LIGHTS! CAMERA! PICASSO! ...and Me
Long, long ago in a Hollywood producers' office in Beverly Hills, a young animator blurted out, “Picasso wants to make a movie! Picasso! I’ve met with him. He’s agreed to work on a feature film and he’ll animate some of his art works!”
The producers, leaping to their feet shouted: "Great idea! Let's make it!” That started the wheels rolling. The producers locked on to a short story that Ray Bradbury had written,and hired him to write the screenplay.
“The Picasso Summer"
Everyone wanted to meet Picasso. Soon, Albert Finney, five time Academy Award actor nominee, beautiful and intelligent Yvette Mimieux, and French director Serge Bourguignon were on board. Of course, it had to be filmed in the south of France near Picasso's villa.
But---surprise! Things don’t always go as planned. The director decided that Bradbury’s script was “trés banal!” He wouldn’t emerge from his trailer without first having freshly squeezed orange juice and then insisted on directing from horseback.
Soon there was a round robin of personal conflicts: the director was angry at the writer, the writer was angry at the director, the producers were angry at the animator AND the director. Ulcers abounded, but fortunately, the actors showed up daily in good humor because they were in the south of France and they wanted to meet Picasso.
But, where is Picasso?
After several weeks of filming. The director said, “Fin! We are finished filming.” He returned to Hollywood where for nearly two months he edited his footage into a first cut.
The producers screened it and said, “There is no way this film is going to work! Fire Serge and let's hire another director who doesn’t need to work from a horse and can direct without freshly-squeezed orange juice!”
They chose my husband, Robert Sallin, to “re-direct” the film. He enjoyed a close professional relationship with the Campbell-Silver-Cosby Company, producers of “Picasso Summer.” He was a highly successful commercial director and had previously directed the opening 10-plus minute film sequence of the first Bill Cosby-NBC Special for the producers.
So, off we flew to Paris where casting commenced in our huge suite at The George V Hotel. The living room was as long as a football field. I could never figure out where to sit. Everything–– walls, furniture, ceilings–– was covered in fabric from Kneedler Fauchere. This fabric is expensive, even if you can find it at a discount. And then there were the two bathrooms. You might as well call them ballrooms. It was all Carrara marble, top, bottom and sides. Truly, you could have danced all night in the bathrooms.
I had never seen anything like this suite. I did not grow up in a world with marble anything. When I traveled with my parents, they brought along their own basket of food. But here I was in 1968 on my first trip abroad, with my husband who is going to direct a feature film and it's first class all the way with all expenses paid. That is a good thing.
I remember the first time I walked out of the hotel. My husband asked me to close my eyes, he took my arm and led me up the street and turned the corner. He then told me to open my eyes. There in front of me in all it's glory was L’Arc d' Triomphe. I was so stunned that I simply cried. In fact, I cried every time I saw it. We always seemed to have to drive around it to go anywhere, and each time I used another Kleenex.
While my husband was working, I would explore Paris, going to The Lourve, Versailles, the Jeu de Paume. I loved them all. Everything I was seeing, I had studied in art history classes. But, this was the real thing. I'll never forget the first time I saw Winged Victory at the top of a staircase at The Louvre. I was overwhelmed; it was a coup de foudre.
Every meal was an adventure. My high school French was useless when it came to menus. One day, I went to lunch at Fourquet’s but, simply did not know what to order. The huge menu bewildered me. The only thing I could think of was hot chocolate and poached salmon. Hot chocolate and poached salmon?? I'm sure the waiters at Fouquet's are still talking about that American women who ordered hot chocolate and poached salmon. Mon Dieu.
As soon as we finished casting in Paris, it was off to the south of France. Tough life. Had to leave the George V and check into the Hotel Negresco in Nice...
...and begin shooting. "Picasso Summer" was about to be reborn, but, with my husband directing this time.
