Give me substance over style

I am currently watching about 20 one-hour black and white Edgar Wallace crime movies made at the old Merton Park studios between 1960 and 1962.

I think they are great fun and full of those character actors who inhabited the films and television series of that era. I had the pleasure to meet many of them in later years and their anecdotes were always fascinating.

Sadly, nearly all of them are gone now and the latest to depart is Harry Fowler who, from his childhood in the Forties, played cockneys on screen for nearly 60 years. I wish I had recorded interviews with them all.

Watching these old British films of the Fifties and early Sixties reminds me of my long ago childhood and it is great to see nearly empty roads and the days when cars all looked different.

I have just retired from driving after 40 years, as my old Mini has given up the struggle and it will certainly save money.

I also enjoy the music of that era when it had style and longlevity, compared with much of the dross that passes for tunes these days.

I have been lucky enough to meet a number of the hit parade stars of my youth in later years, the likes of Adam Faith, The Searchers, Billy Fury, Frankie Vaughan and Tommy Steele spring to mind, but I guess my younger readers will not have heard of them.

I did get autographs from the Beatles when they appeared on the Morecambe and Wise show at the ATV studios in Borehamwood in 1963, but they have long since been lost.

I still remember going to see A Hard Day’s Night at our local cinema in Shenley Road, where the Isopad office block now stands.

I did not realise then that 20 years later, I would get to meet Paul McCartney at Elstree Studios. He was starring in a film called Give My Regards To Broad Street and, at the time, Elstree Youth Theatre, organised by Allan Stronach and Brian Burton, were staging a musical called John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert.

It seemed a great publicity opportunity to have the four lads playing the Beatles photographed with Paul. Initially, the film’s producer was not keen on the idea but I pressed the point and eventually he asked Paul, who happily said yes.

I took the lads down to his dressing room, where Paul and his then wife Linda were waiting to meet the four nervous young gentlemen. We chatted for about half an hour and it was a great experience for them, which I suspect they still remember nearly 30 years later.

Perhaps it is due to my exposure to famous people over several decades that I am never impressed by anyone just because they are well known, powerful or rich.

My old mum used to say: “Judge people only by their qualities, whether they are rich or poor. At the end of the day, we all end up six feet under or in a furnace.”

Perhaps that is why I find all this celebrity era we have drifted into a bit of a nonsense. I can’t understand why anyone follows "stars" on Twitter as if every word they utter is important.

Celebrity magazines hold no appeal as I have never heard of most of the celebrities. Fame today seems to be rapidly gained, often unearned and usually fleeting.

True, you can make a fortune quickly, but stardom has become just another aspect of our throwaway society. Never has the old saying, here today, gone tomorrow, been more true. I guess that is why I enjoyed organising the plaque unveiling honouring Cliff Richard at Elstree Studio in 2008, as he represents a showbiz survivor.

Cliff had his first film success at MGM in Borehamwood 54 years ago, in a forgotten British B-movie, but it contained a scene with him singing Living Doll, which became a big hit for him.

He is still going strong and has become the most successful UK recording artist of all time.

I wonder how many winners of X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent or today’s hit parade stars we will remember in 2066? I am afraid younger readers will have to contact me then by seance to let me know.

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