Faith Clift was married to Academy Award-winning screenwriter Philip Yordan for nearly 40 years until his passing in 2003. The Southern California native appeared as an actress in several of her husband’s film projects, including the Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing team-up Horror Express (1972). Her biggest role by far was that of Claire Hansen in Cataclysm (a.k.a. The Nightmare Never Ends, 1980). She can also be seen in the cult classic Night Train to Terror (1985) as Claire Hansen, via stock footage taken from Cataclysm. In August 2020, Ms. Clift spoke to Brett Homenick about her acting memories, as well as her legendary husband.
Brett Homenick: Where were you were born?
Faith Clift: I was born in San Diego, CA, where I now reside. My dad was an officer in the Navy, and so we traveled from East Coast to West Coast a lot. Even as a little girl, I liked to clown around and prance around and sing! (laughs) I just loved the spotlight, in other words. And then I went to college for two years. Then my dad said, “Well, we have a lot of other kids in the family, so you need to get a job.” So I joined TWA Airlines for several years. Then I met my husband; he was in the motion picture business.
BH: Where did you go to college for two years?
FC: I went to a city college for two years. I went to San Jose one year and Palo Alto, CA, another year. I thought I would be a schoolteacher at the time.
I got accepted there [San Diego State University]. That was going to be my third year. I was so disappointed when my dad said I couldn’t go, and I had to make my own living. But I was glad I got accepted, anyway.
BH: So, when you joined TWA, what job did you have specifically at that time?
FC: Oh, I was a flight attendant. They call them flight attendants nowadays. I didn’t fly overseas; I didn’t want to because you had to learn a foreign language at that time in order to do that. So I flew New York, L.A. — all over America, wherever TWA flew inside the States. Loved it immensely!
BH: Where did you go to high school?
FC: I went to Fremont High School. That was in Sunnyvale, CA.
BH: Let’s actually talk about how you met your husband, Philip Yordan. How did that happen?
FC: I had an agency for commercials and things. I had just come down from the agency, and they had a garage underneath. So I was waiting; I had just won a beautiful Pontiac convertible on a quiz show. The valet went and parked the car and everything. So I was going to the valet to bring it back down, and the building was right on the edge of Beverly Hills.
So there was a man at a phone. He was really perspiring, and he acted as if he just had to get a cab in the worst way. I had never given a ride to a stranger in my entire life, and he was standing next to me on the phone. Then he turned to me and said, “Miss, can you [give] me a ride?” [He was] an unattractive man; I just said, “No, I’m sorry.” I thought, “Oh, my gosh. My car is never going to get here!” So I kept waiting for the car; it didn’t get there. [The] man just kept getting more desperate; he couldn’t somehow get a cab fast enough.
My car finally came. So I said to him, “OK, I’ll take you. Where is it you need to go?” He just said, “Well, it isn’t for me. It’s for a man who is standing outside the building as you come out of the driveway here. He’ll be standing there.” So I pulled out in my lovely convertible, and there was Phil Yordan standing there. And I said, “A man inside told me to give you a ride. Where are you going to go?” I said, “I’m going out to where I’m going. I have an agent in Beverly Hills I’m going to.” He said, “Oh, who is it?” I said, “Oh, Louie Shere Agency.” He said, “Oh, Louie Shere. I know Louie Shere.” And so we talked and talked and talked. He didn’t say who he was or what he did. I just knew he had an appointment somewhere in Beverly Hills.
Finally, he said to me, “Would you like to go out and have dinner one night?” I hesitated, and then he said, “Well, listen. Go and ask Louie Shere when you meet him in there. Go ask him and say, “Phil Yordan’s in town. Should I go out to dinner with him?” So I [said] OK. So I met Louie Shere and said, “Well, Phil Yordan’s in town. He’s asked me to dinner. He seems like a really nice person. Should I go to dinner with this man?” He said, “Oh, my God! Phil Yordan’s in town! By all means, go to dinner with him. He’s a wonderful person!” I said, “OK, all right.”
So I went back to my apartment, called him up, and said, “Well, Louie Shere says that it’s OK to go out to dinner with you.” He said OK. So he didn’t even have a car. He had just flown into town. So I picked him up at the hotel where he was. (laughs) And, from there, it just became a beautiful love story. Within six months or less, we were married and flew to Madrid. He was making Battle of the Bulge (1965).
