Paul Welsh on how reputations and the uses of buildings can change over time.

The Mound - a wasteland used in countless films and television programmes, and site of an unexploded bomb

The Mound - a wasteland used in countless films and television programmes, and site of an unexploded bomb

First published in Paul Welsh by

Are you growing weary of these celebrity trials or, as some call them, witch hunts?

Personally, I find it hard to understand some of the claims from 40 or 50 years ago, when standards of behaviour were different, and how anything can be proved.

I understand the multi-million pound estate of the disgraced Jimmy Savile is preparing to pay money to claimants, but the BBC and the NHS are also in the firing line, which means we as licence and taxpayers will foot the bill.

Where crimes have been committed they must be pursued, but there is a danger of destroying the credibility of other crimes.

I have just read that the BBC has blocked repeats of the popular Bergerac TV series
starring John Nettles as the building that doubled as a fictional police station has been involved in the Savile scandal.

I was interested to look at photos of the so-called bomb that was discovered on the backlot at Elstree Studios during the removal of the mound, which releases a large area of land for the studio to expand.

It turns out to be a bit of a damp squib as it appears no larger than a mortar shell and the controlled explosion was not even heard from the adjacent Tesco store.

Whether it was actually a wartime explosive device is still open to question, especially as the mound did not exist during the Second World War. The truth may never be known and it’s
origin remains a mystery.

This week, we look back at what was happening at Elstree Studios in 1966.

Nationally, it was a time of celebration as we beat the Germans in the World Cup final. On a personal level, I watched my 16-year-old brother die in front of my eyes as a 13-year-old lad, so naturally it was not a good time and I still miss David.

At my age you expect to lose your parents but your siblings is another matter. Alas, a few years ago his metal headstone at Allum Lane Cemetery was stolen, along with others by scrap metal thieves, but such is life.

At the studio, work was undertaken to build three new stages, with television in mind, plus an underground car park and canteen along with other facilities. Alas, the unions resisted the idea and the stages were more often used for films.

Ironically, nearly 50 years later, the same stages have been converted for TV use by a new client — the BBC — and host such programmes as Pointless and Room 101.

Back in 1966, two films were made at the studio and two television series. The films were a low-budget comedy called Mister 10 Per Cent, starring the then popular TV star Charlie Drake, who was actually widely disliked in the business.

The other film was called The Double Man, starring Yul Brynner, who today is best remembered for his roles in The Magnificent Seven and The King and I.

Yul was another star not always popular with fellow actors and Trevor Howard once told me he lost respect for him when he insisted on being driven onto the sound stage at Elstree and having a portable dressing room erected on the stage. Trevor was never one to endure the celebrity lifestyle of Hollywood stars.

When I visited the studio last week to interview on camera the current managing director Roger Morris, it was great to hear that the studio is enjoying successful times and a secure future.

Those same stages built nearly 50 years ago are still servicing the industry, which makes our efforts to save the studio 25 years ago even sweeter.

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