Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Skidoo! Part TWO


With Too Far to Walk officially dead, Otto Preminger began getting Skidoo ready for production. The film’s plot centered around Tony Banks, a retired mob enforcer who just wanted to live out the rest of his life in suburban splendor with his wife and daughter. His daughter, however, gave him constant headaches with her free spiritedness and hippie leaning ways. Just when Banks thinks things can’t get much worse, he is ordered by his former mob boss- the illusive ‘God’- to break into Alcatraz and murder a stool pigeon whose testimony threatened to bring down the rackets. Along the way, his daughter’s hippie world would collide with his and his wife would become liberated. It was a bizarre premise for a film, but Paramount was hopeful that it just might be the ‘today’ picture that would allow it to breakthrough to the youth of the day. In any case, their agreement with Preminger required them to fund and release whatever he brought them. They were along for the ride no matter what.


To outsiders, the film seemed like a bizarre departure for an aging director/producer whose past films had mostly been dark, social dramas. Arguably his greatest film- Anatomy of a Murder- was a dark courtroom drama filled with rape, murder and less than heroic characters. What business did its director have making a comedy about the hippie culture? It all made perfect sense to Otto, however. He had studied up on the LSD drug culture for the abandoned film Too Far to Walk and the script for Skidoo had been written by a young person. Who were these people to tell him what pictures he could or couldn’t make?

Erik and Otto

Otto’s biggest motivation for making Skidoo, however, was his newly discovered son, Erik. Otto had been kept in the dark about his son’s very existence and he saw Skidoo as a project that could help him bridge the generation gap and make up for the years the two had not been in each other’s lives. Thus the film had a lot of baggage attached it before it had even entered pre-production.

Doran William Cannon

Pre-production began in earnest as Otto, his son and screenwriter Doran William Cannon began re-working the script. Cannon’s vision for the film had been for the mob world to be played straight. He recommended casting dramatic actors for those roles. The hippie side of things, however, would be played for laughs. The seemingly unnatural juxtaposition of the two worlds would thus create even more laughs. Otto, on the other hand, wanted the entire film to be played for laughs. He wanted to cast legendary comedic actors to play the various roles. It soon became apparent that the partnership would not work out as hoped. 

Mel Brooks

Doran was removed and Otto went looking for someone who could help him rewrite the script. Mel Brooks was briefly considered, but Otto predicted that he and Mel would probably not work well together as collaborators. Doran suggested that Otto hire Elliott Baker, another up and coming screenwriter. Elliott was able to provide Otto with exactly what he was looking for. The script completed, Otto began looking for his cast.