Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Story of Lex Barker. Part 2

Winnetou Romania
By Big Chief

[Part 1 was posted on February 11, 2020]

We continue to publish in Russian a series of interviews with American actor Lex Barker, which he gave in 1964 in Yugoslavia during the filming of the movie Aztec Treasure by Karl May. A word to journalist Dirk Fond from the German magazine BRAVO:


She was seventeen, no more. She wore a white dance dress. Her black hair was braided, two on the right and left. And she probably pulled lipstick from her mother.

When she appeared at the entrance to the small bar of the Argentina Hotel in Dubrovnik, we turned to her. Lex Barker, sitting next to me, smiled.

From here I hear her heart beating.

Shyly and shyly, the girl caught between the tables to the bar. There she noticed us. Not me, of course. At that moment she saw only one single man in the world - Lex Barker.

It didn’t slip away from us how many courageous efforts it cost a girl to get into someone else's hotel, into this world alien to her. The smile on Lex's face seemed to help her. Going up to him, the stranger made a slight curtsy, immediately blushed like the setting sun and handed the actor his own photo for an autograph. Lex took the picture, measured it with an appraising look, and cheerfully remarked:

Hmm, what a man, this Lex Barker!

And then through all the photos struck in English: “My new friend. Lex Barker. "

The girl whispered something in Serbian or Croatian, bowed again, turned pale like a rising moon, and slowly, as if soaring in the clouds, she moved toward the exit. A fan of many, no more ... Lex thoughtfully said:

I would like to know what is hidden there in her pretty head. What does she think about cinema and movie stars. Definitely some kind of romantic nonsense that has nothing to do with reality.

“And what did you yourself think about the movie before you ended up in Hollywood,” I asked a counter question.

Hmm, after my very first trip to the cinema, I almost jumped out of the window out of fear. I was five years old. My parents took me to Paris with them. There I watched the movie "Ben-Hur", still the old one. Then in the hotel room I screamed and went crazy with horror. I vowed never to go to the cinema again in my life. He kept the oath for ten years. Then he still “got sick” with films and already watched everything that was possible, everything that was on the screens.

-       And how did you first touch the world of cinema?

“Pretty” was a touch ... I tripped over this world!

Lex ordered another whiskey and slowly told the story of his discovery. The scene was the semi-dark theatrical stage “Mount Kisco-Playhouse” / “Mount Kisco Playhouse”.

He was nineteen when he barely lifted half the wings and, panting, dragged her across the stage. The dim light of a single bare bulb from the ceiling is not a godsend review. He was not very surprised when someone suddenly ran into his burden and fell right under his feet.

“Oops! - said calmly Lex. “What are you looking for here?”

The stranger jumped up.

“Yes, this guy,” he held a program poster close to his eyes, trying to decipher the names in a dim light, “a certain Alexander Barker who also played here.”

“Turn off your searches. It's me, ”Lex answered.

"You? You are a stage worker, and Barker is an actor ... "
[Carefree childhood. Lex with sister Frederica]

“Again twenty-five ... In the play I have a role without words, I help here as a worker and assistant director, and in general,“ an errand boy ”, but my profession is different. I am a student".

The stranger continued to look incredulously.

“And stop talking — otherwise, the scenery will fall out of my hands.” I need to work. Good bye! ”

“Sorry,” came a sigh of regret. - I'm looking for talents for the studio "XX Century Fox." "Can it still be wiser for a couple of minutes to put this expensive backstage around the nearest corner?

Lex, staggering, dragged the priceless cargo to the nearest corner, lowered it and, full of distrust, returned to the interlocutor.

"Do you seem to be joking?"

He, slowly, fished out a business card. To better understand the text, Lex turned on global lighting. He, in fact, was also a stage light.

“Indeed,” Lex said in surprise. “And why do you come here to the Kisko summer theater?”

Not such a great miracle. Talent hunters from large movie studios regularly roam around any place where new talent may be hiding. These places include the provincial stage and amateur theaters.

“I liked you, Lex. In the play you played the role of a magnificent lover. Where did such an experience come from? ”

Lex coughed, “Whom? Lover? Previously, I participated in school performances, the usual thing. A year ago, a friend approached me, who owned a small theater here. He persuaded me to participate. We play only in the summer and in only one play. Did you really like it? ”

The stranger grinned broadly: “The play was terrible, but I liked you. One couple was sitting in front of me, she was of a different opinion. When you went on stage, the man shouted all the time: “This is terrible!” Maybe you even heard. ”

-       [15-year-old Lex Barker at school performance dressed as a hussar officer]

Lex nodded with a dead look: “Yes, I know this man. This is my father. My parents first saw me on stage today. And my father, you know, against. He wants me to continue my studies as an engineer at Princeton College so that I can later accept his business at a construction company. ”

The talent seeker grinned even wider.

