Gone but not forgotten

When showing younger official visitors around Elstree Studios, I tend to forget that many stars are only remembered by the generation who were cinema-goers in their era.

For instance, I recently escorted two 24-year-old Californian young ladies around the studio only to find they had never heard of James Mason, Vivien Leigh or Terry Thomas.

However, they knew of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean even though they have been dead 36 and 43 years. Somehow they were "wise" enough to die tragically young and thus gain immortality.

It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find Olivia De Havilland is remembered by quite a lot of people, including at least two thirty-somethings locally.

When the article appeared in the Borehamwood Times about a possible visit by 82-year-old Olivia, I was stopped in Tescos by Diane who says she has always wanted to meet her and named her daughter after the actress.

In the bar at Elstree, Gareth revealed Miss De Havilland was one of his pin-ups, having watched her old films on television in his youth. Olivia has not made a feature film in 20 years and now resides in Paris.

It is not just people but buildings that can be forgotten by time. For instance, the famous frontage of Elstree Studios, demolished in 1990, is unlikely to be remembered by anybody younger than a teenager.

The MGM Studios in Elstree Way closed in 1970, so you would need to be in your 30s to remember it as a working facility. I wonder how many residents of the Studio Estate remember the film stars after whom the roads were named.

It is encouraging that a new company moving into Studio Way is planning to decorate its reception area around the films made at MGM. Perhaps that old saying is true — gone but not forgotten.