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HOLLYWOOD: Epic in Durango

2 minute read

Moviemaking is often more fascinating than the resulting movie.

A couple of months ago, rakish Director John Huston took Stars Audrey Hepburn, Burt Lancaster and Audie Murphy to the Mexican iron-mining town of Durango (pop. 59,500) to film The Unforgiven and save $600,000 (in Mexico, an Indian with horse costs $2 a day against $40 in Hollywood). Now Huston stands to spend an extra $1,000,000—the price of maintaining a vast army of cows and cowboys for a month more than expected.

Huston & Co. have certainly changed Durango. Its economy is giddily inflated, from the rising business (up 20%) of merchants to the soaring price of good imported whisky and bad local women. The town’s new taste of high life is even giddier. Producer Jim Hill adorned the place with his glittering wife, Rita Hayworth. Rugged Charles Bickford had his food flown in from a Hollywood gourmet shop, including 100 steaks for which there were no adequate freezing facilities.

Fortnight ago, pale, thin Audrey Hepburn came back shakily before the cameras after a month in bed following her fall from a white Arabian stallion named Gui Pago (TIME. Feb. 9). Aiding her convalescence were her French secretary, Italian hairdresser and Husband Mel Ferrer. At company expense she installed her retinue in a florid villa, refurbished to match the Ferrers’ Beverly Hills mansion. But trouble was far from over. Returning from a trip to Nicaragua, three of the film’s technicians were killed when their plane crashed near Managua. This tragedy was followed by a farce, when Director Huston led a duck-shooting party to a mountain lake near Durango. One of the hunters: Audie Murphy, the U.S. Army’s most decorated soldier in World War II, and a Texan man of action. When Murphy’s hunting companion stood up in their boat to fire, the recoil threw him overboard. The boat rolled over, stunning Murphy. As the two men floundered atop the submerged boat 350 yards offshore, an Austrian freelance photographer, Inge Morath, spotted them through her telephoto lens and went to the rescue. A handsome brunette and champion swimmer, Inge jettisoned her cameras and chopped out to the two exhausted men. There she resourcefully unhooked her bra, flung one strap to each man, towed them behind her as she breast-stroked safely ashore.

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