“I don’t care about your father’s opinion of your talent. It also does not matter what I myself think about you. But one thing stirred me. There were many students among the audience - so they barely held their breath when you, with your height (1 m 93 cm), appeared on the stage and played a love scene. You are the one we are looking for! Wherever you appear, everywhere there are girls with burning eyes. ”

Then the turn came to sigh to Lex: “No, no, I'm just an amateur, I still have to learn. My father…"

The talent seeker shrugged. "This is my business card. Do what you want. When you learn, see you. Okay? "

The next evening, Lex played his part with redoubled joy. I listened to the hall with one ear. The girls really sighed and really clapped their hands more lively when it was he who bowed to the hall.

The funny thing is life. He was a hero on stage, and in college too. Victory in sports, victory on the amorous front. He had no doubt that he would go to Kisko again the third summer and play in the theater there. The air of the stage excited more than the atmosphere of the lecture hall. Any scenario for him is much more exciting than a textbook.

“Fifty dollars a week,” said his friend, the owner of a small theater, satisfied with the third summer season. “How do you find this?”

Lex found this great. Making money acting acting, this most beautiful profession in the world, is hardly attainable happiness.

Having quickly made up his mind, crossed the threshold of twenty years, Lex Barker left college at Princeton and went to New York in search of engagement. The girls from college were very upset. And the elder Barker left no doubt that he was thinking about his naughty and dissolute son: mediocrity!

The theater world in New York did not expect a neophyte Barker.

Lex Barker sat in a tiny little room, which he rented with his equally unemployed colleague. The room was as dreary as in his soul and in his wallet.

“Did you go around all theaters?” Asked his colleague.

“Yes,” Lex got up from his creaking bed and clung to the window. He looked out through the misted glass down into the narrow gorge of the street.

“What happened to your old man?” He's still chopping cabbage, isn't he? ”

"Father? You don't know him well. He never ... and indeed, I am too proud to ask for help. "

“I never thought you were so old-fashioned,” muttered a colleague. - If God did not deprive my ancestors of money, then their son would not fail to recall this. Tell me, Lex, are you all looking out this window? Is there a ghost?

Barker, of course, did not see any reduction. He stared at the wall of the neighboring house, where a giant movie poster hung. He did not notice either the name of the film or the huge size of the main character. He saw only one big line: "The film studio" XX Century Fox.

And then suddenly something clicked in his brain. How could he forget! Fox! Man in Kisko with a business card!

Ignoring a colleague who seemed to care about his friend’s mental state, Lex rushed to his suitcase like a madman, rummaged through all his belongings, turned out the pockets of jackets and trousers lying there. Then he poured the contents of his wallet onto the floor - and, in the end, grabbed a small, white card, as if it were a million dollar check.

Ten minutes later, Lex Barker was already on his way to a talent seeker. He was lucky - he was still working at Fox Studios, immediately remembered Lex and promised to pat.

“What do you mean when you say“ pat on ”? - Lex did not let up.

“Of course, no movie deals, my boy. But I promise you the test. "

And they agreed! Gentlemen from the film company “XX Century Fox” in New York considered the candidacy of a handsome guy whom the talent seeker slipped into them, and even expressed their willingness to spend the film material on test shooting.

“Here's the dialogue,” filmmakers handed Lex a short manuscript. - But find a replica partner yourself. We are sure that you have no shortage of beautiful partners. ”

Lex thought feverishly. Partner? Of course, he had a dancing partner, the one with whom he even won a prize for the best waltz at one of the competitions. Her name was Gloria Matrik, she was very beautiful and could definitely help him. Gloria immediately agreed. After all, cinema is so interesting! She will not make a film career later, but she will become famous in Hollywood anyway, becoming the wife of James Stewart.

Lex didn’t tremble before any competition or college exams like he did before film screenings at the 20th Century Fox studio in New York. The talent seeker felt this and took him to the side before shooting.

“The main thing,” he said, “be natural. Do not pass in front of all this technical trash. Do not replay. Better too little than too much. And then I will not be afraid for you. If the assistant director at the sight of you looks down, my instinct tells me - everything will be in openwork. Pah, pah, so as not to jinx it!

His instinct did not deceive him. Samples went with a bang. The charm and personal charm of Lex Barker did not disappear on the screen.

A few days later, Lex was invited to New York rule. Some very respectable gentlemen greeted him amiably and invited him to sit down.

“My dear Mr. Barker,” began the most respectable gentleman, “we are pleased to announce that we are ready to offer you a seven-year contract. Please read it and sign it.

Lex began to look at the contract, but the letters danced before his eyes. Without hiding his excitement, he grabbed the fountain pen.

“One simple formality,” the voice of the most respectable gentleman sounded above his ear. “Are you already twenty-one?”

“No, twenty,” Lex hesitated.

"It's a pity. Well, that's okay. Since you are not yet of legal age, your father must sign the document for you. ”

Lex Barker got up. He knew this was the end. No movie, no theater! The venerable gentlemen did not know his father. But he knew. He knew for sure that the old man would never sign the contract.

Of course, my father did not come to New York and did not sign anything. Instead, he sent a short letter: “Go home now!” You’ll start as a mason apprentice in my construction company!”

Used photos from the book Reiner Boller, Christina Böhme: Lex Barker - die offizielle Biographie

Translation from German - © Big Chief

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