Thursday 26 November 2020
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When bright young actors ask how on earth I’ve survived in Hollywood for quite so long I give them this simple answer: versatility. Having no principles and an agent who’d quite happily cut not only his mother’s throat but also the throats of any other person within a 15 yard radius also helps, but if the studio system taught me anything it was versatility.

One day I could be starring as a dashing young surgeon saving lives and making unwanted advances toward the receptionist, the next day I’d be a dashing young veterinarian, saving lives and making unwanted advances toward the receptionist. But through it all I insisted on wearing full evening dress and more often than not a top hat. One simply must have standards. 

Some of the more ‘artistic’ directors I worked with felt it wasn’t quite right if I was playing an astronaut for example, or a deep sea diver, but I’d just wait until they turned their backs and pop it back on again. In the end it became a bit of a trademark and audiences would look out for me riding a chariot in Ben Hur, fresh carnation in the buttonhole, my coat tails flapping in the breeze. 
The only man who really took against my dress sense was Sylvester Stallone, and this was largely due to jealousy. When I turned up on the set of Rocky wearing the old penguin suit Sly was furious! He was determined to play the fight scenes in a dress suit with matching bow tie, and I’d beaten him to it! ‘Eurrughurrugh’ he said, which was hugely embarrassing for all of us, especially as his dear mother was present.
‘What’s the matter Sly?’ I asked. 
‘Euurrugheurrrrughueeur’ he said! 
Well! No-one speaks to Sir Edwin Fluffer like that, not even Julie Andrews and she swore like a sailor! There was a frank exchange of views and I’m afraid to say that things got a little out of hand, Sly gave me a playful shove, and I had to spend the next three weeks in hospital. 
Of course my part had to be re-cast and Burgess Meredith played it in a rather shabby track suit. It’s my opinion that if he’d combed his hair and put on a decent pair of slacks he would’ve won an Academy Award, but the voters don’t care for slovenliness and neither do I. 
At the ceremony dear Jack Lemmon was sick in my topper and I had to rinse it out under the cold tap before I could present the Oscar for Best Art Direction. But that’s another story…
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