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How the studio system, and years of hard work, helped build long careers for stars like Bruce Forsyth and Kate O'Mara
10:24am Friday 11th April 2014 in Paul Welsh
I am sad to hear that Brucie has retired from Strictly Come Dancing, which is shot at Elstree Studios, albeit for reasons I fully understand for a man of his age with the pressures of live television.
It is sad, as he has been on prime-time weekend television since I started watching TV, so I wish him well and I know he has not retired.
For my part, I have been called a drop-dead gorgeous Adonis for several decades, or as you youngsters call me, a stud muffin. It sounds great, but I always wanted to be taken seriously so it can be a handicap.
My 'tash has just celebrated its 40th anniversary, but now it is grey — like what is left of my hair — hopefully, I have moved to the distinguished-looking stage. Luckily, men never age.
I cannot believe it is now five years since I reluctantly retired, but I look back on my career with pleasure.
I was offered the job of entertainments officer without any experience, but lasted 32 years. I was asked to be Elstree Studios historian with no qualifications and was given my own newspaper column while still in my 20s, with no journalistic experience.
That is what is called luck and it’s certainly harder to do today, but I still believe you can achieve your dreams if you really want them and will work hard to get there.
That is why I worry about TV shows like the Elstree-made The Voice and series like The X Factor.
They offer immediate success and fame to youngsters, but the reality is that even the winners struggle to achieve long-term success.
According to the press, the 2012 winner of The X Factor, James Arthur, has been “sacked” by Simon Cowell. And who can remember the winners of series one and two of The Voice?
I remember Adam Faith once telling me that he held on to his film union card, having started in the cutting rooms of the local National Studios, now BBC Elstree Studios, even after he enjoyed some big hits, just in case it all ended.
I am shortly due to interview old mates Barbara Windsor, Dave ‘Darth Vader’ Prowse and other actors for Howard Berry’s fascinating documentary to celebrate the centenary of film production in Borehamwood.
In their day, those actors earned their stripes before stardom beckoned and the longevity of their careers perhaps indicate that is the right approach.
That reminds me to pay tribute to actress Kate O’Mara, who recently left us, but again, she was an example of how she enjoyed stardom after years of earning her stripes.
I remember Debbie Reynolds once telling me: “I think it is a shame that youngsters today do not enjoy the old studio system, which built you into a star. Between films, you were given classes in dance, deportment and acting, and the publicity department carefully built your profile with the public. Today, stardom can come overnight — but sometimes at a price.”
I am still awaiting a call from Steven Spielberg to star in the next Indiana Jones film as Harrison Ford is a bit too old now.
However, I was not encouraged when my little three-year-old mate Hayden, who lives next door, told me I was 100 years old. He has since revised that to 21, under coaching from his mum. They say kids never lie, but I am not so sure.
Anyway, I reckon I have a few years left and let us make a date to stroll down memory lane again next week.