How the studio visited by King George VI went on to make The King's Speech, and other examples of when royalty meets showbusiness

Borehamwood Times: HRH The Duke of York visiting Elstree Studios HRH The Duke of York visiting Elstree Studios

Well, Britain’s Got Talent is over for another year and was a big ratings success although some critics commented “Britain’s Got Foreign Talent” might have been a better title.

In fact the shadow show group Attraction were deserving winners gaining a runaway 27 per cent of the votes. By comparison, the pop group Luminites came a poor fifth with 6.8 per cent and the child performers barely registered.

I suspect the producers would have preferred the pop group or a singer to win as they are more easily marketable but Attraction will be something really different for the Royal Variety Show.

Talking of royalty, it was good to hear the Duke of York would be visiting Elstree Studios for a tour and update on the Elstree Technical College due to open in September, ironically on part of the former MGM Studios site in Elstree Way.

Of course, he was not the first Duke of York to visit the studio. His grandfather also held the title and later went on to become King George VI. He visited Elstree Studios in 1929, accompanied by his wife, whom we now best remember as the late Queen Mother.

George visited the set of the first talking picture Blackmail, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Apparently he even sat in one of the primitive sound booths to listen on headphones to the sound being recorded. Little did he know that 80 years into the future the studio would be the base for a film about him called The King’s Speech that would go on to net more awards than any other British movie.

His brother, the future Edward VIII, also visited the studio in the early 1930s but in a private capacity as he was fascinated by film making and no doubt the many young starlets that occupied the sound stages.

Their parents King George V and Queen Mary were driven along Shenley Road in 1934 on their way to open Shenley Hospital and the studio presented a guard of honour as they passed the dream factory with costumed extras from the musical film Blossom Time, which starred local resident and famous opera singer Richard Tauber.

At the beginning of the 1950s the future Queen Mother, then of course Queen Elizabeth, and her daughter Princess Margaret visited Elstree Studios and the set of an all-industry film entitled The Magic Box.

It was being made with an all-star cast as an industry contribution to the Festival of Britain. Sadly, it proved a flop, although today it fascinates film buffs spotting all the stars of yesteryear making cameo appearances.

In 1985, I helped organise the visit of Princess Anne to open the newly built Maxwell Building and after her visit we had a big party on one of the now demolished sound stages. We were lucky as there was a street scene still standing after a commerical shoot and stalls with foods from around the world were put up, a couple of bands played and there was a free bar. I remember enjoying a drink with Michael Winner and Trevor Howard.

In 1999 I arranged for Prince Charles to visit the studio to open the newly-built sound stages, now named after George Lucas.

It was fun to help escort Charles around the studio and to watch how easily he put obviously nervous people at ease.

There was a large exhibition and later a big party on the new stages. When I was escorting Charles towards one of the exhibits celebrating Star Wars a palace official whispered to me he must not be photographed with Darth Vader.

Obviously we could not stop HRH but what I did was step in between them and the press photographers, thus ruining the shot.

You can imagine their reaction to me, but that’s showbiz.

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