Good writers tell wonderful stories, they are also highly intelligent people and the really great writers can change your life and make you see things that you never knew existed before they wrote about them.
I recall in 1980 I was taking a Master class in film acting and I was working on a scene from the movie,
‘THE FUGITIVE KIND’ directed by Sidney Lumet, written by Tennessee Williams and starring the great
Marlon Brando & Anna Magnani.
This is a very lovely film beautifully made and the script is to die for, at any rate I was playing a very touching and romantic
scene in the film and my lines are:
“You know they’s a kind of bird that don’t have no legs, and it spends it’s whole life on the wing; I seen one once, it died and fallen to earth.”
At the end of the scene my entire class of film actors gave up a great applause and I was quite happy with what I’d done with the scene. Beah Richards, my acting teacher told me that I played the scene beautifully but she had a question:
“is there really a bird that has no legs?” That’s what she asked me.
I was stunned by the question and for a moment I lost my tongue.
I stood in front of my fellow actors and I said:
“Hell, I don’t know if there’s really a bird like that, but I doubt it.”
Beah Richards is a very famous Black actress; she played Sidney Poitiers mother in the movie,
‘GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER’
So Beah Richards looked at me and smiled wide, and said to me:
“Why don’t you find out if there is a bird with no legs and then do the scene again.”
I was pissed!
“Aw! Come on Beah!
You know, there is no such bird!
How absurd? I mean, DAMN!
This search is not going to prove worthwhile.
What a waste of my good time!”
Well, I paid Beah Richards a king’s ransom just to take her Master film acting class that was very difficult to get into;
Beah would only accept actors whom she thought would be major film stars, it was not about the money with her, it was her reputation and legacy. So for this reason I followed Beah’s instruction to the letter; I went to the local library and I went through
TWENTY-FIVE books on all sorts of birds looking for that one bird with no legs. I could not believe my eyes when I finally found the bird in book number TWENTY-FIVE.
I thought about Tennessee Williams and my eyes filled with tears…what a writer!
In that moment of discovery Tennessee Williams taught me to respect the writer and never, ever take his words or ideas for granted.
I went back to the studio in Hollywood and I did the scene beautifully, there was a sense of power that I did not have before, now I stood on the foundation of truth that Tennessee Williams gave to me and Marlon Brando…my work was now magical, romantic and very sensational. Beah Richards my teacher knew that there was such a bird and that’s the only reason she sent me on discovery and I’m much rewarded for following her direction to the letter.
The bird is called a wild billed humming bird.
And for any of you Marlon Brando lovers, you can see the scene by going to YouTube, that’s right just go to
YouTube and type in:
Sleep on the wind – The fugitive kind
The scene is really sweet and beautiful and as we all know, MARLON BRANDO is the greatest actor who ever lived!
You can watch all my videos @ YouTube.