We werent back at Benedict Canyon more than a month when we packed
for Australia to do a remake of a great film noir, D.O.A., which had starred Edmund
OBrien. It was to be directed by an old friend and very capable American movie
maker, Eddie Davis. Eddies signature was a cigar stub that he never lit and which
never left his mouth. Its possible he slept with it in place.
The time in Australia was pleasant and uneventful. When we got home, there
was a message from my manager. A fellow was in from Israel (where Combat! was a
popular show) who wanted me for a film about one of that countrys real live war
heroes from the Six Day War of 1967.
The catch was that he didnt have much money, so my manager,
Gene Yusem, had cut a deal with him, depending on if I liked the script. Hed meet a
sixth of my salary, pick up the tab on a hotel suite including all food and beverages, a
car and driver, and the usual $750 a week (in Israeli coin) for expenses. He would have
balked about the suite if he knew I had room service for breakfast, a couple of martinis before dinner and a good wine with it.
The good part was that I would own the negative for Japan. Gene had
already been in contact with a Korean distributor who lived in Japan and owned a chain of
theaters there. He was ready to buy the rights for a hefty sum; so, in the long run
Id come out way ahead.
Menachim Golan, who I later dubbed The Thief of Israel, showed up at
Benedict Canyon the next afternoon with a script tucked under his arm. We sat around the
pool and discussed the movie. He drank Coke while I sipped my favorite libation, a dry
martini. He was quite charming, and like most con men, could turn it on and off. At the
time, I had no reason to doubt him. After all, the Israelis had fought a hard battle for
what they had, and they were working their asses off to turn the desert into a sea of
productive farmland. I read the script, which was the usual action stuff, sort of the
Israeli version of Combat!. I like it and signed on. Two first-class round trip
tickets went with the deal and my salary was paid in a lump sum up front.
When we checked in at the Sheraton in Tel Aviv, we were met by Menachim
and his producing partner, and cousin, Yoram Globus, later known by me as "Global
Gonif Globus" gonif being Yiddish for "thief." Yorum
explained that Israel was a poor country and didnt have limousines. They asked if we
minded taking taxis and theyd reimburse us from the receipts. Im so smart! I
actually fell for that line!
There was another American actor in the film, Peter Brown. Hes very
good, had starred in the western series Laredo in the early sixties. He stayed at
our hotel and spent a lot of days getting a tan at the swimming pool and dating the local
Israeli girls and the good-looking female tourists. He was a delightful bachelor, with a
great sense of humor and obviously quite a stud.
From day one of production I could see we were in trouble. I stepped out
of makeup and wardrobe onto the set, which was in an old deserted mosque just outside Tel
Aviv, to the noise of hammers and people scrambling around like ants, seemingly knowing
what they were doing. Menachim was shouting orders all over the place in Hebrew. Besides
producing, he was also directing the picture.
As I watched this not-so-organized chaos, I got a sinking feeling that
this was maybe his first directing chore, maybe even his first as a producer.
Unfortunately, I was right. I watched a man placing squibs in a six-by-six wooden post,
about seven feet high, painted white. Hed drilled holes in the front of the post
about two inches apart, placed his squibs in the holes and ran his twisted wires down the
post, covering them (and the holes) with putty and then painting them white. I ambled over
"Whats that guy doing?" I asked, pointing.
"Planting squibs for a machine gun effect."
"Wheres the special effects man?"
"Hes the special effects man."
"Well," I said, "he doesnt know anything about
For the first time since Id entered the set, Mencahim turned to me.
"Hes an explosives expert."
"Oh?" I said.
"Do me a favor, Rick. Maybe we dont do it like you do in
Hollywood, but believe me, we know what were doing. All I want from you, is just to
act for me. Well take care of the rest. Go sit down and relax until we call."
And he went back to pointing here and there and shouting instructions into the bedlam.
I sat down in a canvas chair and watched until Yoram Globus came over and
said they were ready for me. As Menachim placed me just in front of the post and about
three inches to the side of it he said, "This will be your first shot of the picture.
On action, the squibs will go off in sequence and youll react to the gunfire so
close to your head. Then we cut."
I stepped out of the set. "One," I said, "this will not be
my first shot of the picture because I wont be in it. When those squibs go off,
whoever is standing next to them is going to get a face full of powder burns and wood
Menachim got an expression on his face like, Oh, my God, Ive got
a temperamental Hollywood star on my hands. "I told you Rick, we know what
were doing, so please, step into the set."
