Well we can now hopefully begin to look forward to a changed but more normal future.

This week, I look back at certain stars who created their own images that overtook the real person. Sometimes an actor creates a persona that consumes them. Take for example the humble Archie Leach which as you pub quizzers know became the urbane Cary Grant. He was a big star from the 1930s onwards making many classic films including North By Northwest to name just one. In private life, he became an enigma. He married several times and had a daughter but many alleged he had affairs with various men including the legendary cowboy star Randolph Scott with whom he shared a house for several years. Today who cares, but back in the pre 1960s days it would ruin your career.

In that era, Hollywood had the newspapers and fan magazines under their thumb. Just remember even in the 1950s and 1960s Rock Hudson lived an openly gay life but the media left him alone. Cary was also mainly left alone during his lifetime and why not. He wisely chose to retire in the mid 1960s believing he was too old to play romantic leads and not fitted for character roles. Cary made a couple of movies in Borehamwood but alas before my time. He looked great until the end came in the mid 1980s while he was on ‘an evening with’ tour. Towards the end he said “I created the image of Cary Grant and ended up becoming him.”

Next we come to William Pratt who became the king of horror movies from the 1930s until the 1960s. Of course he is better known as Boris Karloff . In case you are asked to say what was his most famous film role, do not say Frankenstein as he played the monster. He also filmed at MGM in Borehamwood but I only met him once as a youngster a year or so before he died at the end of the 1960s. I still have his autograph. I remember asking him if he regretted being type cast. By this time he was a frail old man confined to a wheelchair. He replied: “Certainly not, dear boy, it has given me a lifetime of work which most actors never get to enjoy and a sort of immortality which when I was a struggling extra in the 1920s was beyond my wildest dreams.”

Finally I turn to Terry Thomas who I would have loved to had met. During the 1950s and 1960s he was the epitome of the gap-toothed, tashed English cad in both British and Hollywood movies. Of course he filmed at Elstree Studios and in that regard his best film was School For Scoundrels. I think it was about 1959 or 1960 but ironically it was the first location film set I ever visited as a kid. They were shooting a scene with Terry and Alastair Sim at the top of my crescent! Some decades later I was invited to be a guest of The Avengers fan club location tour and the bus picked me up from the same spot! Very sadly Terry was struck down with that awful illness Parkinson’s in the 1970s and by the 1980s he was living in a three room charity flat with his devoted wife as his carer. He had lost everything. Showbiz does not always provide happy endings nor ensure a good career if you are thinking of treading the boards.

Until next time take care.