In Their Own Words: Actors on Film Flops, Disappointments and Missteps

Marlon Brando on A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG, Beverly Garland on SWAMP WOMEN and STARK FEAR, Tony Curtis on SON OF ALI BABA, Patricia Neal on THE FOUNTAINHEAD, Richard Widmark on SLATTERY’S HURRICANE, Ava Gardner on THE BIBLE, David Carradine on SONNY BOY and more.      

Marlon Brando:  A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG
The Method Actor legend was no picnic to work with if you have read any accounts of the making of such films as One-Eyed Jacks (1961), The 1962 version of Mutiny on the Bounty and Morituri (1965). So it is unusual to read about a film in which Brando felt abused and manipulated by the director. The famous boxoffice bomb A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG (1967) was a romantic comedy pairing Brando with Sophia Loren and a supporting cast that included Tippi Hedren, Margaret Rutherford, Bill Nagy and Sydney Chaplin, son of Charlie Chaplin, who directed the film. In his autobiography, Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me (co-written with Robert Lindsey), sets up his painful experience filming A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG by reminding readers of Chaplin’s brilliance and artistry in such films as City Lights and then writes, “Comic genius or not, when I went to London to work with him late in life, Chaplin was a fearsomely cruel man. He was almost seventy-seven when he offered me the part of a diplomat named Ogden Mears in A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG….Although I revered Chaplin, who had written the story based on a voyage he had taken from Shanghai in 1931, when he offered me this part in 1966, I told him I didn’t believe I was right for it. I’ve always been leery of comedies, but he insisted that I could do it, and since I regarded him as a genius, I agreed to be a marionette in his hands…But A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG was a disaster, and while we were making it I discovered that Chaplin was probably the most sadistic man I’d ever met. He was an egotistical tyrant and a penny-pincher. He harassed people when they were late, and scolded them unmercifully to work faster. Worst of all, he treated his son Sydney, who played my sidekick, cruelly. In front of everybody, he humiliated him constantly: “Sydney, you’re so stupid! Don’t you have enough brains to know how to place your hand on a doorknob? You know what a doorknob is, don’t you?”

When Brando arrived late to the set one day, Chaplin berated him in front of the cast and crew and the star stomped off to his dressing room, refusing to return until the director apologized. Eventually they resolved their differences and finished the movie without futher incident but the experience was extremely unpleasant for them both. Looking back, Brando said, “I still look up to him as perhaps the greatest genius that the medium has ever produced…But as a human being he was a mixed bag, just like all of us.”

Beverly Garland: SWAMP WOMEN & STARK FEAR
Anyone with a soft spot for the Roger Corman B-movies of the late fifties are more than familiar with this prolific actress who was one of the director’s finest “scream queens.” She spent more time working in television than film over the course of her busy career but she has achieved cult notoriety for such Corman faves as It Conquered the World (1956) and Not of This Earth (1957) as well as other offbeat offerings like The Alligator People (1959) and Pretty Poison (1968). SWAMP WOMEN and STARK FEAR, however, are not among her favorite memories. SWAMP WOMEN was an overly melodramatic crime drama in which a group of female criminals break out of jail and take a male hostage (Touch Conners aka Mike Conners) on their way to retrieve some stolen diamonds hidden in the bayou. In Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup by Tom Weaver, Garland recalled, Roger Corman’s SWAMP WOMEN: “Oooh, that was terrible thing! Roger put us up in this old abandoned hotel while we were on location in Louisiana – I mean, it was really abandoned! Roger certainly had a way of doing things back in those days – I’m surprised the hotel had running water! I went to bed, and I heard this tremendous crash! I went screaming into Marie Windsor’s room, and there she was with the bed on top of her – the whole bed had collapsed! Well, we started laughing because everything was so awful in this hotel, just incredibly terrible, and we became good friends.” As for SWAMP WOMEN, Garland revealed that, “At the end of SWAMP WOMEN I was killed with a spear and fell out of a tree…they had three guys underneath. And when they “killed” me, I just fell – dead weight on these three poor guys. Roger said to me, “You’re really one of the best stuntwomen I have ever worked with.”

STARK FEAR (1962) was not a Corman film and was even more low-budget than that director’s customary drive-in product. STARK FEAR depicts the trials and tribulations of a woman horribly abused by her violent, drunken husband and the sordid lowpoints include a rape in a cemetery. There is a grim fascination to this obscure indie that was promoted in the wake of Psycho as a shocker in the same vein but the shocker is that Garland agreed to do it. “That was made in Norman, Oklahoma, by Ned Hockman, the head of a drama department there,” Garland told Tom Weaver. “We kept saying to him, “This script doesn’t make any sense,” and he said, “No scripts at the Cannes Film Festival make sense, and they all win. This’ll be fine.”….It was a disaster…Skip Homeier finally ended up taking over the direction, and Skip didn’t know anything about making a movie, either! It just got to be more and more of a mess, but we finished it. I remember seeing it in a theatre here, and there were three people in the audience. The next day I came back to bring some more people, and the theater owner said he’d pulled it and was not going to show it any more. That was the worst movie that ever came out.”

Richard Widmark: SLATTERY’S HURRICANE
SLATTERY’S HURRICANE (1949), directed by the usually reliable Andre De Toth, had a promising premise: a pilot who works for drug smugglers gets a chance to redeem himself when he flies into a hurricane in order to relay vital information about the storm to the U.S. Navy in Miami. The mere mention of the film to Widmark, however, prompted this response in Hollywood Talks Turkey: The Screen’s Greatest Flops by Doug McClelland: “Oh, God! SLATTERY’S HURRICANE – that’s one we made three times. We were constantly doing retakes. It was so bad that [Darryl F. Zanuck] couldn’t figure out what to do with it. He finally decided to flip it. He did a very complicated cutting thing. He started at the end and we would up at the beginning.”

