Well, we are certainly in strange times and I must admit living alone and self-isolating means I am starting to become bored with my own company. Ironically this would be the perfect time to start writing another book but motivating myself is the challenge. However, I know many readers will be struggling with their own situations and often financial worries so I cannot complain.

This week I am just going to ramble on about some of the actors I have met over the decades. Overall they have been good experiences albeit some were on the grumpy side, perhaps I just met them at a bad moment. I once met Leo McKern, who you may remember as Rumpole Of The Bailey. I made the mistake as addressing him as Leo, to which he retorted "we have not met before, so why should you use my first name?"

I recall being introduced to Petula Clark on the set of a film at Elstree Studios. I asked her if this was her first film at Elstree. I was referring to that particular studio but I guess she thought I was referencing all of the Borehamwood studios. Petula replied "Young man, I was starring in films at the old National Studios before you were born and made the musical version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips at MGM just up the road. I suggest you research before undertaking an interview." I was of course aware of those facts but it taught me a good lesson in choosing the correct wording for your questions.

Donald Pleasance was an odd interviewee on the set of The Monster Club at Elstree Studios in about 1980. It was lunch break and he was chewing away on some sandwiches. He seemed quite amiable to answer questions, including his interest in real-life murder trials at the Old Bailey and playing Dr Crippen at Elstree in a 1960s film. I then apparently made the mistake of asking about the violence controversy surrounding one of his recent movies called Soldier Blue. He looked at me with those memorable eyes and thereafter the answers reduced to two or three words each. The publicist stepped in, we shook hands and never met again.

By contrast, I sat on the set of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1988 with none other than George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. I was chairing the Save Elstree Campaign and Pat Carr, who had launched the fight, was working on the film and arranged the meeting for me. One of the publicists took annoyance at this special treatment so accompanied me to the meeting. I was told not to bring a note book or tape recorder, although this person would be taping the chat in case I misquoted anything. It was an interesting meeting and they were both nice guys. It was obvious they would not buy the studio, but would give media support. In fact when I got home I made some notes from memory but was never allowed to hear that tape. Hence 32 years later I have no idea where my notes are and a only fading memory of the chat, which is a pity.

I recall meeting Charlton Heston when he visited Elstree Studios for a few days to do some retakes on an awful film called The Awakening. Let us just say he did not suffer from modesty and after playing Moses who could? He thought himself to be a great actor and certainly starred in some classic epic movies.

That is enough name dropping for another week. It was great fun to meet these people and I was very lucky, so no complaints. Until next time please obey the advice as I need all my fellow walkers down Memory Lane to remain healthy. I have to bore somebody !

  • Paul Welsh is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios