Friday 15 June 2018

Destination London: In between shooting Where Eagles Dare

Dateline: February 16, 1968
So you’re one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and you’ve been asked to jet off to London to make a World War II action film with Clint Eastwood. The fee will be one million dollars — not a bad sum in 1968 — plus bonuses based on the blockbuster's box office gross. But there’s just one snag. Due to quarantine restrictions, you won’t be able to take your beloved dogs with you. In the UK at the time, regulations stated that any animals arriving from abroad would have to go into quarantine for six months, the amount of time considered necessary to ensure that they weren’t infected by rabies.
This was the dilemma facing Richard Burton when he set off to shoot Where Eagles Dare in the late 1960s. 

The Port Talbot actor, who relocated to Céligny, Switzerland in 1957, along with his then-wife Elizabeth Taylor, were hoping to take their four dogs with them — two Pekingese and two Yorkshire terriers named Cuthbert, Georgia, Oh Fi, and E’en So.

But when faced with the possibility of having to leave them behind, they found an ingenious solution. Because while the quartet might not have been allowed on British soil, there was nothing stopping them staying on British water. So the Pontrhydyfen -born star set about securing a boat for his four-legged friends.
And not just any old dinghy, but a white, 200-ton, 120-foot Bolvian yacht called Beatriz.
It was leased from the wealthy Patino family from Bolivia at a price of $2,400 a week, and having set sail from Calais docked off Tower Pier on the Thames where it remained for two months.

It cost an estimated $20,000 in total — that’s an eye-watering $140,000 in today’s money. The Burtons themselves stayed in the nearby Dorchester Hotel.
Fortunately, there were a few great pictures of Clint taken in London while he was here filming Where Eagles Dare, especially whilst he was out and about sightseeing around the city. I thought it would be a good idea to gather them up and include them here with this story, as there is something of a natural crossover with the Burton / Taylor story. 

Below: These three photos are very rare shots taken at MGM-British Studios, Borehamwood, England; during the spring 1968. The production had moved here for the interior scenes. The top picture shows Clint inside one of the studio’s offices; it’s not clear which office this is. However the press cuttings on the office board seem to feature a lot of stories based around Burton and Taylor, one of which is the Taylor birthday cake shot, so we know that this was taken after February 27th 1968. There also seems to be a reference to Cleopatra’s Barge. Could this be a lighthearted spin story relating to Taylor’s luxury moored yacht featured above? As the other pictures of Clint were featured in the same Japanese magazine article, they were probably shot around the same time. They show Clint outside the Borehamwood studios where he was perhaps about to embark on a sightseeing day out or simply heading back to his hotel.
Below: I have also included here the pictures of Clint taken on London Bridge. The top photo here clearly illustrates the bridge famously being dismantled, a project which began in 1967. This picture of the bridge, especially the skyline, when used in comparison, certainly helps in confirming Clint’s location. Perhaps he wanted to take in the bridge before it was sold off and shipped to Lake Havasu City, Arizona where the bridge would be reassembled stone by stone.
Below: Arguably the most recognised photos from this time period are the shots featuring Clint on a motorbike around London. Here are several which show Clint on Tower Bridge where he found time to chat to a local 'Bobby-on-the-beat', checking his London street map and on foot after visiting Westminster Abbey.
Whilst we do not proclaim to have all of the answers, all of these photos nevertheless provide a fascinating insight and a small glimpse as to what was happening in between the shooting of Where Eagles Dare.
Kind thanks to Kevin Wilkinson and Jayne Smart
Below: Some additional photos from this period

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