Saturday, April 11, 2009

Paradise, Suzanna Style by Suzanna Leigh

Suzanna Leigh. Paradise, Suzanna Style. Charlotte’s Publishing, 2000.

The author once had a seven year contract acting in Hal Wallis movies. She worked with Elvis Presley, who requested she be his leading lady in “Easy Come, Easy Go.” Elvis’s manager. Col. Tom Parker, was against Elvis and the author being friends. Col. Parker planted false information in the press he hoped would cause Elvis to drop their friendship. Hal Willis, on the other hand, tried to have the press build their relationship as he felt that would create lots of movie publicity.

Leigh refused to cash in on her friendship with Elvis. She stated they had great physical attraction for each other but they were not lovers. They were pictured in magazines kissing.

Leigh attended the Arts Education School, where students were reminded that Julie Andrews had proceeded them.

At age 12, Leigh won her first movie role in “Tom Thumb” with Russ Tamblyn and Peter Sellers. She was paid two guineas

She was in a day’s worth of shooting in the movie “Oscar Wilde”. She stayed on the set on additional days to learn more about film making.

On her third film, the author learned that producers and directors often sought to have sex with actresses and held the lure of roles in connection with their sex demands. Leigh feared that actresses who did that ruined their reputations which harmed their careers. She notes that Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures was notorious for demanding sex from actresses. Cohn is said to have made a prostitute into a movie star. Leigh claims Cohn, during a meeting she had with him, suddenly attacked her and that director Otto Preminger rescued her and hit Cohen on his nose. She ran out of the meeting with Cohen yelling she would never work at Columbia. She later learned Cohen had bet someone he could get her to sleep with him.

Leigh notes that one costar, Lawrence Harvey, kept thin with bulimic behavior and would seek strength by drinking blood.

Leigh had an early problem learning lines. She would have them memorized at home yet faced difficulties when performing. She then learned the entire script, which seems both to have comforted her memorization abilities as well as better allowing her to handle dialogue changes to scripts.

Roman Polanski propositioned Leigh, telling her he could only direct women with whom he had slept. Polanski claimed, according to Leigh, that sexually frustrated women fail to give their best performances. Leigh noted that Polanski filmed some sexually violent scenes that were cut and never shown.

Tony Curtis and Jerry are talented actors who would improvise off a script.

Tony Curtis suggested, and Leigh followed, that scripts be placed into black leather covers with gold title printing.

While filming “Paradise Hawaiian Style”, Leigh met actor Richard Harris in Hawaii and had an affair with him. Her co-star Elvis Presley disapproved of her affair with a married man.

Elvis stated he considered Leigh as his “little sister”. All 51 Elvis films made a profit. Leigh was asked by Elvis to film a second movie with him, which was rare. Elvis usually appeared with all new casts in each movie. Elvis asked Leigh to sing in the movie’s soundtrack, telling her this would be profitable as she’s share in the record sales income.

Leigh requested, as was allowed, to do her own costume designing in the movie “The Lost Continent”.

Leigh visited Hungary for British Film Week in 1968. A Hungarian actress slipped her a note telling of the oppression Hungarian artists and actors were under. Leigh’s hotel room was ransacked. A British Embassy staff member warned her she could place the note writer in jeopardy if she went public with what it said. Leigh stayed silent. She learned a few years later that the note writer was shot to death attempting to flee Hungary. Leigh also learned from talking with Roman Polanski that he was not an advocate of more artistic freedom of expression within the Communist block nations.

Tony Curtis is a dedicated actor. He felt so strongly he could play the lead in “The Boston Strangler” that he paid for his own screen test for the role. He got the part.

Leigh worked well with Tony Curtis, although she noted Tony Curtis and Roger Moore did not work well together. Joan Collins asked Leigh what it was like to work with Tony Curtis, and she recommended Curtis as a good co-worker. Unfortunately, Curtis did not get along with Collins. Collins then became upset at Leigh.

Ringo Starr asked Leigh to be in the movie “Son of Dracula”. The filmmakers concentrated more on taking drugs during the shoots than their work. The script and story were often altered at the spur of the moment. Dennis Price was the voice of reason on the set. The movie received poor reviews.

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