So he was in town with Milton Sperling; they both co-wrote it and co-produced it. Jack Warner put $5 million up for the film. That’s why Phil was in town; he was going into meetings and meeting with Milton. They put together the deal, and so we flew to Madrid, and so Phil started making Battle of the Bulge because [Samuel] Bronston’s studio had gone into bankruptcy, and that was the end of the Samuel Bronston era.
Well, we lived in Madrid for five years or so. I speak — I call it “kitchen Spanish.” You pick up a lot of Spanish, but you don’t really speak it fluently. People who don’t know Spanish think I’m speaking fluent Spanish. (laughs) I know I’m not. (laughs)
BH: What would you say it was about Mr. Yordan that really appealed to you? Why did you choose to marry him?
FC: This man had so much charisma, it’s amazing. I never met a man personally in my life who’s ever had such charisma. He was very intelligent, very, very caring, very sweet. He just had an air about him. He’d walk into a room — you always hear that story — and everybody turns around, and you know he’s in the room. He’s got incredible personality.
He’s not a person who’s loud or anything; he just has a presence about him. And I was very drawn to him. He would sit and tell me stories. He’d smoke a pipe at that time. I think writers love to put a pipe in their mouth — I don’t know why, but I think they like to do that. (laughs) I just fell in love with him — just head-over-heels in love with him. And he fell head-over-heels in love with me.
I was his fourth wife. Three wives had left him. I knew all the wives. [His] first wife [actress Marilyn Nash], he had a son, Danny, with. She had an affair with a doctor and eventually married a doctor after that. Then he met his second wife, Cappy [Caprice]. I think they were married seven or eight years. They had a daughter, Felice. Felice and I are very good friends. She lives in Paris now with her four kids. She always came here to visit us all the time.
Then Cappy wanted to marry the head of the hotel in Switzerland — the big, famous one. It’s the [Gstaad] Palace hotel. It was the biggest, most famous one in the world at that time. All the jet set went there for their vacations. So she just told Phil, “I’m going to marry [the owner of the Gstaad Palace], and that’s that.” So she left Phil, and he was very broken up, he said. That was obviously the end of everything.
As you know, finally came this beautiful girl [Merlyn], who was 17, that caught his eye. Well, she met Phil, and the minute she met him, she said to a friend of ours [in a Southern accent], “You know, I’m going to marry that man!” She was from Louisiana. So they got married and had a little boy, Philip, Jr. He lived several years with us.
Then she met a Frenchman when she was married to Phil. She fell in love with a Frenchman who was more her age. She said to Phil, “Well, I’m going to marry the Frenchman, so I want a divorce.” He wasn’t that in love with her. She was sort of a rebound from Cappy. They had only been married for three years. So he said OK.
And then he came to L.A. for Battle of the Bulge I don’t know how much longer after that and met me. In his memoirs, he writes that I was the love of his life and that he had never been in love before and really found out what love was all about when he met me.
Actually, Phil was 25 years older than me when I met him. He and my dad were just a couple months apart. But, to Phil and I, we never, never, never felt an age difference, ever. When you fall in love with somebody, you’re not even thinking of age. It doesn’t matter at all.
Phil was a lawyer. He went to Kent College of Law in Illinois and became a lawyer. His sisters helped put him through at the time. He was only 20 when he graduated — very smart man. He had to wait a whole year to take the bar. So he started out, and he realized he didn’t like it at all. He did not like it. I think he had one or two cases, and he just said, “This is it; I don’t like this.” So he started writing.
BH: Moving ahead a little bit, one of your earliest movies is actually a cult favorite called Horror Express (1972).
FC: (laughs) I like myself in that.
BH: How did you get cast in Horror Express?
FC: How’d I get cast? Well, being married to the writer-producer helped. So that’s how it all happened — the few movies I was in.
Well, it had to do with the Spanish business — all that complication in making a film. You have to have so many people Spanish in it, which were in Horror Express; most of the actors were Spanish, except for Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and myself and Telly Savalas.
