A Bee Movie
It was 1978. Dad had started production of Irwin Allen’s “The Swarm”, another disaster film with an all star cast: Michael Caine, Katherine Ross, Richard Widmark, Richard Chamberlain, Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland, Fred MacMurray, Patty Duke and others. As always, Irwin spared no expense. The film was about a swarm of killer bees that attacked a military base. Sadly, even with its amazing cast, this film was a real B movie. Pun intended. 🙂 It didn’t help that the dialogue in the film was poor and just plain corny. Be that as it may, there are still fans of this film today.
Dad was the Production Manager and I was Michael Caine’s stand-in. I was also cast as Miss Cook, the school secretary. Much of The Swarm was shot on the backlot of Warner Bros. Studio with some exteriors in the desert areas of southern California.
I remember the first day on set when I was introduced to Michael Caine. He was charming and friendly in the British kind of way. I think he was surprised that a young woman had been chosen to be his stand-in.
I walked past him one morning and heard him tell Richard Widmark, “She’s quite the Zaftig one isn’t she?” I immediately went to a friend asked them what “zaftig" meant. Apparently it refers to a well rounded/curvaceous woman. I guess that was a compliment. I certainly was that..but there was and is a lot more to me than meets the eye.
Shooting this film was a joy for me even though I was not a fan of bees. I was young and newly married to my first husband, Barry, who worked as the men’s costumer on the film. (You'll hear more about Barry in my next blog.) So there you have it. It’s always 'who you know' in the film business. Dad hired Barry and me. A nice family affair.
I think the actor I enjoyed the most, aside from Patty Duke was Olivia de Havilland. She is perhaps best remembered as Melanie Hamilton, Ashley Wilkes’ love interest in Gone with the Wind. Olivia was impressive. A true lady and a true star. It was such an honor to play her secretary and interact with another classic actor, Fred Mac Murray.
I’ll never forget when she told me, “Dear, you are lovely. You have a Junoesque face. And you have talent. Keep studying and keep working.” That meant the world to me coming from such a lady of film.
Alas, I never made it big. But much of that was also my choice. The doors were opened for me. I had the connections - but once my dad passed away, I lost my passion for the business. More about that later.
There was one scene I passed up. They needed a lady to lay on the ground covered with bees..and I mean covered, from head to toe. That was a quick NO from me. Even though the millions of bees they used had been sedated and stingers removed (or so they said).. There was not a chance in hell I was doing that. Just being around them freaked me out.
After many weeks of shooting we “wrapped” and a party to be remembered ensued.
Too bad this “Bee” movie didn’t become a bigger hit. The Swarm was a true disaster film not only for the genre but for the box office and its investors.