Life is a series of choices; some are trivial and others heavy with
consequence. Some are just plain fun, like deciding which car to drive
when leaving home for the day (or evening). More often than not, it was an
amusing act that could set the tone and supply context for whatever
adventure was in store.
One day, I was going to lunch at The Brown
Derby in Hollywood with an aspiring writer who, at the time, was a
bartender at Matthew Ettinger's nightclub the Plush Bunny. On that day, I
threw the decision to him about which car to drive. The selection
included the GTO, a standard steel-bodied, dark blue S-Type Bentley and a
silver and black James Young-bodied, R-Type Bentley. He chose the
R-Type; I think he liked the understated elegance of the James Young
lines and the rich burled walnut dash and trim complementing the
sumptuous leather upholstery--an appropriate conveyance for two
gentlemen on their way to a proper luncheon. After lunch, we exchanged
the Bentley for the Ferrari and spent the rest of the day tear-assing
around L.A. in the GTO.
One evening, Matthew Ettinger and I
decided to drive to Palm Springs for dinner (4 hours round trip) with
our girlfriends. We could have taken the GTO and Breadvan, as you might
expect we would, but that night we took the James Young R-Type. I don't
know why because the road from L.A. to Palm Springs is great for
traveling at high speeds and cutting up the moving chicanes also known
as freeway traffic. In any case, we all went together in the Bentley and
sang songs in the car (not) and as Matthew explored a running
stream-of-consciousness that touched upon lugubrious comestibles
(butter, for example) and other less quotable topics in a desultory
fashion, I held the Bentley rock steady and true at over 90 mph in the
pouring rain until we reached Palm Canyon Drive. When Matthew and I were
out together, dinner was always something of an articulated, three-ring
event often conscripting diners we hadn't previously met and by the
time we closed the restaurant, the rain had stopped so I didn't have to
drive quite so carefully on the way home.
During a later era, my
selection included a Maserati Quattroporte, two Maserati Mistrals and a
bright yellow, 327 Corvette Stingray with mag wheels. Each of these
would set a different tone and tenor for the outing--even the two Mistrals
had different personalities, if you can imagine, one being a little more
raucous than the other. I really liked the Quattroporte--a series one
with the rectangular headlights--and would sometimes go for rides up the
coast at night and my father would come along. I liked this car so much
that I drove it in spite of not knowing where to find reverse. A week
or so after it arrived from Italy, I finally found reverse in a
spring-loaded position alongside first gear; until that moment, I would
have to push the car out of parking spaces or park at the curb in a red
zone (leaving an 'out of gas/gone for gas' note on the windshield) where
I wouldn't need to back up to leave.
You might think that
deciding upon the right car for going on a date would be something of a
fine art but, apart from a landmark occasion when I was working in Palm
Springs on Dean Martin's film The Wrecking Crew where I suspect
that the Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso may have had an influence on a woman
in her thirties accepting my teen-aged invitation to dinner, I never got
the impression the car I was driving factored into the situation.
one occasion, I was on a first date with a very attractive woman and I
was inexplicably driving a seven-year-old Chevrolet Corvair with (very)
leaky seals that was pumping large quantities of oil onto the engine
and exhaust pipes. It was a real treat for those keen on the smell of
burning fossil fuels and the theater of stopping at red lights and
having a mile or so of trailing smoke catch up with the car and engulf
it was spectacular to say the least. Finally, my date asked me if the
car was on fire. "Not yet," I told her.
I found that if you drive whatever car you have as though it were a Ferrari, there will never be a dull moment and who can ask for more than that?
When How to Shoot a Feature Film in 15 Days (And Survive to See Profits)
was published, I wanted a cover that expressed the irony that is the
film business. I thought the optimism of the title should be contrasted
by the cynicism of the graphic image. The implied expletive worked
nicely but I always intended to add a splash of color that spoke of the
blood, sweat and tears that went into the making of this or any film. I think we
have done that and I want to thank Tom Gurnee and Louella Ladybug for their contributions to this cover. http://www.amazon.com/Shoot-Feature-Film-Survive-Profits/dp/1505402379/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
There are some whose interest in the Ferrari GTO
stems from its financial value in today's world where exotic cars are portfolio
items rather than objects of fun and adventure. Years ago, I ran into a fellow
GTO owner in a New York-style piano bar/restaurant in Santa Monica (they even
had their own version of Bobby Short) and we traded reminiscences and anecdotes
focusing on our GTOs. He wanted to talk about finances--what he paid,
restoration costs, what he received when he sold, its (then) current value,
etc., etc.--and I wanted to talk about driving the car at full-chat on the way to
As I look back on the exchange, it dawned on me that I never saw him drive his
GTO; it was always in pieces undergoing restoration. When the long process was
complete, he sold the car. His interest and attachment to the GTO were no less
genuine than mine; the car simply provided us with a different sort of
satisfaction. I wonder if he ever spends a moment savoring the gearshift action
on his GTO...