I enjoyed making that. Phil came back to Beverly Hills, and then I flew back out there and was in that movie.
BH: What connection did your husband have to it?
FC: I don’t know if it was his original idea or not, but he worked with the director [Eugenio Martin] at our house there. Someone said Phil always had his hand in a lot of things, but his name isn’t there. Phil always said to me, “I’d rather have the money than my name on the screen. Money is more important to me.” He was never carried away with having his name on the screen. It served him well — to get your Writers Guild insurance and all those things.
BH: Let’s talk about making it. So what was it like to go to Spain?
FC: Well, I went back to Spain. We’d been living in Spain since Battle of the Bulge. So we’d come back to Beverly Hills where we had a beautiful mansion. So I just flew back in with some friends and stayed with them while I did my little part there in Horror Express.
Telly Savalas was very interesting. He was such a character in real life. (laughs) One of the stories is Telly Savalas huddled up in the corner, waiting to go on, and he’s got a nice Spanish girl underneath the covers there on the set somewhere. I mean, he’s just a joyful person to be around. He has a guy with him who feeds him his lines or goes over his lines with him. But Telly has one of those minds that he could just hear it once, and he gets it. He gets it, and he knows it. And he’s a very energetic man, real energetic man. He just lights up the room when he’s there.
BH: How long did it take you to shoot your scenes?
FC: I don’t know because, at the time, you’re not thinking about it. You’re not thinking about how long it’s taking. We do it in one or two takes because Christopher Lee and [Peter Cushing] were such pros. They know their lines right away; everything goes off really well.
BH: Do you remember how many weeks it was?
FC: No, honestly, I really [don’t]. Not many weeks, I know that. Not many weeks at all. Maybe there were more weeks later. I have no idea at all. Maybe I was there just two weeks. I don’t think I was there longer than that.
BH: I remember the scene where Telly Savalas was talking to you on the train, and I think he even kisses your hand at one point.
FC: I was the American tourist on the train when he comes on the scene. I don’t even know what he said to me.
BH: Do you have any particular stories or memories about shooting that scene with him?
FC: No, not at all. Just did that, and then he’s on to whatever else he did in the movie. I don’t even remember what else he did in that movie. No, I don’t really know.
BH: What about the director? What do you remember about him?
FC: He’s just a really wonderful guy. He would sit and work with Phil on the film at our apartment and develop the script. I think it was his first film. He was very new to it all right at that time. But he later went on to do really good things and got acknowledged by the Spanish government for his work — not just that, but all his body of work.
BH: Do you remember how he got in touchy with your husband?
FC: No. We all were in Spain, and everybody knew everybody. Everybody knew Phil Yordan from the [Samuel] Bronston days. Everybody knew him. At the Hilton Hotel, they even named a salad after him. (laughs) The Yordan Salad! It was the tuna salad Phil always wanted for lunch, and they finally named it after him. (laughs) I mean, he was quite the guy there!
BH: Do you have any other memories of Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing?
FC: No. They were just very, very quiet. It seemed like they kept to themselves. I don’t think they made waves; they’re very professional. They did their part, and that was it. I know my friend gave a party — I’d left Spain. Christopher Lee had a daughter who was crippled, and he brought her to the party with his wife. She was a really sweet, sweet girl, but she was very badly crippled, my friend said. It was a really sad thing for him.
BH: Speaking of a sad situation, it’s kind of a well-known thing that before shooting, Peter Cushing’s wife actually died. Apparently, while making the movie, he was very distraught. Obviously, he wasn’t feeling very good, and his friend Christopher Lee had to get him through the shoot. Does that sound familiar to you?
FC: No, I never heard about it. As I said, I flew in and did the part and then came back. So you didn’t really hang around with anybody when you’re just flying in and doing a part.
BH: Do you have any other memories at all about your work on Horror Express?
FC: No, nothing at all. I wish I did, but I don’t.
BH: Let’s go on to — sometimes it’s called Cataclysm (1980); sometimes it’s called The Nightmare Never Ends. What’s the real title of the movie?
FC: Well, I guess both of them are, right? I don’t know. First, it started out. My husband sat down down, and he wrote Cataclysm when we were living in La Jolla[, California]. So we made the movie, and it took a long time to make. I think it was released as Cataclysm.
