RICHARD FLEISCHER TALKS MOVIES WITH TWO FRENCH GUYS
Above is another installment of that very French cinema TV show 'Cinema, Cinemas' (translation:
'Nickelodeon, Nickelodeons') which I've been posting since discovering it on Youtube. The earlier interviews (scroll down) are with Richard Brooks and Edward Dmytryk. Today's episode features Richard Fleischer, son of Max ('Betty Boop' creator/animation innovator) and a very capable man in his own right. Click here for his Wikipedia entry, which will save me the time of having to explain who he was and list his credits. From the look of things at the opening of the interview, Fleischer seems to have lived in a standard issue Beverly Hills Spanish villa (not overwhelmingly large) with a standard issue late 70s Rolls parked in the driveway (the interview was shot in 1990). His demeanor is self-assured, gentle but assertive, and he talks honestly about his reputation as a director who took over other director's movies that were in trouble. He discusses how he stages a scene with the actors prior to even bothering to figure out his shots, thus allowing the whole thing to develop organically (my word, not his). I've been doing it that way for awhile now and it really is a lot simpler than trying to figure out how to move actors around and convincing them to do what you want. In fact, I haven't bothered with a shot list on my last three movies and frankly they've turned out better for it. The only problem is that the time you spend with the actors rehearsing makes the producers nervous since all they can see (I don't let them on the set when rehearsing) is that the clock is ticking and you're not shooting. But of course once you've figured it all out the shooting goes much quicker than if you'd jumped into it without the benefit of working things out more smoothly and in privacy.
But enough about me. What about Fleischer? He makes no bones about being a 'professional' more than an artist and seems serenely confident in his opinions. He may not be the most interesting interview subject but this lack of personal dynamism shouldn't lead one to consider him a wilting lily. Hence the following story about Fleischer and Orson Welles:
Fleischer was directing the 1959 movie 'Compulsion', which co-starred Welles. On the first day that Welles worked, they rehearsed a scene in which Welles had to exit the set after giving a speech. Welles asked Fleischer which way he should exit and the director replied "to the right". "I don't think I would exit that way, Dick. I think I would exit to the left." Fleischer replied that Welles had to exit to the right and, when asked why by the portly actor, replied "Because there's no wall built on the left and we'll be shooting off the set." Welles considered this for a moment and then said: "Do you know what I'd do if I were directing this picture? I'd have them build the wall." Fleischer replied: "That's exactly why I'm directing this picture and you're not, Orson." A chill went through the air as the two men stared at each other. And then Welles burst out laughing and did as told. When Welles was asked by Peter Bogdanovich in an interview if he gave Fleischer any help in directing 'Compulsion', Welles replied: "Dick Fleischer is not a director who needs any help directing a motion picture." If I were to receive one compliment from Welles, that would be the one I'd choose.
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Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 3:57 PM