Sept. 14, 1960
GOOD MORNING: Lana Turner’s longtime yen to land Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as her leading man is close to reality with the Mirischmen negotiating with J.L.Warner for his loanout on “By Love Possessed.” In exchange for this pic and mebbe more outside films, Zimbalist may ink a new, longtermer at the Burbank filmery… Paul Newman’s five-pic pact at Paramount, although a percentage deal, is nothing like the famous Marlon Brando 100 percenter for the still-to-be released “One-eyed Jacks.” … (2008 update) Efrem Zimbalist has just returned home after playing golf with his daughter Stefanie when I reached him (by phone). His rich voice is as warm and strong as ever and his joy at hearing mine after many years was heartwarming. He certainly recalled “By Love Possessed” and Lana Turner. “She was a joy — we had a wonderful time,” he enthused, “but the film was a terrible disappointment.” He recalled sitting at a script table on the set each day with the cast (including Jason Robards Jr., George Hamilton, Thomas Mitchell, Susan Kohner, Barbara Bel Geddes, etc.) and director John Sturges. “It was a good novel but a terrible script. We sat at a big table with pads and pencils and before each scene we rewrote the scene. It was terrible.” In her terrific book, “Lana, The Memories, the Myths, the Movies” (Running Press, November 2008), Lana’s daughter Cheryl Crane tells of the good relationship on the film between her mother and Efrem, saying, after the film, “the Zimbalists became good friends of ours.” Efrem said, “Working at Warners was a joy, I spent 17 years of my life there (on two series). I’d arrive at 7 a.m. on Monday and work til seven that night — six days a week. It was nice to be a part of the studio. I had a strong affection for it. The Warner brothers were like a Russian novel — Jack and Harry hated each other. I knew Jack very well and played tennis wih him regularly. I felt very close to him — even though everyone made fun of him. He was a terrible jokester. I remember at one event he introduced Warren Beatty as ‘Warner Baxter’. And at another dinner, when Bette Davis said, ‘Jack — everythng I have I owe to you!’ No one knew what to make of it!” Efrem participated in the filming of a documentary about the Warner brothers. No one knew them or the studio system better. “The best thing was the studio system,” he told me, “It was a terrific learning experience.” And he’s got the experiences. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. will celebrate his 90th birthday on Nov. 30. Thanks for the memories.