Well, that [Night Train to Terror, 1985] was a confusing movie. For the money, Phil just took some other things. He’d bought a church up in Salt Lake where it was filmed. We lived in the church for a while while things were going on — back behind the altar; that was interesting. (laughs) Great big beautiful church. The Mormons had gone ahead and built another church, so that one was up for sale. So that was used for the set. Not for the Cataclysm part; we did that in San Diego. But for all the other hodgepodgey stuff [for Night Train to Terror]; he just took two or three movies, [threw] them together, spliced them all up, and whatever came out, that was that.
I know one review said [about Night Train to Terror] , “I can’t believe that Phil Yordan wrote this film. I’m surprised that he would write this after what he was known for all his life and winning an Academy Award, that he would write such a horrible thing. How could this man do that?” (laughs) But he was getting pretty old then, and it was hard to come up with money for a film. He was always trying to come up with money for a film, and you’re doing that all by yourself. It’s pretty hard, apparently.
BH: Why do you think he wrote Cataclysm?
FC: Well, Cataclysm was a decent film — a very decent film from beginning to end. But I guess it didn’t ever take off very well. He was very disappointed because when he wrote it, he thought it was a really good film. We filmed in nice locations and downtown here [in San Diego] in one of the good hotels and all around. It was a very decent film. But then I guess when it didn’t make any money, he just said, “What the heck with it — we’ll just throw in all the other movies that I’ve written, and I don’t care what happens to it.” And I guess that’s what happened.
I always went by my maiden name, Faith Clift, so they [movie critics] never knew I was a Yordan. (laughs) [A reviewer] said something like, “I walked through there like a deer caught in the headlights.”
The trouble is, we had four different directors for Cataclysm — four different ones. They were trouble with getting a director that could really make the film come alive. The directors, they were the old-fashioned types that were used to very still films where they had beautiful lighting, and the actress was standing there, and she would emote with her eyes, and was beautiful. It wasn’t realistic. I wanted to pep it up and just be myself, and the director wouldn’t let me. He just wanted me to walk through like I’m in a dream state. It was very frustrating. I even tried to get him fired; I think I did get him fired, one of them. I came home and complained to Phil. I said, “Oh, my God. I can’t stand this. His interpretation of Cataclysm is so different than what you wrote.”
BH: Well, let’s name some of those. The credited directors are Phillip Marshak…
FC: Oh, yeah, Phil Marshak. Nice guy, but he couldn’t direct.
BH: (laughs) Was he the one who you got fired?
FC: No, the older one. Tom [McGowan]. He’s the one who directed up in Salt Lake Brigham (1977). And that movie was just beautifully shot. But when Tom got to Cataclysm, he had his own ideas, and they were different than what Phil had written. So I said, “Phil, this is awful.” I really made a big fuss about it to Phil. I liked Tom, Phil liked Tom; we all liked Tom. When you need a person to direct the way it should be directed, you can’t just go, “Oh, you’re my friend, so therefore you can do what you want.” You can’t do that.
BH: What about Gregg Tallas?
FC: Oh, Gregg Tallas. He was really nice. I know Gregg; he and his wife were all friends. I don’t remember Gregg directing. He didn’t direct me personally in that in anything. It had to be the other ones, but not Gregg.
BH: Between Phil Marshak and Tom McGowan, which director did you work with the most on that film?
FC: I think it was equal. Phil Marshak was young, and he didn’t know very much, where Tom, he’d done a lot of films. He knew what he was doing; Phil Marshak didn’t know what he was doing. (laughs) I think I got him fired, too. I’m just terrible! (laughs) I like these people, but if they’re not doing what you want them to do, then you have to get rid of them. They’re still your friends.
BH: When it comes to the two directors, did they have similar problems, or were they bad in different ways?
FC: I wanted to be animated in some way. Well, because we had so many directors, and the film was a hodgepodge, I really can’t tell which one did what. It’s too complicated. It really was a mess. It was a total mess. When it was all thrown together by the cutter, and you see all that, it’s embarrassing. I want to hide my head and say, “I don’t even know anything about this film.” I just gave up. I didn’t care. After I did Cataclysm, I didn’t care what else was going on. I had my other things to do in life.
