How I Experienced Terror! by Tony Piazza
MY FIRST “EXTRA” WORK, although unofficially, was on the film “Experiment in Terror” starring GLENN FORD and LEE REMICK. They allowed my mom and I (age 4) to sit with the crowd of background artist on location at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. It could have been uncomfortable work (readers who live in the bay area would need no further explanation, but for the rest of you…) chilling winds could blow through that stadium and turn it into an icebox. However in August through October we would on occasion have Indian Summer-like weather and that was exactly what it was that night. So here we were, sitting in a grandstand, staring out at an empty field, and jumping up and cheering at an imaginary Giant’s ballgame. Welcome to the realities of Hollywood- a baptism by fire that would serve me well some 14 years later. I can’t remember much about the film’s director BLAKE EDWARDS, although he did return to the bay area to shoot “Days of Wine and Roses” a few years later. My father worked with him again then…and that’s when I learned that he was married to Mary Poppins (sorry, but as a kid that was how I knew JULIE ANDREWS back then). She came to visit him on the set of that film…an “elegant and charming woman” (as described by my dad). Lee Remick also starred in that drama with JACK LEMMON, who would return to San Francisco once again to play the lead in “Good Neighbor Sam.” One actor I remember from the “Experiment in Terror” Candlestick shooting was ROSS MARTIN. He was wearing a jacket with a hood and dark glasses. He was also wheezing when he delivered his lines… very scary…at least to a four-year old (maybe some adults!). He was playing a psychotic killer named “Red” Lynch, a character very different than the jovial Gordon of TV’s “Wild, Wild, West.” He had several “tense” scenes with Remick (a very beautiful actress with striking blue eyes)…a nice lady too. I got to work with her when I was in my 20s but more about that later. I remember that my mother was disappointed in Glenn Ford. She waited to see him, but it turns out that he was exceptionally shy away from the camera and hid in his dressing room between “takes.”
Lee Remick and Glenn Ford
Director Blake Edwards
That pretty much wraps up this adventure…as far as this aging memory goes. However I did recall visiting two other locations for that film; the house (Remick’s character’s) on Twin Peaks and Fisherman’s Wharf. The Wharf’s location was unusual because they were shooting on a Sunday. Most production companies (actually the producers…the guys that fork out the money) like to avoid Sundays because of overtime, but the logistics of this “shoot” required a helicopter to hover overhead and the city wouldn’t allow this disruption on a busy weekday.
Fisherman’s Wharf location (notice Remick’s coat)
Production photo with same coat ( photo from Piazza personal collection)
I had the pleasure of seeing Lee Remick again when working on the film “Telefon”, starring CHARLES BRONSON. We were at the Embarcadero Center which was supposed to be in Texas (hey, this is movie magic. All the “extras” wore ten gallon hats!). In-between shooting I glanced over in her direction and she smiled sweetly at me- acknowledging my attention (perhaps because I was staring- as I said earlier, she was a striking lady with lovely blue eyes). One piece of trivia- this film introduced a young actress as the sister of Lee Remick’s character. She would become a star herself, especially on television. Her credits include “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and “Hart to Hart”, and I had the pleasure to work with her as well. Her name was STEPHANIE POWERS.
Stephanie Powers in her first role
I hope you have been enjoying these glimpses into my past. I assure you these are not an exercise in ego…mine could fit into a nutshell and still have room for the entire population of the U.S…but really the result of growing older and feeling the need to put in writing something of my life. A little nostalgia that has been arising in me, one that created the need to remember back fondly, especially to the two great parents that helped set me on this path. That’s what happens with age! Please consider “following” my blog series.
Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel, “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” was released early 2012 and is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden. His non-fiction e-book “Bullitt Points” is an in depth look at the making of “Bullitt” from a person who was there. Look for it where fine books are sold, or at the link posted below. All profits go to the Boys Republic charity: www.bullittpoints.com.