'Roots' cast suffers serious illness during shoot

June 5, 1958

BON JOUR: Paris is pleasure particularly to Darryl Zanuck’s beaten “Roots of Heaven” battalion. Sickness besieged them through the African location. Zanuck, heretofore indestructible, finally a victim of worry over his company and their health and welfare, plus the after-effects of malaria, has come down with the shingles … We met Zanuck in a small restaurant across the street from the Prince de Galles Hotel where he was toying with a hamburger, the first food he’d touched in 40 hours … Juliette Greco, desperately ill, nearly died when the ratio of red blood corpuscles passed the danger point. The company is still shooting around her… Eddie Albert had been absolutely deranged for two weeks, Zanuck revealed. “At times Albert had to be tied to his bed. Once he ran out into the 134-degree heat and shouted for the snow. His sunstroke was so severe that at times he tried to eat dirt on the ground. But John Huston and Errol Flynn have so far shown no ill effects of the location. I will shoot ‘Compulsion’ and ‘ and ‘Deluxe Tour’ mostly in the U.S.A.” … 2008 Update: Richard Zanuck recalls, the only reason “John Huston and Errol Flynn showed no ill effects of the location” was “because of their huge consumption of alcohol — no mosquito could bite them.” Richard Z. recalls being told the story of Albert’s illness — and derangement. “They couldn’t find him for several days and when they did, he said he had been trying to find Albert Schweitzer … I was shooting ‘Compulsion’ here and we had to fly water into their Belgian Congo location. Whoever found that location should be shot!” P.S. Richard Z. sadly reminded me, after all that travail making “Roots of Heaven,” “nobody saw the film.” There’ll be no difficult locations for him on his next, “Alice in Wonderland.” He’s set to lens in London and promises “a lot of animation” will be utilized in the Disney film directed by Tim Burton with whom he most recently teamed on “Sweeney Todd” and previously on the 2001 version of “Planet of the Apes” for which they inked Charlton Heston for a final acting chapter — a one-day cameo.

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