HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer once again delves into his personal memoirs – soon to be published as ‘Not THAT Kind of Fluffer!!!’ – to recall Marlene Dietrich.
I knew Marlene Dietrich before the operation, and I have to say that she was a lot more fun in those days. An ingrowing toenail is no laughing matter, just ask Claude Rains, but there was something about her that changed and in her later years she was largely absent from the screen. Our last and first picture together was Witness For The Prosecution, based on the play by Agatha Christie. I got the moustache wax out and greased up ready to give my best Hercule Poirot only to be told in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t in it.
To be perfectly honest with you I think that the director missed a trick there, but he had what I’d call an ‘artistic temperament’ and he also insisted on setting the whole thing in a courtroom rather than on a train.
I was convinced that audiences weren’t ready for an Agatha Christie with no Poirot and no Orient Express, but dear old Marlene said ‘give it a go, darlink’ and so I did. As my character spent most of his time in the dock I didn’t really think it necessary to wear any trousers as it can get rather warm under all that lighting, but then Charlie Laughton said ‘if Neddy’s not wearing his breeches then neither am I’ and off they came!
|Where are my gaspers?
Marlene thought this was all a tremendous lark, put Charlie’s trousers on and refused to take them off! We had the devil’s own job getting her out of them, and in the end Elsa Lanchester had to sit on her chest while Henry Daniel and I tried to grab her legs. The trousers were quite badly ripped, but what annoyed Charlie more was that he had a packet of cigarettes in one of the pockets. We looked everywhere for them! It must’ve been nearly twenty minutes later when we eventually found them under Norma Varden. Unfortunately when the producer heard out about the damage to Charlie’s trousers fingers were pointed and I got the blame. Yours truly was sacked and Tyrone Power took my role and played it much better than I ever could.
Every year on my birthday Marlene would send me a new pair of Oxford bags, but I didn’t see the funny side.
I sent her a chipmunk wearing a kilt one Christmas, but that’s another story.
HOLLYWOOD- Sir Edwin Fluffer once again delves into his personal memoirs – soon to be published as ‘Not THAT Kind of Fluffer!!!’ – to recall Jessica Tandy.
As a movie actor you soon realise that the best pal you can have in this business is the cameraman. Be friendly to him as he’s the fellow who’ll make you look a million dollars up there on the big screen. Get caught chatting up his wife and he’ll make you look like the geriatric drunk you are as I found out to my cost quite recently on The Queen’s Screech.
Don’t bother watching that one. No, my favourite cameraman was always John Rutland. Dietrich called him Mr Beady Eye because she once caught him peering through the keyhole of her dressing room door.
Darling Johnny was a Brit like me, so I always felt we had a connection. I was one of the few people he trusted to return his library books. He’d asked Veronica Lake to do it once but she forgot leaving Johnny with a $2 fine.
One of the greatest pictures we worked on together was X Marks The Spot, in which I played a treasure hunting plastic surgeon. In many ways it was ahead of its time, and audiences weren’t really prepared for the sight of me performing rhinoplasty on a young Jessica Tandy while solving the riddle of the sphinx, but thanks to John you’d never know the underwater scenes were actually shot in the local aquarium.
In those days Jessica still looked so young that she got student discount on her entry ticket. I was told that Brando desperately wanted to play the great white shark, but he couldn’t fit into the costume. Johnny knew that I couldn’t swim so having us play the underwater scenes in front of the tanks saved me a great deal of embarrassment.
I couldn’t thank Johnny enough so I kept the Rolex I’d bought him and sent a fruit basket instead. At his funeral service I placed a grapefruit on his coffin in tribute without realising that it was actually a rare citrus allergy that killed him. His family were furious but Art Carney couldn’t stop laughing! I still remember the time that the three of us challenged The Three Stooges to a game of naked table tennis.
But that’s another story…
HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer recalls his encounter with Robert Zemeckis and the birth of an American masterpiece.
Being an old hand at all this Hollywood lark I feel almost duty bound to lend the benefit of my experience to the younger generations as they make way their way up through the ranks. Some are kind enough to listen, others just look at me the way Lassie used to look at Jayne Russell, before slowly shaking their heads and turning away. But without my help, and passion for gardening, one of the most successful franchises in this business we still lovingly call show may have never come to pass.
A few years ago I suddenly got a call from a talented young director called Robert Zemeckis. He’d just had a hit with a picture called Romancing The Stone starring Kirk Douglas’s little boy, Michael. Bobby, as I instantly came to know and love him, wanted to talk to me about his next project. It was to be a comedy about time travel. I invited him over for a chat and one of my ex-wives served us drinks in the garden while the smoke from Paul Newman’s barbecue wafted over the fence. The smell was truly awful so we went for a wander ‘round the grounds and I showed Bobby some of my favourite plants, including a fuchsia that Claude Rains left me in his will. We spent an absolute age walking up and down the long borders trying to think of a suitable name for this film of his. Eventually I looked up and noticed we’d returned to the exact same spot we left all those hours earlier, but we were still no nearer a title.
‘Well,’ I said ‘here we are. Back to the fuchsia.’
And the rest as we so often say in Hollywood, is history…
Bobby was kind enough to show his gratitude by offering me the role of Dr Emmett Brown, but an in-growing toenail and some tax problems that forced me to leave for Switzerland under an assumed name meant I had to politely say no. I could tell he was disappointed and I promised to make it up to him by telling him about the time Marlene Dietrich asked me to put up some shelves in her new bungalow.
But that’s another story…
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…