HOLLYWOOD – In another EXCLUSIVE extract from Sir Edwin Fluffer’s autobiography “In Like Niven!” comes this startlingly honest account of the great English actor and director Sir Laurence Olivier.
Larry Olivier had moved into a new place high in the Hollywood hills. It was every bit as grand and elegant as the great man himself, but the tree outside his bedroom window was home to a large family of rooks, and the dawn chorus would often wake him from his slumber.
I’ve never been much of a morning person and darling Larry’s early morning phone calls filled me with dread. Following the success of Henry V and Hamlet he’d found another one of Billy Shakespeare’s screenplays to have a go at; but this time he’d decided to turn it into a musical.
Banquo! was to be his all singing, all dancing version of Macbeth, and he’d already started work on the score with Larry Adler. I went round for breakfast to hear the fruits of their labour. Adler took out his harmonica and played me a couple of numbers including There Is Nothing Like A Thane and Kiss Me Hecate, I cancelled my plans to go bowling with Keenan Wynn and said “Where do I sign?”
We were all ready to begin filming, sets were up, costumes were made, Donald O’Connor had been booked, then tragedy. Larry lost a tooth during a heated game of chequers with Bobby Morley and his singing voice went with it. He wouldn’t let the part go to anyone else and the whole thing was cancelled – Three months of work down the drain, and I was furious with him.
Larry Adler gave me one of his harmonicas to say thank you for all my support but I could never learn to play the bloody thing. In the end, I gave it to Charles Bronson who used it to great effect in Sergio Leone’s One Upon A Time In The West. But that’s another story…