"You know what youre doing?" I asked. I reached into my
pocket and pulled out some Israeli money. I hadnt learned how to count it yet, but
it had to be at least a $150. "Heres some dough that says you dont. So
prove it to me. Set off the squibs, and, just for the hell of it, you stand in my
For the first time Menachim wavered. He got an extra, dressed in fatigues
(as all the cast members were), and placed him where I was supposed to stand. He stepped
back to the camera, raised his hand and I grabbed it. "Does that kid speak
English?" I asked.
"Not much, why?"
"Tell him to keep his eyes closed and his face turned away from the
post." Menachim must have, because the lad did so. On a command from Menachim, the
squibs went off in sequence, beautifully. The wire blew out, showing itself in a long
hanging string. The neatly drilled holes where the squibs had been were torn out and the
back of the kids head was splattered with splinters, some of them sticking in the
skin on the nape of his neck. His fatigue cap and neck were blackened with powder burns. I
turned to Menachim. He immediately walked over to his injured soldier to assess the
damage, while other extras picked little pieces of wood out of their friend. He was sent
off to a hospital and I asked Menachim where he had gotten his special-effects man.
"He sets explosives in mines," Menachim said. He was furious
that the poor guy didnt understand movie work. If I hadnt spent afternoons
sitting around MGM backlots 2 and 3 loading squibs with our special effects guys on Combat!,
I probably wouldnt have known what to do either.
While the two thieves put their heads together and decided theyd
have to spend the money to hire a genuine effects man, I was putting two and two together
and concluding that these gonifs were making Eagles Attack at Dawn on the cheap.
These two were dangerous! They had no idea what they were doing.
Other picture-makers shoot all the exteriors first, just in case of
inclement weather, and save certain interiors as "cover sets" in case of
unexpected rain. Menachim and Yoram had their own system. The second day on the picture
was also an interior. A bunch of us were to scale an eight-foot wall. That action called
for me to run into the shot, set my back against the wall, clasp the fingers of my hands
together and hoist my men up and over one at a time, as they ran into the shot at me. I
told Menachim that I wanted each of the men to wear his gun sling across his chest, with
the gun at his back so nothing could swing around and hit me.
"Everyone of these boys fought in the 1967 war," he exclaimed.
"They know what theyre doing. Some are still on active call. You cant
tell them how to handle firearms, theyve been taught by the best."
I shrugged an okay. After we set places, Menachim shot the scene without a
rehearsal. On action, I ran in from camera left, turned at the wall to face the camera and
linked my hands together as I motioned with my head for the others (off stage). One by
one, they ran and lifted a foot into my palms. I pushed each up and he disappeared over
I didnt see it coming, everyone was moving too fast. One of our
"well trained riflemen" had his gun just slung over one shoulder. As he came
forward and I began to hoist him up, his gun barrel swung around and slammed me on the
left side of my mouth. What a wallop that thing packed! I turned my head away from camera
just in case I was bleeding. It was an instinctive thing, to save the shot.
It just so happened that Pat had decided to visit the set that day. She
was sitting in my canvas chair, watching, and as I turned toward her, the color drained
from her face. I put a hand up to my mouth, which was really feeling the blow of the steel
that had hit it, and came away with blood all over my fingers. Menachim called,
"Cut!" and there was deathly silence on the set. I looked at my fingers and put
them back to the injury.
My lower lip had been opened and the upper tooth just to the left of my
incisor was aimed toward the rear of my mouth at a crazy angle. I reached in and pulled it
forward, then walked over to Menachim. Nobody moved. I looked at the blood on my right
hand, raised it and flicked it across his face. It splattered his cheeks with red. He
"So they dont need any training, huh? You Schmuck! Somebody,
get me to a dentist."
Nobody moved. Nobody seemed to know what to do.
"NOW!" I shouted.
Suddenly everyone came alive. I was handed a handkerchief, somebody took
me by the arm and started to take me outside. I yanked away.
"Dont pull me! Just lead, Ill follow." We got into
the prop truck and drove to a dentist. He took some X-rays and declared that the tooth
didnt appear broken above the gum line. "Just loosened. Dont chew on it
for five or six weeks until it heals," he announced. I told the driver to take me
back to the hotel and to tell Menachim to shoot around me for the next several days.
Looking in the bathroom mirror, I saw I was quite lucky the cut didnt need
any stitches. I sent downstairs for some peroxide and cotton and took care of it myself.
When I returned to shooting three days later, a scab had formed which I was able to cover
with makeup (the makeup man didnt quite know how to do it) and Menachim, for a short
period, at least, was somewhat subdued. My lip healed, leaving a slight scar, but my tooth
ached for the rest of the two-and-a-half months I spent in Israel.