The director didn’t think it was so bad though and in De Toth on De Toth, he stated, “The chance of flying in hurricanes to reach the hurricane’s eye intrigued me…With today’s marvelous aids, it would be much easier but less fun to shoot that epoch. We shot real life. It was real rain. Real rain? The engines were drowning. At the assigned ten-, fifteen-thousand-feet altitude, we were in a shower in leaking cockpits. And it was real wind, and not wind machines, that blew real tree limbs across the PB-4Y’s path before touchdown. God, it was fun.”

Patricia Neal: THE FOUNTAINHEAD
King Vidor’s 1949 screen adaptation of Ayn Rand’s bestselling novel is one of my favorite good-bad movies, an arty, pretentious, overheated melodrama which generates genuine sexual heat between the two leads, Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, who would embark on a long affair after the movie was completed. The critics weren’t kind to the film but it now enjoys a well deserved cult following. Regardless, Neal, in her autobiography, did not sing its praises and recalled that, “Kirk Douglas was my escort to the premiere of THE FOUNTAINHEAD. Jack Warner had already screened the film, and he sent me a wire stating that I was the greatest thing to hit Hollywood since Garbo. I had the grim feeling all through the screening that I would not emerge a champion, a feeling that was not dispelled by the crowd. When Kirk and I moved out into the bright lobby it seemed that everyone just turned their heads and looked in the other direction. One familiar face did not avoid me. Virginia Mayo gave my hand a squeeze and said, My, weren’t you bad?” I hoped she meant the character I played, but I knew my career as a second Garbo was over before it began. THE FOUNTAINHEAD was a bomb.”

David Carradine: SONNY BOY
Certainly one of the most bizarre and unclassifiable movies to ever air on TCM Underground a few years ago, SONNY BOY (1989) is the tale of a feral desert family who steal a baby, turn him into a mute and raise him as an animal. Trained to kill the “enemies” of his sadistic father (Paul L. Smith from Midnight Express), Sonny Boy (Michael Griffin) learns the world is a different place when he manages to briefly escape his isolated commune and meets a young woman named Rose (Alexandra Powers). The casting is particularly inspired with the demented desert cult represented by the aforementioned Paul L. Smith, Brad Dourif, Sydney Lassick and David Carradine in drag as Sonny’s foster mom. In his autobiography, Endless Highway, Carradine wrote, “SONNY BOY was a crude, ugly, bloody, violent and perverse, funny, sweet, and sensitive film. The story was essentially Bonnie and Clyde, with me as Bonnie. Paul Smith, a four-hundred-pound actor, was Clyde. Add to that Bringing Up Baby and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I wore a dress throughout the movie, not like a drag queen but more like a midwestern housewife – dressed in a slip and a polka-dot housecoat with sensible shoes. The story spans twenty years. In the sixties, I wear a Joan Crawford wig; in the seventies, a Jane Wyman flip; and in the eighties, a Mammy Yokum grey bun at the back. I took my teeth out for the old lady. I made the ugliest woman imaginable…My name in the show was Pearl. I spent my off-hours at the motel bar, hanging out with truck drivers, cowboys, and federal agents. (The Mexican border was twenty miles away). Sometimes I’d forget to take off my nail polish. The good ol’ boys had to get used to that. While I was there, I joined The American Legion and did a poor kids’ shoe drive for The Fraternal Order of Police, mostly in various stages of drag.”

Hardly any mainstream critics saw SONNY BOY and those that did mostly loathed it. According to the director, Robert Martin Carroll, on the web site The Unknown Movies, “Sonny Boy essentially stopped my career. While a few people loved it such as Dennis Dermody of Paper Magazine in NY who voted it the Best Film of the Decade in a Village Voice critics poll, many were just disgusted. My agent actually let me go because a famous producer she worked with said she hated it so much that she wouldn’t work with her again if she represented me. Wow, that hurt.”

Ava Gardner: THE BIBLE
When film historians and movie buffs discuss John Huston’s career, THE BIBLE is probably rarely mentioned or discussed even though it was a hugely ambitious epic for its time. Presented in the form of lavishly produced Old Testament vignettes, the movie was not a boxoffice smash despite an all-star cast that included Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris, George C. Scott, Stephen Boyd, Franco Nero, Michael Parks, Ava Gardner and even Huston himself as Noah. Gardner had an amusing anecdote about the premiere of THE BIBLE in Hollywood Talks Turkey: “I was up until four A.M. at that goddamn premiere of THE BIBLE. Premieres! I will personally kill that John Huston if he ever drags me into another mess like that…Christ, they started off by shoving a TV camera at me and yelling, “Talk, Ava!” At intermission I got lost and couldn’t find my goddamn seat after the lights went out…Then Johnny Huston takes me to this party where we had to stand around and smile at Artie Shaw, who I was married to, baby, for Christsake, and his wife, Evelyn Keyes, who Johnny Huston was once married to, for Christsake. And after it’s all over, what have you got? The biggest headache in town. Nobody cares who the hell was there. Do you think for one minute the fact that Ava Gardner showed up at that circus will sell the picture? Christ, did you see it? I went through all that hell just so this morning Bosley Crowther [of The New York Times] could write I looked like I was posing for a monument. All the way through it I kept punching Johnny on the arm and saying, “Christ, how could you let me do it?”

