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Paul Welsh on meeting old acquaintances at a remembrance service for Bryan Forbes
Hello again to all my fellow wanderers down memory lane. As promised, I will tell you about my latest showbiz adventures.
The lovely actress Nanette Newman kindly invited me to a memorial service for her late great husband Bryan Forbes at the Ambassador Theatre in the West End. Bryan had success as an actor, writer, director and producer, and for a couple of years ran Elstree Studios.
I found myself in the front row of the dress circle next to an elderly chap who told me he once owned the Fortune Theatre and ran a company with the late actor Martin Benson in Radlett.
The event started 20 minutes late so we were all given a free ice cream. A steward stopped at my row, looked at me and said: “Does anyone want a glass of wine?” Did I look like I needed one? I was the only one to take up the offer – one has to be polite.
Sir Kenneth Branagh spoke, as did Prince Edward, then Sir Michael Caine said a few words about his old friend. Despite his varied and successful Oscar-winning career, I still think of Michael in the 1960s movie Zulu.
Not a lot of people know this but he never did say “Don’t throw those bloody spears at me”, nor did he exclaim when ordered to fire at will “Why? What has he done?”.
It was a great film, but I guess one you could not make today without being accused of being politically incorrect and celebrating our empire.
Personally, I am proud that we once governed so much of the world. They said the sun never set on the empire, but I am out of step with those who feel we should be ashamed.
I first met Michael on the set of The Fourth Protocol at Elstree Studios in the 1980s, but it is not one of his favourite films.
I must admit I dislike travelling to London and my return home proved my point.
I got on the train at St Pancras, which was standing room only, and found myself in the company of a mother with a crying baby, a foreign couple chatting away and two young soldiers who looked as if they were not shaving yet. They were no doubt all nice people but due to an incident at Radlett Station the trip took over one hour. How do you commuters put up with it every working day? Thank heavens I am retired.
The next morning I was invited to the launch of a Hertsmere business link with 130 businessmen at Elstree Studios. It was a breakfast meeting which meant I had to walk to the studio for 7am. Are these people mad?
The event was organised by Hilary Shade from Hertsmere Council and the Watford Business Link. There was a lovely hot buffet provided but I cannot eat at such a crazy hour.
The studio’s managing director Roger Morris gave an excellent illustrated speech on the success of Elstree and how it subsidises the rates of every household in Hertsmere by 20 per cent. He also said the studios has a full order book. So to all those doubters when I was chairing the campaign to save the studios 25 years ago, think on that.
We had a walkabout and saw the set of the TV series Room 101 and the set of a new feature film based on Paddington Bear.
Of course, Elstree today cannot compete in size terms with Pinewood and Leavesden, but it has found a niche as a popular choice for TV series such as Strictly Come Dancing and films starring the likes of Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Brad Pitt. If that is not a success story then I do not know what is. I am proud to have played a role in creating the foundations of success.
I once asked David Niven for a life advice tip and he said: “Always know when it is your time to leave the stage dear boy.” Well, I have left the stage, but after 53 years since my first visit to the studio I still have it in my heart and wish Roger and his team continued success.