What most people remember about their time behind the wheel or as a passenger
in a Ferrari is the sound of the engine and the GTO--with its lack of
insulation and unfiltered velocity stacks on the six, 2 bbl Weber carburetors--provides
plenty of thrilling sounds to make the experience unforgettable. The thrill
of speed and acceleration is greatly enhanced by these sounds and the fact
that the engine is nervous and high-revving provides sensations that a
Maserati, Aston-Martin or Shelby Cobra could not match. Driving the car is pure,
Though not commonly discussed, the gear change mechanism is one of the car's
subtle, aesthetic components and provides a definitive aspect, of driving a
GTO. Looked at one way, the DNA of the GTO brand as a mechanical design is manifest
in the shifting mechanism. It is simple and straight-forward using a thin
chrome lever emanating from a slotted, chrome gate and topped by a round,
turned-aluminum knob. No effort whatsoever is required in moving the lever
through the gate and the lightly spring-loaded action ensures that only the
slightest hint from the driver to the shifter is required to send it into the
next slot, which the lever seems to seek out on its own whether shifting up or
down. In comparison, changing gears in a Corvette of the same period felt as though one were operating heavy equipment.
Every aspect of the GTO’s functioning seemed to have
built into it an ease of operation that was designed to make any driver look
like an expert and this fact, as much as the financial worth of the car as an
investment, is what defines for me the essence of this extraordinary race car
from Ferrari. The GTO was made to ensure success.
It was not unusual for writers in the Hollywood studio system to know for which actor they were writing as they created a character in a script. This one is for Gable. That one is for Garbo. Though they had crafted a screenplay as a vehicle for a certain actor, it didn't mean that another actor wouldn't end up playing the part by the time the film was finally shot, however.
Nevertheless, when you write for a particular actor you want to include the special qualities he or she possesses so as to make the character more authentic and believable. You write for the actor's signature or brand, if you will, and then add an element that brings something new and unexpected into the mix so as to surprise and fascinate the audience without violating the actor's franchise.
I have had the pleasure of knowing the actors for whom I write since I first started in Paris with Montmartre and having the opportunity to continually develop and expand an actor's signature is one of filmmaking's special pleasures.
The clip seen here is a work in progress I am writing for Erin Nordseth, which is destined to be part of my Series of One--a collection of one-man/one-woman shows featuring a variety of personalities and situations.
It is rather like (Interview) without the interviewer.
Amongst the 500 half-hour segments I created for my (Interview) television series over the years, one of my favorites was the Clarence Conly segment with Clarence being played by actor Alan Doshna. Most, if not all, of the masters of my movies and TV shows, had been 'lost at sea' but over time, some copies have surfaced and were provided to me by those who had taken part in the various projects. Recently, I was in contact with Alan who, thankfully, had retained his VHS copy of 'Clarence' and kindly made it available for me to convert the episode to a digital file. It has the look of an old VHS tape because that is what it is.
I started the Clarence Conly (Interview) segment as I did all the others maintaining the serious and thoughtful tone of a top-level interviewer like Keith Berwick or Charlie Rose. However, as 'Clarence' began recounting the story I had created for him, I found myself unable to maintain my composure and began laughing at what he was saying. I was out of control. As we proceeded along with the Q&A, I kept telling myself that I was ruining the segment but determined to carry on to the end. I figured that we could tape the show again when I had gotten the laughter out of my system. Thankfully, Alan stayed with me and didn't break character.
Afterwards, when I looked at the tape, I concluded that anyone would have found the answers hysterical and for the interviewer not to find it funny would have made the performance less real and the viewer was supposed to receive it as real right up until the final credits rolled. I left it as we taped it. Later, when David Permut called me after watching it, he was still laughing at the performance. He wanted to run with the project as a feature film. I suggested Marshall Brickman (Woody Allen's co-writer on Sleeper, Annie Hall and Manhattan) as a potential writer/director and David agreed.
I called Marshall's agent in Century City and asked simply, "Do you know who David Permut is?" He did, indeed, came the immediate response. I told him that David and I had a project that we would like to propose to Marshall Brickman as a writer/director. The result was that Marshall liked it so much he wrote a treatment on spec. More of this story can be seen here.
