Director Matt Cimber on working with Janye Mansfield on SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED (1968)...
TV STORE ONLINE: I took a look at SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED again last week....I was wondering if we could talk about that last sequence in the film with Jayne [Mansfield] in that hauntingly beautiful room with that purple bed...
CIMBER: You know who shot SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED for me? László Kovács. It was the first film that he worked on in the United States. I hadn't met him before. He came from Hungary. He designed the sequence were Jayne is sitting in front of that three-panel mirror. We started over her shoulder and we shot her through all of those panels, and I thought that it was just wonderful because of how it go under the character.
TV STORE ONLINE: Right. If you watch that scene you see a still pop into the film of the mirror cracked for a split second. Was that just a still that you inserted for that?
CIMBER: No, it was actually in the mirror. You know, Peter Bogdanovich and Barbara Streisand saw SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED and it was because of that scene that they wanted László Kovács for WHAT'S UP DOC? (1972). When I made THE WITCH WHO CAME IN FROM THE SEA (1976)--I shot that with Dean Cundey. He came out of U.C.L.A. and had only shot low-budget up till that point. I've been lucky to have many great cinematographers who have worked on my films.
TV STORE ONLINE: That final sequence in SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED is certainly the most dream-like and surreal of the three...I love that shot where the camera moves around the room and ends up shooting Jayne in a close-up from behind the bed's headboard.
CIMBER: Right, I liked that too.
TV STORE ONLINE: You directed SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED under your birth name Matteo Ottaviano..
TV STORE ONLINE: It was the first feature film that you had directed up till that point...How did the project come to fruition for you?
CIMBER: Well, you know, it was really a mess. It was my first film. I had come from the theater. I had directed a play called Walk Up. It was three one-acts all set in a tenement in New York City. The play opened at the Washington Square Theater down on 5th Avenue. It got wonderful notices. The writer of the play, Gerald Sanford, was a guy who was struggling. He wrote the play in his basement. After the play got good notices, the William Morris Agency sent him a plane ticket and he ended up as a writer for Universal.
Some time went by, and I lost track of him. I went out to Hollywood and I decided that I would adapt Walk Up for the screen. But I couldn't find Gerald Sanford. I decided to change the name from Walk Up to SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED because "walk up" only refers to something you do in New York. So we got the money around for it and we shot it. What Jayne did in the film was just wonderful. She was really relaxed. She threw away her image and she felt all three of her parts in that film. It's a cult film now.
TV STORE ONLINE: Wasn't there something with the shooting of the film though? Like you started shooting SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED in 1966 but the film was never released until 1968? Obviously, Jayne passed away--but was the film held from release intentionally? Obviously it was released to capitalize on Jayne's passing....
CIMBER: Well, what happened was that I had shot the sections with Jayne and then Producer [Michael Musto] stopped the production because his wife was upset that she wasn't in the film herself. His wife was the woman who was in the middle section with the fisherman. It's all very sappy and it doesn't make sense that it's in the film now. I didn't even direct that sequence, the producer did and then tried to add himself as one of the screenwriters of the film.
TV STORE ONLINE: How did Walter Winchell get involved with the film?
CIMBER: The producer knew him. But, Jayne and I were friendly with him also. Jayne used to get paid to appear at the Del Mar race track. One time we went down there and we ran into Walter Winchell. He said, "There's someone here who you need to meet. Will you have lunch with us?" So we went over to his table and there was J. Edgar Hoover. We sat down and had lunch with him. (Laughing)
TV STORE ONLINE: One of the things I like about SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED visually is how you've chosen to direct it theatrically. I love the artifice, in particular, in the first sequence with the couple on the stoop....In the flashback in that sequence--there is a shot of Jayne and Martin Horsey as "Frankie and Johnny" at their high school dance and when the camera pans around the room you can see just blackness behind the action of the scene...It's very dream-like and stage-bound... The mise-en-scene is very theatrical.
CIMBER: With that, we wanted to visualize isolation. We wanted to capture the feelings of those tenements in New York City. When we were editing the movie, I was amazed at how well things were coming out because while we were shooting the film we weren't able to watch dailies. I remember László being very upset because of that. We just didn't have the money at the time. We couldn't afford to process the footage and get it back overnight. At times, we wouldn't see what we had shot until may days after.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung