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116 12 Train Wrecks When Penn returned to Hollywood, Hollywood was dying. The Founding Moguls were buried, retired, or forgotten, and their decades-old studios were poised to be absorbed into conglomerates that saw them as “leisure time activities” rather than entertainment kingdoms. Only United Artists, which had been sold and restructured after two rudderless decades, had the right idea: function solely as a financier and distributor. UA was proud of two things: not owning production facilities and never taking a picture away from a director. “After The Miracle Worker, I had this very nice reputation,” Penn notes, “but I hadn’t made any money in movies. My salary on Left Handed Gun was $17,500 for the whole movie. The Miracle Worker, because we had held out for Anne Bancroft, was very close to the vest all the way. Here I am, the picture’s nominated , the two women were going to be nominated and would win, UA said to me, ‘We have all these goddamn shelved scripts in our library and nobody’s doing anything with them.’” The script that Penn found most intriguing was drawn from a 1961 book by Rose Valland called Le front de l’art. Adapted as The Train by Franklin Coen and Frank Davis, it dramatized a daring scheme by the French Underground to save 148 packing cases of priceless art from the Nazis in the waning days of the occupation by delaying the train on which they were being taken from the country. Moved by the idea that the French would risk their lives for art—as well as the chance to reconnect Train Wrecks 117 with the European friends who’d fêted The Left Handed Gun— Penn told UA he would make The Train. He asked his agent, Howard Hausman, to suggest actors to play the leading role of Paul Labiche, a laborer who saves the art “without really genuinely understanding it himself,”1 and Hausman proposed Burt Lancaster. Lancaster, who had taken ill after dubbing and truncating Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard,2 accepted, based on Penn directing , and on July 23, 1963, the New York Times dutifully reported that he would star in The Train. UA green-lighted the $5.8 million project, and Penn was off to Paris to start preproduction. What Penn did not know, however, was that Lancaster’s production company owed approximately $2 million to United Artists for past films and that both UA and Lancaster saw The Train as a way to settle accounts. The results of this arrangement, Penn says wryly, were “an experience. Off I went to Paris where I had had a lot of friends and, because of my theater background, I had met a lot of English actors. I had met Paul Scofield. I knew Jeanne Moreau through the Cahiers du cinéma guys because they had said, ‘Penn is an American nouvelle vague director,’ and had sort of absorbed me into their ranks. I asked Jeanne; she asked Truffaut if she should do it; he said, ‘Yeah, do it.’ And I cast Michel Simon, that wonderful, superb actor. I had all these people and . . . I laid out a lot of the action where the partisans would stop the train, and the places where that was to occur. I had this wonderful crew, a crew of real friends. The production designer, Willy Holt, was a very brave Partisan who was captured and tortured and knew this world. The cameraman was Jean Tournier; Bernard Farrel was my assistant. It was family. We were all thrilled to work together. So here we are. We have certain scenes that would have to be shot on the Place de la Concorde of the Nazi occupation of Paris. They won’t permit us to do that when there’s traffic around because the French will get furious to see the Nazi uniforms; we had to shoot that just at the crack of dawn. I started shooting the movie, and I hadn’t yet met the star. Finally Burt showed up.” The scene involved Simon, as the engineer of the train, and 118 Arthur Penn Lancaster, as the Resistance worker who engages him. As was Penn’s wont, he covered from multiple camera setups. “I was shooting rather a lot,” Penn admits. “And I heard Burt saying, ‘Oh, Christ, not another angle, come on!’ And I’d say, ‘Yes, one more.’ And then I remember saying something to him like, ‘Look, this next take, I...


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