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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HOLLYWOOD- Sir Edwin Fluffer once again delves into his personal memoirs – soon to be published as ‘Not THAT Kind of Fluffer!!!’ – to recall Burgess Meredith.

Another of my pictures that never really found the audience it deserved was the potentially award winning Seven Mules For Seven Sister Saras.

It was a heart-warming tale of seven convicted jockeys on the run for a crime they didn’t commit. Yours truly starred alongside some of Hollywood’s finest if shortest actors, Burgess Meredith, Red Buttons, Alan Ladd, Boris Karloff, and Agnes Moorehead as some of the Saras, I forget how many. I have to say that the mules we rode for the racing scenes had impeccable table manners that would put Joseph Cotton to shame. In the end the only real problem we had on the whole shoot was the fact that I was not only far too tall to play a jockey, I also towered over my diminutive co-stars.We didn’t have the benefit of these so-called special effects that mar so many modern motion pictures, so it was thinking caps on!

The scenes in which I appeared with my brother jockeys were quite simple. There were no camera tricks, all that happened was a chap would come along and dig a hole that I would stand in thus appearing a great deal shorter than my true height. Unfortunately Ally Ladd loved the camera more than the camera loved him and in these scenes he would simply lead the other jockeys a few paces to the right leaving me completely out of shot! I ended up having to shout my lines from off screen!

The racing scenes were a lot more difficult, but we were lucky that our director had an unerring eye for perspective. He soon realised that the only way I could appear the same size as my brothers was for them to ride close to the camera, while I rode out in the background, or preferably in the distance. This is the reason why when you see this film today you barely notice my performance at all. The producer was kind enough to say that thinking I could be in the film was actually better than having me in it, and I can’t think of a better way to describe what we call ‘screen presence’. You can’t learn it, you’re either blessed with it or you’re Leo G. Carroll.

But that’s another story…

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