HOLLYWOOD – Survivor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Sir Edwin Fluffer, reflects on the man Hollywood used to call ‘the intellectual’s Fatty Artbuckle’: Orson Welles.
It was an unusually warm night in the Hollywood hills. Decent folks were at home in their beds, indecent folks like yours truly were in somebody else’s. Outside you could hear the crickets on the lawn. In the distance a Dorothy Lamour was barking.
I’d just finished filming Three Cheers For Charlie so a few drinks seemed in order, one thing led to another, and I passed out with my head in one of the Gabor sisters, maybe Zsa Zsa, but most probably Eva. Dear Noel Coward gave me a fireman’s lift, carried me back to his mansion, threw me down on the bed, and apparently was back at the bar before the ice in his drink had melted.
I lay there, the room spinning, wondering what on earth my life had come to… It didn’t take long for me to realise that it probably wouldn’t get any better than this, so I vowed there and then never to regret a single moment. In retrospect that was the worst decision I ever made, but at the time shimmying down the drain pipe, hailing a cab, getting driven to Cary Grant’s house, breaking in through the bathroom window and pinching his entire collection of Faberge eggs seemed like a good idea. Noel was furious when I turned up back at his place with my pockets stuffed full of stolen priceless Russian antiquities, but it was already too late. Cary had called the police, and we had to hide them somewhere, so poor Noel had no choice but to force feed them to Erich von Stroheim.
It was a good twenty four hours before we got them back again, but by then the trail had gone cold, the cops has called off the search and we were in the clear. The eggs were rinsed off under the cold tap, but beautiful as they were I must admit that some of their sparkle had worn off for me. After that Noel always called Erich ‘the goose who laid the golden egg’.
I did ask Ian Fleming if that was where he got the idea for The Man With The Golden Gun, but he said no. I know for a fact that he got the idea for Thunderball when he saw Charlie Chaplin slip over trying to get out of the pool, but that’s another story…