Trouble with Harry

When I posted the still from the Ipcress File with Patrick Tilley’s Drinka Pinta Milka Day poster in it, I thought it was just an amusing chance to see a poster in situ.

Ipcress File screen shot 1

What I didn’t know was that I’d stumbled on a coincidence of hilarious and ironic proportions.  Patrick Tilley wrote to give me the full story.

Thanks for your last two posts. Who was the sharp-eyed fan who noticed the poster in the Ipcress File? Clever stuff.

Just by the by, I was at the time and for several years later closely involved with Len Deighton who I chummed up with when he was briefly represented by Artist Partners – and involved somewhat disastrously with the Ipcress File in its scripting stage.

Len had received the draft script which he hated and asked me to write an assessment of it (as withering as possible). I did so on the promise that it would be “for his eyes only”. So I took a fairly strong line but still a professional one.

What I did not expect was that he would pass it to Harry Salzman (then a movie mogul and partner in the Bond Films with Cubby Broccoli. They didn’t come bigger). I got a call from Harry to come and see him that evening at his house in Mayfair re the script and went with high hopes of a promising career in the industry.

Wheeled in to his presence I was confronted by Harry in statesman-like mode who demanded how “a member of the public” (me) had obtained a copy of the script to which I had no right and that he, the director and scriptwriter had been so offended by my critique that they had no wish to work with me and prophesied I would never ever work in the industry again!

Taken totally by surprise I was lost for words but felt unable to defend myself by saying Len had given me the script and asked me to critique it. (Industry phrase). Basically because with Len – having cut a three-picture deal – was on the verge of making it big.  I didn’t want to jeopardise his position. Result, I was ushered out into the night – feeling I had been run over by a bus. Bla, bla, bla…

With hindsight, the situation was completely illogical. Since Len had given him my assessment, he obviously knew how I had acquired the script. I think it was some kind of a test. What I should have done was to stand my ground and respond with a few expletives to show I wasn’t prepared to take any s***.

Looking back, it is hard to understand the awe in which he and Cubby were held by anyone connected with the industry. There’s an  ironic postscript to this story  The screenplay as filmed incorporated several of the recommendations I made in my report to Len.

But, hey – that’s showbiz. I did go on to write screenplays but those stills from the Ipcress File brought back the memories of that encounter. Definitely a night to remember.

I wonder how impressed Harry Salzman would be to know that he’d immortalised one of Patrick’s posters in the film.  Not very, I suspect.

Ipcress File screenshot 2

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