Christopher Plummer: THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN
Among the many roles this highly regarded Canadian actor has played during his film career, few are as challenging or as physical as his performance as the Inca ruler Atahuallpa in THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN (1969). Originally Plummer had played the part of Spanish explorer Pizarro in the stage version but Robert Shaw convinced him to play the Inca king instead for the movie adaptation while Shaw portrayed Pizarro. The film barely made a ripple upon its release but Plummer was singled out for his energetic, over-the-top acting. Pauline Kael wrote, “As the Inca king, Christopher Plummer arrives carried on a litter and dressed in feathers, and he hisses and prances like a mad queen; Robert Shaw, trying to play Pizarro straight, is howlingly upstaged. (Shaw keeps staring at Plummer and his pale-blue eyes get more and more bewildered). No doubt Plummer should be chastised, but he’s so outlandishly entertaining, and the movie is a mess, anyway.” In his autobiography, In Spite of Myself, Plummer admits he had reservations about the part because “Atahuallpa glides about in nothing but the briefest of loincloths, so there was no getting out of it – I had to go into some serious training pronto…There was no script per se, so we used an edited version of the play with [Peter] Shaffer’s blessing – he never showed up and left us totally on our own. Robert Stephens, whom I had seen give an inspired performance of my role at the National Theatre, made little birdlike noises whenever he spoke or reacted, making of Atahuallpa a fantastical creature, utterly removed from this world. I decided to do the same only more so by learning some Quechuan, a dead forgotten language, which could sound very much like wild bird cries….THE ROYAL HUNT as a movie didn’t quite come off as it should. It was neither a play nor a film. There was not enough in the kitty to photograph the whole story in the real Andes, but there were the occasional moments of suspenseful beauty (the snow scenes, particularly) and a general atmosphere that suggested something out of the ordinary due in large part to the Shaffer dialogue, what was left of it. However, for me it was an absolute boon because Atahuallpa took me out of myself, made me dare, forced me to invent and welcomed me into the world of character-acting.”

Ida Lupino: THE HARD WAY
While it is hard to believe that Ida Lupion was never nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in her career, many believe that her performance in THE HARD WAY (1943) is possibly her best, surpassing her work in The Light That Failed (1939), High Sierra (1941) and Ladies in Retirement (1941). THE HARD WAY has enjoyed a revival in recent years thanks to enthusiastic screenings at the Telluride Film Festival and other film retrospectives. Yet Lupino was not fond of the movie at all and, in regards to her career as an actress, said to John Kobal in his interview collection, People Will Talk, “The worst of all for me was THE HARD WAY. I didn’t want to do that. I was terribly worried. You see, I knew my father was ill and I couldn’t tell my mother. I was in a terrible state keeping it to myself, and, as a matter of fact, I had a breakdown right in the middle of the picture when my father passed on. I had been keeping it in for a long time. And that was the only award I ever won. I won the [New York] Critics’ Award for THE HARD WAY, and I hated myself in it. I went to the preview with my mother and I said, “Connie, excuse me, dear, you stay and see the rest of this. It’s making me terribly nervous, my performance.” She said, “I’ll never speak to you again if you walk out. Don’t you dare walk out.” And I said, “No, I’ve got to, I can’t stand it.” I walked. I couldn’t stand myself in it, and I won the Critics’ Award.”

Tony Curtis: SON OF ALI BABA
During his early years at Universal as a contract player, Tony Curtis was cast in a variety of B-movie genre pictures from costume adventures like The Prince Who Was a Thief (1951) to westerns (Kansas Raiders, 1950) to crime dramas (Forbidden, 1953). Made as a follow-up to The Prince Who Was a Thief, which also co-starred Piper Laurie, SON OF ALI BABA was “another sand-and-tits movie” according to Curtis in his autobiography, American Prince. “This movie provided another opportunity for me to run around bare-chested in pajama bottoms with a turban around my head… SON OF ALI BABA was the movie where I gave a line that people unjustly made fun of for years afterward. There’s a scene where I’m on horseback and Piper [Laurie] is sitting next to me, and I say to her, “Yonder in the valley of the sun is my father’s castle.” After the film came out, Debbie Reynolds, who would later marry Eddie Fisher, went on television and said, “Did you see the new guy in the movies? They call him Tony Curtis, but that’s not his real name. In his new movie he’s got a hilarious line where he says, “Yonder lies the castle of my fodda.” You could chalk her ridicule up to my New York accent, but when she mentioned the issue of my real name on television, I began to wonder if there was something anti-Semetic going on there. I’m probably just hypersensitive on that topic. But either way, she got the line wrong! Unfortunately, her version stuck with the public, and for a while it became popular for people to quote the incorrect line in a ridiculous New York accent. Years later, Hugh Hefner came up to me at a party and said, “Yonder lies the castle of my fodder.” I looked at him coolly. ‘Hef, I never said that.” “Then don’t tell anybody,” he said. “It makes a great movie story.”

Sally Kellerman: REFORM SCHOOL GIRL
The success of The Wild One (1954) and Blackboard Jungle (1955) inspired a slew of low-budget imitations featuring juvenile delinquents, motorcycle gangs and rebellious, destructive teenagers. One of the lesser known entries in this genre is REFORM SCHOOL GIRL (1957) in which the innocent heroine (Gloria Castillo) finds herself shipped off to a girls reformatory where Yvette Vickers is the bad-ass ringleader. Sally Kellerman, who has a bit part in it, had this comment about it in Hollywood Talks Turkey: “I’ve had my share of turkeys, but my first film was also my worst. It was called REFORM SCHOOL GIRL and was released back in the late ’50s my ex-boyfriend, Edd “Kookie” Byrnes was one of the stars. I played the school dyke and carried a tool case. When I came on the screen, everybody in the theatre laughed. I didn’t work for three years after that.”

Ernest Borgnine: THE DEVIL’S RAIN
Here’s an actor who has had his share of triumphs (From Here to Eternity, Marty, The Wild Bunch) and low points (Bunny O’Hare, The Revengers, Holiday Hookers) with THE DEVIL’S RAIN falling into the latter category though I find it consistently entertaining despite its incoherent, often absurd storyline and direction. Most critics lambasted it and even horror fans stayed away in droves despite the fact that such respected actors as Ida Lupino, Eddie Albert, William Shatner, Keenan Wynn, Tom Skerritt and John Travolta (in a small part) were in it. David Sterritt of The Christian Science Monitor wrote, “…it’s hard to make a movie about hooded demons and amulets and twisted rites and have it not look preposterous…On the other hand, as a colleague of mine put it after a screening, it’s the only movie in town wherein you can see Ida Lupino melt.”