BH: Could you talk about [Richard Moll]? What was he like to work with as an actor?
FC: Well, Richard is a wonderful guy. Phil and his friend Milton Sperling discovered him. He was doing a one-man show in L.A. So Milton and Phil went to see him, and they were impressed by him. Actually, he started out in Brigham, being Joseph Smith. It was a four-hour film, and it was chopped down to an hour and a half or whatever for television or for video.
He’s just a likable guy. After that, he got that television series [Night Court]. There’s really nothing to say. He’s just very professional. He can spiel off a ton of lines. It was very impressive. Very professional guy. I guess he needed money, too, so in Salt Lake, he did whatever he could do. (laughs) He could do anything, be anybody, just to earn some money.
BH: One of the big stars in the movie is Cameron Mitchell. What do you remember about Cameron Mitchell?
FC: Yeah, I do have a scene with Cameron Mitchell. You know, all these guys are so nice. He was just a nice guy. He would come to the set, and he did his lines, and he didn’t complain about anything. He had his own trailer there to be in. That’s all I know about him. I was around him, but you stand around the set, and you don’t really interact all that much. You’re more interested in keeping to your part and remembering what you’re supposed to do.
BH: Was Cameron Mitchell friends with your husband?
FC: No, he wasn’t a friend of Phil’s. [It’s] just that you could get him cheap at that time. He had made all those nice Hollywood films that were well-known, and then finally he went down, down, down until he was grasping for money like everybody else. So he would take the part that he took, which I’m sure was very demeaning for him.
BH: Another actor is Maurice Grandmaison. He played Papini, the monk.
FC: That was for Brigham. He was working on our house, remodeling. He was a carpenter, and Phil was very taken by his look. He was trying to cast Brigham. The other name for Brigham is Savage Journey.
So he asked Maurice to try out and do some lines, and Maurice was very good at remembering his lines and delivering his lines. So Phil said, “OK, would you like to do this movie?” Of course, Maurice was so glad to be able to get in a film, period. Maurice was just a nice guy, innocent guy, who was a carpenter who got this part. He was in Cataclysm. After that, he never got into any other films, just the ones with Phil.
BH: Another actor who has a very interesting look, who plays Olivier, is Robert Bristol.
FC: Oh, yeah. Another young kid. All these kids were young. They were all living in Salt Lake, and this was like their first film, mainly. They’re just regular guys. They didn’t make waves.
I never knew anything about him at all, nothing.
BH: Cataclysm is a very interesting film with a lot of religious commentary. Do you know exactly what the theme was that your husband wanted to convey?
FC: Phil was always interested in religion. He later became a Christian at the end of his life because our minister lived next door. But he was always toying with the devil and God all the time. I think in Cataclysm it was evil vs. good — that type of thing. Remember [Richard Moll’s character] wrote the book “God Is Dead,” or something?
BH: Did he really want to make a commentary about God, or was it just a horror movie?
FC: That was very close to his heart. I think he struggled with religion throughout his life. He always went to church. We started going to church in La Jolla. He would always go every Sunday and listen. Because he’s Jewish, he had to struggle with that because it was sort of against his belief, even though he never took on the Jewish religion. I think he believed in it [Judaism], but he didn’t have anything to do with it. So he always questioning himself about God and Jesus. Phil wrote King of Kings (1961). So, the point is, in his life and his private life, he was struggling with that all the time.
BH: Was Cataclysm mostly shot in Salt Lake City, or was it mostly shot in La Jolla, Southern California?
FC: Mainly in La Jolla. Then there’s that beach scene with Papini down there at La Jolla Shores.
BH: Do you have any other interesting memories from the set, or is there anything else you’d like to share about the making of the film . . . maybe if there was a rewrite that happened.
FC: Rewrites go on all the time on movies and sets. That goes on continually where an actor will say, “Well, I don’t like my lines. Change my lines.” So you change his lines if he’s big enough, famous enough, or something.
BH: Do you remember any specific instances from Cataclysm where that happened?
FC: It must have happened because of all the different directors. Each wanted to do it differently. But I didn’t sit there while they were trying to rewrite or what the lines was and why did they change the line and who didn’t want that line. That’s all just an individual thing.
