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All this television talent is becoming stale
Bette Davis once said “growing old is not for the faint hearted” and I think she hit the nail on the head.
As I approach my 40th birthday, give or take a decade or two, my body tests my patience each day by finding something not working properly.
I have given up driving, hence the reason why some loyal readers have not seen me in my old Mini. I find travelling anywhere a bore and seem to like everything that is bad for us like red meat, cream cakes and alcohol.
However, I am reassured by a remark made to me by David Niven many years ago when he said: “Don’t worry, just enjoy yourself as there is no prize for being the fittest corpse in the funeral parlour.”
I found Dancing On Ice bored me this year although the other Elstree made show The Voice is certainly more entertaining and has done very well in the ratings.
I think my problem with all these talent shows, including The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, is the format is becoming stale. You know the judges will have arguments with each other, the presenter will always have a lengthy pause or go to a break before announcing a result and the sob stories of contestants will be accompanied by a choir of singing angels or the violin section.
Television companies hail getting nine million viewers as if a cure for famine had been achieved without mentioning that means more than 50 million people did not watch.
In a way I feel sorry for TV executives these days as everything seems to cost so much. They say the BBC has spent £22 million of our money producing The Voice and that is a big gamble. When it started making the one-hour episodes of The Saint at Elstree in the Sixties it was costing roughly £20,000 an episode. Nowadays it probably would cost up to £1 million an episode so the stakes are so much higher.
I also miss the stars of yesteryear and seeing those that remain grow older with the passing years. Back in 2008 I had the pleasure to host a plaque unveiling honouring Bryan Forbes at Elstree Studios which, for a short while, he ran in the beginning of the Seventies.
Bryan enjoyed a distinguished career as a script writer, director of many movies including Whistle Down The Wind in 1961, as a novelist and as an actor in such films as The Colditz Story in 1955 and An Inspector Calls in 1954.
He even turned up in the horror movie Quatermass II at the old Danziger Studios and recalled: “The star of the film was an American actor named Brian Donlevy who loved to dissapear to the Plough pub up the road in Elstree village.
“He always knew his lines but most of the time had no idea what the film was about or the storyline.”
I invited Lord Richard Attenborough to be the guest unveiler who some of you will remember from Jurassic Park, The Great Escape or I’m Alright Jack, but he also directed such films as Gandhi in 1982 and A Bridge Too Far in 1977.
I also remember Dickie in an obscure Elstree film of the Fifties called The Scamp, which includes some lovely location shots around Borehamwood and in particular the old King’s Arms at Stirling Corner.
I also recall his excellent portrayal of the mass murderer John Christie in 10 Rillington Place in 1971 and I still remember visiting the real life murder house in London when they were filming and before it was demolished. It was enough to put a chill up your spine.
Both actors appeared in an excellent crime heist movie of 1960 entitled The League Of Gentlemen and it was a real pleasure to interview them both on stage for about an hour at the plaque unveiling. I had met them both previously and we have kept in touch.
Sadly Dickie, now aged 88, following a fall is confined to a wheeelchair and requires 24 hour a day care. Bryan, now aged 85, is also in poor health and was unable to attend a ceremony earlier this year when the British Film Institute awarded him its fellowship honour.
I miss the opportunity to meet such people whose careers have stood the test of time rather than the instant celebrities of today but feel privileged that we did share some great moments together.
Somehow in 50 years’ time I can’t imagine whoever is writing this column waxing lyrical over the Big Brother winner of 2011 or the latest discovery of The Only Way Is Essex but then again younger readers will have never heard of Bryan or Dickie. I guess we are all hostages of our own times.
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