Borgnine recalled making THE DEVIL’S RAIN in his autobiography, stating, “The thing I remember the most is putting on the devil makeup for the climatic scenes. It took about four-and-a-half hours to make me up. A little Mexican boy in the film took a liking to me. He thought I was the greatest, like his favorite uncle or something. I told him the first day that we were going to put on this makeup and I couldn’t be distracted, so I said, “Now you come back in about four hours, okay?” So he came back and I turned around. You know, in my own head I’m still Ernie Borgnine. Well, he looked at me, let out one scream, and went running. And he never came back to see me. I’ll never forget that makeup, because I didn’t have a lot of mobility. While it was on, I could only fork in a little rice and peas and beans, stuff like that, for lunch. Even so, food would drop into one of the nooks and crevices without my knowing it. So I’d be shooting a scene and doing dialogue and there would be a rice grain or two that would come flying out.”

Shelley Winters: KNICKERBOCKER HOLIDAY
Shelley Winters has never been shy about expressing her opinion about her films, fellow actors or love affairs and, in her first autobiography, Shelley Also Known as Shirley, she recalled this rarely revived musical comedy set in New Amsterdam in 1650. Based on a popular play by Maxwell Anderson, KNICKERBOCKER HOLIDAY (1944) didn’t fare too well on the screen despite a talented cast including Nelson Eddy, Charles Coburn, Constance Dowling and Percy Kilbride. According to Winters, “We all sensed disaster from the third day. Charles Coburn was a fine actor, but he wasn’t Walter Huston [who was a sensation in the Broadway play]. Nelson Eddy had a beautiful voice, but he was self-conscious in this role and took on a Chocolate Soldier quality. Also, he didn’t want Connie [Dowling] to look into his eyes when they did a scene, insisting she look at his forehead instead. It really threw her.

One evening I was napping in my dressing room when the dignified Nelson stumbled in, quite drunk, still in costume and weeping. He knew this picture wasn’t going to do him any good. Suddenly he muttered, “The rushes were lousier today. I think I’d better go back to the Mounties. Move over.” I made for the door.”

Warren Oates: CHANDLER
Whenever I think about this idiosyncratic and distinctive character actor, images from his memorable roles for Sam Peckinpah (Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) are conjured up along with ones from Two-Lane Blacktop, Cockfighter and other cult titles. Rarely do I ever think of Oates in relation to a female co-star and throughout his career he hasn’t had that many. But the idea of Oates and Leslie Caron as a screen couple seems highly improbable and the 1971 crime drama CHANDLER bears this out. As the title character, Oates is doing a contemporary take on gumshoe Philip Marlowe, charged with escorting a threatened witness (Leslie Caron) in a crime case to safety. Most of the reviews noted the lack of chemistry between the two actors. One critic got the impression that “this couple is speaking a foreign language that neither of them felt too secure with” while another reviewer noted that Oates and Caron “walk dazedly through confused plotting…At 85 minutes the film still seems interminable.”

Oates tried his best to make CHANDLER work but later declared it “a horrible film,” adding, “It was an exciting concept, but the writing and directing were bad. Three days after we started it, I told a friend it was a loser. I saw it crumble for eight weeks on location and then it crumbled some more in the cutting room.” (from Warren Oates: A Wild Life by Susan Compo).

Joan Shawlee: PREHISTORIC WOMEN (1950)
Not to be confused with the 1967 Hammer production starring Martine Beswick, PREHISTORIC WOMEN (1950) is a camp classic to rival the similar Wild Women of Wongo for moronic self-indulgence. Complete with a narrator and documentary-like footage, this cheapo period adventure has all the expected cliches of the genre (tribal dancing, scantily clad women, catfights, rock throwing and a flying dragon attack – the film’s worst special effect). One of the film’s stars, Joan Shawlee, who plays a cave woman named Lotee, had some amusing stories about the pre-production and filming in Hollywood Talks Turkey: “The “audition” for PREHISTORIC WOMEN was like a Marine obstacle course. First you had to grab a rope and swing through the outer office into the producer’s office – and that broke me up to begin with. So I swung on the rope and fell into his office and picked myself up. “Terrific,” he said. “Now we have these hurdles over here.” So I did that and passed the tests. “Where’s the script?” I asked….He said, “This is prehistoric times. They didn’t even have the alphabet yet.” So he had me improvise a scene eating meat before a campfire and saying “Unga-chunga-lunga.” Later on I got the script. Guess what the dialogue was like? “Unga-chunga-lunga.”

They picked a gorgeous girl named Laurette Luez to play the leader of the women. Couldn’t act to save herself. How is she going to do it, I thought. She can’t even get by with “Unga-chunga-lunga.” Well, she married the director, Gregg Tallas, the day before the picture started. So there was no way to be thrown off the thing. And the day it was completed she filed for divorce.”

