That’s me in the topper at the back…

I can’t remember exactly when I arrived in Hollywood, but it was certainly when films were still being made in black and white. Nowadays ambitious directors will shoot in black and white for what they call ‘artistic reasons’, but believe me when I say back in those days we had no choice!

It was black and white or nothing, and there was no sound either! This made learning lines particularly difficult as there weren’t any, and for years I found it to be a time consuming and laborious process. The best piece of advice I ever got was from my dear old friend Marlon Brando.

‘Just don’t bother,’ he said and from that day to this I never learned my lines again. 
Many modern directors fail to appreciate this particular technique, feeling it to be rather old fashioned, but I disagree. Just look at the greats, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Katherine Hepburn, none of them ever learned their lines and it never did them any harm!  George Cukor actually preferred it when I didn’t know the lines. During the famous Ascot scene in My Fair Lady he gave me the best note I ever had. ‘Edwin,’ he said ‘just stand at the back and don’t say anything’. You won’t find many directors today with such a clear vision of what they want from an actor, more’s the pity. 
I remember darling Alec Guinness telling me what he thought George Lucas should do with some of his lines on Star Wars, but that’s another story…

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