By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
And that he did.
The mention of Grant’s name also brings a smile to the lips of actor Michael York, who first caught moviegoers’ eyes as a sprightly Oxford student in Joseph Losey’s Accident, achieved movie immortality as Christopher Isherwood’s quasi surrogate in Cabaret and more recently has popped up as Basil Exposition in the Austin Powers series.
“Cary was a friend of mine,” says York. “I forget when I met him. He used to love going to the races. I loved going with him. Not so much for ‘the sport of kings,’ but to be with Cary Grant. The week he died, we were at the track, and David Hockney was there, and he [Grant] was picking our brains for jokes.
“For a time, before I settled here, I was a resident of Monaco, and I got to know Princess Grace. At one of the first lunches I went to at the palace, there was Cary Grant. He came in, and as he went to say hello to my wife, Pat, he tripped and fell into her arms. Without missing a beat, he looked up and said, ‘There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.’?”
For her part, Pat York recalls a meeting with another Anglo-American, whose status as such is rarely acknowledged: Bob Hope. “I was seated next to him at dinner one night, and he told me this incredible story. He had gone back to visit his hometown, Elton. He saw a man walking down the road, and he said, ‘I’m Bob Hope, and I was born here and lived here, you know,’ and the man said, ‘I know,’ and walked on. So he went to the house and knocked on the door, and a woman answered. He said, ‘I’m Bob Hope, and I was born in this house,’ and she said, ‘Yes, I know,’ and slammed the door in his face.”
Michael York has felt that same chill. “After a time, your accent inevitably picks up overtones,” he says. “I remember being accosted by a London cabdriver and asked, ‘Why are you speaking American?’?”
Now 95 years young, director Ronald Neame got into the business by a circuitous route. “I came over in 1944,” he recalls. “I was sent over here by [British movie mogul] J. Arthur Rank — the man with the gong — who was a very important gentleman, because he owned somewhere around 880 theaters. He asked me to visit all the studios and assess what we need in England to bring us up to date with Hollywood when the war was over, which we knew was going to happen.
“There was no question of flying over back then,” Neame continues. “I came on the Queen Elizabeth. It had half ordinary passengers, 800 wounded American soldiers on their way home and 800 German POWs who were on their way to prison camps in America. The reason we had the 800 POWs was, the feeling was Hitler wouldn’t sink us if we had German prisoners onboard. We zigzagged across the Atlantic. Then I arrived in New York, this magical city. I cannot tell you how extraordinary it was to come out of war-torn Britain, with blackouts and shortages of everything. It was pure magic.”
But Neame was on his way to L.A., where he found any number of fellow countrymen (“We had a cricket team. There were a lot of people who played croquet. Ronald Coleman, I remember”), along with American equipment, much needed after the war. “We were a great little group of filmmakers, and we had a wonderful eight or 10 years,” he says of the postwar period, during which (with the help of that U.S. equipment) he produced such David Lean classics as Great Expectations and Brief Encounter and photographed Lean’s film of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit as well as Powell and Pressburger’s One of Our Aircraft Is Missing. “We thought it would go on forever. But then [the industry] collapsed. So then United Artists adopted me. The Horse’s Mouth, Scrooge, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie — they were all British pictures, but the finance came from America.”
And so Neame found himself, purely out of professional necessity at first, buying a home in L.A., which he still lives in today.
“[Producer] Harry Saltzman came up to see me here about making a film, which was never made, and he said, ‘What a lovely little place you’ve got here. Exactly the kind of place I would like,’?” Neame says. “I told him I wanted to sell it. He said, ‘Well, look, I want to give you some advice: A few weeks ago, I went home and my wife was writing a letter. She has cancer. I said, “Who are you writing to?” And she said, “I’m writing to you.” “Why?” “Well, when I die, I want you to promise me that you won’t sell this house for one year, because after that year, you may find that you want to keep it.” That’s my advice to you. And I thought about it and realized, ‘Yes — why do I do everything in a rush?’ And after the year, I didn’t want to sell it. And eventually, I became an American citizen. I really fell for this place.’?”
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