Movies from the 50's and 60's are arguably my favorite, neck and neck with flicks from the 80's. The 50's and 60's saw leading men who were strong and took charge of their destinies as heroic, anti-heroic, swashbuckling, cynical, macho and completely captivating to watch on screen. Many of them had rich backgrounds that included military service to world travels to rising out of poverty to performing in the circus. All of which gave them character, magnetism and enhanced their cinematic authenticity. Relyea worked with dozens of the biggest stars, directors, writers and producers in a time when independent productions were on the rise and the under contract payroll system of the studios was coming to an end.
Throughout the book, Relyea describes studio honchos, directors, actors, actresses and producers through his first hand encounters with them and a stated "low bullshit tolerance" view that is personally relatable. Particularly memorable is John Wayne berating an old woman asking for an autograph then being challenged to a fight by a co-star. Relyea worked with Charles Bronson multiple times and describes him as a party animal with a chiseled physique and not much of a sense of humor about himself. On Kid Galahad, Bronson split his hand open and broke bones when he thought Elvis' karate trained board breaking was a farce. Elvis, in the book, is described as extremely humble and talented who made coffee for people on set and unable to live a "normal" life. Relyea worked with Steve McQueen throughout his career when McQueen was just a guy on a television show through becoming one of the world's biggest stars. McQueen is remembered as moody, honest, insecure and hard working. The two formed a partnership that yielded the hit cops and car chase film Bullitt but dissolved when racing picture Le Mans spiraled out of control and McQueen accused Relyea of betraying him.
A terrific making of with comments from the man himself: