Cast & Crew
Film producer Alexander Meyerheimer is in Cannes and upset because scriptwriter Richard Benson is late delivering the script for The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower , Meyerheimer's latest production. He wires Benson in Paris that he has only 2 days to complete the script; and Benson, who has written nothing, hires a secretary, Gabrielle Simpson, to move in and assist him. As they grind out a script that combines all the elements of a spy thriller, a comedy, a love story, a western, a musical, and every other basic motion picture genre, Richard and Gabrielle project themselves into the story and actually become the hero, heroine, and villain of each scene they create. They return to reality only for story changes, champagne suppers, and romantic interludes. When the deadline is reached the script is still unfinished, but Richard and Gabrielle have fallen in love.
Jo De Bretagne
Carter Dehaven Jr.
Jean D' Eaubonne
Hubert De Givenchy
Charles Lang Jr.
Paul K. Lerpae
Paris When It Sizzles
The actor's alcoholism was well known in the industry, but his drinking was the worst during production on Paris. Director Richard Quine, who had directed (and handled) Holden well in The World of Suzie Wong (1960) was stunned at the downward spiral of his leading man, recalling, "Bill was like a punch-drunk fighter, walking on his heels, listing slightly, talking punchy. He didn't know he was drunk." Holden further exacerbated his eccentric behavior by showing up to call in the mornings, already intoxicated with his pet of an African bush baby, a small nocturnal primate, perched on his shoulder! Quine began to keep closer tabs on his high-maintenance star in an attempt to keep him out of trouble, even going so far as renting the house next to Holden's in order to keep an eye on him.
Holden's out-of-control drinking was undoubtedly being partly driven by the mere presence of his costar. It was widely reported that Holden fell headlong for Hepburn during the filming of Sabrina; indeed, she still received the occasional phone call and bouquet of flowers from him years later despite being married to Mel Ferrer. Holden once confessed, "I remember the day I arrived at Orly Airport for Paris When It Sizzles. I could hear my footsteps echoing against the walls of the transit corridor, just like a condemned man walking the last mile. I realized that I had to face Audrey and I had to deal with my drinking. And I didn't think I could handle either situation."
Toward the end of the shoot, Quine finally convinced Holden to undergo a one-week treatment. While he was away, producer George Axelrod convinced Tony Curtis to fly in for an extended cameo-a half-ditch attempt to rescue the failing production. Mel Ferrer and none other than Marlene Dietrich were also recruited for brief guest star appearances. Holden's bio, Golden Boy, relays a priceless anecdote about the diva: "...Axelrod had engaged Marlene Dietrich for a guest appearance requiring a half-day's work. The scene called for her to emerge from a limousine and enter a fashion salon to choose a fur coat. As Holden was conversing with Axelrod outside the salon, the assistant director emerged to report concernedly, 'We're in trouble; Miss Dietrich wants to keep the coat-and it's a white ermine!' Axelrod said confidently, 'Don't worry, I can handle this.' He returned white-faced from his conversation with Miss Dietrich and announced, 'She gets the coat-and the limo.'"
Hepburn caused a little drama of her own, demanding the dismissal of cinematographer Claude Renoir after viewing what she deemed to be highly unflattering dailies. Renoir, grandson to the Impressionist master Pierre-Auguste and nephew of legendary director Jean, was regarded as Parisian royalty; and as Quine pointed out, "...firing a Renoir is tantamount to treason in France, so the unions raised hell and threatened to go on strike." Renoir, however, was extraordinarily gracious, even negotiating with the unions to allow Charles Lang to come over as his replacement. Lang, who photographed Sabrina, not only knew his star subject well but how best to film her. Her major aesthetic obsession? A crooked front tooth. Hepburn was also superstitious, requesting dressing room 55 specifically upon arriving in Paris for filming-she had the same number room for both Roman Holiday (1953) and Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) and believed 55 was her lucky number. In a diva moment of her own, Hepburn also commanded a credit for her long-time designer, Hubert de Givenchy, not only for her wardrobe but for her scent as well!
Playwright Noel Coward was featured in a bit role; in his diary he commented, "[Axelrod] hurried the script to me, is effective although tiny, but I am being paid $10,000 and all luxe expenses, so I said yes. I think it will be rather fun." He later describes Holden as "off the bottle and looking fifteen years younger." To be fair, however, Coward was only on the set for three days!
