This week my column is a bit of a pot pourri, or whatever it is called, as I had too many sherbets last night as thankfully I no longer drive but please don’t tell my doctor.
I had a really enjoyable visit to my old friends Ken and Wendy, who live in the Beverley Hills of Herts called Radlett. I will not say it is posh but I had to decant my gifts bought in Aldi into an old Fortnum and Masons bag to be allowed entry.
Back in the 2000s they very kindly photographed several plaque unveiling ceremonies I organised at Elstree Studios for and with the likes of Sir Cliff Richard, Simon Cowell and Sir Roger Moore.
When you are hosting such events you never really have a chance to take it all in so I always arranged for the events to be videoed and photographed. I was a bit silly and old fashioned so I did things with a handshake, but now I stress you must get everything in writing – copyright law is a nightmare. Luckily Ken and Wendy are good pals and perhaps one day we can do a simple photo book so others can share behind the scenes photographs of these one-off occasions. I am unable to share the videos of the plaque unveilings I hosted in the 1990s with the likes of Honor Blackman, Sir John Mills, Hayley Mills, Richard Todd, Olivia de Havilland and so many others. I have private copies but no doubt they will be binned when I kick the bucket.
My other regret is I did not save more film props from studio visits in the old days before the nostalgia boom hit and sent prices soaring. When I visited the closed MGM Studios in Borehamwood in 1970 there was a shed full of 2001: A Space Odyssey props. There was an office shelf full of original film scripts, for which the demolition manager was asking £2 each. I was earning just £15 a week then so I had to decline. I will not go into when I could have grabbed Star Wars stuff that could keep me in clover today, but I was honest. Wadda mistake-ah to make-ah considering the standards of today.
I am told the most expensive film prop of all time is Robbie The Robot from the wonderful science fiction 1956 classic Forbidden Planet, which I recommend you to watch. Apparently it cost MGM about $125,000 to produce the robot, which was a huge investment in the 1950s. It sold in 2015, after years of neglect, for $5,375,000 in 2015.
The film starred veteran MGM star Walter Pidgeon, best remembered now for How Green Was My Valley and Mrs Miniver from the 1940s, and a new star named Leslie Nielsen. He of course struck gold at the end of his career with comedy roles in Airplane and the Naked Gun series before his death in 2010. I have kept certain items in storage at Elstree Studios, such as the lift shoes Tom Cruise wore in the original Mission Impossible, the last jacket Dean Martin wore on screen and a hand model with bones and pipes to pump fake blood for when Dracula dissolves in a Hammer movie. With any hope of an Elstree and Borehamwood film and television museum gone, I recommend eBay to my executor. Until next time, take care.
Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios