Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

This week’s mystery was the 1965 film The Train, with Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield, Michel Simon, Suzanne Flon, Wolfgang Preiss, Albert Remy, Charles Millot, Richard Munch, Jacques Marin and Jeanne Moreau.

motionpictureexh73jaye_0189Photographed by Jean Tournier and Walter Wottitz.

Associate producer Bernard Farrel.

Production design by Willy Holt, Marc Frederix and Roger Volper.

Edited by David Bretherton.

Special effects Lee Zavitz. Camera operator Andre Dommage.

Makeup by Georges Bouban. Wardrobe by Jean Zay.

Unit manager Serge LeBeau.

Sound by Joseph de Bretagne. Re-recording by Jacques Carrere and Jacques Maumont.

Production manager Robert Velin.

Music composed and conducted by Maurice Jarre.

Screen story and screenplay by Franklin Coen and Frank Davis. Based on Le Front de l’Art by Rose Valland.

Produced by Jules Bricken.

Directed by John Frankenheimer.

The Train is available on DVD from Critics’ Choice Videos.

More on the history of The Train is available from the AFI catalog.


I picked The Train based on this review in Motion Picture Exhibitor. I have vivid recollections of seeing The Great Escape (1963) when it came out, but I missed this one entirely. The plot is particularly intriguing because it is a reverse “heist” movie: The French are trying to keep the Nazis from stealing a trove of artworks. And it involves a train: Stolen artworks, Nazis and trains check a lot of boxes.

It’s worth noting Burt Lancaster’s athleticism (as E. Yarber points out in the comments) in this film. He appears to have done some of his own stunt work, including jumping on a moving train. At another point Lancaster is pushed off a moving train – and I’m not sure if that was him or a double.

I’m going to guess that Bosley Crowther gave it a passing grade.

Bosley pretty much liked it. As much as he ever liked anything:

The New York Times, March 18, 1965:

Such movement of railway equipment, chases and collisions with trains, throwing of switches and derailments as used to make for vivid action in silent films is brought to mind with fondest feeling by John Frankenheimer’s The Train, which piled up a beautiful, hissing tangle at the Astor and the Plaza yesterday.

Brought to mind, too, by this realistic and intensely engrossing account of the sabotaging of a Nazi endeavor to smuggle a trainload of art treasures out of France toward the end of World War II is that sizzling French war film Battle of the Rails, which was made by Rene Clement and a company of chemin de fer workmen in 1945.

Oct. 3, 2022, Mystery Photo
For Monday, we have a mystery fellow.

Update: This is Howard Vernon.

Man drinking from coffee cup, which obscures his face. Well, it *is* Tricky Tuesday
For “Tricky Tuesday,” we have several mystery fellows.

Update: This is Jean-Pierre Zola, center, with Michel Simon. The fellow on the left, who appears in only a few shots and has no lines, remains unidentified.

Brain Trust roll call: Mike Hawks (mystery movie), Earl Boebert (mystery movie), E. Yarber (mystery movie and mystery guest), Blackwing Jenny (mystery movie), Mary Mallory (mystery movie and mystery guest) and Sylvia E. (mystery movie).

And thanks again to E. Yarber for his thoughts on Too Late Blues and his insightful comments on this week’s mystery movie.

Oct. 5, 2022, mystery photo
For “Hm Wednesday,” we have these mystery guests.

Update: This is Suzanne Flon and Paul Bonifas.

Oct. 5, 2022, Mystery Photo
We also have this mystery fellow.

Update: This is Charles Millot.

Oct. 5, 2022, Mystery Photo
And this mystery fellow.

Update: This is Albert Remy.

Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Tuesday’s mystery engineer), Anne Papineau (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery engineer), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery engineer and mystery official), Mike Hawks (Tuesday’s mystery engineer), B.J. Merholz (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery engineer), Dan Nather (mystery movie and mystery leading man), E. Yarber (Tuesday’s mystery engineer and mysterious official), Sylvia E. (mystery movie, mystery director, Monday’s mystery fellow, Tuesday’s mystery engineer and mystery official) and Blackwing Jenny (Tuesday’s mystery engineer).