BH: Did your husband ever direct any of Cataclysm?
FC: No, he never was interested in directing, ever. He just said, “[A] director’s life is miserable. You have to get up too early; you have a lot of responsibility.” It just never appealed to him at all. Never, never, never did. He was interested in writing a film and getting the money. Really, that was it. (laughs) “Just give me the money; I’ll write the film.” He got $400,000 for writing Brigham. So there you go.
BH: Before we continue on, [are there] any little bits of trivia about the making of Cataclysm that you remember, or is that about it?
FC: Other than being dissatisfied with the way it was being directed, no, there was nothing else. There were no big love affairs going on! (laughs)
BH: What do you know about Night Train to Terror? Do you know how that came about?
FC: No, not how it came about. I don’t know. I really don’t know.
BH: Was that his decision to do that, or was he being paid by a producer to do that?
FC: He wasn’t being paid by anybody. He was the boss. I guess they sat down and decided, “Gee, well, if we’re going to make some money, we’d better just throw this all together. If we make any money off of it, fine. If we don’t, well, that’s the way it goes.” He was never interested in ever being on a set his whole life. He didn’t like being on set, although in the early days he had to be on some sets to change lines for people.
Also, he was a guest professor over at San Diego State [University], and because he didn’t drive, I drove him over there. I’d sit in class, and he’d go through a lot of his old films, talking to the students about it. He would give them assignments, and then they would go up front, and he would read it, and he would tell them how to get out of a situation that they couldn’t figure out how to get out of, or where their story led. And, at the end, he gave everybody an A. (laughs) Some don’t deserve it, but why not? Give them an A; what the heck.
BH: What did [Byron] think about doing Night Train to Terror?
FC: You know, I never asked him. I’ve no idea. I just knew he was happy about it, happy to have the part, and happy to do what he did. For Brigham, he was much younger; he was probably eight or nine. He would sometimes be on the crew at different films. He’d do some carrying equipment and things like that.
Phil did “Bigfoot” [Cry Wilderness, 1987], which MGM bought. But it never saw the screen. But they bought it for a lot of money. It’s a good film. I played a veterinarian in it.
MGM just bought it outright, and they never released it. It’s funny how they buy up films, and then they don’t release them. I don’t even know why they buy them up and don’t use them. I don’t know what the point is for that.
BH: What else would you like to share with us about your husband?
FC: I told you what a wonderful man he was, a kind man, helped people out any way he could, financially or otherwise. He was an incredible man. He really was. He was one of a kind. Everybody that I ever spoke to in and around the business, they always admired Phil Yordan.
BH: Did he ever talk to you about writing a movie called Whistle Stop (1946)?
FC: Only that he wrote it, and he was proud of it. I saw part of it on YouTube. I didn’t live in those times. [I was a] child when that came out. But I wasn’t impressed by it. By this time, it was very old-fashioned-looking. I saw No Down Payment (1957). I thought that was a good film. That’s one of his best films, back in the day.
BH: What is your favorite film of your husband’s?
FC: I like King of Kings a lot. I did like that.
BH: Do you have a favorite memory of your husband?
FC: Well, I think on Battle of the Bulge. It was just a wonderful cast. It was fun being around all the actors. Telly Savalas was in that, Henry Fonda, and Dana Andrews. It was just a really good cast of people. Everybody was professional, and the movie was a hit. It runs a lot still on television. I just enjoyed that whole atmosphere up in Spain up in the mountains in Segovia where it was shot. It was in the wintertime. Phil and everybody was just dying to have it snow. They were about to give up because it wasn’t snowing, it wasn’t snowing. It was a big problem because you had to have snow. Finally, it snowed. It’s like God said, “OK, you’ve waited long enough.” (laughs) The Spanish government loaned all their tanks to the film., and we disguised them as American tanks.
BH: Was your husband the reason that Telly Savalas got cast in Horror Express, as you remember?
FC: Oh, yeah. He said he would do that movie if Phil would pay off his apartment in London. And so Phil did. So he took the part. It was a small part. He just flew in, did his part, and flew back out to London.
BH: As we wrap up here, do you have any closing comments? Is there anything else you’d like to share about anything?