In the second half of the 60s, I was constantly looking for reasons to
take road trips. This habit began when I acquired a 3.8-litre, Series 1
E-Type Jaguar coupe--probably one of the most beautiful cars ever
made--and carried on through my ownership of two other magnificent cars,
the Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso and the Ferrari GTO. On one particular
occasion, I drove the Lusso to Tuscon, Arizona where my friend and
mentor Paul Stanley was directing an episode of the television series The High Chaparral.
show was a western drama starring Leif Erickson and Cameron Mitchell
created by David Dortort, who had created the hit series Bonanza
also for NBC. It was filmed at Old Tucson Studios, a movie studio and
theme park that put on the sort of western shows one would see at
Knott's Berry Farm when production companies weren't filming.
say that getting there is half the fun and when the vehicle is a
Berlinetta Lusso, one could accept that claim as understatement. No
other engine sounds like a Ferrari V12 and the long stretches of road
between Los Angeles and Tuscon made for a wonderful opportunity to enjoy
the Ferrari's uninterrupted song at high revs for such prolonged periods of
time. I especially liked the way the tightly sprung suspension caused the fenders to bob as
the Lusso consumed the pavement in front of it traveling at twice the
speed of other cars on the road. When I would stop to fill the tank at a
service station, I had the same curious feeling I would get after
spending time on my sailboat--that of still traveling at speed the way I
could still feel the rocking of the boat long after I had come ashore.
I enjoyed watching Paul shoot as he was always well prepared ("Preparation, preparation, preparation!" Don Logan, Sexy Beast)
and knew what he wanted. He seemed to enjoy good relations with his
actors and crew though I noticed he was not averse to showing his
displeasure in a manner that brought things quickly back to how they
should be when it was merited.
One day on the set, I was having
lunch with Cameron Mitchell and Harry Dean Stanton (who was guest
starring on the episode) at a table set up by craft services on the
western street. They were both in their western costumes and the subject
turned to Zen. It seemed Cameron had become interested in the subject
and I had the impression that Harry Dean was familiar with the teachings
of Zen as well. In explaining Zen to me, Cameron picked up a pack of
cigarettes and threw it onto the table. "That's Zen," he said.
Cameron's was the most Zen-like explanation of Zen ever given or merely
a hint of what he understood Zen to be didn't matter. His explanation
stuck with me as a reference and how many things said to you can you
recall with vivid clarity after forty-seven years?
On the way home, I found my own Zen at 7,000 r.p.m.
I am having trouble downloading Skype on the hotel computer, which
rejects any and all attempts to import alien content onto the hard
drive. I tried getting in touch with Jean-Pierre Soutric, but he was off
to his apartment in the Marais and therefore unable to intervene on my
I need the Skype software
because my iPod coach is in Egypt giving a seminar that seems to have
been organized, indirectly and for motives that are sufficiently vague,
by Clive Davis and he won't talk to me on the phone for fear of
incurring punitive roaming charges. The problem is that I somehow
downloaded 60GB of electronica onto my iPod over-writing all the play
lists that he spent hundreds of hours orchestrating after several
comprehensive and exhaustive consulting sessions with me, which included
psychological and aptitude testing along with recommendations from no
less than three independent focus group specialists located in Los
Angeles, London and Caracas.
This mishap occurred after a fille
sympa discovered the Credence tracks I had covertly added to a play
list, knowing that my iPod coach would have decommissioned if he'd known
about it. She was down to her thong and escarpins when she asked if I'd
mind her listening to music whilst she submitted to my will. I had no
incentive to decline her request, but neither did I have cause to think
she'd stumble onto 'Run Through the Jungle' and suffer such an adverse
reaction. This horrible gaffe on my part not only ruined what promised
to be a perfectly historic evening with the top left-foot model in
Europe, but my reputation as well if she turns out to be half the gossip
I believe her to be.
“I was able to get a trace on that phone number,” Dornan informed Martin as he bit into his swordfish sandwich.
“What phone number is that?” Martin wanted to know. He also wanted to
know why they had to park themselves in the corner booth of one of
D.C.’s finer restaurants every time Dornan had something to tell him.
“The number in the ad for the ’59 Caddy.”
“I’ll have to ask you not to refer to it as a Caddy. It’s a Cadillac.”
Dornan looked at him, obviously not understanding the difference. “It’s
a pre-paid cell phone. I’ll get the owner’s name, but I’ll lay eight to
five it’s a phony.”
“Just so we find the guy. I want that car.”
Martin wondered to himself how many times this guy needed to be told
something before it sank in. “I don’t care what his name is or what he’s
done with his life to date. I want that car.”
