HOLLYWOOD – Survivor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Sir Edwin Fluffer, reflects on the going to the man Hollywood insiders once called the Toothy Arse: Burt Lancaster.
Whenever you wake up next to Burt Lancaster you know it must’ve been one of those nights. Then when you roll over and see Tony Curtis lying there it soon becomes apparent that that you’ve been the salami in a spectacular Hollywood sandwich.
We’d just finished filming Trapeze in which we all three attempted to woo Gina Lollobrigida with fairly mixed results and art had come to imitate life at the wrap party. Of course, darling Gina was having none of it, so Burt, Tony and I decided to bat on at a little jazz club I knew.
The martinis were flowing like Gina’s hair, and then Curtis suggested a game of Twister. I’d never played it before, but once they’d explained the rules I took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeves, and flicked the spinner…
Left foot red was easy enough, Burt got left hand yellow and Tony had right foot green. There are no prizes for guessing what happened next!
Fast forward to the end credits and Burt won the Academy Award for his fine performance in Elmer Gantry, Tony had a huge hit with Spartacus, and to this day I still can’t walk past a Corby Trouser Press without shuddering. But that’s another story…
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HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer returns just in time to cast his gimlet eye over the dream factory of Hollywood, turning his attention specifically to War Movies.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that war can be an utterly ghastly affair. It really does have a tendency to drag on a bit. That said war movies can be very jolly indeed. I’ve been in more than I care to remember, and would’ve starred in The Dirty Dozen as well if they hadn’t already hired too many actors. I said they should just change the name to The Filthy Thirteen, but the studio wasn’t interested.
War movies are a bit like actual wars really in that ideally you want to end up on the winning side. When you get the script have a flick through, and if you have the line ‘for you my friend ze var iss over’ or anything like that then you’re in trouble. The best thing to do is find someone in the costume department and bung them a few quid in the hope they’ll give you the other team’s uniform. It worked for Gary Cooper in Sergeant York, that’s all I’m saying.
There’s also a fair chance that you’ll have to do a bit of marching. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds as long as you can remember the hokey-cokey! Basically there’s a chap at the front with a moustache, you all line up behind him, and he starts shouting out the moves. When he says ‘left’ you put your left leg in, when he says ‘right’ you put your right leg in, and you just carry on from there really. Burt Lancaster was a lovely marcher, despite his many failings as a human being. His secret was he had not one, but too wooden legs. He’d screw them on, the director would shout ‘action’ and he’d go for miles! The rest of us would have trouble keeping up! It was a great sadness that he got set upon by a family of beavers, ending an otherwise glittering career. To this day I still maintain that he could’ve marched in the Olympics he was that good.
The finest war movie ever made has to be Pearl Harbour, and were Stanley Kubrick alive to have seen it I know he would’ve agreed with me. It was my idea to cast the late Elizabeth Taylor as Pearl, and for my money it was one of her very finest performances. Goodness knows how many hours she had to spend in make up, but it was worth every moment, and with characteristic grace she refused to be credited for the role. We all laughed when she insisted on being paid in bitcoins, then we found out that the fortune she made from that was what funded her fracking operations in the North Atlantic.
But that’s another story…
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HOLLYWOOD – Although her name suggested otherwise, Marlene Dietrich never enjoyed a particularly rich diet.
She’d have a bowl of cereal for breakfast, maybe a sandwich for lunch and quite often poached eggs for her supper. Burt Lancaster once offered her scrambled eggs but she politely declined, saying she preferred to stick with what she knew.
An invitation to dinner at Marlene’s never really filled one with excitement, but she was always immaculately turned out in her best tuxedo. Noel Coward used to smuggle in a packet of peanuts which we’d share between us while no-one was looking, then he’d take to the piano and Marlene would do some of the old songs again.
‘Edvin,’ she’d say to me ‘vot vould you like to sing for you?’
I’d always ask for We Wish You A Merry Christmas and poor old Noel would bang away at the keys barely able to contain his giggles.
She had the last laugh when I got food poisoning from a slightly under poached egg, but you couldn’t help but love Marlene. One night she kindly offered to have my name tattooed on her left thigh, but as the right one already said ‘property of Warner Bros’ I thought it to best to decline.
In those days you crossed the studio at your peril, and I’d already blotted my copy book with the Mickey Rooney incident. In the end the kidnappers were paid the ransom, and he was returned safe and sound. I wasn’t as lucky with Glenn Miller, but that’s another story…
One never forgets the first time one met Orson Welles, or Orson Cart as he didn’t like me to call him.
I was fast asleep at the time, but suddenly awoke when I heard the unmistakable sound of my garbage can being knocked over. Armed only with a torch, and with little concern for my own safety, I went out to see what had happened. It was rather a chilly night so I went indoors and put on a suitable pair of pyjamas, picked up the torch again, headed back outside, and there was Orson Welles. He was picking through the trash looking for food, and the driveway was in a terrible state.
I was furious!
Not with dear Orson of course, but with Burt Lancaster. He’d been leaving out scraps for Claudette Colbert and Academy Award winner Walter Huston had warned him this would happen.
I chased Orson away and swept up the mess, but I knew he’d return before long, and probably not alone.
I’d been back in bed for less than an hour before my slumbers were disturbed again. Orson was back and this time he had Gary Cooper with him! Over the next few nights I tried everything to keep them away; Spencer Tracy helped me put out some barbed wire, I lay bear traps, but nothing would stop them. My next door neighbour, Greta Garbo, caught them trying to burrow under her fence. In the end I had to stop leaving the trash outside and kept the bags in my garage, but they still got in. My son kept his sledge there and one night I saw Orson running off with it under his arm. We never got it back again!
I really was at the end of my tether, so we had no choice but to get a Harpo Marx. I used to chain him to a tree a in the yard, and although he wouldn’t bark, he looked jolly fierce. After a couple of nights it seemed to have done the trick and they stopped bothering us. The family loved Harpo and we would take him for walks and get him to chase a ball or fetch a stick. There was an unfortunate incident in the park one day when he started humping Debbie Reynolds who was being taken for a walk by darling Katherine Hepburn, but that’s another story.