Friday, September 01, 2006

Anecdote of the Week

"The film was a great success all over the world and brought Peter a recognition that was not always to his liking. He was in New York for the opening and climbed into a cab, but before he could state his destination the driver enquired, 'Quo vadis, Mr. Ustinov?'"

--From Peter Ustinov: The Gift of Laughter, by John Miller.


Gloria said...

I always felt "Quo Vadis" was too long. Ustinov may be now the most famous screen Nero, but I personally prefer the pre-code "Wild Wilde Nero" of Laughton in "The Sign of the Cross" (But them I'm biased :p)... or maybe it was the deliriously bizarre circus scenes of De Mille's film, so in contrast with the prudishness of Mervyn LeRoy's... "man fights a bull" can't beat "Gorillas and alligators eat Christian girls while amazons fight gladiator pigmies, etc..."

The Siren said...

Yes, Sign of the Cross is often silly but it moves swiftly and is far less stuffy than the later MGM "Nero persecutes Christians" epic. The bull in Quo Vadis was actually a cow, obtained when the original bull proved too dangerous. It took many takes to get the scene right because she had a habit of falling to one side and mooing pitifully, at which point some underling would get on the megaphone and intone "Meester LeRoy can still see ze udder."

Ustinov and Laughton got along pretty well on Spartacus and reworked several of their scenes together, coming up with new dialogue, which Kubrick would then film without complaint.

Gloria said...

So "Quo Vadis" pre-dated the "male cows" in "Barnyard"!! :D

Laughton and Ustinov got along famously during "Spartacus", though Dalton Trumbo (in the comments of the "Spartacus" Special Edition DVD) thought that Ustinov's re-writing of the scenes played down Gracchus' character to Batiatus' benefit: Indeed, in the novel Gracchus has a much more relevant role, and Batiatus is nearly non-existant.