“What’s so special
about it? I’d think you’d have had your fill of old Caddys by now.”
Martin ignored the detective’s impertinence and changed the subject.
“When are you going to deal with Rrina?”
“Whenever she shows up again at her place.” Dornan signaled the waiter for another sandwich.
“What are you talking about? She’s there all the time. The woman hasn’t got a friend in this world.”
“You don’t have to tell me.” Dornan shot back. “I’ve been a cop for
longer than I care to remember and I’ve never had anyone talk to me like
that bitch.” Martin wondered if he should take offense, though he
certainly couldn’t disagree with the detective’s assessment.
“How long has she been away?” Martin figured the answer would be counted in hours.
“About a week now. You didn’t kill her, too, did you?”
“To tell you the truth, I’ve thought about it. I think we’re all better off just giving her mind a retread.”
Dornan nodded his agreement.
“Soon as she shows up, we’ll grab her,” Dornan affirmed as he finished off his third single malt scotch.
Martin was glad to see that, finally, the detective seemed to have gotten with the program.
At nine o’clock that night (after having wrapped at Barbara’s at five
that morning)—the start of our second “day” of shooting—two things were
becoming “perfectly clear” to use the words of The Great Man from
Whittier. The first is that TD&H [Tall, Dark & Handsome] was not
a car guy. This I concluded from the fact that he set off the
windshield wipers and spray every time he got into the BMW that was
being used as his car in the movie. Each time this happened, one of the
crew had to rush over and explain to the
actor how to turn the wipers off again. Then, we would wait as the
spray was wiped from the windshield after which, TD&H would do it
again. From that night forward, I tried to avoid scenes where we
actually had to see him get into the car preferring to catch him once he
was already behind the wheel.
How to Shoot a Feature Film in 15 Days (And Survive to See Profits)
Click to buy on Amazon
Click to view on Amazon
Action/ReAction at Stella Adler
Stephen and Dragonuk
Stephen Mitchell webinar for Stage 32
A review from my new student Louella
(Click on photo)
Ferrari GTO 3987 at speed by Yan denes
Ray D. Shosay's Journal
Dispatches from a (junior) suite in Paris
Ray D. Shosay's Journal (excerpt)
"Saturday, January 27, 2007
They say you can fool some of the people all of the time. Accordingly, I think we should concentrate on this group initially. We can move on to the people you can only fool some of the time at a later date if we deem it necessary. I hope to hear back from my agent about this as soon as he's out of rehab, as I don't think my messages have been getting through."
Elysée Wednesday: Drive!, Episode 1
Ignorance is Bliss by Stephen Mitchell
Kindle or Paperback versions
Exerpt from Ignorance is Bliss
"Out of the corner of his eye, Martin saw Martha shift in her seat. She leaned forward, as though something was about to be decided. This caused her breasts to push up against the neckline of her dress in a way that couldn't be fully appreciated out of the corner of one’s eye. So, Martin turned his head to look directly into the abyss of her cleavage. He was vaguely aware that Murray was talking again."
Carrera Panamericana (1950-54)
Click on poster to buy the poster and DVD
Ferrari GTO 3987
Elysée Wednesday TV
Elysée Wednesday: Drive!
“You ought to meet Steve. The two of you have the same kind of Ferrari.”
Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso
One evening, I was enjoying a John le Carré novel and a glass of Bordeaux...
L'art de l'automobile
My first Lusso prior to restoration
It was only after Sinatra was gone...
Once upon a time...
Meeting Enzo Ferrari
I came across this on a late night stroll in Paris near the Louvre.
Simone Kussatz interviews Stephen Mitchell
(Click on photo)
(Interview) version française
Natasha Loizeau (Interview) version française
Stevie Williams (Interview)
David Gritten reviews (Interview)
At Cannes with Priscilla Lingenheim who taped a segment of (Interview) version française
Rebel, Rebel by Marc Sonnery
Ferrari 'Breadvan' trivia
Stephen interviews Marc Sonnery
Ferrari 250GTO by Stephen Mitchell
Ferraris on Mulholland
Ferrari GTOs at Willow Springs &...
Ferrari GTO in Paris
Kenny Lombino's 16M Scuderia
Stephen Mitchell talks with General Richard Wilmot (part 1)
In 1980, Stephen founded an entertainment industry think tank in the guise of a repertory company for film and
television labeled The New Hollywood Studio System. In 1985, Stephen pioneered a unique application of product integration in branded entertainment with his cable TV series (Interview). In 2006, Stephen authored a protocol for the management and marketing of business executives. He is currently producing a documentary on the Ferrari GTO, one of which he owned for several years.