This week, fellow travellers, I turn the clock back to 1971. Where have those 50 years gone? There have certainly been some changes. Can you believe it was still legal then for pubs to refuse to serve a woman on her own.

A pint of beer cost 15 pence, a pack of 20 cigarettes only 27 pence and the average weekly wage was £28, although I was only earning 15 guineas. The state pension was £6 a week and the average house price only £5,600.

Elstree Studios was busy with a number of films in production, plus a television series called The Protectors. The most successful movie turned out to be a television spin-off called On The Buses, which made ten times its budget back within a year.

Perhaps the most cursed film in production was Hammer's Blood From The Mummy's Tomb. Its star Peter Cushing had to withdraw after the first day of shooting when his beloved wife Helen was rushed into hospital and died a couple of days later. The producers phoned up actor Andrew Keir, who told me: "Luckily I was free so I had to pick up the script from the studio gatehouse and started a couple of days later."

Andrew had worked for Hammer before at MGM just up the road, starring in Quatermass And The Pit. He recalled: "That was not a happy experience as the director had wanted Kenneth More and it was a difficult relationship."

The director of Blood from the Mummys Tomb died unexpectedly. Photo: Pixabay

The director of Blood from the Mummy's Tomb died unexpectedly. Photo: Pixabay

Blood From The Mummy's Tomb then suffered another setback when the director died one week before the end of filming, and the picture proved a flop at the cinema.

Another film in production was Endless Night, which guest-starred the great George Sanders, whom I had the pleasure to meet. It was ironic that his film career was due to start at Elstree in 1936 but a fire burned down much of the studio and with it went his contract. He went on to an Oscar-winning career in Hollywood but Endless Night was to be his final screen appearance. A few months later he took himself to a hotel in Spain and ended his life alone in his room with the help of pills and vodka.

On a more positive note it is great to see that work is proceeding on the giant new Sky Elstree Studios located in Borehamwood just a few hundred yards from where the old MGM studios stood. A building contract worth £192 million has been awarded. 50 years ago MGM had recently closed, so if you live long enough everything comes around again.

It is also great to read that two old film studios are being given a new lease of life having once been threatened with demolition and redevelopment. Twickenham is getting a £15 million makeover and Bray, once home to Hammer films, is also being reopened. Bray has a link to Borehamwood as it bought one of the stages from MGM when it closed and it is still there.

So it seems Borehamwood is once more destined to become the Hollywood of Europe, with three studios within a mile of each other continuing a legacy that dates back 107 years. Not bad for a small town in Hertfordshire. All we need now is a proper heritage centre to celebrate this unique history and I hope I have enough years left to see that happen.

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