There was never a time the Hollywood Huckster wasn’t selling — a movie, a TV series, a play — or just himself. To do that he was always thinking two steps ahead. And that’s because he learned from some of Hollywood’s greatest legends before him.
Kevin’s notions weren’t always met initially with the same enthusiasm in which he pitched them, but he never let that get in the way. We were meeting at United Artists to pitch our movie, “Night At the Ballet.”
Facing some initial resistance, Kevin shared this classic tale of the great director Billy Wilder trying to convince studio chief Samuel Goldwyn to make his pet project movie. It was the life of Vaslav Nijinsky the Russian ballet dancer and choreographer, considered as the greatest male dancer of the early 20th century.
Goldwyn just couldn’t wrap his mind around it. Who would want to see a film on the life of a Russian ballet star?
Wilder persisted; enthusiastically expounding that the exceptional story had great cinematic possibilities. As a young man, the handsome Nijinsky danced for the Bolshoi and received international acclaim. Then he met the great love of his life, was rejected, ended up in an insane asylum and thought he was a horse.
“A horse? He thought he was a horse?” Goldwyn wasn’t sure, who was crazier, Najinsky or Billy Wilder. The exec posited that the public would never pay to see something so negative.
“Don’t worry, Sam, it has a happy ending,” defended the director.
Goldwyn asked what could possibly be happy about a mad man who believes he’s a horse?
“He wins the Kentucky Derby!” replied Wilder.
I added that in our comedy, he wins the triple crown. The United Artist executives loved the story, loved the Huckster telling it and we sold our movie, NIGHT AT THE BALLET right there on the spot.
These are the tales of yesterday that molded the Hollywood Huckster and helped build his legend of outrageous adventures. For more, check out the book, HOLLYWOOD HUCKSTER – A Memoir of Hysterical Proportions.
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