Well, it is time once again to put on our walking shoes for a stroll down Memory Lane. You notice I say stroll as that is my top walking speed these days.

This week I am looking back on the careers of two film stars who in their day reigned supreme on the silver screen but I guess are barely remembered today other than by cinemagoers of that era or film buffs.

The first is Margaret Lockwood, who shot to stardom at Gainsborough Studios in the 1940s and is probably best remembered for her signature role in The Wicked Lady in 1945. Those costume dramas were extremely popular during the war years as escapism and made a number of stars. Alas, fame and the public are fickle and when I met Margaret it was at the ATV Studios in Borehamwood earning a few bob guesting on Celebrity Squares, hosted by Bob Monkhouse.

Margaret had enjoyed latter day success in an early 1970s television series called Justice. She told me: "The first time I came to Borehamwood was in the early 1930s for a screen test at Elstree Studios when I was still unknown. They insisted my eyebrows were shaved off and they never grew back!"

Margaret was made a CBE, which is one below becoming a Dame, in 1981, and that was one of her last public appearances. For health reasons she became a semi-recluse and died in 1990 of cirrhosis of the liver, although she had been a lifelong teetotaller. Alas I cannot claim to be the same but something always gets you in the end.

The second star of yesteryear is Stewart Granger, who also found fame in those now rarely seen Gainsborough films. His real name was James Stewart but Equity required him to change that as it conflicted with a well known Hollywood star. I met Stewart on the set of a 1980s film based on a Barbara Cartland novel, the title of which I forget, but the producers filled the cast with old names and up and comers. That meant you could keep the budget down.

Stewart left England in the 1950s and signed up with MGM. He was cast in action adventure films and costume dramas such as King Solomon's Mines, The Prisoner Of Zenda and Beau Brummell, the latter being shot at MGM in Borehamwood.

By the 1960s his career had gone downhill so he made a number of cheap movies in Europe.

He told me: "I think most of my films were rubbish but I had a great life. I started as an extra at Elstree Studios in the early 1930s as it seemed an easy way to make a living. I had no respect for MGM and the studio system so I became what they deemed a difficult star. Later I did a number of episodes of an American television series called The Virginian in the 1970s but it was not easy working with television 'stars' who were only famous for that series.

Stewart spent his last years in poor health and died from prostate cancer in 1993.

These days they give honours away like confetti to celebrities as they like to have a popular list. To me actors are today given an honour far too early whilst other old timers are ignored. In the old days they refused to give awards to stars who lived abroad. Hence the likes of Stewart Granger, James Mason, David Niven, Basil Rathbone, Richard Burton, Ronald Colman and Rex Harrison were ignored. What a shame.

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