Vincent Price: GREEN HELL
One thing you can say about Vincent Price is that he is rarely boring as an actor and his mere presence in a film can elevate a standard genre potboiler to something more worthwhile and enjoyable. This doesn’t always work as Rage of the Buccaneers (1961), War-Gods of the Deep (1965) and House of 1,000 Dolls (1967) prove but, surprisingly enough, the movie which Price singles out as a career low is GREEN HELL, a much more prestigious production from 1940 directed by the highly esteemed James Whale and co-starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joan Bennett, George Sanders, Eskimo actor Mala and John Howard. In Price’s words, GREEN HELL, the tale about explorers headed into the South American jungle in search of ancient Incan treasure, is “Probably one of the ten worst pictures ever made. If you ever get a chance to see it, you must, because it is hysterical. I had a line where I am going up the Amazon with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who was playing a character named Brandy. For some unknown reason, going up the Amazon, I say, “Brandy, do you think it is possible for a man to be in love with two women at the same time, and in his heart be faithful to each, and yet want to be free of both of them?” Opening night, the audience fell on the floor – it was hysterical! It was the funniest picture in the whole world!” (From Attack of the Monster Movie Makers: Interviews with 20 Genre Giants by Tom Weaver)

Bruce Dern: THE INCREDIBLE TWO-HEADED TRANSPLANT
For some reason, there were TWO movies about two-headed transplants in 1971. The more famous of the two was The Thing With Two Heads starring Ray Milland as a wealthy white bigot who finds his head transplanted onto the body of a black Death Row prisoner (Rosie Greer). The lesser known title is THE INCREDIBLE TWO-HEADED TRANSPLANT starring Bruce Dern as a mad scientist. Dern didn’t want to do the picture but his agent got him $3,500 for a ten day shoot so he signed on. Still, the actor had a hunch from the beginning that The Thing With Two Heads was going to steal their thunder, noting in his autobiography, Things I’ve Said But Probably Shouldn’t Have, “…Rosie Greer is a big person. It’s easy to mount two heads on him because he’s six feet nine and weighs 340 pounds. I had known him since college, when I was at Penn and he was at Penn State. He was national champion in the shot put and also was a great football player and was one of the fearsome foursome of the Rams. The year before he had been in the room when Robert Kennedy was shot, and he was the guy who physically picked up Sirhan Sirhan and slammed him against the bar. And Ray Milland is an Oscar winner. The audience is going to see their movie, not my little movie where I’m the doctor who creates this guy, a seven-foot kid who went to Southern Cal as a basketball player, who has a little actor strapped on his back. The big guy is the nice guy, and the little guy who’s the other head is the bad, sick guy. They run around creating all kinds of mayhem….Andrea [Beckett, Dern's third wife] and I got married off the money from THE INCREDIBLE TWO-HEADED TRANSPLANT. That was the end of my bona fide B days. That wasn’t a B. If you’ve going to call The Wild Angels a B movie, this was a Z movie.”

0 Response In Their Own Words: Actors on Film Flops, Disappointments and Missteps
Posted By mbm : June 10, 2012 3:52 pm

Marlene Dietrich on ‘Kismet’ (’44): “I filmed Kismet before I enlisted in the army. Not many words need be wasted on my role in this film, but I needed money for my family to live on during my absence.”
Elizabeth Taylor on ‘Cleopatra’ (’63): “I don’t remember much about Cleopatra. There were a lot of other things going on.”
Greta Garbo on Two Faced Woman (’41): “Two-Faced Woman was not good and it could never be made good”.
Joan Crawford on Rain (’32): “I hope they burn every print of this turkey that’s in existence. It was simply awful. I don’t understand how a writer like Maxwell Anderson could have turned out such a ghastly script and how Lewis Milestone could have directed it so badly. I don’t understand, to this day, how I could have given such an unpardonable bad performance. All my fault, too–Milestone’s direction was so feeble I took the bull by the horns and did my own Sadie Thompson. I was wrong every scene of the way.”
Myrna Loy on Parnell (’37): “”Disgruntled fans wrote to the studio by the thousands–they did that in those days. Some of the critics complained that we played against type. We were actors, for God’s sake.”

Posted By mbm : June 10, 2012 3:52 pm

Marlene Dietrich on ‘Kismet’ (’44): “I filmed Kismet before I enlisted in the army. Not many words need be wasted on my role in this film, but I needed money for my family to live on during my absence.”
Elizabeth Taylor on ‘Cleopatra’ (’63): “I don’t remember much about Cleopatra. There were a lot of other things going on.”
Greta Garbo on Two Faced Woman (’41): “Two-Faced Woman was not good and it could never be made good”.
Joan Crawford on Rain (’32): “I hope they burn every print of this turkey that’s in existence. It was simply awful. I don’t understand how a writer like Maxwell Anderson could have turned out such a ghastly script and how Lewis Milestone could have directed it so badly. I don’t understand, to this day, how I could have given such an unpardonable bad performance. All my fault, too–Milestone’s direction was so feeble I took the bull by the horns and did my own Sadie Thompson. I was wrong every scene of the way.”
Myrna Loy on Parnell (’37): “”Disgruntled fans wrote to the studio by the thousands–they did that in those days. Some of the critics complained that we played against type. We were actors, for God’s sake.”

Posted By Emgee : June 10, 2012 4:03 pm

I’m not claiming SLATTERY’S HURRICANE is a masterpiece, but i think Widmark is being a little too hard on it.
And one of the Screen’s Greatest Flops? I could name a dozen titles offhand far more deserving of that accolade. The main problem with it i think is the muddled storyline and the need to tone down the dicier elements of the story to appease the censors. Widmark is his usual terric self in it, but Veronica Lake…….oh dear! To think a few years before she was one of the most glamorous Hollywood moviestars, and to see her here as a mousy and dull housewife in a nothing role. Just sad.

Posted By Emgee : June 10, 2012 4:03 pm

I’m not claiming SLATTERY’S HURRICANE is a masterpiece, but i think Widmark is being a little too hard on it.
And one of the Screen’s Greatest Flops? I could name a dozen titles offhand far more deserving of that accolade. The main problem with it i think is the muddled storyline and the need to tone down the dicier elements of the story to appease the censors. Widmark is his usual terric self in it, but Veronica Lake…….oh dear! To think a few years before she was one of the most glamorous Hollywood moviestars, and to see her here as a mousy and dull housewife in a nothing role. Just sad.

Posted By morlockjeff : June 10, 2012 5:25 pm

Liz Taylor’s comment on Cleopatra is hilarious but I think Joan Crawford is being too hard on Rain which is much better than the Rita Hayworth remake, Miss Sadie Thompson, in terms of following the original story.

