A call came in one day from Famous Artists Corporation, a medium-sized,
but very exclusive, agency that was extremely particular about whom it represented. No
featured players, only stars and big directors. The agency was owned by Charles K.
Feldman, considered on a par with Lew Wasserman as a great agent and creative thinker. He
also produced a few pictures now and then. Much of his power derived from lengthy and
close friendships with Darryl Zanuck and Jack Warner. The three of them spent a month or
two together every winter on the Riviera, enjoying good wines, European cuisine, casino
gambling at Monaco, and beautiful women, not necessarily in that order.
The call was from Al Rocket, Feldmans lieutenant and the one who
kept the office running when Charlie was out of town. Feldman had seen me in Sombrero
a few years ago, remembered me, and had noted that my career hadnt gone anywhere.
The agency was interested in handling me. Charlie Feldman, Rocket said, was in town and
wanted to meet with me.
He was a laid-back kind of guy, always with a sleeveless cardigan under
his jacket, in place of a vest. His priceless art collection of impressionists was as well
known as he was. Very slightly on the overweight side, he had a trim salt-and-pepper
mustache and a full head of salt-and-pepper hair. Although his last name was Feldman, he
wasnt Jewish. As a gentile orphan, hed been adopted by a Jewish couple of that
name and raised without any religious training.
One might have thought, on first meeting him, that his eyes
werent following you. On the contrary, they never missed a beat nor a movement. He
was more of a listener than a talker, very much in that respect like Wasserman. He
expressed a keen interest in representing me, and I really had no place else to go. So I
signed with him, the standard Screen Actors Guild Agency contact.
The problem I constantly ran into, starting back with Max Arnow, was that powerful men
took an interest in my career. I became their cause celebré, sort of their
personal property. It was all well and good for the ego, but they had other duties to
perform other than watching out for my career, and I could sit on a shelf, on the back
burners of their minds, until the right thing came along, in their view. They all wanted
full control. All of this I figured out a little further down the road.