Another birthday has come and gone.

I used the occasion to start throwing away some old correspondence and came across three letters I received in 1995 from stars of Hollywood's golden era.

The first was from one of MGM's most reliable leading men of the 1930s and 1940s, Robert Young, although he is probably best remembered as television's Marcus Welby MD, from 1969 to 1976.

I believe his young co-star, James Brolin, later married Barbra Streisand.

Robert was spotted by an MGM talent scout and put under contract in 1931, going on to star with some of tinseltown's greatest names in such films as Tugboat Annie, in 1933, Northwest Passage, in 1940, and The Canterville Ghost, in 1944.

He developed a reputation as one of the screen's most relaxed good guys, but things were different in his private life.

Robert recalled: "In reality, I suffered from bad nerves and depression all my life, and for 30 years was an alcoholic."

This resulted in a nervous breakdown in the 1960s and an attempted suicide in 1991.

When Robert wrote to me, he was 88 years old and jokingly commented: "We had better keep the correspondence short at my age."

He recalled: "I made two films in England in the mid-1930s and the first was for Alfred Hichcock. When my wife and I arrived in London, we visited his flat. He offered us a cup of tea and after he drank his, opened the window and threw the cup out saying it was an old English custom.

"I was just about to do the same when my wife stopped me, realising it was one of his practical jokes."

He also mentioned that he had posed for a stars of yesteryear group photo in 1994, and remembered Ginger Rogers was standing next to Gene Autry on his horse.

Just as the photo was being taken, she cried out "The horse is eating my hair."

Robert died at the grand age of 91 in 1998.

The second letter was from 1940s and '50s screen goddess Virginia Mayo, who made her mark co-starring with James Cagney in the classic 1949 gangster movie White Heat.

Virginia told me: "I made six musicals for Warner Bros, and it dubbed my singing voice on all of them.

"Then I got a call telling me I was going to Elstree Studios in 1950 to appear with Greg Peck in Captain Horatio Hornblower.

"I later found out they had originally cast an English actress, Margaret Leighton, but when the Head of Warner Bros, Jack Warner, saw her screen test, he said, She's no good, we need a leading lady with big boobs so cast Mayo!'"

Under the old studio contract system that's how you sometimes got roles whether you were suited or not.

Virginia lived to be 85.

The final letter was from Roddy McDowall, who at the time was touring America in a play.

He wrote: "I have special memories of Elstree Studios, as that is where it all started for me as a child star in the late 1930s.

"I remember the likes of Monty Banks and Constance Cummings before my parents took me to America at the outbreak of the war."

His family settled in Hollywood and he soon scored hits with Lassie Come Home and How Green Was My Valley.

Roddy recalled: "My Valley was a real tearjerker set in a Welsh mining village.

"Later in life fans would ask me about working on location in Wales, but in reality, the whole village was constructed on the backlot of 20th Century Fox studios in Los Angeles, which has now been built on."

Roddy maintained a very successful career on film and stage, unlike many child stars, and is probably best remembered for the 1960s Planet of the Apes films.

He became a well known celebrity photographer and a great collector of movie memorabilia.

He kept his homosexuality private and was a great friend to many leading ladies including Elizabeth Taylor who always said you could tell him anything and he would never break a confidence in a town renowned for gossip.

When Roddy died from cancer, aged, 70 in 1998, he left his private diaries to the American Film Academy on the understanding they be kept closed for 100 years to protect other stars' privacy.