Sedona’s Citizen Welles

Continued (page 3 of 6)

Do you have any great memories of your father in Sedona?
I have a very funny one. When we were in Sky Mountain, we had a pool. That was rare in Sedona, and it was lovely. We were surrounded by national forest, so you felt like you were swimming off a cliff. So I directed a melodrama here in town – it was a huge success. He came to opening night – to my horror – and he brought Burt Reynolds. I got so nervous that I lost my voice. Burt Reynolds was a megastar, and I didn’t know him. Anyway, after this thing, [dad] decided to take a swim. It was pitch dark. Suddenly we hear him roaring, screaming. My mother thought he was drowning. At the time, there was a security service in town. It was the days before alarm systems. A security guard would come check every two hours with a flashlight. So here comes this guy with a flashlight, flashing on my dad who was stark naked because he always went swimming naked. This poor security guard…I thought he was going to die.

What was a typical day in Sedona?
Quiet but not quiet. He never slept. He slept when we was tired. He’d be up all night, and then he’d sleep a couple of hours in the afternoon. The typewriter never stopped. He tried to teach me about baseball, which didn’t work. My mom was the cook – everyone was an exceptional cook in my family except me. But I got all of my father’s [traits]. I knew nothing about Thanksgiving until I moved to America. So he had to tell me the story about Thanksgiving – I was 21 years old. So we had Thanksgiving in Sedona. I think my grandmother was here from Italy – she stayed for a few months. I remember my mother made a turkey stuffed with mini tamales. She got the recipe from Sunset Magazine.

Your father said he learned to make movies by watching Stagecoach dozens of times. Did you ever hear him talk about the film?
Yes! He always said Monument Valley was one of the most beautiful places in the world. When he sent us off on the trip that led us to Sedona, he said we had to see Monument Valley. He was in awe of Jack Ford; he saw Stagecoach 33 times. It is an amazing movie. I saw it four or five years ago on the big screen – I’d never seen it on the big screen. It’s extraordinary – it has everything. It’s ageless.

Did he ever express interest in making a Western?
Never that I knew of. He had so many projects – maybe there was a Western in the middle of one. I don’t know.

You mentioned Burt Reynolds. Did any other filmmakers or actors visit him in Sedona?
No, because he didn’t want them to [laughs]. That was the whole point. He had to deal with them in Hollywood, and he didn’t want them coming here. Of course, he was very close to Burt at that time.

Did he ever watch any of his older films on TV?
No. Once something was done, you moved on because you can’t change it. Especially movies. He was in love with movies, but he loved to do theater because he could change it every night. If there was something that wasn’t quite right, he could tweak it. He was a perfectionist, and I get that from him. It’s annoying because you’re never quite happy with what you do, and he never was. The only movie he ever said he loved and the one movie he wanted people to remember him by was Chimes of Midnight, which was the five Shakespeare plays he put together and made into a 90-minute movie. It was first on stage in Dublin and then it was made into a movie backed by Spaniards.

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