The 35th season of Classic Films at the Paramount kicked off with a double feature of Casablanca (1942) and The Maltese Falcon (1941). So what does that have to do with a young Richard Burton? I know. He wasn’t in either film but he was, in fact, a young 16-year-old at the time. The connection I intend to make, however, is not about the film but rather about the screening this summer at the Paramount and how I could be Richard’s twin. So I will get to that in a moment…
So technically it is the 35th year for the Summer Classic Film Series at the Paramount, but in truth we’ve been screening many of these films for 80+ years as first run films. The Paramount was built in 1915 as a vaudeville house and actually was called the Majestic when it opened. When vaudeville died, the Majestic became the Paramount and Austin’s first, largest and finest movie palace. Seeing a classic film at the Paramount really is seeing them like they were meant to be. And with over 80 films on the bill this summer, we have something for everyone including films from as early as 1927 as well as a few from the 90’s.
So what about a young Richard Burton? Well, at the season kick-off party for our Film Fan Club, we had a little auction to raise some much-needed funds for technology upgrades that need to happen in our projection booth. When something breaks at the theatre, it’s never a simple trip to Radio Shack or The Home Depot. No. The processor we need to replace is about a $40,000 investment. Hence, the auction.
So back to a young Richard Burton. At the auction we had several items including some great costumes worn by a few famous movie stars… a suit from Laurence Olivier, some shorts from Orson Welles, and yes a jacket from Richard Burton. I fell in love with the jacket and was delighted when I tried it on and it was a perfect fit.
So I walked on stage to welcome everyone and kick off the film wearing my Richard Burton jacket which just looks fantastic on me if I do say so myself.
And I did. To the entire audience. Look everyone. I could be the twin of a YOUNG Richard Burton. Not an old Richard Burton,” I joked, “but a young Richard Burton.” Yep. I said it… and I meant it… and now I am going to eat crow.
When I got home, I took the jacket off and looked at the label to see where it was made. Bermans & Nathans of London. Wow. That’s the same company that made the famous jacket worn by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Way cool.
Wait a minute. What is this second label in here?
Wild Geese? When was that movie made? A quick search and voila 1927. Wait a minute. Richard Burton would have been 2 years old. Another search and…. errr…. 1978. What? Richard Burton would have been 53 and considering he died at age 59 it would be a stretch to say the jacket was worn by a young Richard Burton…
Wait a minute. What is that? Right there after Wild Geese on the label. Is that a Roman numeral two… Wild Geese II? When the hell was that filmed? 1985… a year after Burton had died??? Are you kidding me.
Evidently Richard Burton was scheduled to make the film. Due to his declining health most of his scenes would be close-ups in order to cover up his restricted mobility. And then… Richard Burton died and… and… crap. I’m now the twin of a dead Richard Burton.
Well I guess an old Richard Burton is better than an old Laurence Olivier. Remember we had a suit from his collection too. Here is what I found out when I researched that:
An ill, ailing 78 year-old Laurence Olivier cast in the cameo role of the nonagenarian Hess, had great difficulty remembering his lines, (Laurence Olivier, Donald Spoto, 1992, Cooper Square Press). He was accompanied by a nurse on set and was undergoing memory treatment at the time. Wild Geese II marked his final speaking part in a film as he had no dialogue in his last film, War Requiem.
And one more thing just to rub some salt in my own wound. That suit company… Bermans & Nathans? Well today it is called Angel’s Fancy Dress.