Sitcom Heaven this past weekend at Elstree Studios saw some well-known television stars of the 1960’s & 70’s reunited.
As part of Elstree’s 90th year of celebrations, the best of British big screen versions of hit small screen sitcoms came together at the studios where they were filmed.
The day started off with a locations bus tour for a tribute to On the Buses. All three On the Buses films were made at Elstree Studios. The first film was the highest grossing picture in the country in 1971 beating James Bond outing Diamonds Are Forever. Made for just £88,000 it grossed £1 million in its first six weeks of release.
Elstree film historian, Paul Welsh, took to the stage for a Q&A session with a host of names including EastEnders’ actress Anna Karen – who played Olive in On the Buses – and John Lyons from A Touch of Frost. The packed house of almost 200 guests watched exclusive and previously unseen interviews with the show’s late stars Reg Varney – who would have been 100 in July – and Stephen Lewis
The evening saw a tribute to comedies Man About the House & George & Mildred with reminiscences and tributes to the late Yootha Joyce who died aged just 53 after the film was made at Elstree in 1979.
Reunited on stage were Sally Thomsett – Jo in Man About the House, Norman Eshley – who appeared in both productions as Jeffrey Fourmile and Nicholas Bond Owen along with David Barry of Please Sir, The Fenn Street Gang and George & Mildred film. Their Q&A was conducted by Elstree Chairman Morris Bright who reminded the guests that all the shows regularly received audiences of between 15 and 20 million viewers a week.
Both sessions included an auction of Elstree-related comedy memorabilia. The film versions were big screen adaptions of popular ITV sitcoms of the day, Man About The House and its spin-off George and Mildred were produced by Thames Television while On The Buses was a popular production from London Weekend Television. The regular small-screen versions were produced at ITV television studios elsewhere in the city.
“It was wonderful to welcome so many familiar names of the past back to Elstree where the cinema versions fo these big tv comedies were made, to reunite some of the actors and hear how much fun they had working on some of the great laughter making shows of the 1970s.” – Morris Bright