Be sure to check in Saturday for E. Yarber’s commentary on the film!

Mystery Nazi on telephone
For Thursday, we have mysterious bad guys. Here’s the first one.

Update: This is Jean Bouchaud.

Mystery Nazi and mystery train
Here’s the second one.

Update: This is Wolfgang Preiss.

Mystery Nazi and mystery train
And the third.

Update: This is Paul Scofield, delivering a speech about art belongs only to men like him who can appreciate it.

Oct. 6, 2022, Mystery Photo
I missed this mystery fellow yesterday.

Update: This is Jacques Marin.

Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Wednesday’s mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (Wednesday’s mystery guests), Mike Hawks (Wednesday’s mystery guests), Beach Gal (mystery movie, all mystery guests), Gary Martin (mystery movie), E. Yarber (Wednesday’s mystery guests), Patrick — rescued from the spam filter (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Sylvia (Wednesday’s mystery guests) and Greg (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery fellow and Wednesday’s mystery woman).

A tip of the hat to Patrick for his recollection of seeing our mystery movie when it came out and E. Yarber for more excellent commentary.

Woman in a striped blouse against a checkerboard curtain
For Friday, we have a mystery woman.

Update: This is Jeanne Moreau.

Mystery leading man alongside disabled train. Not seen: His machine gun
We also have our mysterious leading man. He does not approve of such goings-on.

Update: This is Burt Lancaster, about to settle the matter of whom art belongs to (not shown – a machine gun).

Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Thursday’s mystery guests), Beach Gal (Thursday’s mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guests), Tucson Barbara (mystery movie and Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s mystery guests), Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery Nazis Nos. 2 and 3), Sylvia E. (Thursday’s mystery guests), E. Yarber (Thursday’s mystery guests and more fascinating commentary) and Sarah (mystery movie).

Note to McDee: Alas, I’m afraid not.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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43 Responses to Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

  1. mike hawks says:

    THE TRAIN 1964.


  2. Earl Boebert says:

    Looks like a bunch of Nazis loading art on flat cars, so if it isn’t Burt Lancaster’s “The Train,” it should be. Paul Scofield today?


  3. E. Yarber says:

    Oh dear. I woke up thinking, “Well, I’ll have no idea what THIS week’s mystery film will be, so I won’t feel compelled to write a small novel about it in the comments.” And then I saw Howard Vernon in THE TRAIN.

    I will play along and may even underline something here and there, but no comprehensive commentary this time. I can’t help but note, though, that this film comes from a period in which there was a surprising amount of cross-pollination between American and European film, as we’ll see in the eclectic cast here. Just as Ulla Jacobsson (who is NOT in this film) could shift from SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT to American television like NAKED CITY, BEN CASEY and THE VIRGINIAN, Vernon would follow THE TRAIN with back-to-back performances in ALPHAVILLE and WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT?, which you have to admit is a wide range. Unfortunately his resume in general contains less work with Jean-Pierre Melville and Fritz Lang than Eurosleaze exploitation.

    I saw and appreciated the comments about my comments last week. Thank you! I had fun.


  4. Sylvia E. says:

    I’m going to take a guess, which if you say “Yes”, I’ll move forward with cast.

    The Train (1964)


  5. Mary Mallory says:

    Louis Falavigna, Jacques Morin, and Michel Simon. I hope this goes through.


  6. Anne Papineau says:

    Michel Simon in “The Train”


  7. Jean-Pierre Zola, Roger Lumont, Michel Simon in THE TRAIN (1964)


  8. mike hawks says:

    Michel Simon having a cup of delicious coffee.


  9. B.J. Merholz says:

    That looks like Michel Simon behind coffee cup, And if that was Wolfgang Priess guarding the railroad tracks, then it must be The Train.


  10. Dan Nather says:

    THE TRAIN (1964) with Burt Lancaster.


