Actress Jan Sterling, like any other proud mother, just happened to have a picture of her nineteen-month-old son, Adam Douglas, as she reported to Universal-International for her starring role opposite Richard Egan in Slaughter On Tenth Avenue. Jan, the wife of Paul Douglas, smiles proudly as Director Arnold Laven studies the photograph. Slaughter On Tenth Avenue is a potent expose of New York waterfront warfare.
Albert Zugsmith producer. This is a press photo from my personal collection.
Alan K. Rode, Film Historian, Writer & Critic of the Sentinel interview with Arnold Laven on Slaughter on Tenth Avenue
Sentinel: Was Slaughter on Tenth Avenue a major step up for you? It was filmed in 1957 at Universal-International and had a formidable cast.
AL: I had made The Rack, and it earned me a certain stature. As a matter of fact, the problem with Slaughter on Tenth Avenue is that Richard Egan was a marvelous guy, but the film needed Bob Mitchum. I forget why we couldn’t get him. Egan was wrong for the part. It was a pretty good movie, and I had a great relationship with Egan. You know, one has a tendency when you’re working with someone to think it was a good decision that they were cast in the film. I never could work with an actor if I was conscious of them having been miscast. I’ve worked with actors who required a little more work than others, but looking back and being honest, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue suffered because of Egan. The original title of the film came from the book The Man Who Rocked the Boat. The producer, Albert Zugsmith, was quite a character. He was from a different world. He was a tasteless man, a newspaper publisher or something. Hedy Lamarr. Somehow he met Hedy Lamarr and imposed her into the movie.
Sentinel: Hedy Lamarr is in Slaughter on Tenth Avenue? I don’t remember that at all.
AL: She had a bit part. Lamarr’s role had no meaning. I think a scene was written for her, she worked one day, and it had no relation to the story. I am 99 percent sure she was in the final cut, but she might have been cut out subsequently.
Sentinel: How did the title get changed?
AL: I told you about the producer being from another world. He had bought the song and the music for Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, so that became the soundtrack theme and the title. I had to shoot an insert scene of Tenth Avenue.
Sentinel: I talked to Julie Adams about this film. She remembered being astounded at how good Walter Matthau was and what he became. How did you cast him?
AL: I used an experienced casting director who told me that there was this actor in New York who was exceptionally good. He told me, “I suggest—if you don’t mind, we don’t have any film on him—that he would be great for the part.” He assured me, and I trusted his judgment.
Sentinel: Were you pleased with Matthau in the film?
AL: Yes, he was superb. We got along fine. He was warm and cordial and a great poker player.
July / Aug 2009 Noir City Sentinel 21
May you rest in peace my friend! I will miss you!
Just knowing you has enriched my life so much!