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Michael York reminisces

Dinner with producer Doug Cramer

I WENT for a delightful dinner with my host the perspicacious producer Doug Cramer, sitting on my right. (He is an escapee from Hollywood who became hugely successful working with Leonard Goldberg and Aaron Spelling and is now a philanthropic backer of the Encores! shows in New York.) My dinner companion on the left was a longtime friend, the gifted actor Michael York and by the time I departed from these worthies, Michael’s distinguished wife, Patricia, had given me her amazing new photo book with Andy Warhol on the cover. Titled “Fame and Frame,” it is full of artful snaps of artists, actors and legends galore. A grand coffee table selection. Michael and I shared a few enthusiastic words about our mutual pal Liza Minnelli’s dazzling show at the Palace. (Michael was the love interest for Liza in “Cabaret.”) Michael asked if I remembered when we had first met and I confessed I didn’t, although I knew it was long ago. Turns out it was 1966 in Rome during the making of Franco Zeffirelli’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” (Some people call it Shakespeare’s “Taming” but Michael and I know the movie’s true title.) I was puzzled. I’d gone to Italy with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and I remembered the tempestuous but happy making of the film and mostly I remembered going out to eat with the Burtons for almost every meal. That in itself was always a production and a festival. Well, Michael reminded me he had his first movie role in the movie and even rode a horse for the first time. “I arrived in the saddle coming into Padua spouting Shakespeare lines at the opening.” I remained stumped. I was embarrassed. I was drawing a blank. I said, “I must have been so involved with the Burtons that I didn’t notice anybody else.” Michael patted my hand. “Never mind. You know the whole experience was a disaster for me; that movie, and I left under a cloud. Zeffirelli kept busting into my hotel room whenever he liked and I was always with Patricia and this made him furious. He said he wanted to teach me a lesson, prove to me that I wasn’t in love with her and if I kept on with her, it was the end of my career. So, we quarreled and fell out. I left Rome thinking I was finished in film. But later Franco and I made up.” (In fact, he was cast the following year in the director’s “Romeo and Juliet.”) Young Michael had caught the director’s roving eye and when he brought Patricia along to Rome, Zeffirelli was beside himself. I laughed: “And how did that marriage turn out, Michael?” The talented Mr. York grinned: “Oh, it was definitely a failure — we’ve only been married now for 40 years.”

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