SIR EDWIN FLUFFER RECALLS SAM PECKINPAH


HOLLYWOOD- Sir Edwin Fluffer once again delves into his personal memoirs – soon to be published as ‘Not THAT Kind of Fluffer!!!’ – to recall the director they called the ‘whiskey fountain’: Sam Peckinpah.

Slow motion violence. Blood ballet. Poorly prepared chicken salad sandwiches. Those are the first things that come into anybody’s mind when they hear the two words Sam Peckinpah. Of course when I first met dear Samuel, my Western days were far behind me. I’d appeared in Dastardly Denis and The Fop with the Winchester in the early 30s, but times had changed since then and violence was all the rage. Apparently, Sam was a fan and he called my agent and asked if I’d be prepared to work for scale on a little film he called ‘The Wild Bunch of Bananas’. I read the script and feeling within my rights sent him a note – something us veterans are occasionally allowed to do.

It read simply ‘Cut the fruit’. 

Following the success of the film, I believe Samuel saw me as something of a lucky mascot and cast me in all his productions from then on.

I’d heard that Sam was a terror to work for, but I found him absolutely darling. It is true that while filming Pat Garret and Billy the Kid with Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn he had thrown knives at young Bobby Dylan. But having heard him warbling in his trailer one morning accompanied by an inexpertly played guitar, my sympathies were entirely with Sam.

Samuel’s most famous trademark was his ‘slow motion’. Many people believed this effect was created in the editing suite by simply slowing down the speed of the film. Not so, gentle reader. The effect was created ‘in camera’ – that is to say when we were shot we had to fall slowly to the ground. It was hell, but Sam promised every actor a chicken sandwich at the end of the day. Unfortunately,  they were not very well made. 

Poor William Holden ate three and… well, that’s another story.

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER RECALLS JOHN WAYNE

HOLLYWOOD – Survivor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Sir Edwin Fluffer, reflects on the man Hollywood used to call ‘the transvestite’s favorite cowboy’: John Wayne.

I had just finished the hilarious musical ‘Those Toots Are Not for Tooting’ with Sammy Davis Sr. Sammy Davis Jr.’s criminally underrated father, when I got a call from my agent to report tout suite to bungalow 13 on the Warner Bros back lot and to bring a ladder.

I blinked, but in those days the studios were to be feared and for a jobbing actor such as I, no request seemed too ridiculous, if you didn’t wish to share the fate of poor William Holden. Holden had refused to paint his bottom orange during a pool party run by the famed and feared columnist Louella Penis. As punishment, he was forced to eat three fat rats.

At bungalow 13, I was met by my Teutonic pal Hardy Kreuger. Although we’d had a sticky argument sometime back about which of the two of was responsible for breaking Charles Laughton’s diet, myself and Hardy were wonderful friends, partly due to our shared passion for Tess of the D’Ubervilles. Though he was far more committed than me, having changed his name by deed poll to signal his admiration for the novelist. He greeted me civilly and – as was our habit – we launched into a discussion of the relative merits of Anthony Trollope.

‘What ho, Fluffer!’ said a voice from inside the bungalow affecting a ridiculous British accent. I only realized then that it must be ‘The Duke’. ‘I say did you bring the ladder?’

‘Right here,’ I said. And angled my way into the bungalow, ahead of the Duke.

John Wayne, the star of a hundred horse operas and everyone’s idea of the ideal American Male, was actually the son of Baron Chauncy of Devon, England. The Duke was no mere nickname, but a hereditary title. He was an actual Duke. Off camera, he spoke in the most clipped polished accent I’ve ever heard. I entered the presence where I was gifted with a spectacular sight. A giraffe from the set of the film Hitari was folded in the small confines of the sitting room. I handed over the ladder and up he went.

It later turned out that the whole idea was a dare by Errol Flynn. The Duke and Errol – who by the way was the most charming Nazi I’d ever met – had been playing pinochle when conversation turned to the wildest beast either had had. In those days bestiality was easily the done thing.  Cary Grant lived for several years with a goat called Terry. And Audrey Hepburn had a lama. But that’s another story…

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER’S HOLLYWOOD SUPERSTARS. 2. MADELINE KAHN

HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer uses his super-stardom to recall the Hollywood Super Stars of yesteryear. Tonight: Madeline Kahn.

