Oliver Read, who has the role of Otto von Bismarck in the film. "Royal Flash."
Britt Ekland as the Duchess Irma of Strakenz, a spoiled, arrogant madame beloved by Flashman.
Malcolm McDowell as Harry Flashman, the Rotter of Rugby School who grew up to be a candid coward.
ON THE SET OF "ROYAL FLASH"
One cold winter's night in London, outside an imposing Georgian house, two figures emerge from a party and make for their carriage.
The man. Otto, is an overbearing German officer with a sinister scar scored down one side of his face. The woman, Lola, a mysterious dark beauty.
She reaches the carriage first and discovers inside, cowering on the floor, a well-dressed Englishman. "What the devil are you doing,sir?" she demands.
By CAMILLA BEACH, in London
Hastily he explains he
means no harm and is no criminal, but rather a gentleman on the run from police who raided a club where he was indulging in
Otto demands he quit the carriage immediately. But Lola, clearly attracted to this dashing stranger and notic- ing a police sergeant approach, invites him instead to sit beside her and
distracting prattles on about her evening: "'Such a delightful party, three duchesses and only two of
them drunk ..."
Incensed Otto beckons
the policeman. "This is your
man. Arrest him."
The sergeant peers through the carriage door.
"Hold on there. I know you," he says, indicating the Englishman who by now is on more than just speaking terms with the willing Lola.
"You're Captain Flash- man. The hero of Afghani- stan. The defender of Piper's
Otto protests, white with rage, that this gentleman is also a criminal fugitive who has invaded their carriage without permission.
"I don't give a damn if he invaded Buckingham Palace without permission." says the stubborn sergeant before bidding them all a good night.
Otto glares at Flashman. "I shall remember you." he says icily.
The captain retorts that
he shan't trouble to return
"Oh, I think you will. My
name is Bismarck. You will remember me." Otto threat-
ens before storming back into the house, leaving the recent acquaintances to their passion.
In his later memoirs
Harry Flashman was to recall that his being rude to the then young Otto von
Bismarck altered the course
of European history in the 19th century.
This incident and what
happened thereafter form
To that English cad Harry Flashman (Malcolm McDowell), Lola (Moniez and played by Florinda Bolkan) sounds like a foreign bedroom with purple wallpaper. He underrates her.
the basis of George
MacDonald Fraser's best-sel-
ling novel "Royal Flash" and
a film of the same name being made bv director Richard Lester for Twentieth
And as Lester calls "cut," the actors relax their roles.
Harry Flashman turns back into Malcolm McDowell. Otto von Bismarck becomes Oliver Reed and the luscious
Lola Montez changes back into Florinda Bolkan just in time for the 11pm dinner
Anticipating the some times indigestible location — catering now being offered
from a double-decker London bus parked in a
sidestreet — Malcolm
McDowell opts for Chinese take-away and ponders his
role over a chicken chow mein.
This is only his sixth film
because he refuses to
compromise by playing
mediocre roles in mediocre films. "A Clockwork
Orange" and "O Lucky Man" number among his
"Royal Flash" was
irresistible; Flashman too
good a part of an 11th Hussar, reluctant VC, former school bully, and congenital
coward with a tall talent for
dirty fighting and fast running.
"He was the biggest cad, the biggest bully of the
Victorian era," Malcolm
says. "But not the same kind of bully as he appears in 'Tom Brown's Schooldays.'
(George MacDonald Fras- er took the character, Flashman, from the public school epic "Tom Brown's
"In Fraser's story he's a
wastrel, a lost cause, a
dandyish character who
whores and drinks and has a
pomposity that was so fright-fully Eng-lish in a by-gone er-a. He'll talk about Bismarck as 'a dirty, foreigner.' And take the
attitude that women " are there to be used.
Nice side, too
"But, like all cads and bullies, he has his nice side too. Like he does fall in love with the Duchess Irma of
Strakenz, played by Britt Ekland, and says 'I really do love her. I think, in a way. "
Malcolm smiles mis- chievously when I ask if he shares any characteristics
in common with Flashman.