  11. E. Yarber says:

    Tuesday we have M. Hulot’s brother-in-law Jean-Pierre Zola (MON ONCLE) gossiping with the legendary Michel Simon (Dreyer’s THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, Renoir’s BOUDU SAVED FROM DROWNING and LA CHIENNE, Vigo’s L’ATALANTE, Carne’s PORT OF SHADOWS… you get the picture).

    Five years before THE TRAIN, Simon had been temporarily paralyzed by a reaction to makeup. In need of work, he accepted work in a cheesy German horror film, THE HEAD, in which he played a decapitated cranium kept alive by a crazed medico. All he had to do was stick his noggin through a table and collect a check, hoping against hope that the cheapo production wouldn’t be released anywhere he’d be recognized.

    Of course, that turkey probably wound up being seen by more people than his greatest performances, which reminds me of another story that may shed some light on this stage of movie history.

    Freelance writing can be the land of 1000 dances. If someone wants to pay for your work you’ll do whatever it may turn out to be. Pepe Ruiz was the head bartender at Chasen’s, where he spent years pickling the livers of The Rat Pack, Robert Mitchum, the Reagans, and essentially the entire cast of Turner Classic Movies. When the restaurant closed, Pepe decided to set up a place of his own. I was approached to compose a page of text for the menu and paid a visit to the location one morning.

    The unfinished site looked like a theater backstage. Workmen were still completing the dining area, while the Chef and his crew were busy preparing the kitchen. Pepe sat in a booth with me and explained that he wanted his customers to understand that Americans had a mistaken idea of Mexican food. We’re only aware of tacos and burritos, the stuff dished out by street vendors. Pepe wanted his restaurant to introduce folks to gourmet dishes of his native country. I went home and knocked off a few atmospheric paragraphs conveying his concept, sending it to him the next day.

    Now, the opposite was largely true when considering the trickle of foreign films making it to American screens after WWII. Haute cuisine was generally offered, not fast food. Museums were presenting art cinema from around the globe, but the mass of formula schlock being produced overseas remained across the water. A couple of hustlers managed to pick up some genre entries at bargain prices for high profit, such as Joseph E. Levine with GODZILLA and HERCULES or Robert Lippert with the Hammer Horrors, but this broader market was largely untapped until the mid-60s.

    American International Pictures expanded into American American Television in 1964. Their basic notion was to cater to independent TV stations the same way AIP had helped out drive-ins and streetfront theaters, providing original content for fees well below those demanded by the majors. While some of this involved micro-budget originals like MARS NEEDS WOMEN or ZONTAR THE THING FROM VENUS, the company primarily unleashed a flood of imported horror, espionage and gladiator programmers on an unsuspecting public. Mexico, Japan and Europe were plundered for their low-budget catalogs, while displaced radio performers like Bret Morrison and Peter Fernandez dubbed these B-films with industrial-strength rapidity.

    By the mid-60s, more foreign films were being released in the US than domestic product, but no one got upset because no one seemed to notice. There was a window of several years in which small distributors could make a buck on the secondary movie circuit offering Spaghetti Westerns, Giallo horrors, or Kung Fu fight epics. The major studios eventually monopolized distribution and ended this anarchy, but all sorts of oddball expatriate titles became available to the mass American public while it lasted, not just the award-winning stuff. The borders were open and while Hollywood remained dominant, it was possible for a time to see world film as a big tent available everywhere. Never underestimate the power of an artistic taco.

    THE TRAIN was part of this global zeitgeist, being United Artists’ first European coproduction in association with Les Films Ariane. As with many succeeding efforts (Cf. Sergio Leone), an American star was brought on location to assure a US audience, then surrounded by a homegrown cast. Frenchmen play Frenchmen here, Germans Germans. The gambit paid off. While THE TRAIN grossed only $3 million in America, it made twice as much around the rest of the world, which put it into profit.

    Not all projects are that successful. Pepe Ruiz unfortunately fell prey to that common Hollywood disease, “Creative differences.” The Chef quit before the restaurant was opened and my little piece was never published. I’m happy to report that Pepe still paid top dollar for my efforts and sent a check as soon as he got the work. No higher praise can be given a client.


