Ann Turkel and Richard Harris flew into London and I was asked by an American Magazine (the name of which escapes me) to shoot some pictures of them together. I adored Richard from his incredible film work (Camelot, Cromwell and A Man Called Horse to name just a few) and his lovable rogue persona. I also rated him as a singer too. Many people were very surprised when he was chosen to sing the classic song Mac Arthur Park but I really like his performance. He put all of himself into the song, it was almost Shakespearian in its form.
The shoot was at Holborn Studios and I took pictures of him and Ann and then Ann left to go shopping. As she was leaving she called me over to the door and whispered, “Don’t let him go the pub”. The pub unfortunately or fortunately depending on your perspective was just across the road. Richard and I got on like a house on fire, he was very personable and relatable, there was a Celtic bond between us, he was sweet like a lad from Wales (although he was Irish) and I felt really, really comfortable with him. He asked me in a quiet tone ‘what did she say to you at the door?” I told him in an equally quiet voice “Don’t go the pub” and he laughed.
We then did some solo portraits. I don’t know if it’s a thing that when you are an actor you just never stop being an actor. He did all these incredible looks to camera. He wrapped his arms around himself and did this melancholy expression. I got this amazing portrait of him looking directly into the camera. There was such an eternal sadness in his eyes. It was a touching moment when I first looked at the contact sheet.
We finished the shoot and being two lads together were engaged in intense conversations both laughing our rocks off. I told him how much I loved his singing. We also discussed the movies and I asked him about ‘A Man Called Horse”. He said they didn’t really suspend him by his chest but it was hard working in the desert. I asked him about the lighting cameramen on the shoot as I was fascinated by the details. He was the kind of person you could imagine being a friend to everybody, there was no side to him he was totally natural. I said to him, “I could listen to you all day and I hope this doesn’t sound too sycophantic but you are such a wonderful actor and such a wonderful guy”. He then started laughing uproariously. I then said ” Remember Anne told me not to take you to the pub” and he looked at me and said, “Oh, it’ll be alright we’ll just have the one.” When we got to the pub he was far more relaxed and just became a guy, it was like he had entered the palace of relaxation. He was laughing at my stories about and I was laughing about his inside stories too. Anne was a model who had worked with Irving Penn and American Vogue and had obviously shared stories with him about the fashion world too as he had some insight.
Eventually Anne came into the pub and looked at us both and said ” I said do not to take him to the pub!” I said “I know I am so sorry, we just got talking and.” Richard then looked at me with a meek side eye and looked at the Polaroid’s and said. ‘It was lovely to meet you Clive, it’s been a relaxing shoot and a great day.” He then gathered himself and left with Anne and I was just struck by what a lovely, lovely man he was. A limo appeared and they left and I just felt a sadness that he had gone, it dawned on me that he was one of my heroes. So I had another Guinness and then the assistants poured me into the back of a taxi home after they had packed the studio away and sent the film off to the lab.
On the drive home I reflected on David Niven’s great book ‘Bring on The Empty Horses’ and the passage when he finds the actor Robert Newton alone and sadly drunk in a bar. David Niven looked at him and Newton said to him through a mist of alcohol, “Don’t chide me lad”. I found it so sad. People sometimes refer to it as ‘The Irish Malady’ but in fairness it’s not just the Irish that suffer. I went to Dublin once to photograph the author JP Dunleavy, the taxi driver from the airport said “Would you like to have a pint of Porter” so we went to every pub on the way to JP’s house. By the time I got to JP I was drunk as a Lord and carrying a bottle of Bushmills whisky. Drink is irresistible when you are in that environment, you can’t walk one pace without finding yourself in a ‘watering hole’. Richard had that culture within him, a culture of drink. I could appreciate it was hard for him to escape. I think the same happened to me in Wales, there was this same culture for working class men, it was almost expected of you. The relief and camaraderie after a long hard working week, to just go for a drink. We had that culture in common.
It was wonderful to work with Ann too I must say. She was so beautiful, bright and fresh. They were obviously very in love and had only recently got married and had the optimism of a new couple on that day. I was so sad when I heard Richard had died at 72 from cancer. He was such a talented and kind man I am sure he had so much more to give. I’ll sign off with his fantastic performance of Mac Arthur Park as a fitting tribute to him.