I must start by saying that I was very sad to read in the press that veteran star Omar Sharif is now suffering from dementia, which looks like it will overtake cancer as the most common and feared disease in the Western world.

I am sure you will remember Omar as that romantic young star of films such as Lawrence of Arabia, and Dr Zhivago. The 83-year-old was still acting last year.

I say you will remember, but I was shocked to also read that about 70 per cent of people in England alive today were born after 1960, so I guess for many that makes the 1970s the ‘good old days’.

Perhaps I should stop writing about some of the older movies and their stars, but then again nostalgia never dies.

Luckily, I have always remained ‘down with the dudes’ and ‘hip to the beat’, and I am still groovy and in touch with the hit parade, which is massive and well good.

For us old timers this week, I am going back to a Borehamwood-made movie of the 1960s, which I feel is a bit overlooked by comparison with other 1960s war films shot at MGM, such as Where Eagles Dare and The Dirty Dozen.

I refer to Operation Crossbow, which told the story of an undercover agent trying to blow up a secret Nazi missile base in occupied Europe.

In many ways it was far more gritty than the other two movies I mentioned and far more star-studded.

The main star was Hollywood actor George Peppard, who I guess many will remember as the 
cigar-smoking leader from that awful television series The A Team, but older readers may remember him as the romantic lead in Breakfast At Tiffany’s and The Blue Max.

George was known as a heavy drinker during the height of his career and quite a ladies man – marrying five times.

His career in films peaked in the 1960s and his decision-making was sometimes dubious.

In the 1970s, he was cast as the lead actor in a new television series called Dynasty, but after bickering with the producers he was replaced by actor John Forsythe.

Sadly, George died in 1994 at the age of 65 after a battle with lung cancer, although he had given up 
smoking years earlier.

Operation Crossbow was packed with stars making fleeting appearances at every turn.

In one scene, there was John Mills, Richard Todd and Trevor Howard, and if you blinked you missed uncredited performances from the likes of Philip Madoc and John Alderton.

Gordon Jackson and John Le Mesurier apparently made it no further than the cutting-room floor.

Anthony Quayle and Jeremy Kemp had more substantial roles, but you could miss the likes of Sylvia Syms and the 1940s’ Casablanca star Paul Henreid.

Sylvia told me: “After working at Elstree for many years, going to MGM was like a taste of being spoilt. 
They made you feel like a star and each day freshly-cut flowers would be delivered to your dressing room.”

There is no doubt — and I say this as a lifelong Elstree Studio man — that the MGM Studios in Elstree Way exuded class and was far better maintained, as well as being over three times the size of Elstree with a marvellous backlot.

Why MGM closed and Elstree survived in 1970 is often debated.

Luckily, in the 1990s, I was able to interview all the key figures at MGM and Elstree, sadly all dead now, so I will outline the whole story in my book on MGM one day.

It is an interesting tale and from first-hand sources. Sadly, so many film books rely on second or third-hand information, or are just what we call ‘cut and paste’ efforts.

The other main star of Operation Crossbow was the lovely Sophia Loren, although her part was not the greatest.

Sophia is still going strong and seems to refuse to age from the time I met her on the mound at the back of Elstree Studios back in 1980.

Okay, some of my younger readers may never of heard of her, along with the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Diana Dors or Leslie Caron, but us old timers still have our memories.