After hearing yesterday of his death, I tried to recall a vivid movie memory pertaining to Sydney Sheldon, the very successful screenwriter, TV producer, Broadway producer and hack romance-novel author. I thought and thought, and the only thing that punched through was a moment from 1977, when I was watching The Other Side of Midnight — a somewhat grotesque soap-opera about an ambitious hottie (Marie France Pisier) climbing her way to wealth and privelege through a series of relationships with powerful men — in a small theatre in Westport, Connecticut.
I’m speaking of the pseudo-legendary ice-bucket scene between Pisier and Raf Vallone, playing an Aristotle Onassis-like tycoon, and a moment when a naked Pisier, riding Vallone like an equestrian, grabs a handful of ice cubes from a nearby bucket and, at the moment of orgasm, mashes the ice into Vallone’s privates. The camera doesn’t show this — we are shown only an insert shot of Pisier’s hand scooping up the ice, and then we hear Vallone moan like a large animal who’s just been speared.
No offense to Sheldon’s memory, but that, for me, in my moviegoing life, is the most memorable thing that Sheldon produced, and for all I know the scene wasn’t even in the book — it may have been an invention by Herman Raucher, the screenwriter who adapted Sheldon’s book, or director Charles Jarrott.