Mel Brooks may well be one of the funniest men I’ve ever met. It pains me to say he is one of the least able chefs. When dining at the Brooks residence one is well-advised to go with biscuits in your pockets. This way, you can nibble them for sustenance while you try stealthily to deposit whatever slop is put on your plate anywhere but the lower front hole of the face, known popularly as the mouth.

I was in the middle of one such depository, sliding what had once been a young lamb when I realized to my horror that instead of the potted plant at my side I was actually shovelling said refuse into a rather elegant pill box hat. The owner looked at me for one second and then smiled, with dazzling intensity: ‘You owe me a lid, boy-o!’ she said. It was the one and only Madeline Kahn.

At that time Mel had hired her to play Lili von Schtüpp in Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. She’d appear in a number of his movies as well as with Gene Wilder in Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. She was perhaps the most comically gifted actress of her generation, although I’ll also remember what a belter of a voice she had. I’d seen it knock the feathers off a parrot at sixty yards. In her early life, she’d sang opera, though she insisted this was just for the bucks and she refused to take credit for her many talents.

In the end, I bought her a new hat. The next time I saw her at Mel’s place, she recognized me and asked ‘What’s that in your pocket?’

Alas! It was a packet of digestive biscuits.

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER’S HOLLYWOOD SUPERSTARS: 1. JOHN VERNON

HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer uses his super-stardom to recall the Hollywood Super Stars of yesteryear. Tonight: John Vernon.

When I first met John Vernon I didn’t know I was meeting John Vernon. A handsome man, like a hungover Richard Burton – which is to say like Richard Burton – came up to me and said in a light Canadian accent: ‘Hello! I’m Adolphus Raymondus Vernon Agopsowicz.’ As quick as lightning I told him: ‘That won’t do. You’ll have to change it.’ ‘Any suggestions,’ he gamely replied. ‘Adolphus Agopsowicz of course,’ was my immediate response.

Cooler heads prevailed alas and the world knew him as John Vernon. If you’ve ever seen a film made from 1965-1995 you will have seen John. Prolific and often – unfairly in my view – cast as the villain. From Dirty Harry to Animal House, Outlaw Josey Wales to Herbie Goes Bananas, John showed up, purring like villainy itself had been mixed with ginger and gravel, popped into a blender with something feline and poured over ice.

His leonine head and steely blue eyes made him perfect for the crafty official, the charmer who would stab you in the heart while caressing your nether regions. And he was good at playing villains too.

He amassed years of TV work as well. I remember when he got his first job in Bonanza, he was so happy he actually bought me a drink. An earl grey laced with Armagnac. I had it framed. Of course we had a lot in common. Both RADA trained, as a party trick we would have ourselves blind folded and still find our way back to Los Angeles from places as far afield as Las Vegas or Seattle.

John died, as we all must, but I’m sure when he got to meet the big Executive Producer in the Sky he said with a twinkle in his eye: ‘I was a Cuban in Topaz’.

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER RECALLS BURT LANCASTER

HOLLYWOOD – Survivor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Sir Edwin Fluffer, reflects on the going to the man Hollywood insiders once called the Toothy Arse: Burt Lancaster.

Whenever you wake up next to Burt Lancaster you know it must’ve been one of those nights. Then when you roll over and see Tony Curtis lying there it soon becomes apparent that that you’ve been the salami in a spectacular Hollywood sandwich. 

We’d just finished filming Trapeze in which we all three attempted to woo Gina Lollobrigida with fairly mixed results and art had come to imitate life at the wrap party. Of course, darling Gina was having none of it, so Burt, Tony and I decided to bat on at a little jazz club I knew. 

The martinis were flowing like Gina’s hair, and then Curtis suggested a game of Twister. I’d never played it before, but once they’d explained the rules I took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeves, and flicked the spinner… 

Left foot red was easy enough, Burt got left hand yellow and Tony had right foot green. There are no prizes for guessing what happened next!  

Fast forward to the end credits and Burt won the Academy Award for his fine performance in Elmer Gantry, Tony had a huge hit with Spartacus, and to this day I still can’t walk past a Corby Trouser Press without shuddering. But that’s another story…

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER RECALLS IAN FLEMING

 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…

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER RECALLS REHAB

 HOLLYWOOD – Survivor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Sir Edwin Fluffer, reflects on the going to what insiders refer to as ‘the rubber arse’, AKA rehab.

After the wrap party for Apache Chaps Go Hell For Leather the judge made it a condition of my bail that I go to one of those drying out clinics for an extended lie down. To be perfectly frank one wasn’t looking forward to it all that much, but as soon as the studio said they’d pick up the bill I grabbed my toothbrush and headed out the door.

