THIS WEEK’S article is by request, so bear with me.
As many of you will know I’ve had a long career in radio, television, films, and as an author of twenty novels.
Consequently I’ve met and worked with many famous actors, actresses, writers, producers and directors.
Therefore I thought it might be fun and interesting for you if every so often I revealed some personal stories for you about my time with some of the legends of show business that I remember with such affection.
In other words I’ll do a bit of name dropping.
A few years ago, together with my partner and long time friend the late David Spenser, we set up a small independent television company which we called Saffron Productions.
Our first production was an arts documentary for the BBC based on the life of our old friend, Gwen Ffrancon-Davies. And when I say old I do mean old, for Gwen, one of the greatest classical actresses of the twentieth century, and whom in her youth had played Juliet to John Gielgud’s Romeo, was 98-years-old and still conducting acting workshops at the Royal National and Royal Shakespeare Theatres.
The film we made, which was called GWEN: A JULIET REMEMBERED was beautifully directed by David and featured tributes on camera from such luminaries as Dirk Bogarde, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Sir John Gielgud, Alan Bates, Anna Massey, and Sir Peter Hall.
But guess what? The film, which was the first made by our fledgling company, astonished everyone, especially David and myself, by winning the International Emmy in New York (television’s equivalent of the Oscar) and first prize at the New York Film Festival. Wow! But for me the biggest thrill was yet to come.
The razzmatazz ceremony, held at the Sheraton hotel in New York complete with red carpet and wavering searchlights, was beamed live on television from coast to coast in the United States, and required me, as producer of the film, to accept the award on behalf of Saffon Prodductions.
This I did with shaking legs and dry mouth, accepting the award from the Hollywood actor F. Murray Abrahams, who won an Oscar playing the villainous Salieri in the film version of AMADEUS.
Following the ceremony, in which I thanked practically everyone including the tea-lady, but forgot to mention David, our director, shaking with fear I was led off to be interviewed by over 200 media reporters on live television.
But then – it happened.
Clutching our Emmy (which is quite heavy) I made my way through the deserted hotel banquetting hall but came to an abrupt halt when a lovely, familiar female voice called softly to me: ‘Excuse me.’
I stopped and turned to see a vision of such female beauty approaching me, a radiating beauty that had adorned so many Hollywood and British films over the years that I nearly dropped Emmy onto my toes.
‘Can I just say,’ she purred, ‘that I thought your film tonight absolutely wonderful. Gwen has always been my idol. I adore her. Will you please give her something for me?’
Utterly speechless, I stood motionless clutching Emmy whilst this sylph like figure leaned forward and kissed me gently on the cheek, the cheek that has never been washed since.
Suddenly she was gone, leaving me in a state of disbelief. After all it’s not every day that you get kissed by someone like… Audrey Hepburn.
How’s that for a name dropper?
By the way, on her hundredth birthday, Gwen Ffrancon-Davies became a Dame of the British Empire. She died the following year.
That’s all folks!
From time to time I’ll be doing some more name dropping with people like Benny Hill, Mickey Rooney, and Burt Reynolds.
If you want to know more about my name droppers please contact me at: [email protected]