Serendipity: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way; a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it.

Why do I bring this up? Because my life has been haunted by serendipitous occurrences, and more specifically because this production of THE RIGHT REGRETS was definitely loaded with serendipitous events. Two and a half years ago Marlyn Mason sent me a screenplay she had just completed. It was the first draft of THE RIGHT REGRETS and was the first of the three versions she would write. I won’t go into the changes she made in each of those versions; the one constant was that she wrote the main character of Charles with Anthony Hopkins as her template. Starting last fall attempts were made to get the script to Hopkins, but without success. I was not involved at that time beyond being a friendly consultant. (My eventual involvement was another incident of serendipity, which I will not go into at this time.) After the first of this year, because of budgetary considerations, Marlyn changed her plans and decided to film on the west coast rather than the east coast. Since there had been no response from Hopkins’ agents, she decided it was time to move on in her search for a Charles. She consulted an old friend, Jeanette O’Connor, who had a Cast Breakdown service in Hollywood. Jeanette suggested David Ogden Stiers. Marlyn was determined that the role be played by an Englishman, but when she was told that Stiers was very adept at portraying a bloke from across the waters, she sent a script to his agents. For a couple of days there seemed to be genuine interest on his part, but he eventually graciously declined. Marlyn next sent the script to Richard Chamberlain’s agents. Marlyn had known Richard long before his Dr. Kildare days. Richard too read and declined. Marlyn has a writer friend, Mel, in New York, who in a phone conversation said he was wavering on whether he should attend an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the film, CABARET. Marlyn urged him to go, telling him to relay her greetings to Bob Osborne, whom she knew was going to be there. She then jokingly suggested that, should he have the opportunity, he should tell Michael York about her film. Mel called her from the festivities to tell her that Bob Osborne had been thrilled to hear from her, and he added that when he had told Michael York about THE RIGHT REGRETS, York had given him his e-mail address and asked to have Marlyn send him the script. By this time I was aboard to direct, and needless to say, we were both intrigued and delighted at the prospect of working with Michael York. I have long believed that his performance in CABARET provides the heart of that film. For the next ten days we were in constant e-mail communication with Michael. He liked the script and offered some very subtle and meaningful recommendations for changes in dialogue. As I told him, those recommendations spurred me to make additional changes, changes that substantially altered the character of Charles. No longer was he a predator; he became a much more sympathetic person, but a person with a mysterious secret. At the end of ten days, Michael had still not committed to the project. Marlyn, with a start date to begin filming fast approaching, finally had to request a decision from him. His reply was charming. He said he was turning it down, but he hoped that in the future he would have the right regrets. At this point I suggested a fine American actor who was the right age (70’s) for the role, and who I was sure could do an acceptable English accent. To my surprise and at the time disappointment, he declined, saying he felt he was totally wrong for the role. Things were looking grim. Marlyn then contacted Cast Breakdown Jeanette again, and this time Jeanette added the role of Charles to the breakdown she distributed

I had known Budd Moss since 1962, when as an agent he represented Carolyn Jones when we signed her to guest star in the DR. KILDARE episode, THE MASK MAKERS. The following year he represented Ruth Roman when she guest starred on a ROUTE 66 I directed. Our paths crossed many times in the ensuing years, but that was then, this was now. I had been away from Hollywood for over twenty years. Budd, now with his own management firm, read Jeanette’s breakdown and saw Marlyn’s name and my name connected with THE RIGHT REGRETS. He said it was like two old friends rising from out of the past. He immediately contacted us to renew the friendships from so long ago, and being an actor’s representative he submitted one of his clients, Maxwell Caulfield, for the role of Charles. Maxwell is not 70 years old; he is 53 years old. Marlyn and I immediately reacted by thinking that would add a new dimension to the project. And it has. Having completed photography a week ago, I cannot imagine having filmed the show we have in the can with any of the other actors we sought. But the series of serendipitous events is not concluded. Marlyn and I had no intention of telling Maxwell of what had transpired regarding casting prior to his involvement. But one day late in preproduction, he asked a question regarding the casting that had Marlyn and me looking at each other. Should he be told or not? She decided to be forthright and told him everything that had happened, just as I have presented it. When she completed her story, relating in detail about our contacts with Michael York, Maxwell told us he had seen Michael just a week ago. His connection to Michael York goes even deeper. In 1967 Maxwell’s mother worked for playwright Harold Pinter when he was involved in the filming of ACCIDENT, a movie starring Dirk Bogarde. There were two roles in the film for children, and director Joseph Losey did not want to cast professional child actors. Eight-year old Maxwell was the right age, and when he was brought in to meet Losey, he was approved. ACCIDENT was Maxwell Caulfield’s first film appearance. Michael York also appeared in that film; It was his third film appearance, but his first feature film, and that all happened 46 years ago.

