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Author Topic: "Don Siegel - A Siegel Film" excerpts  (Read 3571 times)
Americanbeauty
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« on: May 29, 2007, 01:10:37 PM »

I read it a couple of weeks ago -well, only the chapters dealing with his collaboration with Eastwood ;)

I took a few notes ... I thought I'd post the excerpts here  :)




The foreword was written by Clint. Here it is:

Quote
      He encouraged me to direct and I encouraged him to act … those are two of the most positive aspects that came from a working relationship which had the strangest of beginnings, to say the least.

      I had signed with Universal Pictures to do a film called Coogan’s Bluff. This was to be my second American film after coming in off the plains of Spain. The studio had recommended a director by the name of Alex Segal, who had come from back East and had several plays, television shows, and movies to his credit. Alex Segal proceeded to have some personal problem which precluded him from doing this film and he withdrew. Then the studio came up with the suggestion ‘How about Don Siegel?’ Now in a business in which nepotism runs rampant, I began to think ‘Hold on just a minute, what relationship do these two have and how many more Siegels are we going to go through before we get this picture on the road?’ I didn’t know much about Don but, as a courtesy to the studio, I ran some of his work before I began looking for another director. While running his films, I began to see that this man was extremely underrated; and although he had done more pictures than I had, he was from a similar background –always having to exist with low to moderate budgets at best and never being allowed the luxury of some of the high spending which frequents the movie industry today. Upon viewing Invasion of the Body Snatchers (which is probably one of the two or three finest B movies ever made), I realized that this was a man who could do an awful lot with very little. Coogn’s Bluff was a modest-budget picture, but perhaps we could get a lot more on screen for the dollar and push the film on to a higher echelon of ‘look’. So I said, ‘Yes, let’s go with Don Siegel.’

      Now of course the big catch was that Don Siegel wasn’t familiar with my work –he had never seen any of the Dollar films and maybe had seen a minimal amount of Rawhides. He certainly wasn’t aware of anything I was doing at that particular time. So Don would have to look at my films, which he did, and he felt the same sympathy for the Leone pictures, which looked a lot stronger than they actually were from a financial standpoint.

   We fenced back and forth on the script and finally overcame various disagreements, but when the first day of shooting came I realized I was not working with just an ordinary person. Don kicked off so fast and so furiously in his shooting that this was clearly not a game of guessing –he had a solid concept in his mind and this was true film directing at his best. Maybe as a result of his background in the montage department, and working under Jack L. Warner, he came in completely prepared and the film went easily under schedule, as did the ensuing films we made together over the years. I think if there is one thing I learned from Don Siegel, it’s to know what you want to shoot and to know what you’re seeing when you see it –and that’s something I haven’t seen a lot over the years.

   We went on to make Two Mules for Sister Sara, The Beguiled, Dirty Harry and Escape From Alcatraz. All of these films were modest budget at best. Several became big stepping stones in both our careers. The Beguiled showed the Don could direct highly unusual, off-beat material with a very sensitive touch, and Dirty Harry showed he could handle the detective genre as well as anybody around.

   Don Siegel had the greatest memory for events that happened in his life. I think you will be extremely entertained by his droll, acidic humor and the constant fight against the bureaucracy of studio mechanics. He may have more intelligent information to transmit to young film-makers than any working director today.


A few things about Coogan's Bluff

Quote
* Susan and Clint rehearsed smoothly, intelligently and with talent, until I stopped the rehearsal and suggested that as Susan crossed behind the couch where Clint was sitting, he should reach out and pull her down to him for a fervent kiss […] Susan disliked my suggestion quite strongly. She felt that I was making Clint too macho and overemphasizing the kissing, etc. Clint spoke up, somewhat annoyed.

Eastwood: I like Don’s idea of my reaching behind me, pulling you down to kiss.
Clark: It’s too obvious.
Eastwood: It’s obvious you don’t know what you’re talking about. Let’s shoot it, Don.
We shot the sequence and broke it up without further ado.

* Siegel calls Eastwood Mr Six-Foot-Four

* We shot a sequence where Running Bear (Rudy Diaz) shoots at Coogan in his jeep. I didn’t like the effect of the grease gun, which supposedly makes the windshield appear shattered as though by a rifle bullet. I purposely staged the sequence so that when the real bullets hit the windshield, Coogan is not in the jeep.
There’s a strict rule that no live ammunition can be used on location. When special effects turned me down, I talked to several deputy sheriffs, explaining my predicament. They were eager to help me. The executive producer, the location manager, the unit manager and the assistant director refused to give their approval. Clint, the deputy sheriffs and the stuntman (Buddy Van Horn) all gave me their enthusiastic approval. There was no danger. On a cue from me, one of the deputies, the best shot, fired two shots. The results were perfect: two shattered holes in the windshield.



