HOLLYWOOD – In this first extract from his memoirs In Like Niven Sir Edwin Fluffer – actor, raconteur and gentleman – recalls his relationship with Ms. Greta Garbo.

For the life of me I’ll never understand why everyone now thinks of Greta Garbo as a recluse. When I first moved base camp to the Hollywood Hills the self-styled silent Swedish seamstress (she made all her own clothes) was the life and soul of the party, as well as being a dear friend, a good neighbor, and, for a time, my lover. She was my lover for another two times the next morning as well.The first time I saw her she was stood at the end of her drive putting out the rubbish. Jimmy Cagney would put his out the night before which not only attracted vermin but also led me to coin his legendary catchphrase ‘you dirty rat’.

I’ll never forget how on that morning Greta turned and waved to me with those slender but surprisingly strong fingers that had taught a young Elizabeth Taylor how to play the banjolele. Straight away I felt like we’d known each for other years. She was always popping in and out to borrow a cup of sugar or shout at my wife who she suspected of making those prank phone calls that kept her awake at night.  But darling Greta never held a grudge and she was always the first person we’d ask to water the plants when we went away on holiday.

Of course it wasn’t until much later that I discovered the nailbrush in the downstairs bathroom was missing, but that’s another story…


The Divine Garbo, photographed by Cecil Beaton. I used to stand behind him waving a rattle, but could I make her laugh? Could I bugger!
Cary Grant bet me $50 I’d never get my pilot’s licence. I said that if he could get to the cactus and back before me, we’d go double or quits.
Not you again! Due to an administrative error I’ve now been knighted by Her Majesty The Queen no fewer than three times. This beats the previous record set by Sir John Mills in 1992.
Visiting my dear old mate Ally Guinness on the set of Star Wars. Of course I jumped at the chance of a cameo. ‘Just grab a mask, sit at the back, and don’t touch anything,’ he said. 
No-one even knew it was me!