As for Slattery’s Hurricane, you have to wonder if directing your wife in a movie is a good idea. If you read De Toth on De Toth, you get the strong impression that it wasn’t.

Posted By morlockjeff : June 10, 2012 5:25 pm

Liz Taylor’s comment on Cleopatra is hilarious but I think Joan Crawford is being too hard on Rain which is much better than the Rita Hayworth remake, Miss Sadie Thompson, in terms of following the original story.

As for Slattery’s Hurricane, you have to wonder if directing your wife in a movie is a good idea. If you read De Toth on De Toth, you get the strong impression that it wasn’t.

Posted By Shuvcat : June 10, 2012 7:03 pm

The Devil’s Rain is alternately one of the funniest and scariest movies I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad they made it.
I only saw Sonny Boy once, and it was… well, it was something. I’ll have to see it again to decide exactly what it was.
I really want to see a lot of these! Lots of weirdo film here.

Posted By Shuvcat : June 10, 2012 7:03 pm

The Devil’s Rain is alternately one of the funniest and scariest movies I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad they made it.
I only saw Sonny Boy once, and it was… well, it was something. I’ll have to see it again to decide exactly what it was.
I really want to see a lot of these! Lots of weirdo film here.

Posted By idlemendacity : June 10, 2012 8:50 pm

The Devil’s Rain has always been a guilty pleasure for me. The last scenes with everybody’s face melting and all the big names in it (particularly Shatner, of course) literally chewing the scenery all over the place have to be seen to be believed.

Elizabeth Taylor reportedly hated Butterfield 8 (for which she won the Oscar that should have gone to Shirley MacLaine) and she’s right – it’s not a film that holds up well.

Bob Hoskins tears into Super Mario Brothers anytime anyone asks him about the movie. His comments to the Guardian newspaper:
“What is the worst job you’ve done?”
Super Mario Brothers.

“What has been your biggest disappointment?”
Super Mario Brothers.

“If you could edit your past, what would you change?”
I wouldn’t do Super Mario Brothers.

George Clooney has said he’s willing to give back the money of anyone who’s saw Batman & Robin in theaters.

Bill Cosby disowned Leonard Part 6 even before it came out.

Gary Oldman trashed “The Contender” even though he gives one of his best performances in it AND he was one of the executive producers because he thought Dreamworks and director Rod Lurie edited it to make the film too one-sided and his right-wing senator too much of a of a one-dimensional villain – and he was right too, the film is tendentious and polemical and black and white in its final form.

Doris Day had nothing good to say in her autobiography of her last few films – Caprice, The Ballad of Josie, Where Where You When the Lights Went Out which she was contractually obligated to do because her husband Martin Melcher had signed for her to do it without her knowing it.

Then of course there’s the most significant one from the studio era (for me) Olivia De Havilliand being forced by WB to do RKO’s Government Girl, a B-picture opposite Sonny Tufts, she hated, hated, hated (and it visibly shows in her performance which is a cheesy hoot) and led to her refusing everything after that and walking out on Warners which led to her being off-screen for 2 years and her landmark lawsuit that changed the way studios could treat contracted actors.

Posted By idlemendacity : June 10, 2012 8:50 pm

The Devil’s Rain has always been a guilty pleasure for me. The last scenes with everybody’s face melting and all the big names in it (particularly Shatner, of course) literally chewing the scenery all over the place have to be seen to be believed.

Elizabeth Taylor reportedly hated Butterfield 8 (for which she won the Oscar that should have gone to Shirley MacLaine) and she’s right – it’s not a film that holds up well.

Bob Hoskins tears into Super Mario Brothers anytime anyone asks him about the movie. His comments to the Guardian newspaper:
“What is the worst job you’ve done?”
Super Mario Brothers.

“What has been your biggest disappointment?”
Super Mario Brothers.

“If you could edit your past, what would you change?”
I wouldn’t do Super Mario Brothers.

George Clooney has said he’s willing to give back the money of anyone who’s saw Batman & Robin in theaters.

Bill Cosby disowned Leonard Part 6 even before it came out.

Gary Oldman trashed “The Contender” even though he gives one of his best performances in it AND he was one of the executive producers because he thought Dreamworks and director Rod Lurie edited it to make the film too one-sided and his right-wing senator too much of a of a one-dimensional villain – and he was right too, the film is tendentious and polemical and black and white in its final form.

Doris Day had nothing good to say in her autobiography of her last few films – Caprice, The Ballad of Josie, Where Where You When the Lights Went Out which she was contractually obligated to do because her husband Martin Melcher had signed for her to do it without her knowing it.

Then of course there’s the most significant one from the studio era (for me) Olivia De Havilliand being forced by WB to do RKO’s Government Girl, a B-picture opposite Sonny Tufts, she hated, hated, hated (and it visibly shows in her performance which is a cheesy hoot) and led to her refusing everything after that and walking out on Warners which led to her being off-screen for 2 years and her landmark lawsuit that changed the way studios could treat contracted actors.

Posted By morlockjeff : June 10, 2012 9:42 pm

It must have been the money that led Hoskins to do SUPER MARIO BROTHERS and Cosby to do Leonard Part 6. It couldn’t have been the script, could it? Martin Melcher was Doris Day’s own Colonel Parker. Who knows what her later career would have been like if he wasn’t her manager-husband? GOVERNMENT GIRL. That one is on my list now. It’s not very well known for obvious reasons just like that Bob Hope-Katharine Hepburn film, THE IRON PETTICOAT (a loose remake of Ninotchka).

