From the Archive Lesley Blanch & Terence Rattigan

A leading British playwright of the 1940s and 1950s, Terence Rattigan is chiefly remembered today for The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version, The Deep Blue Sea and Separate Tables. He also wrote screenplays based on novels, among them Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, James Hilton’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips . . . and Lesley Blanch’s The Nine Tiger Man.

But the film of Lesley Blanch’s only novel was never completed. According to a letter held in the George Cukor papers at the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California 90211, dated 14 July, 1972, from 20th Century Fox to the film’s director, George Cukor, 20th Century Studios “have 1,500,000 US dollars in charges in the film and would accept a reasonable offer for the property.

The revised final version of Terence Rattigan’s script-screenplay, dated 14 November, 1966, is also in the Margaret Herrick Library – along with Gene Allen’s script-screenplay based on Rattigan’s, dated 5 April, 1967. Gavin Lambert’s script-screenplay is alleged by Hollywood insiders to be the best version but has disappeared and is, as yet, unfound.  

Terence Rattigan said of The Nine Tiger Man: “Romantic, outrageous, savage and comic . . . It is the purest ironic comedy, almost, let’s face it, black.”

It was to be filmed partly at Belvoir Castle Grantham (Rutland).

Benedict Cumberbatch presented the BBC’s documentary on Rattigan’s life and career, The Rattigan Enigma in 2011.

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Rattigan Enigma (pt 1 of 2)

The CASTING FILES contain illuminating correspondence, a smattering of which is reproduced here:  

16 April, 1956
from Fleur Cowles Meyer
A5 Albany, Piccadilly W1 Regent 3736
to George Cukor  

Dear George,

I should like to bring a delight into your life (and vice versa into hers) by introducing Leslie Blanche to you. She is just arriving in the United States – in Hollywood to be exact – as the wife of the new French Consul, Monsieur Romaine Gary.

Apart from the chic and elegance and imagination they bring diplomatically to California, Leslie Blanche brings her own magic self. You have probably read her remarkable book The Wilder Shores Of Love. She is presently in the current issue of Vogue . . . she is one of my best friends.

I envy Los Angeles for having her – I shall miss seeing her myself.

Affectionate regards (and nostalgia),



10 February 1965
from George Cukor
to Robert Lantz (Lesley Blanch’s agent)
111 West 57th Street, New York 10019

Dear George,

By now you’ll have received me letter telling you how delighted I am about Nine Tiger Man.

About a week ago, I telephoned Lesley in Paris. As you told me, she’d like to work in some capacity while the picture is being written, and shot. On Lady L we did collaborate with the happiest results – for us, not MGM – but that was not our fault. Lesley was enormously helpful, creative, and we all got on like a house afire. She has the respect and friendship of George Hoyningen-Huene and Gene Allen, with whom I always work.

As you probably know, I sent the book to Terence Rattigan. I had an enthusiastic response from him. He thinks it a bang up story with great possibilities, and is prepared to go forward, but Harold Freedman told me there were certain commitments that had to be cleared away. Hopefully these can be worked out. I telephone Rattigan in Brighton (Nine Tiger Man better be a big success just to pay the overseas telephone bill!) I think Rattigan wanted reassurance that we weren’t going to do a re-make of The Garden Of Allah. He sees it as an ironical comedy with excitement, melodrama, and above all – comedy. He talked of going to India for research. I spoke of Lesley’s knowledge on the subject, of her articulateness. I told him that she’d be of the greatest help. He seemed to be very interested in what I had to say. In every department, her advice, her guidance, her knowledge will be invaluable to us. When we are closer to definite plans I’ll see to it that she joins us. I had a happy – and helpful – letter from Lesley today. She took up many subjects – the various locales of the book. Some of them exist exactly as she described them. She discussed casting, most of which I agreed with. She enclosed a list of books for research. I’ve already ordered them so that we can start our preliminary work.

Again, I want to thank you, and again, I want to ask you to round up as many copies of the book as possible. We’re presently slowed down with only two copies.

Kindest regards,

22 April, 1965
from the Law Offices of Fulton Brylawski Washington D.C.
to Wright, Wright, Goldwater & Mack, Los Angeles

Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn are the projected leading ladies of George Cukor’s The Nine Tiger Man based on Lesley Blanch’s first novel. Both stars were approached earlier this week and, according to Cukor, expressed enthusiasm about working together. They are now reading the novel, which Terence Rattigan will adapt into a screenplay. Gene Allen will produce.

Names – Susannah York as Flo, Sarah Miles for Rosie, Michael York as Edward, Joyce Grenfell as Mrs WDPs, Valerie Bland, Nanette Newman, Diana Rigg, Marianne Faithfull & Jane Asher (Rosie), Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Natalie Wood, Mia Farrow, Candice Bergen, Dev Anand, Thelma White Agency

5 July, 1966
from Owen McLean
to George Cukor

Marcello Mastroianni – It would be a mistake to engage him for this picture unless he is willing to learn to speak English. Although his representatives always tell us he does speak the language, this is not only untrue, but Mastroianni had always refused to learn English for any American picture in the past.

November 11, 1966
from John C. Foreman
to Richard Zanuck

I think it was an unusual meeting for all of us since it is very seldom a major star actively pursues a part simply because of his conviction of his ability to play it. [. . .] I will call you next Thursday about your response to Rock Hudson’s unusual and sincere thrust to play this role.

12 January, 1967
from Owen McLean
to George Cukor

Do you know anything about Miss Furstenberg (whose first name I also don’t know). I’ve seen many pictures of her. She’s a model, very elegant – maybe a long shot for Florence. I’m told she’s an actress as well.

6 July, 1967 7.59 a.m.
from Olga Horstig
to George Cukor

Have heard that in your next picture to be made in India there is suitable part for Bardot stop please cable if information correct stop I am till July 11th at Hotel Flaubert Trouville and after 78 Champs Elysées Paris regards

REVIEW of The Nine Tiger Man by John Barkham
25 March, 1965
New York World-Telegram and The Sun

A delicious tale of low behavior in high places; with particular attention to the activities of an irresistible and gifted East Indian Prince who takes his own form of revenge against the entire English Empire by inducting a bevy of highborn English females into the fine points of Oriental eroticism, proving that Debrett’s Peerage is no match at all for the Karma Sutra [. . .] Although the entire novel is really an essay in sexuality, it is all so tastefully done that your maiden aunt can read the book without a blush.” 

Here’s to dreaming!

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Rattigan Enigma (pt 2 of 2)

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