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Going south for the winter


Having fun working with actors
Frederic Raphael Writer
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Anyway, we came back to England in 1962, and Nothing But the Best was in production, I think, within a year two. In those days you could get films made... David Deutsch worked for a company called Anglo-Amalgamated run by... Nat Cohen and Stuart Levy, who actually preferred racing horses – they won the Grand National, I think – to making films, but that was the business they were in and they left it to David really to get on with the nuts and bolts stuff of... of the production. So I did a bit of rewriting on it and then we got together to have the read-through with Alan Bates and Millie Martin who had just been doing... That Was the Week That Was, and I took her to be rather a 'toffier' lady than she really was, but she's terrific actually – I really like Millie, and Denholm Elliott and I don't know who all else, and I... Did I...? Yes. What's his name? These things do happen to one. Alan Bates, Denholm Elliott... very good old English actor, a homosexual of great dignity and virility who used to play sergeant majors and people. It will come to me presently. Anyway, this guy who was a very old pro, said to me, 'Have you written a lot of screenplays?' And although I had, of course, done a bit of this and that I said, 'No, this is the first one actually', because it was the first one I'd written on my own, and he said, 'Well, you'll write a lot more', which I was pleased. I love working with actors – it is the best fun in the world, best fun with your clothes on as the Americans say.

So suddenly I was writing a screenplay, and then everything happened very quickly because I met a man called John Schlesinger. I met John Schlesinger, who was doing a film for Matt and Stu which was the follow-up to A Kind Of LovingBilly Liar. And he and Joe Janni had been in... living in the north of England doing both of these films and they were sick to death of the north of England and all that pudding and everything, and they wanted to do a smart film about degenerate London, because although swinging London had hardly come in yet, it was already somehow felt that there had been a change, largely to do with the DH Lawrence, you know, the Lady Chatterley trial and of course the pill, so things were changing in a big way.

So they said would I do a film with them. And I went to see Joe Janni and he lived in Burton Court by Chelsea Hospital, and when I went in I said whatever I say, good morning or whatever, and Joe said, 'Do you remember the first time you ever met me?' And I said, 'When?' He said, 'I remember when you were working for the Rank Organisation and I had a script which needed some work on it, you know, called The Big Money, and I sent it to you and I think... What is his name? Leslie Bricusse, that's it, to look at to do some work, and you came on your own and you walked into my flat, this flat, and I remember the first thing you said to me'. And I said, 'I expect I said, “Good morning, sir”'. He said, 'No, that's not what you said. What you said was, “What you want to make this piece of shit for?” You were quite right', he said, 'it was a piece of shit'.

And he had changed, Joe. He had been a refugee because his mother was a Montefiorian Jew in Milan. They'd been very, very rich in Milan and he had many funny stories, which I'm not going to tell now because it's not directly relevant, about his youth, his pampered youth in Milan. With the anti-Semitic laws his father was dispossessed and Joe had to come to England, but he had known a lot of the movie people in Milan at that time, the young movie people like the young Antonioni and various others, and he loved the cinema, even though he was actually trained as an engineer.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: David Deutsch, Allan Bates, Millie Martin, Denholm Elliott, John Schlesinger, Joe Janni

Duration: 4 minutes, 46 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014