Maybe its the lack of tumbleweed and cacti, but why were no cowboy films made at Elstree studios?

Once upon a time in Borehamwood?

Once upon a time in Borehamwood?

First published in Blogs Borehamwood Times: Photograph of the Author by

A big thank you once again to residents who stop me to say they enjoy these weekly rambles down memory lane. There were three in one day last week and one was a young lady working the till at Iceland so it seems the world of movie memories appeals to all ages.

Over the past 100 years, Borehamwood has produced almost every type of film genre there is. Incidentally, I hope you have visited the display in the museum at 96 Shenley Road. Personally, I think the museum should have been located at the front of the building on the ground floor so displays could have faced out onto Shenley Road.

The museum has already attracted more than 5,000 visitors in just a few months and with very limited open hours. Just think what would happen if it could be seen by casual passers-by. Still, what do I know about such things?

The studios of our town have produced thrillers, horrors, comedies and musicals. From X-rated features to well-known children’s films.

Musicals have ranged from the 1930s tunes of Ivor Novello to the singalong numbers in Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday and The Young Ones.

Horror movies have featured Dracula, Baron Frankenstein and The Mummy, not to mention devil worshippers and alien monsters.

Comedy on the sound stages of our town has been provided by the likes of Tony Hancock to the Monty Python team.

Hitchcock directed thrillers and Kubrick gave us The Shining and Clockwork Orange.

We have even produced classic war movies such as The Dambusters, Where Eagles Dare and The Dirty Dozen.

However, the one genre I think we have not tackled, unless you can prove me wrong, is the Western. Even Pinewood managed a couple, albeit of a comedy nature.

Perhaps the greatest Hollywood Western director, John Ford, made a couple of movies at MGM but one was based in Africa called Mogambo and the other was about a Scotland Yard detective named Gideon.

John Wayne did visit our town to guest star on a Glen Campbell special shot at ATV, but in the 1970s I had to visit him in London on the set of the crime thriller Brannigan. My memory of our brief meeting was of his size, politeness, a hacking cough and a slightly odd-looking toupee. When asked about whether his hair was real, he wittily replied: “It sure is real hair but just happens not to be mine.”

I guess Borehamwood just does not lend itself to pretending to be the Wild West. How often do we see sagebrush rolling along Shenley Road and what could double as Boot Hill or the OK Corrall? I guess Woodcock Hill could be Dead Man’s Gulch with some fake cacti and boulders, but it would be a challenge for the imagination.

Therefore, most of the famous cowboy stars never worked here. I am not aware of Randolph Scott, Joel Mcrea, Audie Murphy or even Roy Rogers filming here, but you may know better?  I never got to meet any of them, which would have been a great treat as I was brought up on Westerns, especially on television.

I remember in my youth watching Wagon Train and Rawhide, and can still remember the theme tunes. I also remember, in the days when kids played outdoors using their imaginations, recreating Western battles with my friends, although usually I seemed to end up as the cavalry officer murdered by the red indians, or, should I now say, native Americans.

I think the closest I ever came to a Western film set was visiting the Grand Canyon and a dude ranch. The helicopter landed and we were taken in on an open horse drawn wagon to the ranch for a Western meal and a slug or two of whiskey. Then I was asked to put on a ten gallon hat and mount a horse that took me to the Canyon rim. How anyone jumps on and off a horse is beyond me and so I tip my hat to all those cowboy stars of yesteryear. They have all long ridden off into the sunset but have left a mighty lot of film and TV memories.

Well it’s time for me to hitch up and join a posse to track down the man in the black hat who designed 96 Shenley Road. Until next week partners, remember it’s not who draws the fastest but whose aim is the best.

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