I’m working on a post with behind-the-scenes snapshots taken at a location in Jamaica during “Dark of the Sun.” But in researching information about the production of that movie, I found a few entertaining items that I thought I’d share while I’m pulling the other material together.
For about a month, Rod Taylor took a helicopter from Kingston to a remote location on the north shore of Jamaica. Always one for adventure, he took advantage of the situation by taking flying lessons. He got his learner’s permit and the pilot installed dual controls.
“Apparently I have to do eight hours dual flying and 40 to qualify,” Rod was quoted in a newspaper article March 30, 1967. “The only drawback I can see is that once I get the license I’ll probably go out and buy a chopper … and that’s an expensive drawback!”
Producer George Englund tried to get Noel Coward to make a cameo appearance in “Dark of the Sun,” as the witty actor/writer had retired to the island. Coward declined the cameo, but he did serve as master of ceremonies at a lavish birthday bash for one of the actors at the Casa Maria Hotel, just 10 minutes from his estate in Port Maria.
One Hollywood columnist called it the “swingingest party of the Jamaica season.” It was hosted by Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux and Jim Brown to celebrate the 25th birthday of their co-star, French actor-singer Olivier Despax. Apparently it also included Playboy bunnies teaching guests to dance to ska music, a precursor to reggae. (Dorothy Manners column, March 10, 1967.)
Rod Taylor liked Jamaica so much that he had his business manager fly in to close a deal on a resort hotel and apartment house he purchased there. He later traded the properties for an island where he and two partners planned to build a resort hotel and golf course.
The filming of “Dark of the Sun” was riddled with accidents, injuries and near-misses. One significant incident happened when Rod vetoed the use of a stunt man for a jump from a balcony into a jeep. The jeep moved too soon and “I took the full weight of my body on one knee,” Rod said. “I felt the tendons tear. The pain was excruciating.” A doctor prescribed surgery and a six-week rest. Rod vetoed that, too. Three days later, he was back on the set, fortified with a tight bandage and pain-killing injections. (Miami Herald, June 23, 1968.)
“Dark of the Sun” was shown to Jamaican audiences in a special preview in April 1968, but its official world premiere was held in Chicago in June of that year. Rod attended with Yvette Mimieux.
Yvette had her own share of injuries during filming. One scary misfire happened during a scene that calls for her to jump aboard a moving train. She slipped, and wadding from a blank rifle shell cut a deep gash in her forearm. She was back on set the next day, however.
In an interview after filming was wrapped, Rod called Yvette a “beautiful, frail little thing, with lots of pluck.” (Pittsburgh Press, Aug. 27, 1967.) But apparently she had been miscast. “Her role called for a lusty, earthy quality; needed some woman like Ava Gardner,” Rod said. The script was rewritten to suit Yvette, but further changes were made in editing.
By the time the film premiered, romantic scenes between Rod and Yvette had been eliminated. Rod lamented to an interviewer: “Poor Yvette. She worked so hard every day and her part’s been cut way down.” (Fort Lauderdale News, June 22, 1968.)