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Nostalgia: a big part of our lives
It was great fun to be master of ceremonies at the Jubilee beacon ceremony in Borehamwood on Monday.
I can’t believe it is 24 years since I stood on Woodcock Hill doing the same task for the Armada celebration.
I must thank several readers of this column once again, for coming up and saying how much they enjoy these trips down memory lane, including our MP James Clappison, who is apparently an ardent reader.
I really believe commissioning editors are missing a trick by not doing something similar to this on television, rather than endless reality shows or celebrity programmes.
Nostalgia is a big part of most people’s lives and we all like to look back down memory lane.
I think "where are they now?" or "movie memories"-style television shows have a ready-made audience, but alas, too many commissioning editors are apparently too young to understand there is an untapped audience who don’t really care what Jordan is doing or want to see another house makeover.
I count myself as extremely lucky to have met so many of the cinema greats and have listened to their fascinating tales of films I still enjoy watching, even if some are in black and white.
I recall sitting on a sound stage with David Niven, at Elstree, and him telling me not to take his autobiographies as entirely true.
He also commented: “I am amazed my career has lasted so long as many of my films were not that good and I tended to choose them on the basis of where they were to be made, who would I be working with and how much.
“Even when I got a decent role, as in Separate Tables, it was usually followed by some rubbish, so I have been very lucky.”
I remember sitting with Margaret Lockwood at ATV in her dressing room, while she waited to go on Celebrity Squares, and her telling me she auditioned for a role at Elstree Studios in the early Thirties.
She said: “I was required to shave off my eyebrows and they never grew back and I never got the part.” Margaret went on to become a big star in the Forties in the Gainsborough films, such as The Wicked Lady.
I recall one of her Gainsborough co-stars, James Mason, telling me on the set of Murder By Decree that he made his screen debut in Borehamwood in the early Thirties, but was sacked after a few days and told he had no future as a screen actor.
I had a great kick escorting Douglas Fairbanks Jr around the Queen Vic at the BBC Elstree Centre, in the Eighties, and remember the cast asking for his autograph.
I also recall taking some youngsters to meet Paul McCartney at Elstree Studios, in 1983, and literally bumping into Tom Cruise at the studio in 1997.
I can’t forget Robbie Williams sending me up at the BBC on the Top Of The Pops stage. I was waiting for Take That to rehearse and found a young man standing next to me, whom I assumed was a BBC crew member.
I asked him what he thought of the band and he said they were rubbish and could not dance or sing, which I thought was a bit harsh.
He then walked away and about half-hour later, the tannoy called Take That to the stage. As they walked past me, one of them winked and I realised it was Robbie.
When I started writing this column 35 years ago, I was talking about a new film called Star Wars and now there are middle-aged readers who value that movie as part of their childhood.
I recently chatted with the film’s co-producer, Gary Kurtz, having last met him more than 30 years ago.
He told me: “We imagined we would make the film in Hollywood, but 20th Century Fox could only spare a couple of sound stages and we needed about eight.
“For economic reasons, we decided to film in Europe and I visited Pinewood and Shepperton and other studios but none suited.
“We had almost agreed to shoot Star Wars in Italy, but then somebody said why not try Elstree, which had been crossed off my list as it was expected to close. That gave us the opportunity of a studio to ourselves and the rest is history.”
Don’t forget, I have put down many other film memories in my book, Elstree Confidential, now on sale as a fundraiser for the Borehamwood Museum and Elstree Screen Heritage.
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