  12. Sylvia E. says:

    The Train 1964
    Directed by John Frankenheimer
    Monday – Howard Vernon
    Tuesday – Michel Simon is the guy with the cup. The guy in the middle looks so familiar, but…..
    Don’t know the guy screen left.

    Looking forward to reading E.Yarber’s comments and the Saturday breakdown. Michel Simon seems to have an interesting story. I hope some of that is included.


  13. Sylvia E. says:

    Follow up for earlier “hmmm, so familiar” comment.

    Is Tuesday’s middle guy, Jean-Pierre Zola?


  14. The incomparable Michel Simon drains some coffee-that’s all I got!


  15. Mary Mallory says:

    Suzanne Flon, Paul Bonifas, Charles Millot, and Albert Remy.Burt Lancaster out of frame.


  16. Suzanne Flon, Paul Bonifas; Charles Millot;
    Albert Rémy


  17. mike hawks says:

    Suzanne Flon, Paul Boniface, Charles Millot and Albert Remy.


  18. beachgal says:

    Wen #1 – Suzanne Flonand and Paul Bonifas
    Wen #2 – Charles Millot
    Wen #3 – Albert Rémy
    Our film is the Frankenheimer, ’64 film, The Train
    Tues – on the right is Michel Simon on left night be Roger Lumont


  19. beachgal says:

    Monday is Howard Vernon


  20. Gary A Martin says:

    The Train? 1964.


  21. E. Yarber says:

    Wednesday: Nobody expected the French Resistance!

    Suzanne Flon did a lot of routine stuff, but occasionally managed to work with prominent directors like John Huston (MOULIN ROUGE), Orson Welles (THE TRIAL), Joseph Losey (MR. KLEIN) and James Ivory (QUARTET).

    Paul Bonifas had an uncredited part in TRAPEZE, another Burt Lancaster vehicle. He played the stamp dealer in CHARADE and turned up in the debut feature of recently deceased photographer/filmmaker William Klein, WHO ARE YOU, POLLY MAGGOO?

    John Frankenheimer worked with Charles Millot again in FRENCH CONNECTION II. Millot also appeared in THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING.

    Hey, it’s Antoine Doinel’s pop! With Truffaut, Albert Remy somehow managed to convey the same amicable but not-quite-with-you quality as the parent in THE 400 BLOWS that he showed as the sociopathic brother in SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER. After THE TRAIN, Frankenheimer brought him back for GRAND PRIX, another film built around a multi-national group of actors.

    In considering this week’s film, we have to realize that the international cast we find here was assembled for a drastically different story by a filmmaker whose name is nowhere in the credits. THE TRAIN was developed by Arthur Penn as his follow-up to THE MIRACLE WORKER, and was intended as a low-key ethical drama in the same key as the latter. Penn’s version did little with the train itself, but concentrated on the moral responsibility of the French people to protect their artistic heritage. According to John Frankenheimer, the title locomotive didn’t leave the station until page 90 of that script. Burt Lancaster, Penn’s choice for Paul Labiche, had the director canned after a single day of shooting and brought in Frankenheimer, who’d just done SEVEN DAYS IN MAY with him. The pair completely reconfigured the story as an action epic, doubling the budget.

    It’s tempting to consider the revised ending as a commentary on Penn’s intellectual approach. Originally, Labiche and Nazi mastermind Von Waldheim faced off with guns. In the finished film, an unarmed Von Waldheim goes into a disgusted rant about Labiche’s inability to appreciate the aesthetic value of the artwork he’s reclaimed. Labiche’s response is to riddle him with bullets. That’s not very different from what Lancaster professionally did to Penn, or at least the cerebral screenplay Penn had nurtured.


  22. Patrick says:

    Howard Vernon, Andre Tomasi, Jean-Pierre Zola, Michel Simon, Suzanne Flon, Paul Bonifas, Charles Millot and Albert Remy in The Train from 1964. Saw this film at the Belmont Theatre on Vermont in LA when it came out. I’ve been a John Frankenheimer fan ever since.


