Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Albert Zugsmith on making TOUCH OF EVIL with Orson Welles

Ed here: In the late fifties and early sixties Albert Zugsmith produced such films as Sex Kittens Go To College, Platinum High School, High School Confidential, and The Beat Generation. Nothing that would make Fellini insecure about his place in motion picture history. But Zugsmith had previously produced some excellent film such as The Tarnished Angels (Faulkner's Pylon), Written on The Wind and The Incredible Shrinking Man. Oh--and one other--Touch of Evil. Here's an excerpt from a long excerpt (one well worth reading) with Zugsmith discussing his work with Welles.

Producer Albert Zugsmith on making TOUCH OF EVIL with Orson Welles
Orson is primarily an artist — a great one.

—Albert Zugsmith


One of the great unsung heroes behind the making of Touch of Evil has to be Universal staff producer Albert Zugsmith. As can be seen in Zugsmith’s comments below, he and Welles had a wonderful working relationship on the two pictures they made together and it was most probably due to Zugsmith that Welles got to shoot Touch of Evil with so little studio interference.

Unfortunately, Zugsmith had left Universal and moved over to MGM by the time Welles began editing Touch of Evil, so Zugsmith was no longer around to protect Welles from the meddling of studio executives. In fact, given Welles own comments about how much he looked forward to continue making films at Universal, one wonders if he may have been thinking about his talks with Zugsmith, who probably represented Universal to him. For his own part, Zugsmith was eager to continue making films with Welles.

The following interview with Zugsmith is taken from Todd McCarthy and Charles Flynn’s wonderful 1975 book King of the Bs.


ALBERT ZUGSMITH: The story on Orson is: I became sort of a troubleshooter and a script doctor at Universal. They’d throw me all the properties they were having difficulties with. There were also certain people I could handle, and work with. Jeff Chandler was becoming a bit difficult and he was their second biggest star at that time. I guess one of the reasons he was difficult was that he was the biggest, and then Rock Hudson came along! So they had me make some pictures with Jeff. They also had me make Westerns, which I’d kind of duck and avoid; they even made Ross Hunter make a Western, which was a terrible flop! It was the last picture Ann Sheridan ever made!

Anyway, I was assigned to a picture called Man in the Shadow. Jeff Chandler was in it and we had $600,000. to make it with. With studio overhead, that means you get about $375,000 on the screen. Jeff Chandler played the sheriff, and we had a new girl under contract, Colleen Miller, a beautiful girl, as the female lead. We were trying to cast the heavy, the girl’s father, the rich rancher who oppresses the Mexicans, and so forth. We were pretty much sold on Robert Middleton who did such a great job for me before (in The Tarnished Angels.) So then I got a call from the William Morris office. Evidently they knew this part was open, and Jack Baur (Universal’s casting director) asked me, “How would you like Orson Welles to play the heavy?” “You’re kidding,” I said. He had been out of this country for some time. He was back, and he needed $60,000 very badly for taxes, and he’d play the heavy. “Has he read the script?” I said. “I don’t think so. But he’s got to pay his taxes or he’ll be in big trouble.”

for the rest go here:

1 comment:

Ron Scheer said...

Enjoyed this whole interview, Ed. Thanks for the link. I saw the reconstructed version of TOUCH OF EVIL a few years ago. Like most others who consider him something of a genius, I wish he'd been able to make more films.