Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mr. Potato Head Exits

Don Rickles died today.

Most people know him as an insult comedian who knew how to wield a razor-sharp verbal stiletto on Vegas and nightclub stages. Rickles' grandchildren knew him as a Pixar character.

Me, I like to remember Don Rickles' lesson about the movie business, overtime, contracts, and using leverage ... which he learned as an actor on the set of the World War II drama "Run Silent, Run Deep":

...Burt Lancaster, a serious man, says to me, "This is a serious movie, Don. You really need to know about submarines. It will help you in your character development if you know the intricate workings of the submarine." Burt says all this as if we're about to be ordered to our battle stations.

Meanwhile, [Clark] Gable is one of the most relaxed movie stars in the history of the business. "Look," he tells me. "I'm a five o'clock guy."

"What does that mean, Mr. Gable?" I ask.

"It means, kid, that my day ends at five. Regardless. Five is scotch-and-soda time. And then I'm on my way home." Every day at five, Gable sticks to his guns. Five o'clock comes and he's in the trailer. He enters as a Navy commander and exits as a Brooks Brothers model. Driving off the lot in his Bentley convertible, he waves goodbye as he passes through the security gates.

Because he's a producer of the picture, Lancaster is far more intense and worries about overages.

...Most of the action isn't done on location but in the studio. One scene involves a series of explosions followed by a deluge of water. The mechanics are tricky and the technical guys work on it all day. They can't quite get it right. Finally, at about five to five, it all comes together -- the bombastic explosions and a deluge of water.

Gable and I are in the battle scene, the climax of the film. [Director] Robert Wise signals action and all hell breaks loose. The special effects are spectacular.

In the midst of this drama, Gable says, "Sorry, boys, Mr. Five O'clock is done for the day."

And then, with the grace of a European prince, Gable struts to his trailer.

Lancaster chases after him.

"Clark," says Burt, "we finally got this thing to work. It'll cost a fortune if we dismantle it. We gotta film it now."

Ever the gentleman, Gable looks at Lancaster sympathetically. "Relax, Burt," he says. "I'll dive with the submarine tomorrow."

-- Don Rickles' Book; Don Rickles with David Ritz; pp. 76-78.

"Fair" and "unfair", unfortunately, are in the eyes of the beholder. When you scrape away the bark, there is only what you have the leverage to get. (And Clark Gable knew that).

Rest in peace, Don. You provided a lot of laughter, for which I'm grateful.

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