Posted By morlockjeff : June 10, 2012 9:42 pm

It must have been the money that led Hoskins to do SUPER MARIO BROTHERS and Cosby to do Leonard Part 6. It couldn’t have been the script, could it? Martin Melcher was Doris Day’s own Colonel Parker. Who knows what her later career would have been like if he wasn’t her manager-husband? GOVERNMENT GIRL. That one is on my list now. It’s not very well known for obvious reasons just like that Bob Hope-Katharine Hepburn film, THE IRON PETTICOAT (a loose remake of Ninotchka).

Posted By Jenni : June 10, 2012 11:39 pm

Bob Hope & Katherine Hepburn starred in a movie together? That’s one I’ve got to see, and Ida Lupina’s film, The Hard Way. Thanks for such a fun post to read!

Posted By Jenni : June 10, 2012 11:39 pm

Bob Hope & Katherine Hepburn starred in a movie together? That’s one I’ve got to see, and Ida Lupina’s film, The Hard Way. Thanks for such a fun post to read!

Posted By Susan Doll : June 11, 2012 12:17 am

DEVIL’S RAIN was a hit at Facets Night school last year, but then again we are a unique viewing audience.

Posted By Susan Doll : June 11, 2012 12:17 am

DEVIL’S RAIN was a hit at Facets Night school last year, but then again we are a unique viewing audience.

Posted By swac44 : June 11, 2012 11:27 am

As I recall (someone else can IMDb it if they think otherwise), The Devil’s Rain is a rare title from Dr. Phibes director Robert Fuest, and at least has something going for it visually to make it worth checking out, but it really is one of those “has to be seen to be believed” kind of films.

I don’t think Chandler is as bad as Warren Oates says it is, at least it’s finally available from Warner Archives and fits in with other low key late ’60s/early ’70s detective films that draw on the same inspiration, like Marlowe and The Long Goodbye (which, unlike Chandler, are based on actual Raymond Chandler stories).

Posted By swac44 : June 11, 2012 11:27 am

As I recall (someone else can IMDb it if they think otherwise), The Devil’s Rain is a rare title from Dr. Phibes director Robert Fuest, and at least has something going for it visually to make it worth checking out, but it really is one of those “has to be seen to be believed” kind of films.

I don’t think Chandler is as bad as Warren Oates says it is, at least it’s finally available from Warner Archives and fits in with other low key late ’60s/early ’70s detective films that draw on the same inspiration, like Marlowe and The Long Goodbye (which, unlike Chandler, are based on actual Raymond Chandler stories).

Posted By MorlockJeff : June 11, 2012 1:01 pm

THE DEVIL’S RAIN is a lot of fun though the special effects makeup team is working overtime on that last 10-15 minutes of the film when everybody is melting. CHANDLER is quite leaden and uneventful despite a strong cast. Too bad.

Posted By MorlockJeff : June 11, 2012 1:01 pm

THE DEVIL’S RAIN is a lot of fun though the special effects makeup team is working overtime on that last 10-15 minutes of the film when everybody is melting. CHANDLER is quite leaden and uneventful despite a strong cast. Too bad.

Posted By Emgee : June 11, 2012 3:31 pm

How about bonafide Hollywood legend Humprey Bogart as a bloodthirsty zombie in “Return of Dr X.”? Sound good? Well, forget it, it’s just dull and embarrasing. An ad for it began “Who is the vilest fiend in history? Well, Jack Warner for letting Bogart play such trash. What’s that, Bogey? “If it’d been Jack warner’s blood i wouldn’t have minded so much. The trouble was, he was drinking mine and i was making this stinking movie!”

Posted By Emgee : June 11, 2012 3:31 pm

How about bonafide Hollywood legend Humprey Bogart as a bloodthirsty zombie in “Return of Dr X.”? Sound good? Well, forget it, it’s just dull and embarrasing. An ad for it began “Who is the vilest fiend in history? Well, Jack Warner for letting Bogart play such trash. What’s that, Bogey? “If it’d been Jack warner’s blood i wouldn’t have minded so much. The trouble was, he was drinking mine and i was making this stinking movie!”

Posted By tdraicer : June 11, 2012 8:32 pm

Actors aren’t always the best judge; for example Groucho had nothing good to say about Duck Soup (until it became a critical hit in the 70s).

Posted By tdraicer : June 11, 2012 8:32 pm

Actors aren’t always the best judge; for example Groucho had nothing good to say about Duck Soup (until it became a critical hit in the 70s).

Posted By Jenni : June 11, 2012 11:20 pm

I just got done viewing The Devil’s Rain on YouTube. Oh my word! The money offered must have been more than Ernest Borgnine, Ida Lupino, Eddie Arnold,and Keenan Wynne could have said no to. With all the melting going on in the film, I don’t think I’ll ever eat Velveeta again!!

Posted By Jenni : June 11, 2012 11:20 pm

I just got done viewing The Devil’s Rain on YouTube. Oh my word! The money offered must have been more than Ernest Borgnine, Ida Lupino, Eddie Arnold,and Keenan Wynne could have said no to. With all the melting going on in the film, I don’t think I’ll ever eat Velveeta again!!

Posted By Medusa : June 12, 2012 8:14 am

What a wonderful post with so many incredible facts and movies that we now have to seek out!

Of course, I’m thrilled to see something with Skip Homeier listed — what a fascinating actor and he sounds like a hero trying to go in and rescue that Beverly Garland mess.

Really great article, Jeff!!

Posted By Medusa : June 12, 2012 8:14 am

What a wonderful post with so many incredible facts and movies that we now have to seek out!

Of course, I’m thrilled to see something with Skip Homeier listed — what a fascinating actor and he sounds like a hero trying to go in and rescue that Beverly Garland mess.

Really great article, Jeff!!

