“Let us seek safety on the battlefield.”
THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Danny: Peachy, I'm heartily ashamed for gettin' you killed instead of going home rich like you deserved to, on account of me bein' so bleedin' high and bloody mighty. Can you forgive me?
Peachy: That I can and that I do, Danny, free and full and without let or hindrance.
Danny: Everything's all right then.
Indeed it is, even after taking some 40 years to reach the screen...
John Huston fell in love with the Rudyard Kipling short story in the 1930s and finally wrote a script in the early 50 aimed at
Clark Gable & Humphrey Bogart
... as Daniel Dravot & Peachy Carneham.
"Bogie died and I put the thought away," said Huston. "During The Misfits, Gable said: 'Well, let's go with someone else.' We were in the process of doing that when Gable died. And I put it away again."
He had actually thought of reviving it. in the 50s with
In the 50s: Burt Lancaster & Kirk Douglas.
In the 60s: Paul Newman & Frank Sinatra.
In the UK: Peter O’Toole & Richard Burton.
Then, while shooting The Mackintosh Man, 1971, in his beloved Galway, with Paul Newman, their producer, John Foreman, found some of Huston's scene sketches from the 50s brought Paul Nedwman and Robert Redford together as Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, and they were due to make The Sting - why not, said Foreman, a third teaming?
Newman loved the scenarios, old and new, but was forced to admit... it would be better if Danny and Peachy remained British.
“For Christ’s sake, John
- get Connery & Caine.”
Perfect, said Huston.
And repeated it after the 1975 filming... "I believe Connery and Caine gave better performances than either Bogart or Gable could have, because they are the real thing. They are those characters.... Occasionally, there's an actor who likes to talk about his role, so I'll talk with him. But that doesn't happen very often. In fact, with Sean Connery and Michael Caine, there was not one conversation between us. They just did it themselves."
“It was a great experience," reported Caine, "and it could’ve been dreadful if it had been done with two other men. But as it was, it was one of the happiest... most delightful films I’ve ever made - in some of the most uncomfortable conditions. One man was a very close friend - I’ve known Sean since I was 24 and he was 27. We used to hang out at The Salisbury, where they had cheap beer and cheap food. That place helped keep us alive. And the other became a very close friend, although I’d never met John before that film.? I said to him one day: ‘You don’t really tell us much, do you?’ He said: ‘You’re being paid a lot of money to do this, Michael. You should be able to get it right on your own’.”
And they did, blocking their scenes before Huston arrived to shoot them. "If he said, I'm not going to cut on this, I'm going to do six pages, we would arrange the movements so that we worked each other round so that each time you got your best bit you'd be facing the camera. It's very easy with Sean. There's no sense of evil intent in his acting. A lot of actors spend a great deal of time working out how to screw the other actor - which, of course, screws the scenes, usually screws the picture but definitely screws them."
Even Mrs. Caine got into the movie when Huston realised that the fair-skinned Tessa Dahl (daughter of writer Roald Dahl and Patrica Neal), did not match her Berber tribesmen. Told to "move like a pantheress," Sharika Caine became the princess marrying Sean when he was declared a god by her villagers.
"Terrible for Tessa," agreed Sharika, acting for the first and last time with her husband. "I was hesitant about taking it over. But they told me someone would get it anyway."
Michael Caine and Sean Connery cherished their Huston experience. Visiting him in hospital some years later when he seemed close to death, he opened an eye as they sat by his bed and said:
"Ah! Peachy and Danny
- you've come to see me!"