Eric Portman

  1. James Mason, The Man in Grey, 1943.     When Portman quit, Mason  was  moved up from a  lower  role, – and   became a literal overnight star for horsewhipping Margaret Lockwood.   Portman’s credo: “Acting is like masturbation.   One either does it or one doesn’t, but one never talks about it.”
  2. Alec Guinness, The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1956.    Once Charles Laughton departed, director David Lean’s next main choice – “an almost ideal  Nicholson”  – was stuck on  stage. Anyway, producer Sam Spiegel wanted a  more international name:  Ronald Colman, Noel Coward, James Mason, Ray Milland, Ralph Richardson or Spencer Tracy, who bluntly told Spiegel that the mad Colonel had  to be an Englishman. Spiegel to Lean: “What do you think of approaching Guinness again –  or do you think that is as wrong as ever.” “I can’t imagine anyone wanting to watch a stiff-upper-lip British colonel for two and a half hours,” said Guinness. So Spiegel took him to dinner. “He was very persuasive.” (Of course, he was. In the 50s/60s,  to “Spiegel” was  LA parlance meaning: to cajole, manipulate or con. That’s how producer Spiegel won his deals, casts, women – and Guinness. “I started out maintaining that I wouldn’t play the role and by the end of the evening, we were discussing what kind of wig I would wear.”

 Birth year: 1903Death year: 1969Other name: Casting Calls:  2