The following is excerpted from biographical material about Victor Drai, producer of "The Man With One Red Shoe," which opened in Washington on Friday. The biography was part of a press kit provided by the 20th Century-Fox publicity department.
He drives a Rolls-Royce; works out of an office suite that occupies half a floor at 20th Century-Fox; hops the Concorde frequently, either to England to see about post-production on a movie which he filmed there or to his native France for a holiday; scored a success with his first picture, "The Woman in Red," and worked closely with screenwriter Robert Klane until the French comedy hit "The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe" was ready to become an American comedy hit, retitled and revamped for audiences in this country.
What's more, he does it with such Gallic zest and charm that it's a pleasure to watch -- Victor Drai was born to be a producer the way Joe Namath was born to throw footballs.
The way he initially went about it involved another stereotypically French specialty: logic.
Major premise: Studios are, understandably, reluctant to back an untested producer with an unknown property such as an idea, a script, or rights to an obscure book or play. Minor premise: The rights to known properties such as American best sellers are too expensive and too difficult for an outsider to obtain. Conclusion: If you want to make a fast deal, find some other presold property that no one else wants.
He carried the syllogism a step farther: If best sellers are, by definition, proven crowd-pleasers, and if movie rights to American best sellers are too frantically sought, what about foreign -- specifically French -- best sellers?
Eureka, or at least, voila. There was one last step: The screen potential of a piece of fiction is not always apparent, and, in fact, novels do not invariably transfer well to the screen. Why not, then, a hit French movie? "With a book," Drai explains, "you have to tell them what kind of picture it will make. With a movie, you just show them." He backed this impeccable reasoning with access to some of the better films made in recent years by director Yves Robert and other French acquaintances. "They were glad to give me the rights," he reports. "No one else wanted them."
The first one he chose was "The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe." "It is strong enough in its subject matter to be translated into American," Drai said. "And it has heart -- it's a broad comedy with big heart." He showed it to the head of production at 20th Century-Fox, who agreed that day to make the picture. Q.E.D. . . .