Paul Welsh on telling the tale of Elstree's screen heritage with Barbara Windsor, and a little help from Roger Moore and Steven Spielberg

Darth Vader, played by Dave Prowse

Darth Vader, played by Dave Prowse

First published in Paul Welsh
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I seem to have hit a busy few months with the centenary of film production in Borehamwood  — but it is all worthwhile.

At the moment we are working on a 90-minute documentary for Howard Berry, which will tell this unique story.

Because of this, I seem to have gone back to my old role interviewing people, which has been nice.

The cast list to date has included Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Cope, Roger Moore, Steven Speilberg and, just as importantly, a host of local behind-the-scenes film veterans.

Last week, we travelled to see Dave ‘Darth Vader’ Prowse at his home and it was great to chat to my old mate on camera, although I could have done without the long hours on the M25.

Dave does not enjoy the best of health and is motoring towards being 80 years old, but still travels around the world attending Star Wars conventions.

If I were in charge of the new Star Wars film being shot at Pinewood, I would have given Dave a funny cameo, especially as Ford, Fisher and Hamill are returning.

It was very sad to learn that Bob Hoskins had died, who of course starred in Who Framed Roger Rabbit at Elstree Studios and I recall him in a long-forgotten television series called Flickers made at ATV more than 30 years ago.

Bob kindly agreed to be a patron of Elstree Screen Heritage, but sadly had to withdraw from public life in 2012 when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

I also read that veteran Hollywood television actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr has died aged 95. You may not remember him, but I do as part of my childhood television watching him as the star of 77 Sunset Strip from 1958 to 1964 and then in FBI from 1965 to 1974.

To be honest, I did not realise he was still with us, otherwise I would have written to him. I used to correspond with old Hollywood stars in the 1970s and 1980s and still treasure the letters I received in reply.

Some I was also lucky to meet, like Boris Karloff, Lana Turner, Charlton Heston, Anthony Quinn, Joan Crawford, Mae West and Rita Hayworth to mention a few, but I can hear some of my younger readers asking: “Who were they?”

Such is the nature of fame, although it is certainly more fleeting nowadays.

This week, I am due to go to the home of another old friend, actor Francis Matthews, to interview him for the documentary.

Francis worked with the likes of Ava Gardner, appeared in Hammer horrors, played Paul Temple in his own television series and even starred in some of the 1950s films made by the infamous Danziger Brothers.

I have very little interest in modern stars or films of today, but love to talk about films before the 1980s and to meet stars of yesteryear.

This documentary by Howard and backed by the University of Hertfordshire is long overdue and we are getting massive support regarding clips, etc, from film companies. We will ensure there is a special screening in Borehamwood for those of you who are interested.

I think I am co-narrating with Barbara Windsor and I feel honoured people remember me enough to be willing to participate.

The real work is actually done by Howard and Bob from Elstree Screen Heritage, but I can still be propped up and do my bit when necessary.

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