After his stint in rehab, the producers were hopeful that Holden could keep out of trouble until the shoot wrapped. With one sequence remaining to be filmed, however, Holden announced he was leaving town one weekend to pick up a new Ferrari. True to form, he returned with his arm in a splint: he crashed the sports car into a wall. Quine cut short the last scene. Miraculously, Holden's shenanigans were largely kept out of the press but the film ended up crashing anyway. Critics uniformly panned it and audiences didn't fall for the once-powerful Holden/Hepburn combination this time. Over the years, however, the film has earned a reputation as a guilty pleasure for those who enjoy in-joke movie spoofs and an absurdist storyline played out against the glorious backdrop of the City of Light.
Producer: George Axelrod, Richard Quine, John R. Coonan, Carter De Haven, Jr.
Director: Richard Quine
Screenplay: George Axelrod, Julien Duvivier (story), Henri Jeanson (story)
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Film Editing: Archie Marshek
Art Direction: Jean d'Eaubonne
Music: Nelson Riddle, Lew Spence
Cast: William Holden (Richard Benson), Audrey Hepburn (Gabrielle Simpson), Gregoire Aslan (Police Insp. Gilet), Raymond Bussieres (Francois), Christian Duvaleix (Maitre d'Hotel), Noel Coward (Alexander Meyerheim).
by Eleanor Quin
Paris When It Sizzles
George Axelrod, 1922-2003
Born June 9, 1922, in New York City to the son of the silent film actress Betty Carpenter, he had an eventful childhood in New York where, despite little formal education, he became an avaricious reader who hung around Broadway theaters. During World War II he served in the Army Signal Corps, then returned to New York, where in the late 40's and early 50's he wrote for radio and television and published a critically praised novel, Beggar's Choice.
He scored big on Broadway in 1952 with The Seven Year Itch. The comedy, about a frustrated, middle-aged man who takes advantage of his family's absence over a sweltering New York summer to have an affair with a sexy neighbor, won a Tony Award for its star, Tom Ewell, and was considered daring for its time as it teased current sexual mores and conventions. The play was adapted into a movie in 1955 by Billy Wilder, as a vehicle for Marilyn Monroe, with Ewell reprising his role. Unfortunately, the censors and studio executives would not allow the hero to actually consummate the affair; instead, Ewell was seen merely daydreaming a few romantic scenes, a situation that left the playwright far from happy.
Nevertheless, the success of The Seven Year Itch, opened the door for Axelrod as a screenwriter. He did a fine adaptation of William Inge's play Bus Stop (1956) again starring Marilyn Monroe, and did a splendid job transferring Truman Capote's lovely Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). Although his relationship with the director Blake Edwards was rancorous at best, it did earn Axelrod his only Academy Award nomination.
So frustrated with his work being so heavily revised by Hollywood, that Axelrod decided to move from New York to Los Angeles, where he could more closely monitor the treatment of his scripts. It was around this period that Axelrod developed some his best work since he began producing as well as writing: the incisive, scorchingly subversive cold war thriller The Manchurian Candidate (1962), based on Richard Condon's novel about an American POW (Laurence Harvey) who returns home and is brainwashed to kill a powerful politician; the urbane comedy Paris When it Sizzles (1964) that showed off its stars William Holden and Audrey Hepburn at their sophisticated best; his directorial debut with the remarkable (if somewhat undisciplined) satire Lord Love a Duck (1966) that skewers many sacred institutions of American culture (marriage, school, wealth, stardom) and has since become a cult favorite for midnight movie lovers; and finally (his only other directorial effort) a gentle comedy of wish fulfillment The Secret Life of an American Wife (1968) that gave Walter Matthau one of his most sympathetic roles.
By the '70s, Axelrod retired quietly in Los Angeles. He returned to write one fine screenplay, John Mackenzie's slick political thriller The Fourth Protocol (1987) starring Michael Caine. He is survived by his sons Peter, Steven, and Jonathan; a daughter Nina; seven grandchildren; and a sister, Connie Burdick.
by Michael T. Toole
George Axelrod, 1922-2003
The working title of this film is Together in Paris. Lang replaced Renoir during production.
Released in United States 1963
A remake of "La fete a Henriette" (France/1952), directed by Julien Duvivier.
Released in United States 1963