Steve McQueen, Terry Southern, and Me
A friend of mine, Joe S., told me he was an extra in the movie THE CINCINNATI KID. He said he was in the funeral scene. He was the only white person in the crowd. The movie was filmed on location in New Orleans.
We have never seen the movie but heard it was pretty good. So, out of curiosity and wanting to see a good movie we rented it and watched it last night.
The scene opens with a funeral procession dancing wildly in the streets. It was the New Orleans Jazzy Funeral scene. Joe’s image must have shot right by me, the camera view moved so fast and only stayed still when it was Steve McQueen. I couldn’t tell who was black or white.
The movie had a bunch of big movie big names, such as Steve McQueen, Ann-Margaret, Tuesday Weld, Karl Malden, Edward G. Robinson and more. They all did a superb job convincing you they really were the people they portrayed..
It was about the New Orleans gambling community and the strange local unwritten laws governing card games, holding notes on each other and so on. They had or maybe still have their own ethical by-laws. The movie took us into a rooster fighting arena and one rooster was mauled while the blood splattered spectators cheered.
I didn’t see a notice at the end that stated that “No rooster was harmed during the filming of this movie.” It must have been an oversight – right?
It was filmed on location in New Orleans and it did a great job of showing the French Quarters and its eccentricities. Throw in two good looking women and you have a good plot for a movie.
It was filmed in 1965, Hey! I was there in 1965! About the 2nd week of January of 1965 our ship the USS NEWPORT NEWS pulled up to do a reenactment of THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS with a British ship. I wouldn’t know much about that; I left the ship almost as soon as the gang plank was plopped down. I had to find a bathroom and I did not return to the ship until 2 or 3 days later.
Back to the movie: I noticed on opening credits that the screenplay was written by Terry Southern.(1924 – 1995) I read several books by Terry Southern. I didn’t know he wrote this movie. The first book I read by Southern was THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN which was hilarious… in a black humor sort of way, the second book of his I read was CANDY, which proved that sex in books sells. I don’t remember reading the book, but I saw another movie written by him, THE LOVED ONES, which was another black humor thing making fun of the funeral business. The last books I attempted to read by Terry Southern were BLUE MOVIE and RED- DIRT MARIJUANA … but I couldn’t quiet get in tune with the rhythm beat of the words in those two – maybe I was getting mature before my time.
Hmmm. After googling Terry Southern I see there are two more movies that I enjoyed that he wrote: DOCTOR STRANGELOVE and EASY RIDER.
Interesting – EASY RIDER and THE CINCINNATI KID took place in New Orleans.
And I was there too!
Wait! It just occurred to me about 18 months after that time in New Orleans I was in Hollywood Hills*, visiting a technical artist with Disney Studios and his wife took me out in their back yard to show me around and next door behind w tall chain-link fence was two big dogs growling at me. Those were Steve McQueen’s dogs. That was Steve McQueen’s yard I was inches from.
So, I was in New Orleans in 1965 and I was inches from Steve McQueen’s back yard in 1966. Do you suppose Steve was watching me taking mental notes on how to improve on his “cool” look?
Then suddenly, it all made sense.
* I was on a weekend pass from the Marine Base at Yuma, Arizona, on my two week annual active duty obligation…. Long story.