  23. Sylvia E. says:

    Back to Tuesday for a brief moment. I’m hoping that you know who “the guy on screen left” is for sure, but I’m going to guess that he is Louis Falavigna (IMDb – railroad worker.) Found a couple of images that kind of resemble him. I was going to guess the actor known as “Moustache”, but he’s not mentioned as being in the cast and that guy is a lot heavier than the guy in “The Train.”

    Wednesday – Image 1: Suzanne Flon and Paul Bonifas, Image 2: Charles Millot and Image 3: Albert Remy.


  24. Greg says:

    The mystery movie is “The Train” from 1964. Top photo is Howard Vernon. Wednesday mystery woman is Suzanne Flon.


  25. Mary mallory says:

    Jean Bouchard, Wolfgang Preiss, Paul Schofield (say it ain’t so! He’s not a Man for All Season here), and Jacques Marin.


  26. beachgal says:

    Thurs #1 – Jean Bouchaud
    Thurs #2 – Wolfgang Preiss
    Thurs #3 – Paul Scofield
    Thurs #4 – Jacques Marin


  27. Jean Bouchaud; Wolfgang Preiss; Paul Scofield; Jacques Marin.


  28. tucsonbarbara says:

    “The Train”

    Wolfgang Preiss, Michel Simon, Jacque5s Marin, Charles Millot, Paul Boniface, Suzanne Flon, Albert Remy, Paul Schofield.


  29. mike hawks says:

    Wolfgang Preiss and Paul Scofield.


  30. McDee says:

    Is Monday’s mystery man Hans Gudegast before he became Eric Braeden?


  31. Sylvia E. says:

    Thursday – Jean Bouchaud, Wolfgang Preiss, Paul Scofield and Jacques Marin.
    Leaving Jeanne Moreau and Burt Lancaster for tomorrow.


  32. E. Yarber says:

    Thursday: Jean Bouchard settled into regular television work, though he turns up in 1986’s MANON OF THE SPRING.

    Wolfgang Preiss played Fritz Lang’s criminal genius Dr. Mabuse in five films, the first for Lang himself, when the character was revived in the early 1960s for a franchise of German thrillers. (Goldfinger Gert Frobe turned up in a couple of them as Mabuse’s police nemesis Lohmann, a recurring figure in the series who inadvertently inspired a very different namesake. Arthur Miller wandered into a revival of 1933’s THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE and was so haunted by a scene of a delirious man crying out “Lohmann… Lohmann…” that he decided to name the lead character in DEATH OF A SALESMAN after that plaintive wail). Aside from Mabuse, Preiss was generally typecast as Nazi officers. Examples include THE LONGEST DAY, VON RYAN’S EXPRESS, the title role in RAID ON ROMMEL (as Rommel, not the raid), A BRIDGE TOO FAR, and the American TV epic WINDS OF WAR/WAR AND REMEMBRANCE. He managed to get out of uniform back home, starring as Albert Schweitzer in a West German miniseries.

    Paul Scofield received a Tony award for his performance as Sir Thomas More in the play A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, and bagged an Oscar for the same role in the film version, his next movie after THE TRAIN. He generally preferred stage work, where he became known as one of Britain’s greatest Shakespearean actors. His ability to convey deep intelligence netted him a second Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Mark Van Doren in QUIZ SHOW. That same quality is used against him in THE TRAIN, where art appreciation is linked with death and destruction.

    Like Paul Bonifas, Jacques Marin was in CHARADE, there playing the sort of Gallic archetype that typified much of his screen work. His fifty-year career extended from FORBIDDEN GAMES to MONSTERS, INC.