About Two Mules For Sister Sara:

Quote
* Everything was perfect. Clint dismounted correctly; but to my dismay, Shirley got off the burro again on the right side, right out of my picture. I yelled “Cut!”

ME: (from the rim of the cave) Shirley didn’t you understand that I wanted you to dismount from the left side of the burro?
MACLAINE: (testily) It is incorrect to get off the burro on the left side.
ME: Do you suppose the burro knows that?
MACLAINE: Don’t get fresh with me.
ME: You do understand I can’t hold you in the shot?
MACLAINE: I don’t give a damn!
ME: Well, frankly Shirley, neither do I.

With that, Shirley not only left the set, with the peon and his open umbrella racing after her; but she left the location. Clint, although known as ‘Mr Cool’ 99 percent of the time, can on occasion blow his fuse. He screamed after her departing figure what he thought of her unprofessional attitude. I grabbed him by the arm and begged him to stay out of the quarrel. I don’t think he knew I had his arm firmly grasped. He just lifted me off my feet and continued his tirade.


About The Beguiled:

Quote
* Siegel calls Clint ‘Clintus’

* Clint and I were having lunch in his trailer one day while shooting Two Mules For Sister Sara. I was intrigued by the amount of vitamin pills he took before each meal. He looked great: tan, full of vigour, a man who felt strong and fit. Apparently, he had no problems.

* EASTWOOD: Don, I think I’m going crazy.
ME: (Taken aback) On your way to the bank, or –
EASTWOOD: (Interrupting, serious) I read a book last night that Jennings sent me. I couldn’t put it down.
ME: What’s upsetting you?
EASTWOOD: I’ve never read a book like it before. It’s called The Beguiled, written by Thomas Cullinan. I don’t know whether I like it or hate it, or even understand it. Would you …
ME: … read it. I’m intrigued out of my mind. I’ve never heard you talk this way before.
EASTWOOD: Put me out of my misery and puzzlement. (Giving me the book.) Tell me you hate it.

EASTWOOD: My leg was cut off and I was poisoned by the ‘innocent’ child who prepared, for me only, toadstool soup, which killed me. It’s a frightening book. No wonder I was crazy.
ME: Clintus […] it could be the best picture we’ve ever made.
EASTWOOD: (Beckoning me in) You mean you really like it?
ME: I love it.
EASTWOOD: I’ll tell Jennings you’re crazy about the book.
ME: Good. Jennings will relish the fact that it will make a dirty flick. I think it’s beautiful. Jennings will prognosticate that it’s a frightening idea for a movie and worry about it making any money […]
EASTWOOD: Remember, Mr Negative, he gave me the book to do –so quit being crazy and play it cool.
ME: I thought you said you were going crazy.
EASTWOOD: Only about you, Siegelini. Adios.

* In his office, Clint had a huge cardboard figure of himself playing Dirty Harry. Whenever we disagreed, I threw a vicious right at ‘Dirty Harry’, knocking it down. Clint was amused.


About Escape From Alcatraz:

Quote
We left San Francisco to scout Alcatraz. Clint, Bob, Carol, Fritz and Allen Smith, our art director, were all ‘mothered’ by me through the interiors and exteriors of the island. Clint climbed everywhere, excited like the kid he truly is [..]
We then met the various members of the Parks and Recreation Commission –mostly women. They warned us that every half-hour a boatload of tourists would wander all over Alcatraz, inside and out. My eyes found Clint’s, spelling out that I needed help. The women, who were somewhat hard and negative, turned to putty before the Eastwood charm. Without Clint’s handling of the female members of the Commission, I don’t believe Escape From Alcatraz would ever have been made.


Sorry, I just realized I hadn't written down the page numbers  :-[
« Last Edit: May 29, 2007, 02:34:19 PM by Americanbeauty » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2007, 02:57:41 PM »

Good stuff Americanbeauty ;)
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Christopher
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« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2016, 10:07:40 AM »

I was wondering if there'd been any threads about A Siegel Film. Like AB did, I've been reading the chapters of interest (the Eastwood movies, plus a few others for the movies of his I'm familiar with), because, frankly, I think it'd be a bit tedious to read all 500 pages.

I'm on the chapter about Two Mules for Sister Sara now, and after I've watched The Beguiled again, I'll read through that chapter (I won't wait to read through the others though).
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antonis
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2016, 01:20:08 PM »

Never bothered to read this one but your posts excited me so much that I just bought the book  :)
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Christopher
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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2016, 02:33:39 PM »

Cool. And I think if I took my time and was familiar with all the movies, it would be interesting. But for now just reading through several chapters in it before I take it back to the library is fine.
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antonis
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« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2016, 09:28:30 AM »

One of the very best I've read in a long time.
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