GROTH: Did you artists talk about movies?
INFANTINO: Sure. I’ll tell you, every one of us loved films. I did, Frank Giacoia, Alex, Joe Kubert … I think that was the thing that triggered most of our thinking.
GROTH: What kind of movies did you go to?
INFANTINO: I loved mystery films. Remember the director Carol Reed?
GROTH: Of course.
INFANTINO: He was my favorite. Him, Hitchcock … I used to go to Hitchcock films and see them four, five, or six times so I could study his thinking with composition. He was a genius at storytelling. And it was a very simple way of telling a story. Later on I learned that most of his films were storyboarded out ahead of time. And he never looked through the camera once, after he approved of all the sketches.
GROTH: He very meticulously planned them out.
INFANTINO: Yeah, isn’t that amazing? I didn’t know that until years later. But when you look at the film, you can see they were meticulous. Just brilliant.
GROTH: And you liked Carol Reed.
INFANTINO: I loved Carol Reed.
GROTH: His most famous film, of course, The Third Man.
INFANTINO: Oh, that, and he did Odd Man Out —
GROTH: And The Fallen Idol.
INFANTINO: Oh, I loved that one. That was just beautiful: that was with Ralph Richardson, remember? And that young kid was terrific in that movie.
GROTH: Yeah, I don’t know her name, but she was brilliant.
INFANTINO: The pathos in that thing was just incredible. I love Reed. I think Odd Man Out was the first movie I saw of Reed’s.
GROTH: That was with James Mason?
INFANTINO: Right. That was the first time I saw Reed, and I was stunned by what he did in black and white. I really got hooked. And later on I loved George Stevens. I really got into directors more than the actors. The directors are what appealed to me. And Stevens with Shane, do you remember? That was unbelievable thinking.
GROTH: Are you a big John Ford fan?
INFANTINO: Oh God, yes. And I had read [Lawrence’s] The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and when they came out with the film about Lawrence of Arabia’s life, I was just enthralled with that thing. I was quite a fan of Lawrence: and that was well done, you remember it? Beautifully done. There were some subtleties in that, like in the very beginning — did you see when he’s driving in the car? And the glass is clouded. Did you notice that part?
INFANTINO: If you see it again, watch that. His life is passing by. That was the whole symbolism. And of course you know he got killed on a motorcycle that Bernard Shaw gave him. You know, he was such a strange man, and such a brilliant man, that when the Russians thought he was up to something — they made the English move out of Russia and back to England.
GROTH: I assume David Lean is a director you like.
INFANTINO: Oh yeah, I’m crazy about David Lean.
GROTH: Bridge Over The River Kwai.
INFANTINO: Right, and that other one, when Robert Mitchum goes up to Ireland?
GROTH: Ryan’s Daughter.
INFANTINO: Right, Ryan’s Daughter. That was lovely. The English had a way of taking a character and really playing it out.
GROTH: Yeah, in fact, Carol Reed was English, and Hitchcock was English.
INFANTINO: Yeah, right. They were my favorite. But of course Ford was the other exception. He was something else. And then that one director — he did the most violent stuff you could imagine, but it was unbelievable.
GROTH: Sam Peckinpah?
INFANTINO: Yeah, yeah. He was great.
GROTH: There are a couple of controversial elements to your regime …
INFANTINO: Go ahead. If I can answer them, I’ll answer ’em honestly, or I’ll tell you I don’t want to get involved.
GROTH: One involved C. C. Beck and Shazam!. C. C. Beck was the artist on Shazam!. He was also the artist who drew Captain Marvel in the ’40s and ’50s.
INFANTINO: Right. C.C. Beck … I put him with Julie Schwartz. Big mistake. Like chalk and cheese. It didn’t work. I should have given him a shot at writing, editing, and drawing it. I didn’t. Big mistake — Period!
GROTH: Who wrote C. C. Beck’s material? Was that Denny O’Neill?
INFANTINO: I don’t know who Julie used. Did he use Gardner Fox?
GROTH: It might have been Denny.
INFANTINO: No, no. I don’t think Denny did it. I don’t think so. We should have used Denny. Denny would have been perfect on that. No. I think the best thing we should have done was put C. C. on it by himself in hindsight now. He never complained to me; I gotta be honest with you. If he had come to me and really bitched and complained, I might have sat him down and said, “Let me see what I can do about it.” Because when a guy’s that unhappy, I try and adjust it. But he never came to me. I found out about this years later that he used to go around talking — I think he hated Julie or something, right?
GROTH: Well, I think he expressed his dislike.
INFANTINO: Well, whatever. But he never came to me directly, which was a little strange.
