On its final lap at the Fox Studios in L.A., "S & M" sped rapidly towards its completion. It was now all work and not much play except for a few redeeming moments such as filming the Lendler, that graceful dance during which Maria and the Captain first fall in love. It was a welcome interlude in what had become a rather strenuous schedule and, in spite of my two left feet, a breeze, due to my partner's formidable expertise.

Then there was the new song Rodgers and Hammerstein had added to the film score, "Something Good," which Julie and I were to croon in soft, intimate tones as we squared off to face each other in a gazebo. McCord had provided some low filtered lighting for the nonce, which was extremely flattering and bathed us most romantically in semisilhouette. Everything was set up, the mood was established, but just as the cameras began to roll, the thought of us both singing at such close range with our noses touching suddenly struck me as thoroughly bizarre. It must have struck Julie as well, for we both started giggling shamefully. Cut! We tried again—no dice! Each column of the gazebo had been lit for moonlight effects and it all looked suitably romantic. We began singing again and everything for the moment seemed under control when two elusive carbons rubbing accidentally together made a sound as if someone was prodigiously and continuously farting. We collapsed. Cut! Take twelve! By this time we were holding on to each other, clawing away at our clothes, dissolved in raucous laughter.

It was a contagious disease that was spreading fast, for it had infected the entire crew, including Mr. Wise. Our sides hurt—I'm sure thirty takes at least had gone by, none of which were printable, when mercifully we broke for lunch. Coming back to the set one hour later, convinced we'd sufficiently pulled ourselves together, we steeled ourselves for the moment and prayed for control. Jools had even taken a Valium, terrified lest she let her side down. Then the arcs began their revenge, and the farting continued. We buckled over in exhausted and helpless agony. This was getting serious. Bob Wise always had a pocket watch on a chain, which he rubbed like a touchstone. It must have had a soothing effect upon him, like a patience drug. Not today. "Turn off the lights. We'll shoot it in the dark," he shouted. And we proceeded to play in silhouette, hoping no one would see us giggling. How we finally got it in the can I'll never know. I imagine we were just too drained to laugh anymore and had no option but to do it straight. The word "print" is a lovely word and makes a lovely sound at moments like these and our relief was well earned, for in the end result, something not bad at all had come out of "Something Good."

To further shake me up, the final recording session was upon us. Daunting is not a strong enough word to describe it. Julie and I stood side by side in a small glassed-in cubicle facing two microphones. Surrounding our prison cage sat seventy-five musicians like hungry jackals waiting to pounce, led by their keeper, Irwin Kostal. Warbling softly into a mike is far more difficult than
singing full out in a theatre as I was later to discover. One is much more likely to catch and collect "frogs" in the throat, whereas projecting usually gets rid of them. I tried so hard not to look like a complete basket case. Julie, sensing my nerves, took hold of my hand and held it throughout the session. It must have taken her days to recover the use of it afterwards, I had squeezed so hard. No matter how diligently I'd slugged away at my lessons, I was still untrained as a singer. To stay on a long-sustained note was, for me, akin to a drunk trying to walk the straight white line, whereas you can bet the very first cry that Julie let forth as she emerged from her mother's womb was in perfect pitch! Listening to the playback, there was no disputing we were on separate planets. In the end, Robert Wise managed to hire someone to take care of my elongated passages, and the balance was somewhat restored.
Excerpted from In Spite of Myself by Christopher Plummer. Copyright ?? 2008 by Christopher Plummer. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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