Thursday, October 27, 2016


1963. I'm a year out of school and working as an assistant in the publicity department of Columbia Pictures in London's Soho. Columbia are about to release a film called IN THE FRENCH STYLE starring Jean Seberg. A romantic comedy about an American girl living in Paris, nobody expects it to make a big splash. It is directed by Robert Parrish, a former assistant to John Ford, whose career has been competent without being particularly outstanding despite a few highlights (his colour Western, THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY, is worth checking out) and based on short stories by Irwin Shaw.

Irwin Shaw
Now, young as I was, I knew that Shaw was a big hitter, a writer of novels and short stories, scripts, a producer of films. He was part of that post-war generation of American intellectuals who muscled their way into the film industry after World War II. Shaw produced the Kirk Douglas film ULYSSES and wrote the novel THE YOUNG LIONS which was made into a major film production starring Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Dean Martin. I had read THE YOUNG LIONS and I was in awe of meeting its author when, prior to the release of the film IN THE FRENCH STYLE, Shaw set up camp in the Columbia press office. This would later happen with both Richard Brooks and Stanley Kubrick - but more of those in a later post. As an office junior I was nervous about approaching Shaw, especially as it was somewhat frowned upon to bother the many celebrities who passed through the office. Of course, when you get a chance to actually meet somebody that you admire, caution in often thrown to the wind. I did get a chance to speak to Shaw and tell him how much I admired his book and he seemed genuinely pleased. Today, Shaw is probably best remember as the author of the novels RICH MAN, POOR MAN and BEGGERMAN, THIEF which were turned into enormously successful television mini-series. Irwin Shaw died in Switzerland in 1971.

Shaw asked me if I had seen the film
of THE YOUNG LIONS. "No" I said.
"Don't" he said.

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