FC: Well, I wasn’t really, as you can see, into acting. I remember thinking when I was maybe in the airlines, “Well, you know, I just like acting enough where I could be in something — just to be part of it all.” It was just fun. I took acting lessons [through] Fred Astaire. I used to date Fred Astaire. So I took acting lessons because he got me into the acting school there at Columbia Pictures.
I was just headed, I guess, to meet Phil. I believe in God, and He just gave me Phil. I’ll always believe that, and I know that He gave me Phil. He gave me the right man. It was a beautiful marriage because we couldn’t do enough for each other. He did all he could for me, and I did all I could for him. That’s the way a marriage should be.
BH: Did you say that you dated Fred Astaire?
FC: Yeah, I dated him, went to the horse races with him, and over to his house, and out to restaurants. But he was always a gentleman, mind you. Always a gentleman.
BH: Do you have any Fred Astaire memories or stories you could share?
FC: If you go to the races, you go to the races. If you go to eat, you go to eat. There [aren’t] any special stories. Again, he was just such a great guy. He such a gentleman, a true gentleman, my heavens.
I must have met him when I was a flight attendant. I’m sure I did. I don’t remember meeting him anywhere else. When you’re a flight attendant, you meet a lot of people. I met, sat down, and talked to Cary Grant. That was a real good conversation.
BH: What did you talk about?
FC: He talked about taking LSD at that time when it first came out. It was all the talk around Hollywood, LSD.
BH: Do you have any other stories about Hollywood personalities that you’ve encountered?
FC: Well, Phil made Custer of the West (1967) with Robert Shaw and Mary Ure. Robert was a character. Phil and Milton claimed that they discovered him in a play in London, which they did. I guess they asked him if he wanted to do a movie. That’s how he got in Battle of the Bulge, from that. They took him out to dinner and talked it over.
Then there was a movie [The Royal Hunt of the Sun, 1969] that never got out that was a real good movie with Christopher Plummer in Spain. A great big movie about the Incas. It was taken from a very famous play. The writer — very famous writer [Peter Shaffer] — sold the rights to Phil to make the film. Christopher Plummer got a personal trainer for his physique. Boy, when he came on the set with his little, tiny diaper hanging down over his parts . . . (laughs) He had a physique — oh, my Lord! The muscles on that man; he was beautiful to look at.
I remember one night Phil went off with him and Robert Shaw to dinner. We were in London; he lived in London also for a while, about six months. It was not like Phil not to come back to the apartment at a normal time after dinner. Phil came back finally and said, “Well, Christopher’s a great pianist. We went over to his house, and he played beautifully for a few hours.” I thought that was interesting about Christopher Plummer. He was a great guy.
I had a small part in that film. It never saw the light of day. It was a big, big beautiful film — all these famous English character actors. I’m [playing] this Inca princess, and I’m being carried up in the air by the Incas on this great big beautiful [sedan]. One day, on the set, Christopher Plummer’s talking to Phil, and he didn’t know anything about me filming at night. That’s [the only] scene I had.
So he’s talking to Phil. The play was running in London, but he was the main guy. He said, “Those women on the set, it drove me crazy, having them all around me — all these Inca women.” He said, “I’m glad this film doesn’t have any women in it!” Then Phil made sure that scene of myself was cut out! (laughs) I thought that was so funny!
BH: Does Phil ever appear in any of his films?
FC: There was only one time when he took part in a film, and it was very brief. In Cataclysm, he plays a man who is brought in on a gurney, and he is dying. All you can see of him is his chest. He was filling in for another person at the time. So therefore that was the only time Phil was ever in one of his own films.
BH: When did you marry Phil? What was the date?
FC: 1964. He died in ‘03. He died of pancreatic cancer. I was very blessed to have him all that long time. He died just one week short of being 89 years old. When he got his cancer, of course, that makes you go very thin.
BH: Correct, with all the treatment and so forth.
FC: Well, he never had any treatment, but it’s good he didn’t because when he found out, it was too late. It had gone into his liver, and so he never had any treatments at all. He died within six weeks. He was in the hospital under morphine all around the clock.
Phil was the love of my life, and I hope people will continue to watch his movies.