    John Frankenheimer was exhausted from wrapping work on SEVEN DAYS IN MAY when Burt Lancaster asked him to replace Arthur Penn, but saw filming in Europe as a needed escape from the nasty divorce he was experiencing at home. He dumped all the footage Penn had prepared and shut down production for four weeks as he and Lancaster conceived a new film practically from scratch. While Frankenheimer claimed that THE TRAIN only went $600,000 over budget as a result, his approach actually doubled the project’s costs, giving United Artists the sort of headaches they’d experience with HEAVEN’S GATE years later. Ten cameras were set up for a spectacular train crash, but the careening vehicle went out of control and knocked down nine as Frankenheimer and Lancaster ran for their lives from the juggernaut. With the approach of winter, production shut down for months while Frankenheimer waited for the leaves on trees to grow back in continuity with footage already shot. Production lasted ten months, though originally scheduled for fifteen weeks.

    Ironically, perhaps Frankenheimer’s most commercial change was one of omission rather than excess. He and Lancaster drastically pared down the dialogue of Penn’s philosophical script, and their emphasis of visuals over exposition made the movie much more accessible to the foreign markets that proved to be the crucial factor in the film netting a profit.


  33. Sarah says:

    It’s “The Train” (1964). Better late than never.


  34. beachgal says:

    Fri #1 – Jeanne Moreau
    Fri #2 – Burt Lancaster


  35. Mary Mallory says:

    Jeanne Moreau and Burt Lancaster today.


  36. Jeanne Moreau; Burt Lancaster.


  37. mike hawks says:

    Jeanne Moreau and Burt Lancaster.


  38. tucsonbarbara says:

    Jeanne Moreau, Burt Lancaster


  39. Mark G. says:

    Friday’s mysterious leading man is Burt Lancaster and the movie is The Train (1964).


  40. E. Yarber says:

    So what happened to Arthur Penn once he was kicked off THE TRAIN?

    After assembling a dream cast of iconic French actors for that picture, Penn returned to the US to make MICKEY ONE, a blatant New Wave pastiche. Ironically, no French performers appeared in it, the only foreign guest star being Kurosawa regular Kamatari Fujiwara (SEVEN SAMURAI, THE LOWER DEPTHS, THE HIDDEN FORTRESS). The New Wave influence would be better integrated into Penn’s BONNIE AND CLYDE, which became a popular success as well as breaking new ground in American cinema.

    Given his interest in that area, it would be interesting to have seen what Penn would have done with the group he collected for THE TRAIN. In the Frankenheimer film, they’re clearly dubbed with voices far different from their own and given little wiggle-room to do much with their characters outside of the confines of the plot. This is particularly evident when the story gets around to Jeanne Moreau’s Catherine.

    Moreau was internationally renowned at this point for her work with such directors as Truffaut, Godard, Welles, Antonioni, and Ophuls, and came to this project right after starring for Bunuel in DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID. Here, she’s given an individual credit at the beginning of the film, leading one to expect a major performance. There’s a spark of promise as she’s introduced speaking back to the Nazis, putting herself at risk yet unable to hide her resentment toward them, but what follows is pretty much routine… a woman wronged by the war who gives Lancaster an alibi when he momentarily slips away from his captors. After a couple of scenes, Lancaster and Co. set her aside for their real love interest… the Train. Moreau had more of a character arc in her next film, the relatively undistinguished THE YELLOW ROLLS-ROYCE. International audiences were probably just glad to see her on screen, regardless of her brief appearance.

    The thinking behind her use here seems to be, “Well, she’s such a genius that she can make something memorable out of this thin material.” As any good actor could tell you, however, you really can’t miraculously spin gold out of a role unless there’s some weight to what’s on the page.

    And now we come to THE TRAIN’s heaviest of heavyweights, Mr. Burt Lancaster himself.

    Lancaster began his career as an acrobat (like Cary Grant, another actor who moved beautifully), and was adamant about performing his own stunts, to the extent of inserting a brief pre-title sequence in THE CRIMSON PIRATE to showcase his athletic prowess. He was fifty years old by the time of THE TRAIN, however. While still in amazing physical condition, time was starting to tell. During production of the film, he seriously aggravated an old knee injury (accounts differ whether it was while performing a stunt or stepping in a hole during an offscreen golf game). A scene quickly had to be devised in which Labiche was wounded in the leg, explaining why the character limped badly through the rest of the story.