Most of the film that I had seen of Maxwell was of his earlier work. I did see an interview he did in London two years ago when he and his wife, Juliette Mills, were appearing in a stage production. His appearance on that interview intrigued me; that was the image I had for our Charles. A few days before Maxwell came to Carmel for two days of rehearsal with Marlyn, he told me he now had a beard, but if I disapproved, he would be willing to shave. I must admit, I was not thrilled by that announcement, but I decided I would give myself time to get accustomed to it before making a decision. At the end of the first day of rehearsal I was negative; I felt the beard was a little unkempt and unattractive, but Maxwell told me he had grown it for an upcoming role in a television film. He said he would do a little trimming on it, which he did. The next day I was less resistant, and by the completion of filming, I had decided Maxwell should never shave if off.

It took weeks before we got the required permit to film at the Point Sur Lighthouse in Big Sur, but from photographs I had seen on the internet of the lighthouses in the area, that was the one I insisted should be our lighthouse.


I also wanted the lighthouse to be the location we filmed on our first day. I knew it would be difficult to film, but working with a new and very young crew, I instinctively felt, as an old Phoenix rising from the ashes, I needed to put my best foot forward as quickly as possible, but taking that first step was impeded very early the morning of April 2nd. Because of the parking situation at the lighthouse it was decided to limit the number of cars driving to the location. Cast and crew were told to meet at the Crossroads shopping center in Carmel at 6:00 am, and some cars would be left there as bodies were piled into as few vehicles as necessary for the company to travel 25 minutes down the coast to our destination. However our southward trek was delayed, because our star, Maxwell Caulfield, was not present. A member of the production staff was to have picked him up at his lodgings, but we discovered that driver, living in Santa Cruz, had overslept and was still in his home 40 miles north of Carmel. I don’t remember whether we dispatched someone from the Crossroads to get Maxwell or whether he was given direction and drove to our meeting place, but he soon arrived and, sans the errant Santa Cruzan, the company in caravan finally took off.

Beside the lighthouse being a magnificent structure that greatly enhanced the sequence I was to film, the stairways leading to the lighthouse provided a wonderful visual setting for staging.

lighthouse 1

lighthouse 2

lighthouse 3

Once the two actors were out of their make-up chairs and into their wardrobe, filming began. By our lunch break I had the 13 set-ups I needed for the sequence, and I had a recurrence of a feeling similar to one I had had fifty-two and a half years earlier on my first day ever of filming, when on the set at MGM of DR. KILDARE — JOHNNY TEMPLE — I felt as if I had been doing it forever. As I ascended that long stairway the 26 years since I had last directed film vanished. It seemed like BLUE SKIES (that last film) had been just the day before.



The journey continues

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22 Responses to Casting


    What a delight it was to find two loving and special friends of all places,on the breakdown
    service. What made it even more ‘special’ was that I was able, after all these years to bring
    my dear friend and client,Maxwell Caulfield into their open arms and be apart of this
    very special film…so many years later. BUDD BURTON MOSS WESTWOOD VILLAGE,CA.

  2. carol Lee says:

    Hey cuz…..The journey is everything, that long and winding road..Can’t wait to see it..Much heart, carol

  3. Marlyn Mason says:

    Hello, dear reader…I am the Marlyn Mason who Ralph speaks of in his trek with THE RIGHT REGRETS. I was going to write my own memories of my 2 and 1/2 year ‘trek’ but Ralph is telling it so beautifully and visually I think I’ll just sit back and enjoy his version. Mine wouldn’t be much different but surely over-written. I have so many cherished moments from start to finish…and that’s a lot of memories.

