Born Stuttgart, to Jewish Polish family. Family returns to Poland but father goes to USA, where he becomes a communist. In 1933 rest of family emigrates to USA and live in New York. Memories of arriving and going through Ellis Island. Description of boat journey and eating endless bananas which put her off bananas for years. Before leave, brother dies from tragic accident.
Quickly adapts to life in USA, learns English and forgets Polish. At the end of depression and life very hard, father a window cleaner. Goes to High School, takes commercial course. Leaves school at 16. Describes herself as having energy. Took dance classes, and initially had ambition to be show dancer but then realises too late. Starts to mix with dancers and actors, but always has day jobs. Briefly joined young communist league, her father was an active communist. Father takes out American citizenship during World War II. Works in a communist summer camp but didn’t like the experience, often belittled but made her interested in words and language. Move to the Bronx. Somehow not affected by unAmerican activities committee, but by Aliens Act, many of neighbours disappeared to the Soviet Union but never heard of them again. Had a series of jobs to subsidise dance classes, Woolworths, cafeterias.
Through girls sharing flat with gets job as telephonist with PR company. They decide she is overqualified and sack her. But recommends her to a fashion agency. Met Philip Barber of Barber Robinson and get taken on. They represented ANTA and gets offered a job of PRO of world tour of Porgy and Bess, Then meets Ted Ashley who gets her a job at CBS Radio. Works on Strike It Rich, public send in letters about people who are in dire straits. Finds the job too depressing and quits. Works on shows like What’s My Line for a couple of months. Then opening for Lester Gottlieb, then gets research job. Sexually harassed by Henry White. Works for Mike and Buff Wallace on a chat type show, finding people for show, every show there was an entertainer. Then Porgy and Bess came up.
Taken under wing of Lee Gershwin, who taught her a lot.
Comes back to CBS and acts as holiday relief until taken on permanently by Bob Fryer in the casting department. Takes to casting like a duck to water. Cast both light entertainment and drama. Worked for Robert Mulligan, Sidney Lumet, who didn’t like. Description of casting for television and how she found her cast. Role of casting director to bring in new people. Discussion of black list and when it came in. She said it didn’t seem to operate until she worked with David Susskind in 1956.
Goes back to Porgy and Bess and all the countries she visits. Talks about John Frankovich. Gets offered job at Susskinds, and she knew a lot of people already there. Did live television, did a lot of classics, she used to go regularly to London to see English actors because put on lots of classic English dramas — used Hurd Hatfield and Denholm Elliott, Clive Revill. Father dies, and reconciled with mother. In 1960 met Maxwell Shaw who came over to do The Hostage, great love of her life and they’re together for 25 years until he dies. Misses him greatly but had a very good marriage.
Leaves Henry White sitting in a restaurant, when he becomes an independent producer years later. Wants to have family but after miscarriage never becomes pregnant. CBS producer, who worked with Lew Grade, something Cowan, but can’t remember the name. But in 1952 gets call from Lew Grade’s office that miniseries is going to be made by this producer and would she be interested in doing the casting. And she stays for 7 years. At the end of 1969 decides, round running home and going into office made too many demands, and has built up sufficient reputation, so goes freelance. Had been asked to become producer but didn’t want to work out at Elstree. Talks about working with Patrick McGoohan and how good an actor he was. Offered James Bond. Says she never made any real discoveries but gave Pierce Brosnan his first big part. Bad experience with Richard Bradford. Memories of Lew Grade and Bernard Ingham. Talks about certain men in the industry seem to dislike women on principal. Worked on SOS Titanic, mini-series for EMI. Allowed to work on features by Lew Grade but became Queen of the mini-series. But did work on
Sidney Lumet films, such as Equus. Would liked to have done more features, but always seemed to be caught up in mini-series when films came up.
About to go through a list of titles.
Seven Per Cent Solution. Little Night Music, problems with Liz Taylor’s having casting approval. Greek Tycoon and Mort Abrahams. Love and Bullets Charlie with Loraine Chase. Wild Geese. Jacques Demy and Lady Oscar. Nijinsky. Cukor and How Green is My Valley. Human Factor and Otto Preminger which was his first solo production. Jeffrey Archer anecdote. 150% credit on Murder is Easy. Arthur the King and problems of producer’s wives interfering with the casting. Jaclyn Smith as Florence Nightingale, but her name guaranteed the deal. Problems with actors who like a drink. Taipai, produced by Rafaela de Laurentis. Told to put together a non- star cast. Father turns up, to check casting. And loss Ackland says no thanks. Goes back to blacklist and how it operated at David Susskind’s. Queenie with Mia Sara.
Retires in 1990. Goes to India for a film and loved it so much decided to go on extended holiday. But talks about end of ACTT and how it coincided with end of closed shop and the proliferation of casting actors, all of whom worked for peanuts and lack experience. Had sufficient money and taken up travel. In past year went to Spain three times, New York, Lakes in Italy,
Talks about two biggest disasters, Quilp and Sarah. And dangers of working with friends. These films being produced by Helen Strauss, based in New York, and while they got on well fine when friends, she discovered working for her turned into a nightmare.