    As detailed above, his hardball tactics behind the camera were even rougher than the action on screen. Uncredited TRAIN screenwriter Walter Bernstein had not worked with Lancaster since 1947’s KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS. He was shocked by the way the star had changed in the interim, later saying, “Now there was a kind of gratuitous cruelty that I hadn’t seen. It was fifteen years of Hollywood plus fifteen years of POWER.” Bernstein watched in dismay as Lancaster ignored Penn’s direction on their first day of work, and was disgusted when Lancaster called him the next night to announce that Penn was out of the picture.

    To be fair, though, POWER in Hollywood is shaky at best, and Lancaster’s latest pictures had not been home runs for him. JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG was more respected than profitable, and Lancaster was overshadowed by the ensemble cast. BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ seemed sure Oscar-bait until details of Robert Stroud’s real-life potential for child molestation became public. A CHILD IS WAITING was torn apart by the producer, who viewed the story in a directly opposite view from the director. THE LEOPARD was considered an artistic triumph in Europe, but Fox clumsily butchered the English-language edit, dubbed far below the standard set by Bret Morrison and Peter Fernandez, killing the picture’s chances in America. SEVEN DAYS IN MAY was a problematic release directly following the Kennedy assassination. Lancaster needed a crowd-pleaser at once, and a talky debate about paintings didn’t look promising. If Lancaster was ruthless during the making of THE TRAIN, we have to realize he felt his back was at the wall and his survival was at stake.

    And he could be a very different man in other circumstances. I once had lunch with character actor Ed Lauter, who told me the two people who had been kindest to him in his early career were Alfred Hitchcock and Burt Lancaster. Still appreciative years later, he regularly visited Lancaster’s grave in Westwood. This wasn’t just name-dropping (the moment I mentioned Robert Aldrich, Lauter changed the subject) and is particularly interesting since Lauter’s collaborations with the star, THE MIDNIGHT MAN (from 1974, largely directed by Lancaster) and EXECUTIVE ACTION (1973, made right after MIDNIGHT but released first) were painful experiences for Lancaster. His status in the business had bottomed out, and he was deeply frustrated by the flimsy production values of these lesser efforts. At such a low point, however, he still found space to develop a mutual bond of loyalty with a young actor who impressed him. Ed would want you to know that.


  41. Sylvia E. says:

    Really enjoyed the comments again. Appreciate E. Yarber’s sharing what Mr Lauter had to say about Mr Lancaster. Nice to hear. You never know what someone’s dealing with in their lives beyond you.

    Reading about Michel Simon’s injury and the impact it had on his career was fascinating. Who would think such a thing could have such permanent results (remembering Buddy Ebsen’s allergic reaction to the paint for the’Tin Man’ in the wizard of Oz. At least he recovered, though lost the gig.) I was curious about what E. Yarber knew about it. It was interesting to see how they dealt with his paralysis in the film. From some of the images I found, it looks as though some days were better than others for him in being able to control his facial muscles. It looks like they found ways to disguise or hide it if he was having a more difficult time. Glad it worked out for him. Thanks for the movie choice and thanks to Mr Yarber again. Learned a lot.


    • E. Yarber says:

      Thanks for the kind words. I wish I could provide more information about Simon’s makeup dye mishap. It’s mentioned quite often in film histories, but only in passing. There’s a full-length biography of the actor, but it doesn’t seem to have been translated from the French. I checked out the films he made directly before THE HEAD to see which was responsible for the accident, but they were routine dramas that didn’t involve exotic looks. Just before THE HEAD, Simon appeared as a murder suspect in the German police procedural IT HAPPENED IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, an oft-remade story that Sean Penn did with Jack Nicholson as THE PLEDGE. The year after THE HEAD, Simon turned up in Abel Gance’s AUSTERLITZ, no table necessary, but that was a big production that might have been filmed earlier. Whatever happened, Simon eventually recovered from the effects of the dye and returned to film acting until his death in 1975.


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