Continuing my catch-ups with BBC Radio’s “Desert Island Discs”, one that did survive from 1980 featured director OTTO PREMINGER.
The choice of 8 records which each ‘castaway’ chooses generally reflects episodes of their lives , or simply music they love.
But Mr. Preminger , unlike any other guest that I have heard over the years, chose 8 pieces of music from his own films!
And why not, you may rightly say. The recordings were:
Frank Sinatra. ‘Laura’.
Elmer Bernstein’s terrific theme from MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM.
Marilyn Horne singing ‘Beat out that rhythm on a drum’ from CARMEN JONES
Sally Sweetland. ‘The Moon Is Blue “.
Duke Ellington. ANATOMY OF A MURDER.
Title music from ADVICE AND CONSENT.
Robert McFerrin. ‘A Woman is a Sometime Thing.’ From PORGY AND BESS.
Sinfonia of London . “Exodus” theme.’Fight for Survival.’
And only Mr. Preminger could take ,as the one book he would choose to take to his desert island, his own autobiography!
His luxury item choice was a beautiful watch.
He said that his first independent film was THE MOON IS BLUE – “I wanted complete autonomy.” He had directed The Moon Is Blue on Broadway but chose newcomer Maggie MacNamara for the lead although Barbara Bel Geddes was his leading lady on stage.
Otto Preminger (1906 – 1986) had a Hollywood career which started in 1936 at Twentieth Century Fox. After only two years and arguments with Darryl Zanuck, he was fired and left Hollywood for 4 years. He went to New York and directed on Broadway.
With Zanuck in the army, Preminger was invited back by acting head of the studio, William Goetz who gave him a 7 year contract.
Reportedly, Zanuck wasn’t pleased when he returned to find Preminger under contract. But when Rouben Mamoulian wasnt handling LAURA the way Zanuck wanted it, he allowed Preminger to take over the direction in addition to his producing duties on the film.
And in the 1950s, he replaced Mamoulian again – “Goldwyn called me and asked me if I’d take over from Rouben Mamoulian on “Porgy and Bess.”
He denied being a tyrant on the set though he did say,
“I can’t stand actors who are late or don’t know their lines.”
(In a 1977 interview on You Tube, Preminger ,talking about Marilyn Monroe, said, ” Even when she was there, she was late – part of her personality.”)
After arriving in Canada’s Jasper National Park for River Of No Return, Preminger said,
“I guess it doesn’t really matter where I point the camera. We are absolutely surrounded by scenery.”
Preminger was an actor too, but only appeared in a few films like Stalag 17. In another You Tube interview, he said,
“My strong German accent meant that I was cast in quite a particular register – sadistic, Nazi officer.”
Once Preminger had more control over his films, he tackled controversial subjects and fought against the Production Code.
Preminger sued Columbia for allowing Anatomy of a Murder to be cut for television. He said,
” I had a contract where they couldn’t cut my films, but they sold it to television and did not forbid them to cut it……….I make a film, the film is shown in theatres under a certain title. The audiences are now turning on their television set and they are entitled to see the same film on television.”
” How would you like to buy a book and suddenly have 10 pages cut out.”
Some of the wide range of Otto Preminger’s films.
And Otto Preminger’s last film in 1980: