This is my contribution to the Paramount Centennial Blogathon, hosted by The Hollywood Revue. Be sure to check other bloggers’ pieces celebrating Paramount’s 100 years of great movies.
One-Eyed Jacks (1961), directed by and starring Marlon Brando, is a film Paramount probably wished they’d never made. It cost more than three times its original budget, took six months to shoot and over a year to edit (Brando turned in a cut over four hours long), and was nowhere near the hit they were hoping for. It was even the subject of jokes — Jerry Lewis: “Spend your vacation at One-Eyed Jacks.” But over the years, its reputation has evolved from trainwreck to cult film to maybe even a classic.
It’s the subject of my book-in-progress A Million Feet Of Film: The Making Of One-Eyed Jacks. For this blogathon, I’m focusing on a single sequence — one that was ultimately left out of the film.
Some say One-Eyed Jacks is a film with too many climaxes. If so, one of those climaxes is certainly the sequence where Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) ties Rio (Marlon Brando) to a hitching post, horsewhips him, then smashes his gun hand with the butt of a shotgun. It’s a brutal scene, with Rio striking a Christ-like pose as the whole town watches his torture.
Brando and his partners in crime withdraw to a Chinese fishing village for him to heal up, rehab his gun hand and plot his revenge. During the wait, tensions mount between Rio and a couple members of his gang, Bob Amory (Ben Johnson) and Harvey Johnson (Sam Gillman). In the script and Brando’s rough cut, there were scenes with Brando and a waitress in the village (Lisa Lu).
Marlon Brando: “I was supposed to get drunk, come in out of the rain and rape a Chinese girl. You can’t fake drunkenness in a movie, so I figured the scene would work better if I really got drunk.”
The scene was scheduled for a Friday afternoon, so Brando would have the weekend to recuperate.
Brando: “I started drinking about 4:15 in the afternoon of the day I was going to shoot the scene, after telling the other actors what I wanted them to do.”
Makeup artist Phil Rhodes: “So Lisa Lu brought in the food as instructed, but by then Marlon was so drunk he couldn’t say his lines.”
Brando: “It has never taken much alcohol to put me over the edge, so in no time at all I was staggering around, grabbing hold of the girl…”
Alice Marchak, Brando’s personal assistant: “The shots they did film were unusable.”
It was decided to try again the next Friday.
Brando: “It still wasn’t right and I had to do it a number of afternoons to get it right.”
Alice Marchak: “Each night filming came to a halt because Marlon was falling-down drunk… Mostly, it was Marlon falling out of bed, staggering around thoroughly enjoying himself, having loads of fun along with members of the crew… What nobody knew was that most nights before I left the studio, Marlon was so sick I had to hold his head to keep him from drowning in the toilet as he knelt and hugged while he threw up into the toilet bowl.”
All those weeks, all that money, all those hangovers — and the scene was cut.
Producer Frank P. Rosenberg: “The only sequence that was dropped in its entirety was an ancillary and transient love story between Brando and a Chinese girl. Everything about this episode was admirable except that it brought the film to a standstill.”
SOURCES: The New York Times; Neon; Me And Marlon by Alice Marchak; Brando: The Biography by Peter Manso.