SIR EDWIN FLUFFER RECALLS BURGESS MEREDITH

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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HIDDEN GEMS: 10. ROCKY

HIDDEN GEMS showcases little-known film gems that have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. This week—”Rocky”

Long before “Raging Bull” made boxing films fashionable, former soft-core porn actor and muscle man Sylvester Stallone wrote and starred in “Rocky,” a subtle and fascinating character study released in 1976. Rocky Balboa is a simple but honest man—an updated, working-class version of Lenny from Of Mice and Men. Sure, Rocky works as a strong-arm man for the local mobster, but he’s as likely to take pity on you as break your kneecaps. He has a cheerful word for everyone as he roams the neighbourhood, where he is something between a figure of fun and a local legend. Rocky’s also shyly attracted to the quiet girl, Adrian (Talia Shire), at the pet store, and he befriends her oafish, alcoholic, abattoir-working brother Paulie (Burt Young) in order to get close to her. He also boxes, worshipping his hero, Rocky Graziano; but the trainer at the gym, Mick (Burgess Meredith), has moved Rocky’s locker and considers him a washout who once had potential but who blew it with a lack of focus and poor fights. Rocky’s big chance comes, however, when the champion of the world, Apollo Creed—a transparent Muhammad Ali rip-off played by Carl Weathers—has a fight fall through and decides to give a local boy a chance.

Suddenly, the local stumble-bum becomes the hero with everyone wanting a piece of him. Rocky’s dilemma lies not only in facing up to the vastly superior fighter, Creed, but also in maintaining his own integrity and dignity. He accepts Mick’s help, accedes to Paulie’s demands, but remains his own man and doesn’t lose sight of the fact that his goal is no longer to become a great fighter so much as to keep the heart of the woman he loves.

Stallone has never been better, both as a writer and an actor, and it’s a real pity that the film wasn’t a bigger success. It would be nice to see a sequel telling the story of what happens to Rocky Balboa next.

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