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You'd never think that little, soft Annie is filled with such violence, but she leaves her men cut, bruised and bleeding!
She stood there, her hands over her mouth, horrified at what she saw. A man staggering desperately to keep on his feet, hands pressed against his forehead in a vain attempt to stop the blood that was pouring from the jagged wound just over his eye. She had inflicted that wound and now, with a great breath, she screamed. Ann-Margret wasn't acting. Terror at the sight of what she saw contorted her lovely face. Then, uncontrollably, tears streamed down her cheeks and, running to the man, she cried, "Oh, my God, Ralph, what have I done?" For a moment the male star, Alain Delon, the cast and crew stared, stunned and aghast. Another woman cried out in fright. Then somebody cried, "Call a doctor or he'll bleed to death in front of us." A production worker ran to a phone and yelled, too loud, at the operator: "Get a doctor to the 'Once A Thief' set quick! This is an emergency!" He had to repeat the message twice, in his panic. In the meantime frantic first aid was being given the wounded man, director Ralph Nelson, in an attempt to stop the blood that continued to spurt from two severed arteries in his forehead. For the moment the rest of the group stood there, the silence broken only by Ann-Margret's heartbreaking sobs of remorse.
A few minutes before, the crew had been preparing for a key scene in the movie. "Now, Ann," Ralph Nelson had instructed the actress from where he was crouched beside the camera, "you are angry, infuriated at Alain. You look around for something to throw; you see the ash tray; pick it up and throw it. Throw it with all your might." Ann nodded. "Quiet on the set!" an assistant producer called. Silence. "Action!" At the word Ann-Margret changed into another woman. Fury gripped her. She looked around the "room" for an instant, spotted a heavy ceramic ash tray. She grabbed it. It was big and clumsy to hold, but summoning all her strength she raised it high and threw it in Delon's direction. she flung the piece, its weight pulled it from her grasp. Yet it flew with surprising force and speed - the wrong way - directly at Nelson, It happened too quickly. The tray crashed against the director's skull with a sickening thud, and ripped his flesh open for three inches just above his right eye. A few minutes later in the studio emergency hospital, a doctor was taking nineteen stitches to close the gash. Nelson was informed that plastic surgery would be necessary later to eliminate a scar.
They closed down the set for the day and sent Ann-Margret, shaking and near-hysterical, home. Had this been the first instance of violence in Ann-Margret's movie career it would have been listed as one of those unavoidable accidents and forgotten.
But Ann has clobbered two other actors recently in previous pictures. In a scene in 'Bus Riley's Back In Town', Ann's realistic "approach" was nearly the undoing of actor Michael Parks. Responding again to direction, Ann, in a high gusto of emotion clawed Parks' face badly.
In a scene from 'Kitten With A Whip', Ann bashed Skip Ward over the head with a "prop" bottle so hard that the ordinarily harmless "prop" almost knocked. Ward unconscious. Skip, a large and muscular hunk of man, nursed a lump on his head for two days.
Little was made of either incident, but following her latest "bash" even Ann is taking time to wonder what strange belligerency is going on inside her. Is it possibly a deep-seated urge violence that she doesn't realize herself?
"It was strange," says Parks, "you "couldn't find a more gentle, compassionate girl in Hollywood than Ann. Everything had gone well between us; Yes, she's sexy, all right, and it's difficult for a man not to notice it, especially in certain scenes. " The scene Parks was apparently referring to is a "body-to-body" struggle where Parks tries to attack Ann.
"We had gone through the scene once for rehearsal and I noticed, as the director did, that Ann was apparently holding back too much, she wasn't fighting against me, as convincingly as the script called for."
Ann was told to fight harder for "the take." She nodded.
"Well, that time, when the cameras rolled," Parks continued, "Ann turned from a relaxed litt1e kitten into an enraged wildcat. I saw her hand coming at me, fingers outstretched and the next thing I knew the nails were pulling my face off.
"The next second she was damn near in tears over what she had done. No question about it, she was genuinely sorry. I told her not to worry about It. It took a few days for those scratches to heal, though."
But it was Ann's amazing physical strength that was the surprise of her "battle" with Skip Ward, a former stunt-man, wellknown for his ruggedness.
"I've been hit by the toughest actors and stuntmen in Hollywood," Skip reca1Is. "I've been cracked on the jaw by hard fists, thrown through the air bodily against walls and to the floor, I've had breakaway chairs and tables smashed over my head. But no one ever staggered me with a prop bottle on the skull. When Ann brought down that bottle on my skull I felt I was rgoing under, really right out of it. When I finally cleared my head I couldn't believe Ann had done it. Man, she packs a wallop."
