The winner gets an autographed copy of any famous personality of their choosing, living or dead, which I will personally autograph.
Fact: My friend in the pic is arguably the Superstar that most contemporary male movie Superstars will mention as their “teacher” -- even though most of them never even met him. But such was his stature in the glory days of Hollywood during which he made over 70 films. The pic above was taken with one of those old Polaroid Land cameras I had with me. The setting was as unique as my subject -- a little art studio he had built with his own hands out of old railroad ties on the farm property . There was no electricity , no running water... just the man, his paints and his canvases. You can see a corner of one of his art pieces behind him. His home was adorned with dozens more, and all of them - IMHO - masterpieces.
During my stay, I took a drive one day around the beautiful countryside with the car they had loaned me (along with my own little house) and stopped at a little combination fruit stand/sundry shop that appeared out of nowhere . There on the counter next to the cash register was what I recognized to be one of those laser disc players that were around in the '80’s. Next to it was a selection of about 20 movies in a cardboard box. Among them were 5 of the great films my friend had starred in: PUBLIC ENEMY, YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, MISTER ROBERTS, WHITE HEAT and ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES. I rented the laser disc player and the five movies, and my friend and I spent many extraordinary nights watching those films together over and over again, while he filled me in on what it was like making them. He had never seen any of them since he had made them. Nor had he cared to. But he certainly relished sharing them with me, and even marveled at some of his own performances.
BTW: He costarred in the latter film mentioned above with the man who always referred to his close friend by the phrase you see on the carving he is holding: "THE FARAWAY FELLA”. That would be Pat O’Brien. And he was indeed, what Mr. O'Brien called him... In fact he got as far away from Hollywood and the brothers Warner who ran the studio he worked for, as he could – hence that lovely sprawling farm. The carving was made by another (mutual) friend with whom I had worked on a couple of occasions. In addition to being an excellent artisan, he was also a comedian who was famous for laying waste to the English language during his routines – Norm Crosby.
One other thing - my friend's presence always seemed to fill the room, but in an unusually gentle, unpretentious way. The day I met him, I walked into his living room with Sheen, and standing next to him was his friend, the famous boxing champ Floyd Patterson. Nevertheless, all of the light and energy in the room seemed to be emanating from him.
As I mentioned in the previous blog, the movie I wrote the screenplay for never got made. But that six-week experience is a monumental high point of my life. I’ll probably write more about it in another form some day. But for now, I will share with you my most intimate remembrance of the experience.
You’ll notice he’s wearing a robe in the pic. In fact, I rarely saw him out of that attire, because by then he was in his 80’s, quite ill and plagued with a thousand aches and pains he had received during his dynamically illustrious career. So he spent most of his time in a wheel chair or in bed. Except for the time he drove me around his farm in a lovely little horse and buggy, just like the kind we used to see in old western movies. And one other time, when he asked me to help him into bed. I had to stand him up, remove his robe and as he leaned on me in his underwear, I slowly maneuvered his upper body into his bed, then lifted his legs and --- that’s when it happened. I am probably the only human being in history who, not only held that famous tough guy in that highly vulnerable position, but while doing so, heard him fart! I quickly looked at him for a sign as to whether I was supposed to acknowledge what I heard or not. He smiled wordlessly, and winked. And so it was, that with that smile and that wink and that little slider of a sound, that Mr. James Cagney and I sealed our friendship in Eternity.