in his mouth. The keepers managed to prise open the massive jaws and get the child out covered in bite marks and scratches and they rushed him to hospital.
So there was Zoltan. Still with the lion’s tooth marks but by this time quite healthy and happy.
Jayne’s housekeeper served cake, sandwiches and coffee and we were ready to start our tour of the pink palace and for Don to talk to Jayne on camera.
Firstly, we were conducted around the garden where we inspected the heart-shaped swimming pool with the similarly shaped wading pool for her children. On the bottom of the main pool, ‘Jayne’ was spelt out in embedded tiles. Then we looked at the cabana alongside the pool and walked around the grounds.
Back inside the house we set up camera and lights in what she called her playroom. This room had walls lined with dozens of framed magazine covers that sported her picture. These included Life and Post and many other movie fan magazines of the period. I think there were more than five hundred such covers on the walls.
Finally, we got down to business and Don started his interview with the star. While Don chatted and encouraged her to talk about her life and her movies, Jayne seemed to make her own arrangements with the camera and thereby the audience, smiling, wriggling, giggling and fluttering her eyes. It was a splendid performance and later in far-off Australia, the audience loved it as well. What broke us all up was when she said her huge forty-room mansion was, “Quite comfy really.”
We were sorry to finally take our leave of Jayne Mansfield, as it had been a very interesting day for all of us.
Note: Six months later, Jayne and Sam Brody were killed in a dreadful traffic accident. Jayne was only thirty-four years old. Some of her more memorable films were, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter, The Girl Can’t Help it, The Wayward Bus, Panic Button, Promises Promises and The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw. Variety Magazine said of this picture: “Mansfield gives Kenneth More hearty support, looks attractive in a big bosomy way and sings two or three numbers very well.” It’s the sort of review that she would have appreciated.
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