Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Skidoo! Part THREE


If Paramount wasn’t somewhat concerned by the fact that an elderly director was promising to bring them a ‘today’ picture, they must have at least started wondering about what exactly Otto Preminger was thinking when he began signing up talent. Based on the early casting news, it seemed as though Mr. Preminger had just rounded up everyone at the Screen Actor’s Retirement Home who was ambulatory and gave them a contract. 

Craft Services here is so much better than the food at Shady Pines!

While it was understandable that the role of a retired mobster couldn’t be played by a young person, when Otto signed up the aging Jackie Gleason as Tony Banks, he was all but guaranteeing that Mr. Gleason would have to be front and center on all promotional materials and in the film.

Skidoo! Skidoo! Your ears will stop bleeding in a day or two!

Carol Channing was cast as Mrs. Banks, adding another older name to the credits. The rest of the geriatric cast included Burgess Meredith, Mickey Rooney, Arnold Stang, Cesar Romero, Peter Lawford and Groucho Marx. Even if the young people at the time knew who any of these old fogeys were, they probably wouldn’t break down the doors to get to their local movie theater to watch them. The youngest of the well known actors in the picture was Frankie Avalon, who would have been seen as a square by the very audience the film was trying to attract. Frankie does have to do some heavy lifting here; he has to endure a Carol Channing striptease.

Eye bleach anyone?

Instead of casting bigger names for the hippies, Preminger went with mostly unknowns, which further exacerbated the problems of promoting a youth film. Otto decided to balance out his geriatric cast with a youthful soundtrack and managed to snag Harry Nilsson to produce it for him. Harry was reportedly so entranced by the script that he even took a small role as a prison guard. Harry claimed that he had never taken drugs and based his LSD scene on being drunk. He must have been lying about that if he liked the script to Skidoo.

Otto made me sign the contract at gunpoint. What’s your excuse?

With a cast rounded up from a nursing home and a script more reminiscent of ‘yesterday’ than ‘today’, Otto began production on the film he hoped would not only attract young people but also get him the acceptance he craved from his newly discovered son.

Groucho needed the money.