    You have to know that Ralph will be 90 this May 1st! I say this because not only I, but the entire crew, marvelled at his energy; the man was sailing up and down those long Point Sur Lighthouse steps, bounding to the top of the tower, practically running to and fro on the small trail to the tower and never a huff nor a puff. Not so for the crew. I heard him say at one point “You guys need to exercise”! That’s Ralph! And he was like that for the 10 day shoot (and he didn’t stop during the one day off)! So I needn’t tell you my utter joy when he said “Yes” to my question “Will you direct?”. Then and there I knew I was going to have a beautiful movie, even though I had no leading man. But living my life as I do, welcoming it as it happens, I knew whoever played the role of CHARLES WICKHAM would be the right CHARLES. Once MAXWELL CAULFIELD stepped aboard I couldn’t imagine anyone else filling CHARLES’ shoes. He’s a magnificant actor and most certainly raised the level of my performance as did Ralph with his sensitive and loving direction.
    “They’re CRACKERJACK”, said Ralph with both thumbs raised to the skies. It was the end of the first day and he was awed at the professionalism and swiftness of the crew, all young filmmakers. One of them asked “Is that good or bad”? And I said,” it’s good and coming from Ralph it’s GREAT! You can be proud”!! Grant Ellis, Production Manager, had amassed a perfect group of hard working and talented young filmmakers who helped made Ralph’s job a pleasure…and everyday Ralph made sure they knew how he felt. As Producer I couldn’t have asked for a better film family. Nuff from me…I can’t wait for The Amazing Ralph’s next installment. Ciao for now

  4. Mike and Lindy says:

    It has been such fun to watch this film manifest from just a thought in Marlyn’s head and then to bring Ralph into the process has been the parsley on the plate! Thanks so much for sharing on your blog Ralph!

    Lindy Marrington
    Carmel, CA

  5. Sir_Arthur says:

    A great read and I am looking forward to the finished production! The photo of Marilyn and Maxwell is awesome! Love to you Marlyn!

  6. MomWanda says:

    I have heard about the script and production since day one. This is a fantastic film and I can’t wait to see it. Thank Ralph for working with Marlyn! You put the icing on the cake to the film with your expertise. Marlyn did a lot of hard work on this. The read was fabulous and all the photos are so beautiful. Simply put, uuummmmmmm good-like southern homemade coconut cake. Love you, Marlyn and love to all!

  7. Ken Enabnit says:


    I am absolutely overjoyed to hear this good news! I know that you have always been one to be looking ahead, and not backwards, so this news about the new film is very very good news, indeed. I would have liked to see Michael York, but hey, there’s always the future.

    Happy 90th, Ralph.

  8. Lovely project. Please keep me informed of the release

  9. detectivetom says:

    I too shall be looking forward to the finished project. You can’t beat experience I say.

  10. Adam Parfrey says:

    I am amazed at Ralph’s energetic devotion to this project at the age of 90. Fantastic.

    I have good memories of seeing Marlyn Mason on an episode of “Insight” that also featured my father Woodrow Parfrey…

    Look forward to seeing this finished product!

    • Ralph says:

      But would it be just as fantastic if I were only 35. That’s the way I would prefer it to be judged!

    • Marlyn Mason says:

      Adam, thank you so much for your lovely comments. What an honor that I was able to work with your Father, Woody. A long time ago I tried to get a copy of the INSIGHT episode but nada.

      Ralph really IS 35! The crew will back me up on that!!! Awesome, indeed!

      Best to you, Adam. hugs Marlyn

  11. So So Happy to see friends coming together. and creating. Best of luck for the future of the project. Jack G.

    • Marlyn Mason says:

      Thank you, Jack! You were one my very early supporting contributors and I can honestly predict you won’t have ANY ‘regrets’ when you see the final cut!

      I’ve known Ralph since I was 14 and who woulda thunk?! Ha!

      hugs and love M

  12. Keep up the great work.

  13. Jeff Burr says:

    Ralph…I just wanted to say that you are an incredible inspiration, and all filmmakers from 15-95 should read this and get off their duffs, stop making excuses and start making films! That is the glory of this digital age, and you have proven that the main gulf between old-school production and the new technology is in the mind, not in reality. Talent is talent, acting is acting, filmmaking at the end of the day is filmmaking. I just loved it when I read that after your first morning on this film that it reminded you of the feeling from 50+ years ago…that you had been doing this forever. That says to me that you were born to do it, and yes, serendipity plays a part in everyone’s life, but to do what you are born to do is destiny. With a capital D. You are an inspiration, (as is Marlyn Mason) and I want to wish you the very very best on your upcoming birthday. And, I hope you can write an article about this for the DGA Magazine…it would inspire other directors half your age to get out and DO it! All the best and with respect and admiration, Jeff Burr

  14. Dan Brosamle says:

    I have been hearing for years of Marlyn’s beloved Ralph. What a large part of her life that he plays. What a close friend and mentor he is. Now finally I will get to see his extraordinary talent as a director. From Playhouse 90 to the steps of the Big Sur Lighthouse. What a journey.

  15. I was so excited reading Ralph’s wonderful telling of the “movie making” adventure. Filled with optimism and joy. I cannot wait to see the completed project.
    happy editing!
    Ralph tell me; what in the hell is your secret?
    Roy c.

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