I found Greg Smith to be an inspirational theatre, film and TV producer. Even before I was lucky enough to interview him and to share chats with him on the phone and via email, Greg had been a source of great inspiration to me. So when the news of his passing was confirmed to me today I felt a great sadness and loss.

In my blog today I pay tribute to Greg and have decided to once again include an interview that I held with Greg by phone.

Fresh from his success with producing the spin-off film version of Dad's Army at Shepperton Studios at the start of the Seventies, Greg Smith moved to Elstree Studios to produce Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall.

The 1972 film starred Spike Milligan and Jim Dale. Happy with studio life at Elstree, Greg was to remain based there until 1991.

During his time there his work included the four Confessions films for Columbia Pictures which starred Robin Askwith. There is no doubt the production of the series helped to keep Elstree Studios in business at what was a very difficult time for the company.

But these films are not the only productions that the busy television, film and theatre producer worked on during his long career.

Greg's other extensive and varied credits included producing the films Stand Up Virgin Soldiers and The Boys in Blue (which starred Cannon & Ball). He also made The Shillingbury Blowers and The Shillingbury Tales, for ITC/ATV, the Bafta-nominated Othello for BBC Television, and co-produced the hit West End theatre musical, Buddy.

I talked to Greg about his memories of working at Elstree Studios in 2007.

Paul: What memories do you have of working on Confessions of a Window Cleaner at Elstree Studios?

Greg: It was such a great time. The film cost just £150,000 to make in 1974 and was a huge success. However, it was a miracle that it ever got made, as Britain was on a three-day week, but despite everything the film was completed on time.

Paul: What was the director of Confessions of a Window Cleaner, Val Guest, like to work with?

Greg: Val was a great craftsman. His death in 2006 was a great loss to the film industry.

Paul: At the end of 1975, I believe you and your then wife, actress Lynda Bellingham, held your wedding reception in Stage 7 at the studios.

Greg: Yes, and the cast of the film Confessions of a Driving Instructor, which we were just about to make, including Windsor Davies and George Layton, attended the reception.

Paul: What other memories do you have of working on the Confessions films at Elstree?

Greg: Well, part of my deal with the studios was that if Stages 3 or 4 was not being used at the time, then the cast and crew would play five-a-side football in them at lunchtime.

Paul: Did you get to know Andrew Mitchell, the one-time managing director of the studios?

Greg: Yes, I used to meet Andrew twice a week at the studios for lunch. He was the best studio managing director I have ever met.

Paul: How was life when Brent Walker took over the studios in 1988?

Greg: Elstree suddenly became like a ghost town. In the past, it had been a vibrant studios, and it was soul destroying to see what happened, especially when part of the site was demolished. But I was very pleased to hear you say that the remaining parts of the studios are now very much open again and very busy.

Greg and I had planned to meet for lunch at Elstree Studios and also at his base at Shepperton Studios. Sadly this was not to be. His passing really does mark the end of an era. I only knew Greg for a short time but I will miss his calls and his emails - and my chats with his wonderful PA, Susan.

As I previously mentioned Greg was an inspiration to me. His enthusiasm for Elstree Studios and for filmmaking was a joy to share. It was great to talk to someone else that shared the same views. As a result it always pleases me to see that posters of some of Greg's films still hang in the corridors at Elstree Studios.

I recently said to Roger Morris, the new managing director of Elstree studios, that it would be good to see a stage, a room or an area of the studios named after Greg. I hope this will happen one day as I personally think Greg deserves such a tribute.

People, quite-rightly, speak about just how much George Lucas' films helped to keep the studios open, but there is no-doubt that the films Greg made there also helped to keep the studios alive in the Seventies.

RIP, Greg.

© Paul Burton 2009