The other day, I was asked how many cars I've owned and the answer was
'too many to count'. Best known for my adventures with Ferraris, my
first car was a series 1 Jaguar E-Type coupe and I've enjoyed other
Jaguars over the years as well including a Mk IX sedan I acquired from
my friend Gary Wales and a few XJ6 sedans that I thoroughly enjoyed. The
Mercedes 450SEL I drove impressed me as being bullet-proof and very
comfortable for the long, high-speed rides into the desert where I was
shooting one film or another and the air conditioning kept me ice cold
regardless of the 100+ temperatures the desert was inflicting upon us.
bought a lot of cars overseas beginning when I was 16 or 17 buying
older Bentleys in London and Maseratis in Milano. Traveling to places
like Bromley, Surrey or Southampton and one especially memorable drive
to Parma in Italy with Tom Meade to purchase a couple of Maserati
Mistrals made the acquiring of these cars as exciting to me as owning
them. It seemed that each transaction had a story to go with it that
gave pleasure long after the car had passed to another. Also part of the
package was driving these cars before they were picked up by the
shippers--the Bentleys taking me around London in the 'Swinging 60s' and
the Maseratis guiding me through what remained of Italian Neorealism in
I sold a few cars that required a particular sort of
buyer or, to quote my father, "What you need for this one is a sap!" he
would say without treading too heavily on the fact that I was the sap
who bought it for resale. One of these was a terrible Chevrolet Corvair
that, if memory serves, still had a bit of compression in one of its
cylinders. In the morning when the engine was cold, you could hear gusts
of wind escaping from the chambers as the engine cranked over and it
was futile to think that the spark plugs would generate enough heat to
cause the metal to expand sufficiently to seal the heads and the block. I
was able to find a happy buyer for this amazing machine when I
experienced a confluence of good luck.
The first bit of luck was
that I discovered an aerosol spray at the auto parts store that was so
explosive you couldn't use it within miles of a house that had central
heating. This product one would spray into the carburetors standing as
far back as my arm length would allow while my father would crank the
engine over from the relative safety of the driver's seat. If you have
ever seen the jumbo size of Aqua Net hairspray (available in gas station
mini-marts everywhere) you have an idea about the size of the can I was
using. Early morning starts usually required three of these. The
gentleman who showed up at eight o'clock one morning as I was attempting
to fire up the engine from cold was as impeccably dressed as any I had
ever seen in Los Angeles and had uncommonly fine manners in addition.
Also, he was drunk, which I count as my second bit of luck. He sat
good-naturedly on a nearby fire hydrant as my father and I continued
to crank our way through the second and third aerosol bottles of Ka-Boom or
whatever it was called wondering if we would run out of the spray or
battery power before the engine started.
I had parked the car at
the top of a hill to facilitate the car's first morning steps, so to
speak, believing as I did that the car would have to journey a ways
before level ground should be attempted and especially eschewing
anything that could be seen as an incline. My new found gentleman friend
was delighted by the car and was soon pressing cash into my hand. I
counted it and gave him back his change as he had overpaid in his
excitement. It was then that he said he was buying the car for his
ex-girlfriend; an astonishing admission that brought the proceedings to a
halt. This really isn't the sort of car one buys for an ex-girlfriend, I
told him. It was one thing for him to buy the car for himself after
witnessing the morning start-up ritual but to pawn it of on a woman for
whom he had cared was quite another. The more I tried to dissuade him,
the more insistent he became about buying the car and, in the end, we
concluded the transaction, which brings us to the third bit of luck. I
don't think he was ever able to remember where he had purchased the car.
a buyer, however, the most interesting purchase for me was when I
bought a 1971 Lincoln Continental Mk III. I had wanted one ever since
seeing William Friedkin's film The French Connection in which one
is featured. By 1989, I finally decided to see if I could find one
knowing that the odds were against me locating one that was in 'as new'
condition and I wasn't wanting a car that needed a restoration or that
had been poorly restored. When I found an ad for an example that sounded
like what I wanted, I called and received the strangest phone interview
I've ever received or given during a car purchase. "Why do you want a
Mk III?" "What kinds of cars have you owned?" "How will you be using the
car?" "Do you hand wash your cars?" I had the feeling that I was
adopting a child rather than buying a car but I began to have an
understanding of the seller. I asked him if I could come look at the
car. He told me he would think about it and call me back. The next day,
he did and I was given directions to his home.
I arrived to
discover that this man kept his Mk III in a carpeted garage; the other
family cars were relegated to the outdoors. There was nary a scratch on
any of the paint or bright-work and the black leather interior was
flawless. This car looked as though it had just been driven home from
the Lincoln dealership! The mileage on the car was negligible given its
eighteen years. He offered me the service history worksheets and
receipts for inspection. I knew I would never find such a Mk III
anywhere else. I had absolutely no leverage on this transaction
whatsoever. What are you asking, was all I could say. I wanted this car.
He looked at me and said, "I don't know." He promised to call me after
he had thought it over and I left more than a little perplexed.
that day, the man called me and quoted a price that was about a third
of what I had been expecting. I was flabbergasted. "I wasn't really
going to sell the car," he told me "but I'll sell it to you because you
are the right person for this car." I didn't question him on his
reasoning or motives but I got over to his house in Woodland Hills just
as fast as I could with cash. It was an unusual transaction, to say the
least, and I realized how lucky I was to experience another transcending
confluence of luck in an extraordinary automotive experience.
believe I was the right person for that Mk III but I must admit that I'm
glad the seller never saw his car on the poster of my film Dead Right
in which the car was featured. Seen, as it is, on the dusty dry lake
bed of El Mirage, the poor man would no doubt have suffered a heart
How to Shoot a Feature Film in 15 Days (And Survive to See Profits)
Click to buy on Amazon
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Examples of Responsive Reactions
Click photo to see clips from Stephen's movies
Action/ReAction at Stella Adler
Point of Departure
A Series of ONE...
Stephen and Dragonuk
Stephen Mitchell webinar for Stage 32
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."
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: Drive!
Click photo to watch on Amazon Direct Video
“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.
I bought Bentleys in England and Ferraris & Maseratis in Italy to re-sell in Los Angeles as a teenager. I met Enzo Ferrari, Juan Fangio and Steve McQueen. I 'grew up' on the set of Mission: Impossible and other episodic TV series of the era. For a few years, I owned a Ferrari GTO that is owned by Ralph Lauren today and valued at approximately $52M. I began my film career by writing, producing and directing Montmartre in Paris in French. I founded and ran a repertory company for film & TV for 20 years in Los Angeles. I created a TV series which had fans that included Marlon Brando. I authored the first new acting technique--Action/ReAction--that was not based on Stanislavski's Method. I am currently writing my third novel and shooting my spy thriller Exigence. If you can't make movies, live your life as though you were in one...