4/25/14

THE PIGEON-TOED ORANGE PEEL: A DON & CLINT JOINT

Don Siegel's first film with the star who would make Siegel a name director after forty years in the business, Clint Eastwood, was "Coogan's Bluff". Filmed in 1969 on many actual locations in New York City, the film is primarily remembered for a scene in a famous New York City discotech of the era, "The Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel". On a number of occasions I've heard this place referenced by pop-culture historians, chroniclers of the music scene of the period and assorted other journalists of miscellaneous junk pop-culture.

The problem is, it doesn't really exist. The club was in fact photographed on a sound stage at Universal, back in good old North Hollywood, California. And not just any soundstage, but the one that the Lon Chaney's "Phantom Of The Opera" was shot on in 1925. According to Siegel in his quite amusing memoir "A Siegel Film",  the weather in New York turned nasty and, facing a possible blizzard, the decision was made to retreat to warm and smoggy LA, where the rest of the New York exteriors and interiors were either faked or built. The name "Pigeon Told Orange Peel" was the brainchild of Siegel's son, actor Kris Tabori, who was then a teenager. Although Universal only budgeted for a couple of hundred extras, Siegel knew that the massiveness of the stage would swallow them up making the place look pathetically empty. Since the Screen Extras Guild then had a rule (and maybe still does?) that if you hired one-hundred and twenty-five union extras you were allowed to hire as many more non-union extras as you wanted, Siegel was able to literally throw a hippy-era rave-up, gathering many hundreds of LA party kids to join the fun and dance for the cameras. Thus you see pros and non-pros of the period in this very evocative little trip back to the late 60s club scene.

The scene is quite racy for the year it was shot--nudity was just on the verge of becoming acceptable in mainstream films and Universal was not known (then or now) as a cutting edge environment to work in. Like all Siegel set-pieces, it's flawlessly shot and edited and the confrontation that closes this five minute scene is vintage Clint and Don. As embedding has been pointlessly disabled by the postmaster of the clip, you have to click here to dig this crazy scene. Below is the 'Coogan's Bluff' trailer, complete with a plug for the Universal Studios Tour at the very end of it.



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