This is what I mean when I say that John Wilson, Conductor has invaded every nook and cranny of my inner life. I hadn’t thought of Mamoulian in years until I recently came upon an excerpt of a concert conducted by John in Glasgow, September 2011. The program was Music to be Murdered By with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Azadia Newman Mamoulian next to her painting of Joan Crawford for The Last of Mrs Cheney (1937). Azadia’s famous portrait of Laura (that is to say, her portrait of Gene Tierney portraying the character, Laura) hung in the Mamoulians’ bedroom. How she got Crawford to look like she resembled herself, rather than the other way around, is a feat of illusionry I still marvel at. Above: My beloved John conducts the Sinfonia of London in Raksin’s Laura, orchestrated by the composer.
“You know I directed Laura,” said Mr Mamoulian to me matter-of-factly one day as we sat in his alcove-cum-study.
Now, I had seen the movie Laura several times—on TV and in the art house—and I remembered practically all the credits, which included one for Otto Preminger, Director…but no Mamoulian. But here was The Old Man sitting knee to knee with me, announcing right out that he was (what’s the Variety word?) the helmer of that glamorous but nutsy picture with Gene Tierney.
So what did I do? I was twenty-three. I was on a job. I nodded.
He sat back, took a couple of puffs from that awful cigar of his and smiled wistfully. “You know, Gene introduced me to my wife.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” I said. That would be Azadia, who Mamoulian called Zayde (a giggle, as zayde means grandfather in Yiddish); she was a woman I never saw except once. She was always in the Other Room.
- “The Story So Far, with Conductor John Wilson”
- “The Story So Far; Or, Conductor John Wilson—His Limits”
- Read my comic novel of Hollywood COLD OPEN here
- Find my album JOHN WILSON: AN ENGLISH CONDUCTOR here