We filmed in a variety of villages from St. Tropez to Menton, but one of our favorites was St. Paul de Vence
The crew was at it's best at lunch. Every day, EVERYONE on the crew had the same lunch: one half of a melon to begin, then a steak avec pommes frites, followed by a salad and cheese, fruit or a tart for dessert. I mean every day. The table was covered with a white tablecloth and set with proper utensils. No pizza, pasta or burgers. I've never forgotten how well they ate. There was no craft table filled with doughnuts or other trashy food like you see on every set in America. However, I was often very busy helping my husband with production problems and more often than not I just grabbed a quick snack of a baguette with butter and salami. So, while the crew ate far better than I did, I will never forget those delicious baguettes!
But, don't feel too sorry for me. We also often had lunch at the world famous La Colombe D'Or restaurant in St. Paul de Vence
This restaurant was renowned for three things: One, painters in the region, who would later become very famous, paid for their meals by giving their artwork to the owners.
Two, I was allowed to invade the kitchen and prepare the crudites for the day’s lunch. And three, Albert Finney met Anouk Amiee while having lunch with my husband and me. They were gorgeous together and of course, they became romantically involved and subsequently, Anouk divorced her husband and married Albert.
But, where is Picasso?
I was always delighted by the little villages where we shot. But this one, Vallauris, was unique because Picasso lived here for seven years while creating his War and Peace museum in a neaby chapel. He also created this sculpture, "Man with a Lamb," for the town square. He wanted children to climb all over it and enjoy it. While this piece of sculpture was not monumental in scale, it dominated the square.
The chapel in Vallauris was an important location for filming.
As Albert and Yvette enter the Chapel of Peace in Vallauris, they trigger the beginning of one of three animation segments in the film. This is the "War and Peace" sequence.
Periodically, the producers flew over from Los Angeles to check on things and to entertain us. These were a few of the times when a production crew was actually happy to see their producers. If nothing else, they were great at chartering yachts and hiring chefs for daylong cruises to St. Tropez.
Albert is just as bright and handsome as he appears. Quite the hunk. I mean really a hunk. Really!
Yvette was not only beautiful but a lot of fun to be with. She also smelled really good all the time. Each day, I would drive with her in the limousine to the location and she would spray perfume up her dress. I sat there in awe. Perfume up one’s dress? Are you serious? I didn’t crack a smile or indicate that I was flabbergasted. Gorgeous face, gorgeous body, perfume up her dress and she speaks French. What more does a girl need?
It might have been the superb lunch or maybe it was the tiny, little drink I had, but trying to get up on water skis was impossible. I never made it but I certainly had lots of laughs and helping hands.We all got very excited when a United States aircraft carrier cruised by. We were jumping and shouting, "Hello there! Hi! Hey, we're Americans,too!" After being away for months, it was a thrill to see a little bit of home...at sea.
I've included this photo of my husband and myself simply because I love it, and it was taken on the yacht during one of our cruises.
The last scenes in France were shot at a fabulous villa in St. Jean Cap Ferrat.
There was a gorgeous sunset as my husband and I sat down for dinner with Albert Finney and Anouk Amiee. Halfway through my steak au poivre avec pommes frites, I began to cry. It had been such an extraordinary, once in a lifetime experience and I didn’t want it to end. This had been my first trip to Europe and now we were going home.
But, where is Picasso?
He was nowhere...
...at least nowhere near our filming.
It turns out that Picasso had never agreed to create the animation nor to make this movie! Nada! It seems that the animation director had led the producers, the stars and the rest of us down the proverbial Hollywood garden path. So the animation director ( whose nose grew noticeably larger) and who proposed this whole project, wound up creating the animation sequences in the style of Picasso. Now, I know Picasso's work and this was no Picasso!
And if that wasn't bad enough, we still needed a real, live Picasso to appear in the final scenes of the film.
With keen insight into the obvious, the producers cried, “Find me another Picasso!” And miracle of miracles, it turned out they found him living on Catalina Island. He was an official island greeter and his name was... Duke Fishman.
It is Duke, not Pablo, who we see drawing in the sand at the end of the film. As the sun sets, the waves gently erase the "Picasso" drawings on the beach. Then Marcus Leo (Duke) Fishman, who was born in Shanghai in 1906, joins his fake family as the music swells and the credits roll.