The Yellow Canary
The Yellow Canary is a 1963 American thriller film directed by Buzz Kulik. It stars Pat Boone and Barbara Eden, and it was adapted by Rod Serling from a novel by Whit Masterson, who also wrote the novel that was the basis for Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. The film was photographed by veteran Floyd Crosby and scored by jazz composer Kenyon Hopkins.
|The Yellow Canary|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Buzz Kulik|
|Produced by||Maury Dexter|
Robert L. Lippert
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Based on||novel Evil Come Evil Go|
by Whit Masterson
|Music by||Kenyon Hopkins|
Cooga Monga Productions
|Distributed by||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation|
|June 15, 1964|
Andy Paxton (Boone) is an arrogant, obnoxious pop idol who is about to be divorced by his wife (Eden) and constantly abuses his staff, including his bodyguard, ex-cop Hub, his manager Vecchio and his valet, Bake.
Andy begins an engagement at the Huntington Hartford Theater in Los Angeles. He and Hub arrive home to find a maid Lisa hysterical - his infant son Bobby has been kidnapped and the son's nurse murdered. The ransom note has the code word "canary" and they summon the police, led by Lt Bonner (Klugman).
Andy doesn't tell the police about the code word out of fear that his son may be killed. A second message arrives demanding $200,000 ransom, which Andy manages to raise, and the money is delivered to an isolated beach but nobody comes to meet him.
Hub takes Andy to a lonely inn and tortures a woman into giving them the address of a man who might have been in touch with the kidnappers. They find the man, but he is dead.
After Bake is found murdered, Andy receives further instructions by telephone from the kidnapper and realizes that Hub is one of the few people who know their unlisted number.
Andy and Lissa return to the inn and rescue their baby, and Andy shoots the mentally deranged Hub as police cars surround the inn.
In 1961, Pete Levathes, head of 20th Century Fox, authorised the studio to pay $200,000 for the rights to Whit Masterton's novel Evil Come Evil Go. The film was always envisioned as a vehicle for Pat Boone, who had made a number of movies for Fox; he had a three-picture deal with the studio at fee of $200,000 per movie, which would be credited to his production company, Cooga Mooga Productions.
Rod Serling, then at the height of his Twilight Zone fame, was paid $125,000 to write the script. With a star and writer of that calibre, it was originally estimated that the film would have a budget of between $1.5-2 million and be shot over ten weeks. Ann Margaret was mentioned as a possibility for the female lead.
Peter Levathes was fired in the wake of cost over-runs on Cleopatra and Darryl F. Zanuck took over the studio. Zanuck called a halt to all productions at the studio, literally shutting down the backlot on 26 July 1962.
Zanuck was obliged to pay a fee to Boone and Sterling. By this stage, the studio also had commitments to Barbara Eden and Steve Forrest (the latter at a fee of $25,000). Zanuck assigned the film to Robert L. Lippert's company, Associated Producers Inc, who specialised in making lower budgeted films for Fox. Zanuck gave Lippert $100,000 to finish the film and a shortened schedule. (Maury Dexter, who produced the film for Lipper, puts this figure at $250,000 in his memoirs.)
The New York Times reported that Boone "fears that the 10 day shooting schedule will deny it the artistic and production values it might have had with the 10 week shooting schedule he expected" - he decided to proceed with the film anyway.
The cast included Jeff Corey who had been blacklisted and not made a movie for a number of years. Boone had been taught by Corey and he pressured the studio into casting him.
In a September 2012 interview at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, Boone stated that the film was slated for a ridiculously short 12-day schedule. When they were wrapping the last day with several key scenes left to be filmed, Boone paid $20,000 out of his own pocket to buy one more day of shooting. He felt strongly about the film because it gave him the chance to play "a bad guy for a change."
Maury Dexter later recalled:
The film was a nice production, but didn’t really come off. It did nothing at the box office and the critics panned it. Serling, Boone, Forrest and Eden were all play-or-pay contracts, so... [Fox] preferred to play instead of paying off the commitments. (Probably should not have thrown good money after bad.) I produced the show, and with due respect to all concerned, the production overshadowed the drama.
It was announced Boone and Kulik would reunite on the film Island in the City based on an original script by Adrian Spies about a slum-raised youth who befriends a boxer.
- Looking at Hollywood: Pat Boone to Star in Kidnap Film Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 11 Dec 1961: b17.
- LOW-BUDGET FILM PLANNED FOR FOX: Pat Boone, Its Star, Fears Effect of Hasty Shooting By MURRAY SCHUMACH Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 05 Nov 1962: 37.
- Mark Thomas McGee, Talk's Cheap, Action's Expensive: The Films of Robert L. Lippert, Bear Manor Media, 2014 p 271-272
- Serling Tells Secrets of How Not to Write Freeman, Donald. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 22 Apr 1962: n8.
- 14 Films Planned This Year by Fox Studios: Multi-Million Dollar Productions Set for Release in 1963, Executives Announce Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 01 Mar 1962: C15.
- Albright in 'Fix' With Gene Barry: Ransohoff Holding Garner; Dore Schaiy in Total Recall Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 14 May 1962: C13.
- Maury Dexter, Highway to Hollywood, p 110
- SUCCESS FORMULA: Lippert Combs Honey From B's SEIDENBAUM, ART. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 16 Mar 1963: B7.
- Shooting at 20th Starts on Schedule: 'Take Her, She's Mine' Rolls; Axelrod to Walk 'Starpath' Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 24 Apr 1963: C11.
- Title Changed Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 03 Jan 1963: C7.
- Martin Ransohoff Expands Program: Success in TV Encourages $10 Million Movie Gamble Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 18 Feb 1963: C11.