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Lost Teeth and Cigars

We were filming two versions of Eagles Attack at Dawn. One in English, and the other in Hebrew for the Israeli audience. Since I don’t speak a word of Hebrew, after we got the English version in the can Menachim would call out to me the Hebrew version. I could only remember a line or so at a time. He spoke so fast and I had to keep telling him to slow down. I wanted to be able to do it without an accent. I don’t know if I succeeded. It was, "action," I’d say the line in Hebrew and "Cut!" Menachim would shout the next line at sixty miles an hour, I’d get him to slow down until I could say it properly; then roll camera, action, line, and "Cut!"

I regret to say, the movie has played several times on cable and the satellite here in the States. To my horror, I was recently informed that movie buffs all over the country have tapes of it. A friend who saw it (I was able to watch about two reels on TV before I turned it off) called me afterward and asked why my voice was so husky.

"Because it wasn’t my voice," I said, "The Israeli actors’ English was so unintelligible they had to redub the entire picture. They certainly weren’t going to pay me my fee to dub my own voice, so, that’s the result.

When I finished, after two-and-a-half months, Pat and I took a plane home. Neither the Thief of Israel nor Global Gonif Globus said goodbye or saw us off, and I didn’t really care. It was a relief to get out of that place. I was beginning to hate the people I was supposed to love.

The thing that saved it for me was a nice antique merchant from Europe. He was a Jew who had lasted out the concentration camp. He explained, while I was making a purchase, that the Sabras (Jews born in Israel) had a whole different outlook. They were pushy, because they knew how to survive in a land in which the soil had to be worked hard to give forth its bounty, and where their Arab neighbors wished them anything but good luck.

In an aura like that, who could be expected to learn and use good manners? Even the older Jews, the early Zionists and Europeans who ran the country and wore business suits, had their dress shirts open at the collar and spread over the suit lapels. They wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing a tie. And putting on airs! Israel was a young country then. A great deal has changed since.

My contract called for The Thief to send me a 35mm print of the film ninety days after completion of principle photography. Six months later we still didn’t have a print and The Thief and his cousin were nowhere to be found. No print, no sale to Japan.

If I wanted to sue him, I’d have to file the suit in Israel. About ten years later, I received a letter from a man in Switzerland. He had bought the world rights to the movie from the lab in Rome which had processed the film, cut the negative, and finally foreclosed on the picture for non-payment of fees.

He wanted clear title and discovered that I owned the Japanese rights. We haggled by mail for a few months and I finally settled for twenty-five thou. When I eventually saw as much of the movie as I could take, I figured the Swiss guy got the wrong end of the stick in our deal. It was one picture that, as is said in the biz, "wasn’t released; it escaped."

About a month after we got back to California, my breath began to smell like a ton of garbage. I went to my dentist, Fred Menzies, and told him about the accident to my mouth. He x-rayed the tooth and declared there was no break. But it was still loose, and it still hurt like hell if I bit down on it even slightly. "It should have firmed up in the gum by now," he said.

We talked for a while and decided to pull the damn thing. He gave me a shot of novacaine, reached in with a pair of pliers, and the tooth came out like a pit popping out of an over-ripe cherry. He looked at it while he kept my mouth open with the other hand. "Shit!" he said as he reached into a drawer behind him for another tool. He had the rest of the tooth out in no time. "The thing was broken above the gum line, and it was just a hairline crack that didn’t show on the x-ray."

With a nice hole in my mouth, I tried not to smile too much for ten days until Fred installed a permanent bridge. At last my mouth stopped hurting, but every once in a while I run my tongue over the false tooth and it brings back memories of the The Thief of Israel and his cousin.

Someone told me they had taken Tony Curtis, too, and a couple of other people. The two gonifs have been making movies all these years here in the states and in Europe, though fewer and fewer I notice. They must have had a falling out, because I saw a movie on TV not long ago that had Yoram Globus’ credit without his cousin’s. Menachim has done a lot of pictures, some with Charles Bronson, but I’ll bet you nine-to-five that Charlie got paid! Bronson is a gentle, artistic loner, but he comes from the coal mining district. And one thing a wise man never does is screw around with a coal miner. Those guys are tough!

When Bronson guested on Combat!, we had a lot of scenes together. I smoked cigars and, rather than light an expensive one from which I might only get a few puffs before being called into a shot, I smoked Grenadiers at three for a dollar. George Burns smoked them after he turned ninety. He said that at his age he couldn’t taste anything, anyway. Charlie and I were sitting in our canvas chairs one day on Stage 24 and I was puffing on a stogie with probably a little ‘leak light’ behind me.

"That is not a good cigar," he said curtly, as only Charlie can.

I looked at it and shrugged. "It’s not bad," I said.

"It’s not a good cigar," he insisted.

"It’s all right, Charlie."

"Not good!"

I examined it again. "What’s…uh…what’s wrong with it?" I asked.

"The smoke."


"The smoke is brown. If it was a good cigar the smoke would be blue."

"Uh huh," I agreed. I got up, walked to my box dressing room, and puffed away until we were called into the scene.

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