If truth be told I was still a bit pissed when I got there, largely due to the fact that I bumped into Errol Flynn on the way, but they checked me in and showed me to my room. It wasn’t unpleasant, and the flowers on the mantelpiece were a nice touch. They died as soon as I drank the water in the vase, but the receptionist said she’d send up more.
I’d describe the catering as ‘nutritional’ if you know what I mean, and the wine list was frankly appalling.  After a few minutes I decided there was only so much fun you could have on your own with a toothbrush, so I went out into the corridor to knock on a few doors and see what the other guests were up to. Not much as it turns out. Jiminy Cricket had done nothing since Pinocchio, and Bambi’s mum hadn’t worked in two years. I didn’t even recognise Dumbo The Flying Elephant. His boyish charm had been worn away by years propping up a bar on Hollywood Boulevard. He’d lost his teeth and tried to retain some dignity by wearing a pair of fake tusks; it was tragic really.
But it was the Tin Man I felt most sorry for. Apparently his oil can was always full of scotch, and they’d had to break his fingers to get it out of his hand. By that stage I couldn’t take any more. The bars on the windows wouldn’t budge an inch, but then I remembered that lovely scene which was sadly cut from the final edit of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, and I managed to smuggle myself out in a laundry basket.
I still think that that movie would’ve got the critical attention it deserved if they only kept the scene of me and Death playing Twister. But that’s another story…

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER RECALLS ORSON WELLES

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.

Returning home from a weekend’s scuba diving with dear old Charles Laughton, I was overjoyed to find a new script waiting for me on the doormat.  Actors can be superstitious old buggers at times, and I’m afraid that I’m just as bad as the rest of them.  Gary Cooper would always insist on doing his initial read through standing on one leg. We used to call him The Stork, until a nasty fall meant he had to have a hip replaced.
 
The first thing that I do when presented with any screenplay is to have a good look at the title:  always have done and always will do! The title will often give you invaluable clues as to what the picture is actually called, and it’s not at all unusual for the name of the film and what it’s called to be exactly the same.  The next thing I do is look to see if Anne Baxter’s in it, and if she is I throw it in the bin! Better to be safe than sorry! After that I may pop out for a quick drink, and the next time I look at the script isn’t until the first day of shooting. Spencer Tracy would spend literally minutes going over his lines, and I personally believe this robbed his performances of all their spontaneity. 
 
The majority of actors, directors, producers and crews I’ve worked with don’t really agree with me on this point, but like I always tell them, you can’t rush perfection. Anyway, this particular script actually looked quite promising. It was called Citizen Kane which I thought was a great title and Anne Baxter wasn’t in it, so that was a bonus! Unfortunately the weekend scuba diving had left me with a nasty case of the bends so I had to pass, and as far as I know the picture never got made.  It was a terrible shame as I’d been led to believe that in one scene Agnes Moorhead would do a dance number with some of the Smurfs, but that’s another story…

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER RECALLS ACTING IN THE THEATER

 HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer returns just in time to cast his gimlet eye over the dream factory of Hollywood, turning his attention specifically to the place actors call ‘the wooden arse’: the theater.

There comes a time in every actor’s life when the work dries up and you have to tell everyone that you want to return to your first love, the theatre. Friends will be terribly supportive, but in all honesty it is what Audrey Hepburn used to call ‘a massive fricking ball ache’.

Theatre directors will absolutely insist you know all the lines off by heart and you have to work nights. The money’s not nearly as good as the movies either, but they’ve got you by the short and curlies and you pretty much have to take whatever crumbs fall from the table. It’s either that or television. I still remember when Sam Peckinpah fired me from The Wild Bunch because I swore at Ernie Borgnine and I was forced to do a play to clear my bar tab at the Garrick. It was one of those Shakespeare jobbies, all thee-this, thou-that, and forsooth-the-other; so naturally I assumed it was Hamlet and rolled on to stage for my big entrance only to find it was King Lear

The whole thing had the potential to go tits up, but I’d spent an entire afternoon trying to learn the words and I was determined to have a go. 
In the end the critics were not very kind, but they didn’t hold a grudge and gave me a Tony to make up for it. At the ceremony I dedicated the award to Van Heflin after he bet me $20 I wouldn’t get the word ‘flange’ into my acceptance speech. 
But that’s another story…

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER REMEMBERS FILM DIRECTORS

HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer returns just in time to cast his gimlet eye over the dream factory of Hollywood, turning his attention specifically to the figure insiders call ‘the pointy arse’: the Director.

