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Film makers keeping it in the family
I am walking more these days and regularly notch up 20 miles a week, which must mean I will live until at least 100 and get a telegram from King William.
More importantly, I get to bump into people and have conversations, which I find quite rewarding.
The other day, I bumped into Stuart Bradley, whom I have not seen for years. Stuart used to work at Elstree Studios when we relaunched it in the 1990s and his brother Matt still works there.
Another brother is on the crew of the new Tom Cruise movie being shot at nearby Leavesden Studios. That family connection
is a throwback to the days when many Borehamwood families and generations used to work in the film and TV business.
Today, Stuart lives on what used to be the backlot of the MGM studios and resides in one of the roads I helped name after old film stars.
He did not realise that the road he lives in was named after Charles Laughton, a film star who won an Oscar as best actor in a Borehamwood film nearly 80 years ago.
Elstree Screen Heritage, with the help of others, is addressing that issue with the new
heritage board in Studio Way explaining the history of MGM and the origin of the road names.
I recently watched a 1950s movie shot at MGM called Zarak starring Victor Mature, who older readers may remember as a Hollywood hunk of that era.
Victor, in later years, was often quite self-deprecating about his career. He recalled applying for membership of an elite Los Angeles golf club which wanted to decline his application as he was an actor.
Victor replied: “Me an actor, have you seen my films?”
He also recalled starring in a Cecil B DeMille epic where his character was supposed to fight a lion. Victor told the director he was frightened of being bitten, unlike his screen image, to which the DeMille responded : “You don't have to worry, it's an old lion with no teeth.”
Victor replied: “I don't want to be gummed to death either!”
Zarak was an adventure based in 19th Century India during the British Raj, but the casting was anything but politically correct by today’s standards. Victor was a white American playing a rebel Indian and other Indians were played by Irish, Scottish and even an Italian, albeit they were well-known character actors in British films of that era.
His co-star was Michael Wilding, who was at one time married to Elizabeth Taylor and was a very popular star of the 1940s in films such as Spring In Park Lane with Anna Neagle, which was also made at MGM.
I am told that film still holds the British cinema attendance record as in those days there were 4,500 cinemas. Today, there are 716 cinemas in the UK although they have 3,671 screens.
In the 1940s, people would often go to the pictures once or twice a week. Today, 62 per cent of the population perhaps go once a year and only 19 per cent go at least once a month.
Finally, sad to say goodbye to that all-round entertainer Max Bygraves, who has died in Australia after suffering from Alzheimers for several years.
I once interviewed Max at ATV in Borehamwood when he was filming Family Fortunes.
He told me he had starred in an experimental 3D film made at the old Gate Studios, in the early 1950s.
Max recalled: “I can’t remember much about it, other than it involved the Beverly Sisters and in those days sweets were still on ration. We somehow got a bag of gobstoppers at the studio and I still remember enjoying them all the way home on the train. I later became a multi-millionaire, but it is the simple pleasures of life you remember.”