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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