There was something glorious and doomed about Tony Richardson’s old Hollywood house, perched above Sunset, like a setting for a Nathaniel West story. The gardens were immense and lush, an exotic wonderland of palms, eucalyptus, and orchids. There were also two swimming pools. The second one having been discovered when Tony removed a landslide from the lower garden. Underneath, was an Olympic-sized pool from the thirties, an old Buick parked in the deep end.
Director of such classics as “Tom Jones” and “The Charge of The Light Brigade,” ex-husband of Vanessa Redgrave, Tony was like a giant bird. Tall and gangly, with sloping shoulders and a beaky face, he flapped around, one eyebrow permanently raised in anticipation of the next diverting catastrophe. The persistent enemy was boredom. And at his Sunday lunches everyone was encouraged to be as outrageous as possible.
For example, one Sunday Sir Laurence Olivier was there. Tony, who had directed him in his acclaimed “The Entertainer,” (Olivier winning the Academy Award for best actor), sat him next to a girl called Suze, an Australian porn director. He then commanded her to describe in detail to Olivier the intricacies of shooting a masturbation scene. “Go on, tell him!" shrieked Tony. So Suze did. But of course Olivier knew Tony well. Listening carefully, the famous profile erect, he then turned to the table and said calmly, “Simply fascinating, isn’t it?”
On another Sunday, Jill St John was there, who brought a young woman with her – a slim brunette who’d apparently been having an affair with Henry Kissinger. “Tell us, tell us!” prompted Tony, already rigid with anticipatory glee. “What did you SAY to him?” “Well,” said this woman, “I told Henry that I refused to sleep with him anymore unless he stopped the war in Vietnam – and brought back the troops!”
Screams of laughter from Tony and applause...
Kissinger did nothing of the sort, of course. And it was never revealed if the woman stopped seeing him or not.