Of course, many actors will tell you that what they really want to do is direct, and some of them are jolly good at it too: The Cable Guy by dear little Benny Stiller has got to be one of my favourite movies of all time! I never once imagined that I’d end up behind the megaphone myself, but when the chance came I seized it with both hands. The fee was simply huge, and having appeared in several of Bobby Altman’s films I thought it would be money for old rope and I was right.
Some people have written entire books to explain their theories about how directors work, but it really is quite simple. All you need is an attractive young lady in a nice frock, turn the lights on so everyone can see her, and that’s it! You really can’t go too far wrong. 

I was fortunate to have the divine Jane Fonda as my leading lady, and she was good enough to wear her own clothes, so that helped ease the pressure on the budget that I’d accidentally spent entirely on champagne. We managed to film the whole thing in a single morning which was quite fortunate as I was meeting Jessica Tandy for lunch and neither of us were fit for anything once we got on the brandy. 
We allowed a good half an hour for editing and post production, and I sent my tuxedo off to the dry cleaners ready for a star studded premiere followed by drinks and a game of Twister. To this day it remains a great sadness that we were never able to find a distributor with the foresight and vision to risk their shirt on a theatrical release, but when it went straight to video Jane Fonda’s Workout was the most enormous success. We did talk about a sequel, but sadly nothing ever came of it. The idea was that Jane Fonda’s Leotard League would see her team up with Diane Keaton and the one out of The Golden Girls who I thought was a bloke, to play a crack squad of crime fighting aerobics instructors.
But that’s another story…

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER RECALLS MARLON BRANDO

HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer returns just in time to cast his gimlet eye over the dream factory of Hollywood, turning his attention specifically to what insiders call the ‘Big Fat Arse’: Marlon Brando.

Of all the neighbours I’ve had in the Hollywood hills the worst was undoubtedly Marlon Brando. It wasn’t the noise from his late night parties or continually having to return his ball after he kicked it over the hedge. What did for my nerves was that blessed lawnmower.

Brando was richer than a Roman Emperor, but I’ll tell you this now: he’d skin a fart to save a penny. Of course it was Chaplin who introduced the ride on mower to California, and by the weekend we all had one. Even Carole Lombard got one and she only had a patio! 

But Brando insisted on still mowing his lawn with some old piece of junk he’d found in a skip. His estate must’ve run to several hundred acres and it’d take him weeks to cut it. Once he’d finished it was time to start all over again! 
I’d look out of my window in the morning and see him pushing that old thing through the grass and my heart would go out to him, but even when Vincent Price said he’d pop over with his strimmer he said no and carried on. 
It was years later that I found out the reason why he wouldn’t let us help him. Once he’d cut the grass he’d rake it all up, and sell it to Lloyd Bridges for his horses.  Bridges told me he only paid 15 cents a bag, but Gary Cooper said it was nearer 20. I’d like to say that Brando gave the money to charity but he didn’t. Most of it was lost bailing himself out of an arms deal in Botswana that went very badly wrong. He showed me some of the letters and the whole thing was a terrible mess, but then he’d wink at me and say ‘never mind Neddy! I’ll be alright while I’ve got my lawnmower!’ 
He also had a rare white shark that he kept in his garage, but that’s another story…

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER RECALLS LEE MARVIN

HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer returns just in time to cast his gimlet eye over the dream factory of Hollywood, turning his attention specifically to War Movies.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that war can be an utterly ghastly affair. It really does have a tendency to drag on a bit. That said war movies can be very jolly indeed. I’ve been in more than I care to remember, and would’ve starred in The Dirty Dozen as well if they hadn’t already hired too many actors. I said they should just change the name to The Filthy Thirteen, but the studio wasn’t interested.

War movies are a bit like actual wars really in that ideally you want to end up on the winning side. When you get the script have a flick through, and if you have the line ‘for you my friend ze var iss over’ or anything like that then you’re in trouble. The best thing to do is find someone in the costume department and bung them a few quid in the hope they’ll give you the other team’s uniform. It worked for Gary Cooper in Sergeant York, that’s all I’m saying.

