The ward psychiatrist at Camarillo wanted me to persuade Steve to allow the hospital to authorize the surgical removal of his “useless” dangling arm. If Steve refused they were going to do it anyway. The doctor theorized the limb dammed Steve’s psychological development. To my unexpressed horror I learned that Steve had been kept in the dark about their designs for his future.
Meanwhile Steve had his own plan that included me helping him escape.
I couldn’t agree to break the law but I did sign him out of the hospital and drove him to my apartment in Hollywood for a weekend. He promised not to run off. On our way out of the hospital grounds I spotted a hound dog wandering through nearby wild green fields. We followed that dog to a farmhouse.
I asked the farmer, “Who owns the dog?”
He told me to take it. She’s a stray. He might have to shoot it. Steve helped me gather the wild puppy. Grass stains running up her white legs to the chest. We took her with us to Hollywood. Steve enjoyed using his one functioning arm to grapple with the hound on a leash. That stubborn dog stayed with me for years.
A few weeks later I found Steve’s mother living alone in a far away part of Los Angeles best described by a Peruvian proverb that translates roughly as the place where the devil lost his raincoat. I didn’t know the area existed. Together we went to psychiatric court and got her son released from Camarillo before any more harm could be done.
At least in Taylor's Campaign I had the sense to wait until our shoot was over before helping a homeless guy go home to Nebraska. In that 1997 film about survival on the streets of Santa Monica you see the guy drinking from a cup lifted out of a garbage can. He said his name was Loveless. Because he asked me for help I gathered donations from a group of psychiatric nurses to buy him a Greyhound ticket. The nurses called themselves Just-Us (also seen in the film). Each week they bought food with their own cash and set up a buffet like spread in the park for homeless people. For Loveless’s journey home we packed sandwiches in a satchel that he tied to a belt loop in his pants. Because he was an unwashed rag muffin I stood by the bus until he safely boarded and it drove out of the terminal. Loveless wanted to repay us. I told him “Forget it. Send me a postcard when you have a place to live.” Six months later I received his postcard.
In Two Days In a Halfway House Steve crosses a dangerous line. He walks shirtless uninvited into the second floor halfway house apartment of the young woman who had an affair with him. She’s not there. Cursing he rocks and tilts his body, descends the outside stairwell and lunges into the pool at the bottom. I would like to say that this act precipitated an epiphany for Steve but I am not sure. For some viewers I am certain the unscripted scene is the beginning of a profound film experience.
Mildred Harris introduced me to filmmaker Robert Wise who watched the pilot for Hurry Tomorrow. He wrote a letter.
“A most impressive piece…I was unprepared for the impact.”
Robert Wise, Director and Producer (The Sound of Music, West Side Story) Read more...