About three weeks after we started shooting, Peter came over to me on the
set. "I was talking to an Israeli girl at the pool yesterday," he started to
"Of course you were," I smiled.
He smiled back, "And Ive got some interesting news for
"Menachim has been handing you a lot of bull. This very pretty girl
said there are plenty of limos in Israel."
"Thanks, Pete. Keep dating those gals, will you?" and I walked
over to Menachim, who was going through the next scene while the crew set up the lights.
Besides having lied to me about the limo, he was supposed to deliver my weekly expense
money to the hotel every Sunday (Saturday we didnt work since it was the sabbath).
For the past two weeks, he had been two days, then three days, late and Id had to
ask him for it. From the manner in which he gave it to me, one would have thought it was a
"Im going home," I announced.
He looked up startled. "Back to the hotel? This time of day? We have
a lot of work to do."
"No, I mean home. California."
"You, and your cousin here, are two of the biggest fucking liars
Ive ever had the discomfort to know."
"I dont like that kind of language. Four-letter words. English
I understand very well!" he stormed.
"English you understand? Okay, go fuck yourself. No limos, huh? You
know something? Youre not only a bad liar, you dont know shit about making
pictures. And Ive got the sore mouth to prove it."
I walked off the set, to a cubbyhole that had been set aside as my
dressing room, changed, and got a cab back to the hotel. As I took my makeup off, I told
Pat what had happened and asked her to call the airline and book us on the next flight
back. I already had my salary in the bank. It would just about make up for three weeks,
the inconvenience, and the injury.
An hour later, a somewhat chastened Menachim knocked on the door of our
suite. I was relaxing with a martini, Pat must have had several by then, because I noticed
she wasnt too steady.
The first thing he did when he was invited to sit down was remonstrate
about my huge hotel bills for food and liquor. He must have figured a good offense would
obviate a good defense. I just sat and looked at him. Since I said nothing, the earlier
chastened director now sailed into me for all the time I was costing him.
Pat knew how fast I could work, and her latest martini was doing its
thing. She stood up and said, "You
you Jewish HITLER!"
This to an Israeli? Oh, boy! He jumped to his feet, his mouth opening and
closing like a fish out of water, no sound coming out. "How dare you treat my husband
the way you have!" She glared him down, but that was it. Shed shot her bolt and
was now out of steam. She sat down.
I just stared up at him.
Finally he said, "Im sorry. This wont happen again.
Ill make arrangements for a car first thing in the morning."
"Our plane doesnt leave until early afternoon," I said.
"I mean to bring you to the set."
"What makes you think Im coming back?"
"You have to come back."
"I dont have to do anything of the kind."
He let out a deep breath. "Please."
Am I smart? I bought it! AGAIN!
We cancelled our flight and had a drink with Peter Brown when he got back
to the hotel. "You really scared hell out of those two," he said. "I think
you finally got them into line." He was smart, too. Almost as smart as me.
The next morning, there was a limo waiting at the hotel. I invited Peter
to ride with me. When we got to the set, Yoram was standing outside. As we got out of the
car, he said something to the chauffeur in Hebrew. "Whats that about?" I
"I told him to come back at five-thirty to pick you up."
"Hold it," I said to the driver. I turned to Yoram. "You
obviously dont know the rules. This car is mine. It waits here for me."
"For why?" said Yoram. "For what purpose, to just sit
"Because thats the deal. Ill probably go out to eat. I
cant take any more of those crappy box lunches you call food."
"You dont like our cooking in Israel?"
"Dont bullshit me, Yoram. The car stays here!"
He nodded and shrugged.
"And another thing. It doesnt do any company errands.
Peter put an arm around my shoulder and we walked into the building.
"You really know how to do it, old buddy," he said.
"Pete, youve gone out a lot here in Tel Aviv. Figure a place
for us to have a nice leisurely lunch."
A few weeks later, we were due to go to the Sea of Galilee for ten days of
location shooting. It was the beginning of July 1969 and the heat was intense. I have
several memories of that place that remain with me as if it were yesterday. The hotel we
stayed in was right at the waters edge. When I got home from shooting at the end of
the day, I could get into a pair of swimming trunks and dive right off the veranda, just
outside our bedroom, into the softest, sweetest water in which I ever swam.
The most lasting memory is the night the astronauts landed on the moon.
The hotel had set up a television in their dance hall and put folding chairs out for all
the guests. Fifteen feet behind the TV, the French doors were open onto the water. As I
watched Neil Armstrong descend the ladder from the module and step onto the surface of the
moon, I looked past the TV, out through the doors, to where two thousand years ago Jesus
Christ is supposed to have walked on the water. It was a strange and wondrous feeling.