I’m not saying that these three legendary figures worked together, or even shared a lunch, but here is proof that they could have. On September 1, 1960 they were all working at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood: Brando on One- Eyed Jacks, Hitchcock on an unrealized project called No Bail for the Judge, and Jerry Lewis on his tour-de-force The Bellboy. My backup is a series of “Route Cards” I acquired a while ago on eBay. Each one presumably helped people in the Mail Room and others who had business to do with filmmakers on the busy studio lot. Some of the films were shooting, while others were likely in pre- or post-production, but they were all headquartered on Melrose Avenue.

My earliest card is dated October 1, 1959 and it features such prominent directors (all listed by last-name only) as Cukor, Curtiz, Brando, and Hitchcock, along with (Mel) Shavelson, (Melvin) Frank, (Frank) Tashlin, and (Norman) Taurog. Some veterans like (John) Brahm were filming episodic television, as were their younger brethren (Irvin) Kershner, (Christian) Nyby, and (Joseph) Pevney. Some films are referred to by their working titles: Bay of Naples later became It Started in Naples.

Almost one year later, on September 1, 1960, we again find such familiar names as Hitchcock, Taurog, and (Howard) Hawks, then working on The African Story (soon to be called Hatari!) and some relative newcomers to the ranks of A-list directors, (Richard) Quine and (Blake) Edwards. Note that One-Eyed Jacks is still on the active list eleven months after the earlier card was issued.

Now let’s jump ahead to August 1, 1966, the latest Route Card I have. Surely by now we wouldn’t see major filmmakers from the Golden Age of Hollywood still at work… or might we? Howard Hawks is making El Dorado with John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, George Sidney is directing Ann-Margret in The Swinger, and William Castle, who started out as George Stevens’ assistant director on Penny Serenade in 1941, is directing Sid Caesar in a comedy called The Spirit is Willing. There is also a sprinkling of new names, like (William) Friedkin, who is making his feature-film debut directing Sonny and Cher in Good Times, and Buzz Kulik, a veteran of live television who is making a police drama called Warning Shot, starring another émigré from the world of TV, David Janssen.

Other films on the agenda are in the hands of two Brits: Guy Hamilton, who worked his way up through the ranks to the director’s chair, now steering Michael Caine through Funeral in Berlin, and Freddie Francis who was a master cinematographer en route to calling the shots on The Deadly Bees.

Meanwhile, two older directors who specialize in Westerns are making the 1960s equivalent of B movies for producer A.C. Lyles: Red Tomahawk, Fort Utah, and Huntsville (later retitled Hostile Guns)Their casts are also an echo of an earlier time, featuring the likes of Howard Keel, John Ireland, Virginia Mayo, Joan Caulfield, Broderick Crawford, Yvonne De Carlo, George Montgomery, and Lyles’ good-luck charm, Richard Arlen.

The old guard had moved on completely when I began working for Entertainment Tonight on the Paramount lot in 1983, but A.C. Lyles was still there, holding court in the studio dining room—and in the parking lot, standing next to his mint-condition Thunderbird from the 1950s. Every now and then I’d tease him about those Westerns he made, none of them distinguished in any way except for the employment they offered to grateful actors who were past their prime. His eyes would glint as he mentioned the residual checks that kept coming in for those profitable programmers from countries around the globe.

Yes, I can read all sorts of things into the careers of the men whose last names turn up on the Paramount Pictures Route Cards. That’s why I’m so happy to have them in my collection.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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July 2024