"Just his nicer side," he says. "All the rest I'm desperately trying to act . . ."
He says he doesn't actually like acting, that it's far more of a grind than the public supposes and that
those who survive have the
Oliver Reed's technique is consistently good else why
would he have made three
films in one year, and be leaving next day to start
a fourth in Greece with Orson Welles?
One day he is playing
Otto von Bismarck, the next a death-rider who sells every
part of his anatomy to a man who fears his organs are packing up.
It seems reasonable to ask what attracts Oliver to each role. His answer is blunt, and
'Money.' he says.
"I'm a professional actor,
I don't do it because I like it."
Pressed further, he will reason that acting is emotional prostitution. "An actor prostitutes most of the emotions that are private, and usually reserved for people you care about.
"For instance, there are
only about seven ways that you can say I love you' and
mean it. I think I've used most of them on film. And in
that sense, acting is a betrayal of something that possibly was once very
"You catch yourself saying to a girl in a movie the same thing you've said to somebody in real life, though you don't necessarily think 'that's the way I said it to Josephine, and I'm only saying it to Mary tonight because we're acting.' But it's still a betrayal."
"Do you have a bosom?" "Actually,"
she replied, "I've got two."
The film's cast of stars includes Alan Bates. Lionel Jeffries, Tom Bell, Alastair
Sim, Joss Ackland, Roy
Kinnea,. Michael Hordern,
and Christopher Cazenove.
A relative new-comer to the
screen, 17-year-old Tessa Dahl has a small part.
Blue-eyed. 5ft I lin tall,
and titian-haired, Tessa is
the daughter of Oscar-win ning star Patricia Neal whose own acting career was tragically interrupted some years ago when she was struck down by a series of
Tessa won the "Royal Flash" bit-part after a quick
retort to director, Richard Lester.
At a casting session, while complaining to him about her restricting height, he asked: "Do you have a
"Actually," she replied. "I've got two."
The dinner break ends, and the actors and film crew
resume their night's work: tediously repetitious hours reshooting the previous scene in close-up.
Time and again, one scene is repeated. Oliver Reed needs must forcefully slam the carriage door mid-scene, and each time it
swings open again. That's
The night air grows more chill, the clock moves on into the early hours of the morning and, once the door
catch is fixed and the scene
enacted, a police siren wails through nearby Piccadilly
I itens and a retake is
necessary. Next time a car starts up in an adjoining square. There were no cars,
no sirens in the lS40s.
Finally the scene is "in
the can." and Florinda
Bolkan is called to make-up for retouching to her face
Her part as Lola Montez. the seductive tigress who numbered among her conquests King Ludwig of
Bavaria and who once
horsewhipped a man in Ballarat, Vic., was the most difficult to cast in this
And Florinda (which means "little flower") is perfect for the part. A torrid
Brazilian of mixed Por tuguese and Indian blood with a flame-thrower gaze, she is a top star of the Italian
She says that Lola is very
close to her ideal woman.
"She was a real character as. of course, was Bismarck.
And she had guts to gamble so high to get a man with Ludwig s power."
Her motto was "Courage ? and shuffle the cards."
"She wanted jewellery, castles, beautiful carriages, clothes, and regiments of
men. But if I'd been her. I would have wanted his
"Asked her ambition Lola
said it was 'to be queen of
the theatre and to live as I
please, love as I please and never grow old." I'd change that only slightly. I'd like to be queen of the cinema.
"I respect her enormously because she had the courage to do what she wanted. And, in that sense, she was very
"But she couldn't live without men. and neither could I. It would be hell
living in a world where only
women exist. There'd be
nobody to open the door to your car. Nobody to pay your bills. Nobody to invite you for dinner and offer you champagne.
"In a world without men.
I'd leave by that door, and
never come back. It would be hell."
It is now 3am and. outside in the street, the unit are
preparing a new scene under the gas lights.
A lone policeman keeps watch on the proceedings to turn back traffic, divert any passe rs-b\.
He indulges in a well-earned yawn. He has
been there since ten that
morning. "Whoever said filming was fun didn't know what they were talking about," he says.