Howard and I worked together when he took over production of LET IT RIDE. The studio had switched gears and the new executives were disturbed by certain elements of the film, particularly the opening scene where the main character confesses his flaws to a self help group. The scene was brilliant but the head of the studio felt that it was a satire on twelve step programs. That it was. Anyway, the deletion of this scene caused some tremors throughout the rest of the film and we had to film additional material to fill the gaps.
David Giler, the original producer, refused the changes and left, so the studio fell back on Howard, an old pro, to take over. I stayed to protect the rest of the material.
Howard had been with the studio for many years and had great stories to tell. One of the best was when he was a young executive, he had to warm Jeanne Crain’s underwear and deliver them to her cabin on a film they were shooting in the mountains somewhere. Howard was a newlywed and he could hardly stand seeing her beauty so early with him so far from home. Those were the only details he would reveal.
Howard used a dubya in his name to not be confused with the writer of CASABLANCA. He also had great Frank Sinatra stories since he and Sinatra had a production company together for a while.
Howard hated LET IT RIDE since he owned race horses and didn’t like the cynicism of the movie. I would joke that he spent too much time in the Jockey Club and not enough down with the masses. Howard’s wife hated the film even more and I don’t think she ever spoke to me.
The best story was that Howard was the one that told Roman Polanski to get out of town. Howard told me that he was having lunch at a country club and overheard the judge in Polanski’s case saying that he was considering ‘throwing the book’ at Polanski despite Polanski’s plea deal. Howard went to a pay phone, called Polanski and Polanski met his agent at the airport (who gave him an envelope filled with money) and was on a plane to Paris. He hasn’t been back since.