Hello again to my fellow travellers down Memory Lane. I hope you are all holding onto the wreckage as the end of lock down is now hopefully in sight and the pub garden beckons.

This week I take you back to Elstree Studios in 1960 as the facility was busy with a number of films and many stars. On the home grown front Tony Hancock was in front of the cameras making The Rebel. During the 1950s he had become a very popular star first on radio and then television so progression to the big screen was the next step. Alas, in his private life Tony was not a happy soul and was a heavy drinker which did not mix well with his depressive illness. A few years later he sadly committed suicide in a lonely hotel room in Australia.

A newcomer to the scene flew over from Hollywood to star opposite veteran Vivien Leigh in The Roman Spring Of Mrs Stone. His name was Warren Beatty and he went on to enjoy a successful career returning to Elstree many years later to make the Oscar-winning movie Reds with Jack Nicholson.

Stanley Kubrick was at the studio directing the controversial film called Lolita and was to maintain long links with Elstree over the succeeding decades using the post production facilities and to make such films as A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. I personally thought he was over rated although his film 2001 made up the road at MGM was a classic but legions of fans will disagree with me.

A clock from Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey

A clock from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey

A classic clock from 2001: A Space Odyssey

The Story Of David brought a 1950s Hollywood hearthrob Jeff Chandler from Hollywood. I guess he is a forgotten name today but he was quite a hit with his female fans. According to her autobiography the late MGM star Esther Williams, famed for her films involving swimming sequences, she had a romance with Jeff but was turned off when she found him trying on her clothes. Sadly Jeff died a few months after appearing at Elstree when he injured his back and died during a botched up routine surgery for which his family successfully sued the hospital.

The Naked Edge brought the legendary Gary Cooper to the studio to star in a whodunnit mystery. Sadly he was already ill from cancer although he was not informed and died before the film was released. It co starred Deborah Kerr who told me years later she only took her role to have a chance to work with a legend. The supporting cast included Peter Cushing who told me he was in awe working with Gary. As I have mentioned before this film marked my first visit to Elstree Studios to get the autograph of Gary which I still have today. Where have those 61 years gone?

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

When The Trials Of Oscar Wilde went into production at the studio they were aware of a rival film based on the same story was due to start at Pinewood. The decision was made to hire all the hansom cabs that were available and park them on the backlot to prevent the rival movie untilising them to outdoor scenes. All is fair in love and motion picture production.

It is on my bucket list to ride in a hansom cab one day, just as it is to jump into a taxi and tell the driver to follow that car. Have I been watching too many movies? Until next time I take to Memory Lane, take care my fellow travellers.

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