It is sad once again to note the death of one of the most popular television stars and singers of the 1960s onwards. I refer of course to Des O’Connor, who passed away as a result of a fall at his home.
Des enjoyed great success during his career and was a regular visitor to the ATV studios in Borehamwood, where he had his own series. He was able tackle most roles in showbiz with apparent ease and an aura of charm that appealed to many viewers.
%image(‘12047017′, type=”article-full”, caption=’Des O’Connor arriving for the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the centenary of the London Palladium theatre. Entertainer Des O’Connor has died at the age of 88, his agent has said. Photo: PA’, alt=”Des O”Connor arriving for the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the centenary of the London Palladium theatre. Entertainer Des O’Connor has died at the age of 88, his agent has said. Photo: PA’)
Des O’Connor arriving for the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the centenary of the London Palladium theatre
Although his friends Morecambe and Wise often mocked his singing, he did record 36 albums and joined in the fun. I liked the crack when Ernie said to Eric “do you know Des is a self-made man?” to which Eric replied “That is good of him to take the blame”.
The great shame of this damn virus is these stars cannot have showbiz funerals or memorial ceremonies to honour them.
This week I am looking back at the career of an Elstree Studios discovery back in the late 1940s. Laurence Harvey was born into a Jewish family in Lithuania in 1928. Upon arrival he took up acting as a career. He was spotted and rose quickly to stardom and along the way made himself one of the most disliked actors of his generation within the business. For some reason Laurence adopted a stance that he was a great star and needed to be treated as such.
Richard Todd worked with him on a film called The Long The Short And The Tall and Richard told me he could not stand his attitude and had a big row with him as he felt he was leading newcomer Richard Harris along a similar path. He certainly had luck on his side by scoring a hit with British movie Room At The Top, before quickly moving to Hollywood to co-star with John Wayne in The Alamo and Frank Sinatra in The Manchurian Candidate.
Harvey also married the widow of the awful creator and head of Columbia Studios Harry Cohn. When Harry died they held a service and it was crowded. An executive attending turned to actor Red Buttons and said “I never knew he was actually so popular”. Red replied: “He is not. They are just here to make sure he is really dead.”
Alas, by the mid 1960s the career of Laurence Harvey was on the wane. One of his last appearances on screen was as a guest star in an episode of the popular television series Columbo, but he was looking gaunt and had aged.
He was an actor of limited range but would have done well in the old days when studios signed you on and cast you in appropriate roles. He chose to rip up his contract with Elstree and make enemies, which was sad.
Laurence died from stomach cancer aged just 45 in 1973 and I guess unless you are a film buff is a forgotten star.
As Richard Todd told me: “Be careful who you step on climbing the ladder of success as sooner or later you may be descending and meet them again as they are climbing up.” Luckily I cannot climb ladders anymore, so until next time stay safe and please respect those who are trying to so we beat the virus!
Paul Welsh is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios Advertisement