Posted By Juana Maria : June 12, 2012 11:50 am

Morlock Jeff: I didn’t think “Chandler” was leaden at all! What I remember of it, it was OK. Besides it had Leslie Caron and Warren Oates and I’ll watch them any day. I thought the film was quite similar in some ways to “Alfredo Garcia” with Oates and an attractive woman in love but having lots of problems with being in love. Well, I’m a woman and I saw it that way. Maybe I projected my feelings into it and interpeted it the way I felt.
Medusa:(whose name scares me-AAhh!)Yeah,sometimes the more a film is talked bad about the more it makes you have to go and see it for yourself. That’s what happend with “Plan 9 from Outer Space”. I can tell you must have a thing aboutSkip Homeier. There was an article completely devoted to him awhile back. I’m sure you read it too.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 12, 2012 11:50 am

Morlock Jeff: I didn’t think “Chandler” was leaden at all! What I remember of it, it was OK. Besides it had Leslie Caron and Warren Oates and I’ll watch them any day. I thought the film was quite similar in some ways to “Alfredo Garcia” with Oates and an attractive woman in love but having lots of problems with being in love. Well, I’m a woman and I saw it that way. Maybe I projected my feelings into it and interpeted it the way I felt.
Medusa:(whose name scares me-AAhh!)Yeah,sometimes the more a film is talked bad about the more it makes you have to go and see it for yourself. That’s what happend with “Plan 9 from Outer Space”. I can tell you must have a thing aboutSkip Homeier. There was an article completely devoted to him awhile back. I’m sure you read it too.

Posted By morlockjeff : June 12, 2012 1:13 pm

Thanks Medusa. I always like to hear actors and directors talk about their best and worst film experiences. Sometimes the movies they claim to hate are not as bad as they think as tdraicer pointed out. And sometimes the films they love best are not necessarily anyone’s favorite.

Juana, I wanted to like Chandler more and Warren Oates is always worth watching so any fan of his will seek out Chandler regardless.

Posted By morlockjeff : June 12, 2012 1:13 pm

Thanks Medusa. I always like to hear actors and directors talk about their best and worst film experiences. Sometimes the movies they claim to hate are not as bad as they think as tdraicer pointed out. And sometimes the films they love best are not necessarily anyone’s favorite.

Juana, I wanted to like Chandler more and Warren Oates is always worth watching so any fan of his will seek out Chandler regardless.

Posted By Jenni : June 12, 2012 1:48 pm

I watched The Devil’s Rain last night. Oh my! All I can guess is that the money offered to Ernest Borgnine, Ida Lupino, Keenan Wynne, Eddie Albert, and William Shatner was a handsome amount. All that melting mess at the end- weird and gross! I keep wondering if the special effects team used Velveeta??

Posted By Jenni : June 12, 2012 1:48 pm

I watched The Devil’s Rain last night. Oh my! All I can guess is that the money offered to Ernest Borgnine, Ida Lupino, Keenan Wynne, Eddie Albert, and William Shatner was a handsome amount. All that melting mess at the end- weird and gross! I keep wondering if the special effects team used Velveeta??

Posted By Juana Maria : June 12, 2012 9:55 pm

Jenni:You’re making me hungry with all this talk of Velveeta! Too bad TCM doesn’t have a special effects show like AMCtv used to have. That show was awesome! I would watch it with my family every Friday night. I can’t remember the title just now.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 12, 2012 9:55 pm

Jenni:You’re making me hungry with all this talk of Velveeta! Too bad TCM doesn’t have a special effects show like AMCtv used to have. That show was awesome! I would watch it with my family every Friday night. I can’t remember the title just now.

Posted By MURIEL : June 17, 2012 9:26 pm

I remember seeing “Devils Rain” in the movie theatre when I was a kid and thinking it was pretty stupid. Silly dialogue, and all that multicolored melting made no sense at all.
“The Fountainhead”: It’s Ayn Rand! It’s supposed to be over the top! The only serious problem with that movie is Gary Cooper. He delivered all his dialogue like a fence post. Even he knew he was bad in it. I cringe (or fast forward) when I watch Cooper in that film, otherwise I love it.

Posted By MURIEL : June 17, 2012 9:26 pm

I remember seeing “Devils Rain” in the movie theatre when I was a kid and thinking it was pretty stupid. Silly dialogue, and all that multicolored melting made no sense at all.
“The Fountainhead”: It’s Ayn Rand! It’s supposed to be over the top! The only serious problem with that movie is Gary Cooper. He delivered all his dialogue like a fence post. Even he knew he was bad in it. I cringe (or fast forward) when I watch Cooper in that film, otherwise I love it.

Posted By vp19 : June 17, 2012 10:45 pm

I believe “The Iron Petticoat,” arguably the greatest exhibit of poor chemistry (Bob Hope and Kate Hepburn simply don’t blend), will be released on DVD later this year. Watch, if you dare.

Posted By vp19 : June 17, 2012 10:45 pm

I believe “The Iron Petticoat,” arguably the greatest exhibit of poor chemistry (Bob Hope and Kate Hepburn simply don’t blend), will be released on DVD later this year. Watch, if you dare.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 18, 2012 5:36 pm

Muriel:Gary Cooper was shy in real life and having an actual affair with co-star Patrica Neal while married to a Catholic wife! So if his dialogue seems wooden just remember too that he had a stomach ulcer and would die of cancer not long down the road. He was so beautiful when he was young and funny too. I’m such a fan of his that I don’t really believe he was bad in a movie,no instead the movie was bad! “the Fountainhead” is not my favorite either but certainly not because of Gary Cooper!

Posted By Juana Maria : June 18, 2012 5:36 pm

Muriel:Gary Cooper was shy in real life and having an actual affair with co-star Patrica Neal while married to a Catholic wife! So if his dialogue seems wooden just remember too that he had a stomach ulcer and would die of cancer not long down the road. He was so beautiful when he was young and funny too. I’m such a fan of his that I don’t really believe he was bad in a movie,no instead the movie was bad! “the Fountainhead” is not my favorite either but certainly not because of Gary Cooper!

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