Oscar-winning documentary film maker Leo Seltzer, taken at the time when he was making a promotional film with my mother.
I've never had the slightest desire to be an actor, nor did I ever want to be famous. That's probably the biggest thing that set me apart from many of the people I knew in Hollywood. Egotism is rampant in Tinseltown. Everybody has an all-consuming desire to be somebody. Clawing ones way to the often unattainable "top" is a way of life and narcissism reigns supreme.
My goals were neither lofty nor unrealistic. I was a silent observer, retaining the adventures that unfolded around me and filing them away in my memory bank for future use. I knew some famous actors. And I knew even more infamous ones. I was on numerous movie sets, thanks to the influence of people that I knew. I appeared as an extra in a handful of movies (some of them were legitimate) and TV shows. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Malibu Beach, Blue Tide,
.......The Dune Boys of Fire Island.......
Wait a minute - - I'm embarrassing myself.
Long before Hollywood, when I was a reasonably innocent teen, I was in a community theater production of West Side Story. A very minor part. I was one of the Jets. One of the lesser Jets.
When I was a young child in New Jersey (we moved to California when I was five) my mother had a brief brush with acting. She worked for Child and Family Services, which was a psychiatric and counseling bureau that specialized in family therapy. The bureau was well-known and had some very prominent clients.
Actually, it was bitterly ironic that my Mom worked there, since she endured so many serious personal problems with my father's violence and abuse.
The company was in the process of expanding nation-wide and wanted to make a promotional film to advertise their services. The film would be about a married couple who was on the verge of divorce due to emotional conflicts.
My mother was asked to be the leading actress in the film. She agreed, even though she had no desire to be in the limelight. The man who portrayed her husband in the film was a young social worker named Leo Denno. In real life, Leo Denno was the son of Wilfred Denno, who at that time was the warden of Sing Sing Prison in New York.
Note: Wilfred Luis Denno was the warden of Sing Sing from 1950-1967.
The producers initially considered using me as the couple's child in the film, but decided that I was too young. They hired an eight-year-old girl instead. I honestly don't remember my exact age at the time, but I was probably around four - definitely no older.
Me, too young to be an actor.
I missed my big break.....The director of the film was Leo Seltzer (1910-2007). Seltzer was a well-known documentary film producer. He had won an Oscar in 1947 for his documentary film First Steps. Later, he served as cinema-biographer for President Kennedy in the White House.
I have vague recollections of Seltzer directing some scenes with my mother. Indoor scenes were shot in a studio, and the outdoor scenes were filmed at Buccleuch Park, in New Brunswick. Seltzer also took me and my Mom with him when they were recording special sound effects for the film. I remember him showing me some of the interesting ways that the sounds were created.
My mother Marie
I saw the premiere of the film with my parents at some sort of promotional event, but my recollection is hazy at best. The film was in color. I remember one particular scene where my mother is in the kitchen, arguing with her husband. It was unnervingly realistic and Mom's acting was convincing. This was undoubtedly because she had so much practice when she and my father argued at home.
This was only a promotional film for Child and Family Services, but I later heard that it was shown in theaters nation-wide. As a young child, the entire filming process had little meaning to me. It was interesting but not particularly significant. I wish I had been older so I could have absorbed more.
Director Leo Seltzer made over sixty films during a career that spanned fifty years. Being extremely independent, he tended to avoid the trappings and limitations of Hollywood. Seltzer was 97 when he passed away in New York. I would have liked to talk to him and discuss his recollections of that long-ago film project in New Jersey.
My mother seldom spoke about the film after it was made - at least I can't remember her doing so. She was always humble and unpretentious, and - like myself - never had any acting aspirations.
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