HOLLYWOOD – In another extract from his charming whizz through the glory days of Hollywood – In Like Niven Sir Edwin Fluffer recalls an interesting episode in the secret history of dream factory:

When I first arrived in Hollywood all those golden years ago the first thing I noticed was that in LA nobody walked anywhere. This was because the sidewalks, or pavements as I still knew them then, had all been hired by Cecil B. DeMille to appear as extras in his latest epic, All Roads Lead To RomeThose poor downtrodden sidewalks were prepared to do anything for $20 a day with lunch thrown in. I know that many of them believed that at last this was their shot at stardom, but I fear it was to be one of the worst decisions they ever made. There were concerns about the script, the budget was out of control, and DeMille took out all of his frustration on them. Many years later Farley Granger told me he’d seen him actually spit on a sidewalk. Unforgivable behavior and it tells you all you need to know about the man.
The shoot wasn’t a happy one, and visiting dear old Charlie Laughton on set one day, he confided his fears about the once great director. ‘Talk about not being able to see the wood for the trees,’ he chuckled, ‘we can’t see the forest for the flowerpots!’ I don’t understand what he meant either, but it had been a very good lunch. And just in time. The studio pulled the plug the very next day, the crew were sent home, and the sidewalks went back to the day job. Of course some of them weren’t happy about the way they’d been treated, so they were given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in return for their silence. Laughton remained great friends with the sidewalks and would always stop to chat to them. In the end the police got involved. But that’s another story…   


Over the years that I’ve spent doing this acting lark I’ve picked up all sorts of hints and tips which have proved absolutely invaluable when rolling up on set two hours late and slightly hung over without having even looked at the script yet. I’m still waiting to hear back about my offer to do a stint on In The Actor’s Studio, but in the meantime here are some pointers to get you going.

3 Katherine Hepburn

Sometimes you’ll be on set acting away when you’ll notice a woman staring at you.  She’s called Katherine Hepburn, and although she’s a darling once you get to know her the initial reception can be a bit frosty. She once pulled a knife on Clark Gable and we had to wrestle her to the ground. All I’ll say is never borrow money from her.

4 Horses

When I look back at some of my early cowboy pictures now I can’t help but laugh. Even to the untrained eye it’s quite obvious that I’m sat on the horse the wrong way ‘round! In those days the studios didn’t have time for a second take so we just muddled through and hoped no-one would notice, but the results were sometimes less than perfect. It was John Wayne who put me right. I’ve watched hundreds of his films and you never see him sitting backwards on his horse so he knew what he was talking about: ‘Neddy,’ he said, ‘the tail goes at the back!’ And do you know what? He was right! If you’re stuck out in the desert with Cecil B. DeMille doing one of those Biblical epics the same rule also applies to Deborah Kerr and camels. But that’s another story…