Monday, August 29, 2016

Grayson Hall ain't no snitch, 1964

John Huston's THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA had not screened for the public when actress Grayson Hall sat down for an interview about the film in June, 1964. It had already garnered a certain level of notoriety, though, with rumors circulating that made the Mexican set sound like a tropical orgy. "It seems like a gossiper's dream: Richard Burton is on location with Lolita," one columnist wrote as the film was still in production in 1963.

In the interview below, Hall doesn't appear to be much interested in the whereabouts of Burton's penis during the production of the film. While I don't think she's being entirely honest about the crew's misadventures, it's also not her place to help feed the Gossip Monster that had cast its lewd eye upon her colleagues. When asked about the "scandalous goings-on" in Mexico, you can practically hear her tell the writer to "fuck off."

(Note: Hall would later receive an Academy award nomination for her performance in THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA. Watch footage of her at the 1965 ceremony HERE.)

Inside Story 
July 3, 1964

It’s like this. You’re a reporter, an entertainment writer, always on the lookout for interesting people with equally interesting stories for you to put into a thrice weekly column.

In an office a few flights up from the bright lights section of Broadway, there’s a press agent, who writes you a note about a client of his, an actress with the unlikely name of Grayson Hall. Would you like to interview her?

You’re ready to pass up his offer until you note that she has a featured role in “The Night of the Iguana,” film version of Tennessee Williams’ Broadway play of a few seasons back.

Well, you’ve heard all about the hankying and pankying that went on in Mismaloya, Mexico, while the movie was being made. You’ve read the gossip columnists’ reports and the magazine articles about what supposedly happened when John Huston. Ava Gardner, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor. Sue Lyon, Deborah Kerr, Peter Viertel, and Williams found themselves thrown together in a steamy, tropical village for several months.

Aha, you think, here’s your chance to get the inside story on what happened in Mismaloya from someone who was there. So you pick up your pencil and pad and head for Manhattan.

Hate to disappoint you, but about the only thing that happened in Mismaloya was that a movie was made, a movie which received generally good reviews when it premiered Tuesday. It will open in hundreds of theaters in New York and New Jersey on Aug. 6.

So they made a movie that got good notices. Great! But, what really happened? What about all the scandalous goings-on that were supposed to have gone on?

“There weren’t any,” Miss Hall tells you as you scratch the ears of her son’s dog, Thing, named after a character from a Dr. Seuss book.

“Well, there was one thing.” (Aha, you think, this is it, the bare truth.) “One of the reporters — and there seemed to be millions of them — who came down to cover the filming tried to interview Dick Burton over drinks. Well, Burton is one of those people who can drink for hours without showing it. The reporter, unfortunately, wasn’t, and by the time the interview was finished, Dick practically had to carry the poor man home.”

“You see, it was a work situation. We had come there to make a film, and that’s what we did. Of course, we had one of the longest cocktail hours ever. Work finished at about 5:30 and dinner wasn’t served until nine. We couldn’t go back to our rooms and write letters or anything like that because of the insects. The only thing we could do was drink, so we had a three hour plus cocktail hour.”

This was Miss Hall’s first big movie (she co-starred with Meg Myles in the low-budget “Satan in High Heels.”) Until now, Miss Hall’s career has centered around the legitimate stage, both on and off Broadway.

Among her credits are “The Balcony,” Six Characters in Search of an Author” (the Tyrone Guthrie production at the Phoenix), and “Subways Are For Sleeping.”

From the way New York film critics hailed Miss Hall’s performance, she’s virtually assured of a solid film career — if she wants one. The only hitch is she doesn’t. She’ll make movies alright as long as she can continue doing live roles onstage.

How she got her name is a story in itself. She was born Shirley Grossman, changed her name to Shirley Grayson, and married writer Sam Hall, making her Shirley Hall. Deciding that she wasn’t really a Shirley, Miss Hall made one more switch, this time to Grayson Hall. It may sound like a dormitory, but it’s a name few can forget.

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