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…
HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer returns just in time to cast his gimlet eye over the dream factory of Hollywood, turning his attention specifically to what insiders call the ‘Big Fat Arse’: Marlon Brando.
Of all the neighbours I’ve had in the Hollywood hills the worst was undoubtedly Marlon Brando. It wasn’t the noise from his late night parties or continually having to return his ball after he kicked it over the hedge. What did for my nerves was that blessed lawnmower.
Brando was richer than a Roman Emperor, but I’ll tell you this now: he’d skin a fart to save a penny. Of course it was Chaplin who introduced the ride on mower to California, and by the weekend we all had one. Even Carole Lombard got one and she only had a patio!
But Brando insisted on still mowing his lawn with some old piece of junk he’d found in a skip. His estate must’ve run to several hundred acres and it’d take him weeks to cut it. Once he’d finished it was time to start all over again!
I’d look out of my window in the morning and see him pushing that old thing through the grass and my heart would go out to him, but even when Vincent Price said he’d pop over with his strimmer he said no and carried on.
It was years later that I found out the reason why he wouldn’t let us help him. Once he’d cut the grass he’d rake it all up, and sell it to Lloyd Bridges for his horses. Bridges told me he only paid 15 cents a bag, but Gary Cooper said it was nearer 20. I’d like to say that Brando gave the money to charity but he didn’t. Most of it was lost bailing himself out of an arms deal in Botswana that went very badly wrong. He showed me some of the letters and the whole thing was a terrible mess, but then he’d wink at me and say ‘never mind Neddy! I’ll be alright while I’ve got my lawnmower!’
He also had a rare white shark that he kept in his garage, but that’s another story…
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…
For more Fluffer please be so good as to CLICK HERE.
HOLLYWOOD- Sir Edwin Fluffer once again delves into his personal memoirs – soon to be published as ‘Not THAT Kind of Fluffer!!!’ – to recall his infamous Theatrical Agent Julius Levy.
Say what you will about Sir Edwin Fluffer, but I am, always have been, and always will be, a man of my word. Occasionally that word may have been slightly misunderstood, but luckily my long suffering agent Julius ‘Gripper’ Levy has forever been on hand to clear up any confusion.
Darling Julius is more than my manager, he’s one of the family. I call him brother, my wonderful children call him Uncle Gripper, and my many ex-wives often call him something quite unpleasant that rhymes with ‘anchor’.
I’ll never forget the first time we met. I’d just fallen into a swimming pool at Gary Cooper’s house, and dear Julius could see the predicament I was in. As he offered his hand to pull me out of the water he squeezed it tight and said ‘that’s agreed then, I get 15% gross and an Executive Producer credit on all your future pictures’!
I laughed, but he was deadly serious and I’ve been represented by the old bugger forever since! We’ve had our ups and downs, his arrest for manslaughter after the tragic but entirely accidental death of my gardener being one of the many low points, but our marriage has lasted longer than most in Hollywood. Only once did I ask him how he got that nickname. Gripper looked me straight in the eye, and said just two words: Lee Marvin.
Neither of us mentioned it ever again.
For a while he also represented Sabu, the Elephant Boy. By ‘represented’ I mean ‘won in a card game’, 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.