"My Fair Lady" Behind-the-Scenes Footage
Eccentric New Orleans contacted the Times Picayune to tell them about our friend, Eric Saucier. Eric, who has a very hard time keeping a roof over his head, has asked us to get the word out about some old 16mm film footage he's interested in selling. His father, a Hollywood stuntman, animal wrangler, and extra, filmed behind the scenes of the motion picture, "My Fair Lady," starring Rex Harrison. Below is the article by the Times Picayune's Bill Grady dated May 20, 2001. And following the article is video stills of the actual 8mm film footage. Any serious inquiries about the purchase of the original film footage should contact firstname.lastname@example.org. And if the price seems steep, I'm sure we can cut you a good deal.
Hot dog seller hoping someone bites at film
By Bill Grady
Eric Saucier, Un-Lucky Dog man, took the day off from his weiner wagon and stood bleary-eyed at midmorning on a dank patio, holding to the light a strip of tiny photographs of his father, wrestler of alligators seen and unseen.
The man in the pictures was handsome, like his son, and certainly not the railing "skeleton with skin" Saucier found the last time he visited his father at his secluded home in the Florida wilderness. No, these photos of Luke Vardman Saucier were taken in Hollywood in the ‘50s, and show him in one of his roles as an extra in a Western film, dark-hatted officer of the law and preserver of order.
Saucier, 40, took the film strips back inside his two-room Mid-City apartment. He disappeared into the darkness of the kitchen, explaining he wanted no one else in the house. Too messy for public view, he said. Through the door, ajar, could be seen a single porcelain cabinet, door ajar.
He returned to a seat on a grimy outdoor recliner, another vestige of the ‘50s, and tried to get down to business. Not for nothing had he taken a day off from Lucky Dogs. If there's one thing Eric Saucier says he really wants -- wants much more than regaining the nighttime Decatur and St. Peter spot for his wagon, for instance -- it's to sell his father's memory.
Which may not be easy. At a hoped-for price of $200,000, it's very cheap and very expensive.
Frolicking film stars
"I'm not really interested in my father any more, except he comes to mind a lot," Saucier said. Among his movie roles, it seems, Luke Saucier had a bit part in the movie version of "My Fair Lady." An avid photographer, he used a smuggled 8 mm camera to produce a home movie of actors and actresses relaxing and hamming it up between takes.
That's it. That's what Eric wants to sell. He thinks his father's film is extremely valuable. And, with the six-figure sum he expects to reap through an Internet auction site, he'll start his own business -- as a photographer. He is, after all, his father's son.
Saucier looks like Lee Marvin. His father, raised on a south Mississippi dirt farm, was a man of Hemingway-esque extreme, of restlessness and bravado and charisma so intense that Eric's mother, the beautiful stage actress Betty Lee Mitchell, allowed him to chase her and their three sons back and forth across country. For them, love was a children's game of tag.
"We'd travel by car," Saucier remembered. "She'd take us on the run, and then my father would find her. She ran away from him in Hollywood, and he chased her down here. She ran back to California, and she ran back here again. He chased her down, and they reconciled and lived on the north shore briefly, until he abandoned us.
"I don't know why he kept chasing my mother. Maybe it was because he had three sons? And a soft heart? I don't know, but finally he just drifted off, went back to California and did some more acting. Later, when we lived in Ocean Springs, he hitchhiked a couple of times to see us. I don't know why he had to hitchhike, except that he was a drifter. He made money, spent it and made more."
'A skeleton with skin'
Eric was Luke and Betty's middle son. Of the three boys, he was the one who could not shake memories of the handsome wanderer. Of the three, Eric was the unlucky one, the infant that doctors wrongly believed might have brain damage because he was stuck in his mother's birth canal far too long.
Saucier began his own wanderings after ninth grade. Back and forth across country, he unwittingly tracked a cold but familiar trail. In the late ‘80s, he got off a bus on the Florida Gulf Coast. Luke was there to meet him. "A skeleton with skin," Saucier recalled, brought him into the wilderness, to a house so far removed from civilization that Monday was indistinguishable from Saturday.
In the home of Luke Saucier, time had been suspended, so that the past -- full orchestra of demons -- might play unimpeded through the rooms.
"He was still drinking, still smoking," Saucier said. "He didn't talk about the old times. After that, I'd take the bus or hitchhike to see him, but it was always the same. I tried calling a couple of times, but he'd start screaming into the phone. He was angry. Not angry at me, just angry."
A thing for snakes
"The way it was told to me, my father was just an average kid, growing in Mississippi. Then, one day he was at school and a couple of bullies came up and started chasing him around with a water snake.
"My father was afraid of it. Later, he was swimming in a fishing hole and found himself surrounded by an entire swarm of snakes. Right there, he somehow became uninhibited with them and even developed a love for them.
"The one who told me that story was my father. His first big break in movies was as an alligator wrestler, and he wound up as the official reptile handler for MGM, Paramount and Warner Bros. In Hollywood, we had a two-car garage outside our house, which he used as a holding tank for the reptiles.
"He had gunnysacks of water moccasins and rattlesnakes. One day, my mother was retrieving a utility knife from the garage, and she looked among those gunnysacks of poisonous snakes, and she saw me, just walking up and down the aisles, between all these snakes. I've been doing that ever since, pretty much."
-- Bill Grady
VIDEO STILLS FROM THE
8mm FILM FOOTAGE