There’s also a fair chance that you’ll have to do a bit of marching. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds as long as you can remember the hokey-cokey! Basically there’s a chap at the front with a moustache, you all line up behind him, and he starts shouting out the moves. When he says ‘left’ you put your left leg in, when he says ‘right’ you put your right leg in, and you just carry on from there really. Burt Lancaster was a lovely marcher, despite his many failings as a human being. His secret was he had not one, but too wooden legs. He’d screw them on, the director would shout ‘action’ and he’d go for miles! The rest of us would have trouble keeping up! It was a great sadness that he got set upon by a family of beavers, ending an otherwise glittering career. To this day I still maintain that he could’ve marched in the Olympics he was that good.

The finest war movie ever made has to be Pearl Harbour, and were Stanley Kubrick alive to have seen it I know he would’ve agreed with me. It was my idea to cast the late Elizabeth Taylor as Pearl, and for my money it was one of her very finest performances. Goodness knows how many hours she had to spend in make up, but it was worth every moment, and with characteristic grace she refused to be credited for the role. We all laughed when she insisted on being paid in bitcoins, then we found out that the fortune she made from that was what funded her fracking operations in the North Atlantic.

But that’s another story…

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER RECALLS CHARLTON HESTON

HOLLYWOOD- Sir Edwin Fluffer once again delves into his personal memoirs – soon to be published as ‘Not THAT Kind of Fluffer!!!’ – to recall the actress they called the ‘Holy Arse’: Charlton Heston.

Years ago Technicolor was quite the in thing and I was all for it. I know that Spencer Tracy wasn’t a fan, but that was only because it made his knees look silly. There was a time when if you were filming a biblical epic it had to be in Technicolor, or Charlton Heston would refuse to have anything to do with it! 

They were lovely pictures to make, even if they all ended up as long as the Roman Empire, and if truth be told they weren’t really that difficult. All you had to do was put on a toga, swap your brogues for a nice pair of sandals, and remember to say ‘aye’ instead of ‘yes’.
To this day I’ll still tell anyone who’ll listen about the time we were standing at the bottom of a mountain waiting for Heston to make his was back down with the Ten Commandments, and I bet Yul Brynner $15 that he wouldn’t be able to remember them all. He got stuck after the first three and started blabbering on about guns instead, and poor old Yul had to pay up! 

The only bit I didn’t enjoy was the chariots, because as soon as Heston got behind a horse good manners went out the window and he’d start racing around like a mad man and try to knock you over. I was also in that one with Betty Taylor where she played Cleopatra, what was it called? Memory falters. 

During the death scene I had a lovely bit of comic business where it was revealed that I was terribly afraid of the asp, and my delivery of the line ‘why did it have to be snakes?’ brought the house down! Sadly the film was already running at over three weeks long and my part ended up on the cutting room floor, but when I suggested to little Stevie Spielberg that he use it in Raiders of the Lost Ark he jumped at the chance. Spielberg repaid the favour by casting me as Harrison Ford’s father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but I had to let Sean Connery have the part after I broke one of his golf clubs. 

Incidentally it was my idea that he should have a bash at a Scottish accent in The Untouchables, but that’s another story…

SIR EDWIN FLUFFER RECALLS INGRID BERGMAN

HOLLYWOOD- Sir Edwin Fluffer once again delves into his personal memoirs – soon to be published as ‘Not THAT Kind of Fluffer!!!’ – to recall the actress they called the ‘Swedish Tractor’: Ingrid Bergman.

Of all the beautiful women I’ve stared at while they weren’t looking, Ingrid Bergman was the most beautiful of all. No-one else has ever lit up the screen quite like her, but to be perfectly honest with you, her table manners were never anything short of appalling. I once saw her eating peas with a knife, and we used to dread it when they served soup in the canteen as the noise was truly disgusting. Gregory Peck would bring in ear plugs. Things came to a head when shooting one of those Alfred Hitchcock films that she was always in, and the studio was forced to feed her from a trough next to the bins. Then seeing her make short work of a couple of turnips gave me an idea…

With Bing Crosby’s help I herded her into my car and we headed off for the woods. As soon as I opened the door Ingrid caught the scent and was off! It was all Bing and I could do to keep up with her, but then she stopped, snuffled around beneath a tree, and uprooted the biggest truffle you ever did see!

It was enormous!

Lou Costello had just opened a new restaurant and we sold it to him for a pretty penny with the promise that he’d take as many as we could find. We were onto a winner and no mistake!

Sadly Bing and I lost all the cash when Ingrid sued us over the film rights to the story, but there were no hard feelings and she ended up with Academy Awards coming out of her ears. We tried to make some of the money back by milking Frank Capra, but that’s another story…