One overly suspicious insider claims that the cause of Ann's unexpected "dramatic hostilities" is a sure sign that:
"Secretly she doesn't like most men. I don't think she is aware of it herself but it's hard to think of any other explanation. In those scenes of violence she suddenly gets an opportunity to give vent to a feeling she may be smothering and - whamo, she lets loose."
A Beverly Hills, psychiatrist when asked what might be the reason's for Ann's "realistic outbursts" in movie scenes believes:
"It's quite normal for the young lady to let herself go at these times. There is a growing belief that the human being's latent instinct to do battle. with bodily contact, is much stronger, much closer to the veneer of civilization, than we once believed. Psychologists are now considering, very seriously, a theory that repressed violence is stronger in gentle personalities than it is in so-called toughand-gruff individuals.
"In the case of an actress, there are bound to be unusual opportunities, in her profession, to explode. I do not say this is so in the case of your Ann-Margret. Not even a psychiatrist can predict, exactly, what goes on in the mind and heart of a woman."
One of the curious aspects of this new Side of Ann-Margret's personality is that until recently she was known as "the girl with a sexy charm." In the last six months, however, though still charming and very sexy, Ann seems to have taken on, or revealed, a facet of herself that appears preoccupied with pIaying parts involving naked violence.
To get some insight on what has been going on, we checked Ann to see what her explanation might be. She shook her head slowly before replying.
"I'm not sure that I know," she said. "The first time it happened, I simply dismissed it as pure accident, the kind of thing that can happen to any actor in a scene of violence. Frankly I became a little suspicious of myself after the second time, when I hit poor Skip over the head with a bottle.
"I think I realized then that something must be going on in me, subconsciously and that maybe I'd better do something about it. The most logical explanation I've been given - and the one I hope is true - is that I am taking direction too hard. I have an enormous faith and respect for the directors I've worked with. They speak, I listen. As an actress I try to obey strictly and without any reservation.
"Consequently when I'm told I should, let's say, hit someone with my fist in a scene, and hit them with all my might, that's what I try to do.
"But what people don't understand is that when I work myself up into a state of high emotions, perhaps because I'm a woman, the emotions seem to take over and I forget that it is only make-believe. What I mean is that in the front of my mind I know it's not for real, but I guess, deep down, there's something in me that takes it serlously."
Ann rubbed her hands together nervously. "I know I've simply got to take extra precautions from now on. It will be a long time before I forget the terrible sight of that ash-tray going directly for Ralph Nelson's head. I remember in that instant I prayed it would miss. I tried to scream a warning, but it just stuck in my throat.
"And then when it hit him and the blood seemed to -" Ann bit her lip. "I think my heart stopped for a second. I thought I had killed him.
"What's behind this ominous turn in Ann-Margret's image? From where do these violent moments come?
"I don't think anything's behind it, as you say," Ann says. "And I don't really believe I am any different now than I was I year ago. Perhaps people are changing their attitude toward me. That happens you know."
Ann paused. "I think what may have happened is that a year ago I made up my mind that I had to do something in pictures besides playing a dancer. I realized that if I wanted to be something more than a dancer I'd have to do something more. I thought about it for a long time and decided I'd have to go after roles completely different from those I'd been playing. Naturally, parts with great dramatic realism were the answer.
"Now, when you become involved in movies that emphasize the realistic sides of life you must deal WIth violence, since violence is a vital, though deplorable, part of life. Just read history or the newspapers.
"I want, to be a good actress and the only way to that end is for me to immerse myself in the roles I play, especially before the cameras where the moment of professional truth either proves you good or awful. There is no middle ground. An actress can fake her way through a comedy or a musical, but she can never fool the audiences, or herself in a 'bad girl' part. And if the audience doesn't believe you. it laughs at you.
"When I make love scenes, I try as fervently as I can to believe that I am desperately and passionately in love, and to make a kiss as real and exciting before the camera as it is in my life.
"People who go to a movie have every right to expect actors to do their best. I believe that and when it's my turn, I give all of myself, my heart and my mind, to the part I'm playing. It's an actor's obligation and I'm not going to hide a thing, or hold back, when I should be giving.
"But after this third incident I can see where I'm going to have to exert more control."
Currently Ann is taking a ribbing from some of her friends who, on seeing her , make mock efforts to hide or cover their faces with their arms.
It isn't funny to Ann.
"I'm really going to take it easier in the future for another reason," Ann concluded, "because these moments of violence have got me thinking about something else, that hasn't happened yet."
What was that?
"Suppose," Ann asked, with the bare trace of a smile, "suppose someday I get real angry at myself?"
By Jack Madison