Barbara Steele

  1. Barbara Eden, Flaming Star, 1960.
    Cary Grant wanted to buy her contract, consequently, The Rank Organisation jacked up the price to $80,000. “Insane as I was getting £10 a week, but…     They thought Cary was in love with me and would pay anything for me.”   He wasn’t and didn’t.  Fox did.  Back in London, Barbara told me everything… “In America, everybody wants what their next door neighbour wants and Fox paid $20,000. I went to Hollywood and sat on a beach for two years.” She broke the contract by walking out of this Elvis Presley  (and ex-Brando) Western. “I had a tremendous fight on the third day [with director Don Siegel], drove to the airport, flew to New York and called the studio next morning: ‘I won’t be into make-up because here I am in old New York.’ And they said – honestly – ‘Is it snowing?’ Then: ‘Come back or  we’ll sue you for all the money we gave you.’ And I said: I’ve spent it all. And I’m never coming back. That was that, they let me go because it was easier.” 

  2. Elizabeth Taylor, Cleopatra,  1963.
  3. Monica Vitti, Modesty Blaise, 1965. Mim Scala of London’s Scala Browne Agency was among the many falling for Peter O’Donnell’s comic-strip heroine. He  swiftly  snapped up the rights for the brilliant choices of Barbara Steele as the master criminal often helping Her Majesty’s Secret Service  and Michael Caine as her loyal Cockney lieutenant (and lover?) Willie Garvin.  Scala then sold his rights to the Italian-born UK producer Joseph Janni who, after dointg everything right with Darling, made every possible mistake – signing Michelangelo Antonioni’s Italian muse, Monica Vitti (instead of Romy Schneider),  and Terence Stamp as the anti-heroes and, of all possible directors, Joseph Losey. (Would you ask Losey to direct a Bpnd movie?  No. So why pick him for  an 007- wannabe!)  Ann Turkel, the then Mrs Richard Harris, was  Blaise in a 1982  TV pilot   that never flew – and true Brit Alexandra Staden headed an 18-day production in 2003 (so rushed, in order to make sure Miramax retained the rights, that a Willie was never found and he was simply cut from the scenario!). Quentin Tarantino wanted to try  his version with Uma Thurman. However, Modesty remains the most wasted star of British fiction.

  4. Susannah York, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? 1969.     Charlie Chaplin, Joseph Losey and two French auteurs, Jean-Pierre Mocky (with Brigitte Bardot!) and François Truffaut had all tried to film Horace McCoy’s book during ts 35 year long journey to the screen. Alice was added for Steele by her then scenarist-husband, James Poe.  “Alice didn’t exist in the book and I never knew he was writing it for me,”  she told me in London. “He never showed me anything until he’d finished. And there I was plagiarised all over the place. Couldn’t bear it!” Poe was due to make his directing debut but ran into a Warner wall over his casting –  “She’s a horror star!” (The suits didn’t fancy Lionel Stander for Gig Young’s “Yowzer, yowzer” role,  either).  Game over as Warner respun the project with Point Blank producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff.
  5. Twiggy, The Doctor and the Devils, 1985.   Director Nicholas Ray’s 70s’ plans for the 32-year-old Dylan Thomas scenario   (Laurence Harvey, Geraldine Chaplin, etc.) ended as   Freddie Francis helming   Timothy Dalton, Jonathan Pryce.


    January 1968.  We met when “Barbaric” was in London shooting Curse of the  Crimson Altar (US: The Crimson Cult) with fellow cults: Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee.  I should, perhaps, add that she  was the only star I interviewed in bed.  That is to say, she was in bed (with a bad cold), I was not..  Still…


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  4