GROTH: Actually, you were quoted as saying that, “The editor came to me and said, “I don’t think it’s right this way. Let’s sit down and talk with C. C. and go over it.’" And you said, “We did. We had him in, and I said, ‘Look, you’ve got any ideas, express them to the editors and maybe you can work it out together.’”
INFANTINO: Yes, that’s true.
GROTH: “But you don’t have the license to do this on your own.”
INFANTINO: Yes, that was a mistake. I’m telling you now; it was a mistake. Yes, I did. That’s true. That’s how it worked.
GROTH: That’s very interesting, that in retrospect you would think that was an error.
INFANTINO: But, you gotta remember, I had so goddamn many things to think about. But still, in all truth, I should have made the time, sat down, analyzed it, and seen what the hell ... The book wasn’t going anywhere. And maybe that was true. C. C. felt that that was the problem. Maybe he’s right. I don’t know. I don’t know. But the thing is, there’s something else. When you give an editor a job as editor, you can’t cut his legs off with the artist and writer. Do you understand what I’m saying?
GROTH: You’re in a delicate political position.
INFANTINO: That’s right. You gotta be very careful there. And so I tried to make it out so that ... Julie is a tough guy to work with. There were a couple things I had problems with. Alex Toth had big problems with him.
GROTH: Now let me ask you this, when you became the editorial director, and then you became president, you were essentially above the editors that you were under before. Did that create any kind of tension?
INFANTINO: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. We were still friends.
GROTH: It could. You could see a situation where it could create….
INFANTINO: It could, but it didn’t. It didn’t. I didn’t treat them any differently, you understand?
GROTH: I guess we can finish up with DC. I don’t think I heard that you were led out in handcuffs [laughter]. But I did hear (and I don’t think I heard it from anyone who was actually there at the time) that you left under unusual circumstances, that you were told by some higher up at Warner to not even clear out your desk, to simply leave that day.
INFANTINO: Oh, no. No. No.
GROTH: That is not true?
INFANTINO: What happened was the printer came to us early in the year and said there may be a paper shortage. And he said, “Marvel has upped their titles from 30 to 60 books a month. What do you want to do?” I said, “I’d better cover my rump on this theater. If I lose that space, I’ll never get it back.” I did the same. So, as you know, both companies lost a fortune that year.
GROTH: What year was that?
INFANTINO: That was ’76, ’75. And I said, “Well, that was the decision I made.” Well, they said, “We don’t agree with that decision.” And I said, “Well, then that’s it then. What am I gonna say?” And that was the end of it, simple as that.
GROTH: So did you resign?
INFANTINO: Yeah! But they weren’t thrilled with my staying there anyway; I must be honest with you. They weren’t thrilled with my being there, because they didn’t agree with what I did with that.
GROTH: With that particular decision?
GROTH: I see. Can you tell me who they are?
INFANTINO: I don’t want to mention names. I’d rather not: because one of the guys is out of there. There were lots of charges about some of these people, as you remember, at one time.
GROTH: Sarnoff and the rest?
INFANTINO: Sarnoff. Above that, even. So what the hell? He’s not there. The guy who did it is not there.
GROTH: I see. Were you happy to leave at that point? Were you burned out?
INFANTINO: Pretty much. I didn’t care any more at that point. I was tired. I was putting long hours in, six days a week. You know, it was brutal. And I didn’t care. I really didn’t care.
GROTH: You had to have seen that as a tremendous opportunity, though.
INFANTINO: For what?
GROTH: For change. For being able to make decisions such as creating titles, and....
INFANTINO: It was great, but the pressures are great, too. It’s very good. It’s fun and games. But boy, when crunch comes to crunch...
GROTH: There must have been a tremendous amount of pressure on you.
INFANTINO: I tell you, I think if I didn’t I’d be a sick guy, because I was starting to drink like hell.
GROTH: Is that right?
INFANTINO: Sure, because the pressures were crazy there. And I was starting to drink at lunchtime, I was starting to drink at 11 o’clock in the morning, and holy shit! A friend of mine who’s a doctor said to me that time when he heard I was drinking, he said, “I don’t want you to have another drink again ’til six o’clock at night no matter what you do!” So, the pressures were getting to me.
GROTH: And these were primarily business pressures?
INFANTINO: Oh, sure. The other end was fun, but the numbers and the printers, and dealing with guys upstairs. You know, the terrible part of so many things is that the guys upstairs didn’t know anything about the business, and that was a problem, too. They’d make all kinds of decisions for you and. [an audible shrug] whatever. But anyway, it was nice while I did it. I enjoyed it, then. But I’m glad it’s over. It’s that simple.