Hollywood starts work on "Doll"
"Dighton and Forrest, whom I did suborn To do this ruthless piece of butchery,
Albeit they were flesh'd villains, bloody dogs,
Melting with tenderness and mild compassion."
THE Dighton in those
lines from Shakes-
peare's "Richard III" was named by the author at- one of the murderers of the Princes in the Tower.
And John Dighton, now in Australia writing the script for the film version of Ray Lawler's "Summer of thc Seventeenth Doll," is a direct descendant of that wicked fellow.
"Although history seems to have exonerated Dighton and Forrest, my family won't have a bar of it." Mr. Dighton smilingly told me. "We still firmly believe in the Shakes- pearian version.
"When you have a spec- tacular villain as an ancestor
you should stick to him, and
not let historians take him away from you.
"My only respectable an- cestor was Miss Dighton, who married William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania. We
hardlv ever mention her at all."
John Dighton, whose char-
acter doesn't contain an ounce
- By - RONALD McKIE
of mayhem, defines himself as a man who writes wild comedy and photographs like
a Victorian funeral.
He is small, soft-voiced, humorous, and observant, and doesn't look in the least like a Hollywood version of a scriptwriter.
That doesn't mean a thing, because he went to Charter- house and Cambridge - and doesn't look or sound a bit like a product of Charterhouse or Cambridge, either.
The plum . . .
But what of "Thc Doll," and what are John Dighton's plans for it?
"I think it's a splendid play, and I was very impressed with it when I saw it in London. Unfortunately, I did not meet Ray Lawler.
"In Hollywood, where there was heavy bidding for the film rights, it was regarded as the plum of the year, and the
script was regarded as a plum!
"It has a fresh story, the! characters are real and in-( triguing, and the play offers!
much more scope as a film! than most plays do.
"Even though I say this, 1 think it will be a better film than a play.
"Carol Reed, who directed 'The Third Man.' 'Odd Man Out,' 'Fallen Idol,' and others, is reported to be interested in directing 'The Doll'.'"
1 asked him if he would alter the play much, and whether it would end up more Hollywood than Australian.
"I intend to stick to the play as closely as possible. The two barmaids and the old woman are good characters,
but a little more color is
needed in the development of the relationship between the
"In its construction Lawler's
play runs downhill all the way. This, I feel, was a weakness.
"I intend to give the film version what I regard as a necessary build-up to a dram- atic peak in the middle.
"The Australian slang is
perfectly obvious when fol- lowed in its context, but some terms like 'Up there, Cazaly,' which have only regional meaning even in Australia,
will come out.
The makers of the film, Harold Hecht, James Hill, who recently married Rita Hayworth, and Burt Lancas- ter, have no intention of turn- ing 'The Doll' into a glossy Hollywood-type picture.
"Thev are broadminded and liberal. They want it to be an Australian picture, true to thc play and to this country.''
Burt as "Roo"
I asked who would star in it and where it would be filmed.
'Burt Lancaster is almost
certain to play the part of Roo,' and feels sure he can handle the Australian charac- ter and idiom. The other parts haven't yet been decided, although Rita Hayworth has been mentioned. I can't dis- cuss 'The Doll's' cast.
"We want to get the film, which we plan to make this year, into the fresh air as much as possible, so I shall probably recommend that the film be made in Sydney, be- cause of its color, harbor, beaches, and in the cane coun- try somewhere near Cairns, because I want mountain back- drops for the cameras."
John Dighton, who is 48, was born in London, where his father, Basil Dighton, was an authority on prints, and lived in a Wren house in Savile Row and sold antique furni-
"Father had many famous customers, including Queen Mary and Lord Kitchener, but the only weakness having a father a noted antique dealer was that we seldom sat down at the same dining-room table
When John Dighton was at Charterhouse, determined one day to become a writer, fel- low students included Ben Travers, Forbes Robertson, ind Dickie (Much Binding in the Marsh) Murdoch.
He began his working life
as a reporter on the New-
castle "Evening World." But after a year he heard that Michael Balcon (now Sir Michael), of Gaumont British films, was starting an appren- ticeship course in film-making, and joined up at 5/- a week.
After the course he wrote
THREE STARS suggested for the leading roles in the film of the play are.Rita Hayworth, with her husband-boss James
Hill (above), James Cagney (centre), and Burt Lancaster.
SCRIPTWRITER John Dighton, who came to Australia to write the film script for "Summer of the Seventeenth Doll,"
with his wife, who, he says, is his best critic.
commentaries for shorts and trailers and some slapstick comedy scripts before going to Warner Bros. as junior script- writer to Terence Rattigan.
"We worked under a mad
producer named Jerry Jack- son," said Dighton. "A fero- cious-looking fellow with a
'"He had a bad habit of popping in on the writers to see if we were doing any work, and once grabbed my pencil, held it in the middle, and roared, 'Down to there by
Later Dighton went to Eal- ing Studios and stayed with the company for 10 years, writing the scripts for such pictures as "Kind Hearts and Coronets," "The Man in the White Suit," "Nicholas Nickleby," "Saraband for Dead Lovers," and many more.
In his spare time he also wrote his first play, "The Happiest Days of Your Life," which was first produced on TV, then by the Repertory Players in London, and then ran for 21 months in the West End.
His second play, "Who Goes There?" ran for eight months, and his third, "Man Alive," for
For almost the past decade John Dighton has been a free- lance, a nomad (with his adored wife, who is also his best critic) between the film studios of England, Europe,
He already had a high repu- tation as a scriptwriter when, in 1952, his brilliant work on "Roman Holiday" brought him offers from studios all over the world.
"I was in London,'' Dighton told me, 'when William Wyler, director of 'Roman Holiday,' asked me to do the script. I flew to Rome for one month, stayed three, and settled down there for three
"Wyler, I found, already had a script, but didn't like it. I worked day and night, week- ends, too, and somehow each day produced the script for the next day's shooting.
"I wrote one scene 14 times till even Wyler, a magnificent director, said, I didn't think there was another version.' He shuffled the scrpts, held them out to me and said, with a grin, 'Choose.'
"This was the parting love scene between the stars, Greg- ory Peck and Audrey Hep-
"Before I came to Australia
I'd just finished the script of Shaw's "The Devil's Disciple" for Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, and may have to go back sooner than I expected to do more
work on it.
"Scripts are never finished, not even up to the day a com- pany begins shooting. They're changed so much and so often that the scriptwriter almost
''When I get to work on 'The Doll' I hope to finish it in about 10 to 12 weeks, but if anyone says, This is per- fect,' or 'This is fine,' when I hand it in, I'll faint on the nearest carpet."