HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer once again delves into his personal memoirs – soon to be published as ‘Not THAT Kind of Fluffer!!!’ – to recall the globulous Alfred Hitchcock.
One of the pictures I’m asked about most often is actually a film I never appeared in! I am talking, of course, about Vertigo. I only take Sight and Sound magazine for the crossword and gardening tips so you could’ve knocked me down with a feather when that venerable publication recently announced that Vertigo was the best film ever made! I never cared for it much myself, but I think Jerry Lewis is funny so what do I know?
Little did I think that cinema history was in the making when I answered the phone one morning to none other than Alfred Hitchcock. I’ll never forget his first words to me.
‘Neddy,’ he said, ‘it’s Alfred Hitchcock here.’
That’s the kind of man he was you see, friendly, charming, but professional to the soles of his shoes. He wanted me for a scene early on in the picture where a portly gentleman walks past carrying a musical instrument case. Well, it’s the part I was born to play. There was no fee, but I was virtually guaranteed a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards so I headed down to the set. There was no rehearsal to speak of, or any script for that matter, Hitch just wanted to capture the moment, so I walked past the camera only for him to shout cut!
‘Anything the matter darling?’ I asked.
‘No, no, no,’ said Hitch, ‘just give me another one,’ so we rolled camera and I walked past again.
And again. And again.
After the seventy eighth take I could tell there was something wrong, so I wandered over to Hitch to see if there was a different angle we could try. ‘The problem is’ he said in that familiar cockney drawl, ‘you’re just not portly enough.’
It was dear old Jimmy Stewart who had the bright idea of sticking a cushion up my jumper, so we did that and tried again. Then we tried again. Then we tried again with a different cushion, but it was still no good. Say what you will about Hitch but he knows what he wants, and I for one respect him for that. In the end I nipped off for a cigarette and by the time I came back just a couple of minutes later the scene was in the can with none other than Mr Alfred Hitchcock himself playing the part of the portly gentleman who walks past carrying a musical instrument case!
I was flattered: it’s not many actors who can say their part was played by one of the cinema’s greatest directors, but I’m proud to be one of them.
As I said there was no fee for my cameo, although Hitch did offer me $50 to push Kim Novak into the harbour.
But that’s another story…