Five-O: Stanley, two
of your blue ribbon titles are hitting 50 in 2002. I
if you'd like to comment on them: "The Narrow Margin,"
a low-budget noir masterpiece (and favorite at the Egyptian
Theatre), and "Macao," starring Jane Russell
and Robert Mitchum, which recently ran at the L.A. County
The most memorable thing about "Macao" was
that I wrote the screenplay and the contract that my
agent had worked up for me at RKO
stipulated that if my screenplay would go into production,
that I would be given the opportunity to produce it.
That was the deal. So when I finished the screenplay
and Mitchum and Jane Russell agreed to star in it, my
agents went in and said, OK, the deal is that Rubin
gets to produce this. And RKO said, well, well, we want
to hedge this a little, because Rubin has never produced
a feature motion picture. He's very young and inexperienced
and this will be one of our big pictures for the year
because of Mitchum and Jane Russell. [Joseph von Sternberg
was tapped to direct.]
The studio reneged, really, on the deal,
but they offered a substitute. They would have one of
their veteran producers
produce "Macao," but they would allow me to
develop a story and, as a first production, produce
a low budget picture. So it was their reneging on my
producing "Macao" that gave me the opportunity
to buy a story called "Target" and that story
"Target" became "The Narrow Margin."
It's funny, I can't remember telling that
story to anybody before, so you've got a first. I have
to give all the credit to my agents at the time. Ray
Stark, who became a very big gun in town as an independent
producer. The other was Harold Rose. Both of them had
been officers at Famous Artists Agency.
I had already produced a television series
with my friend and collaborator Lou Lantz, who was a
good writer and playwright. We had done a television
series together called "Your Show Time," which
was the very first television show shot on film for
a national sponsor. We made it in 1948 and '49. It won
the first Emmy award [for an adaptation of "The
Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant], which I have over
my head even as I speak, and it's dated
January, 1949. So I'd gotten a
taste of producing and I liked it, I liked being in
charge of the whole schmear, the whole works, overseeing
everything from beginning to end on a production. Being
very good agents, Ray and Harold went in and worked
out that deal for "Macao." I take no credit
whatsoever. I'm very happy now that RKO balked at my
making "Macao" and instead let me buy "Target"
and make "Narrow Margin" instead.
What happened with "Narrow Margin"
was kind of interesting. We finished the picture in
'51. Howard Hughes had taken over the studio. He ran
the finished cut, our cut of "Narrow Margin,"
one midnight, which was rather typical of Mr. Hughes.
By the way,
I never met him. I did get memos, but never met him
in person. Hughes had bought the studio while we were
making "Narrow Margin," but later he brought
in Jerry Wald and Norman Krasna to head up production
at the studio. In any case, Hughes ran the picture,
which had gotten very good word of mouth already. I
got a memo from Mr. Hughes, saying he thought it was
a very good film, but that he wanted to hold it
instead of releasing it when it was due to be released,
the memo stated that he wanted to hold it for a while
and he wanted me to think about some way to turn "Narrow
Margin," which we had shot for under $250,000 and
in under 15 days, into an A-picture. Well, there wasn't
any way to turn "Narrow Margin" into an A-picture
unless you just scrubbed the picture and recast it with
A-names and shot it all over again. I communicated that
feeling to Mr. Hughes, but he persisted in thinking
that there might be some way to turn it into a big picture.
And he held it under his arm or in his vault for a year
and that's why "Narrow Margin" was released
a year, year and a half after it was finished.
the Hughes cut much different from yours and Fleischer's?
added at least one additonal heavy. I think Dick Fleischer
shot those scenes. I was gone. I was already at Fox.
Hughes added one heavy, and then he did another thing
which was not smart, it was just an oversight, I guess,
on his part and we didn't discover it until one night
at Cinematheque at the Egyptian.
They ran "Narrow Margin" and
someone asked: 'How come Charlie McGraw and Jacqueline
White didn't go to pay their
respects to Marie Windsor, who'd been shot and killed
in the line of duty?' And I said, of course they stop
to see her, before you saw them sneaking off the train
to go down the tunnel to get into town. Well, we looked
at the picture again and that scene had been removed.
That moment we had shot was gone. That was a bad, bad,
bad oversight on the part of Mr. Hughes. Nontheless,
the picture was a good picture. We were all very proud
of it, and people were impressed with the performances,
the pace, with the plot turns... The picture was screened
by Darryl Zanuck and that motivated Fox to make me an
offer to come over there. Dick Fleischer went on to
do "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" for Disney.
Both of those things came from "Narrow Margin."
are your recollections of the Red Scare in Hollywood
was a terrible, terrible year. I remember that Lou Lantz
got blacklisted, although we preserved his credit on
"River of No Return" [1954, starring
Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe, produced by Rubin]. Lou
Lantz was a self-confessed member of the Communist Party.
Of course, it should not have been a problem. You may
or may not agree with someone being a member of the
Communist Party, but the thing that got forgotten was
that the Communist Party was a legal party in the U.S.,
there was nothing illegal about being a member of it.
I got questioned a lot. They called me
into an office. It wasn't the FBI but I can't remember
who. I don't remember the details. I think I've blocked
them out. I know I was interviewed and they questioned
Lou Lantz. Now Lou Lantz had already told me when all
this thing arose, he said, Stanley, I'm going to tell
them that I was a member. They're going to question
you and you can tell them about me, because I am going
to be self-confessed, so don't worry about it. That's
about all I remember. The whole town was aflame with
this zeal to banish guys like Lou Lantz, Ring Lardner,
Jr., Dalton Trumbo, the Famous Hollywood Ten, Adrian
Scott. These were all very talented people and most
of them in addition to being talented were also very
nice people. Some of them were a pain in the ass. But
most of them were very nice.
question of them being a threat to national security?
not. They joined the Communist Party, as I listened
to them talk, because they had compassion for the unemployed
and the poverty stricken. They wanted to make the lot
of the poor people in the country better. They were
compassionate communists, as opposed to the compassionate
conservatives we have
today. That's a quote.