In the Cool of the Day
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When he was cast in In the Cool of the Day (1963), Canadian actor Arthur Hill was fresh off a tremendous stage success as the weary, bullied husband George in Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which earned him both the Tony and New York Drama Critics awards. After studying drama in Vancouver and Seattle, Hill had moved to England in 1948, building a solid theatrical reputation over the next decade and taking time out for the occasional film, including his uncredited debut bit in Howard Hawks' comedy I Was a Male War Bride (1949). His 1962 Broadway success in Albee's play brought him more film and TV work, usually as a mild-mannered middle-class professional with brief forays into villainous roles.
As Jane Fonda's doting husband, Hill is clueless throughout much of In the Cool of the Day while she carries on an affair with his publisher friend, played by Peter Finch, trapped in a loveless marriage with bitter, spiteful Angela Lansbury. While Hill stays behind to care for his gravely ill father, Finch and the two women jet off on a Greek vacation together, giving the two leads ample time to pursue their illicit attraction and Robert Stevens, primarily a television director, and cinematographer Peter Newbrook ample opportunities to capture the beauty of the ancient landscape.
Although the cast and crew found much to enjoy during location shooting in Greece, thanks to beautiful weather, stunning scenery and a lot of ouzo, it was not, ultimately, a very happy project for everyone involved. In his autobiography, producer John Houseman said he was attracted to adapting Susan Ertz's best-selling novel for the wrong reasons: first, to placate his agents, who feared his lack of substantial output would prevent extension of his contract with MGM, and second, because he wanted to spend some time in the Mediterranean. His offer of work on the project was turned down by two screenwriters and by two directors with whom Houseman had worked previously, Robert Wise (Executive Suite, 1954) and John Frankenheimer (All Fall Down, 1962).
Houseman was happy with the high-caliber cast he was able to attract, although he quickly became disenchanted with Fonda. He said she insisted on wearing high spike heels throughout the film - even on the rocky slopes of the Parthenon - and blamed her and studio personnel for make-up, outlandish clothes and a bizarre dark Cleopatra-like wig that destroyed any credibility and appeal her character might have had. He also found annoying Fonda's heavy dependence on the man who was then guiding her art and career, Andreas Voutsinas. Houseman related how, under Voutsinas' Svengali-like influence during initial studio filming in England, Fonda would let out an ear-splitting scream before each take of an emotional scene, and after each take, she would look past her director and co-star to her lover for his approval. Fortunately for the producer, the Greek-born Voutsinas did not accompany the production on location for fear of being drafted into the army of his native country.
Upon their return to England, things got even worse for Houseman. Told by the studio that the results up to that point were an unmitigated disaster, he found most of his producer duties taken over by a new unit manager. MGM's chief editor, Margaret Booth, arrived in London not long after, making no bones about the fact that she was there to "salvage a hopeless production."
Things went a little more enjoyably in the scoring of the picture, although that, too, nearly derailed. Houseman met with Manos Hadjidakis, composer of the world-famous Oscar©-winning theme for Never on Sunday (1960), and the two agreed on the use of several existing tunes as well as a newly written main theme. But when Houseman balked at Hadjidakis' $25,000-per-song price, the composer angrily broke off all negotiations. Two days later, he sent word to Houseman that rather than haggle with a man he liked and respected, he would do the entire score for free. The amazed Houseman had to be assured this was no ploy. In the end, possibly for fear that the project would go to his rival, the other great Greek composer Theodorakis, Hadjidakis insisted on doing the work for nothing except the cost of the recording process and the union wages of his band of bazouki players. The soundtrack was recorded in about two days, "with frequent interruptions for food and drink," Houseman later wrote.
With the film finally complete, a relieved Houseman and his wife high-tailed it to Venice, where, as part of the jury at that city's film festival, he become embroiled in the Cold War politics surrounding the judging of international films. Shortly after, he got his agents to extricate him from his contract with Metro. Fonda rejoined Voutsinas in New York for a disastrous three-day run of a play he had fashioned expressly for her. Houseman later wrote in his autobiography, Final Dress, "To this day I have never seen In the Cool of the Day, and I have noticed that neither Jane Fonda nor I ever list it among the films we have made.
Director: Robert Stevens
Producer: John Houseman
Screenplay: Meade Roberts, based on the novel by Susan Ertz
Cinematography: Peter Newbrook
Editing: Thomas Stanford
Production Design: Ken Adam
Original Music: Manos Hadjidakis, Francis Chagrin
Cast: Peter Finch (Murray Logan), Jane Fonda (Christine Bonner), Angela Lansbury (Sybil Logan), Arthur Hill (Sam Bonner), Constance Cummings (Nina Gellert).
C-88m. Closed captioning. Letterboxed.
by Rob Nixon