Who remembers the RKO Radio Pictures actor and gangster style of George Raft, star of films such as Manpower and Nocturne?
In 1967 he was a director of the Colony Club in London. I was lucky enough to be filming at the Mayfair venue for a new documentary, and it still has all the history, panache and style of Mr Raft’s style. But it did not end well there for George, who was banned from returning to the UK by the Government, and he vowed never to return. If you’re a lover of the golden age of film, go check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
© Maycon Pictures
Sheridan Smith has just signed a record deal with East West Records (the label for Simply Red, Muse, Bonnie Tyler, Beverley Knight and Bette Midler) to release her debut album in November. The actress said: “It has been an ambition since a child to record my own album, so I’m incredibly excited to be recording some of my favourite songs.”
Legendary actress Diana Rigg turns up in ITV’s Victoria as an acerbic Duchess, with very similar lines to Maggie Smith’s Dowager in Downton Abbey. But Dame Diana reveals”: “I think when you have a strong woman on screen there is always that similarity, and so people look for it, but I can assure you my Duchess is one on her own, and yes I adore playing her.”
Actor Nigel Havers tells me that he has no idea why he is always cast as cads. He admits: “I think it’s what you start out with and what roles give you the big breaks, and then of course people think ‘he did that well’ so cast you again. Now, though, I love playing pantomime baddies, it’s such great fun.”
Trudie Goodwin, who played Sergeant June Ackland in The Bill, tells me that she is amazed the show is still so popular with fans. “I look back and love it, but I did look so young last time I checked in,” she laughed. “I think its success is down to a simpler time, and people having time for each other, which we have lost of late.”
Emmerdale and Hollyoaks actress Gemma Atkinson reveals she’s “beyond excited” but “incredibly nervous” about taking part in the new series of Strictly Come Dancing. “It’s such a legend of a show, and you want to do well, but you think will I go early ... will the public like me, and will my professional dancer like me, which is more important in the end.”
Emmerdale stars are worried as this is the time of year when contract renewals take place, with the final decision in time for Christmas. Actress Natalie J Robb admits: “It’s a nerve-wrecking time as you hope you will be kept on. I am loving the variety of work I have been given, but yes it’s fair to say that all soap actors at this time of year admit they are worried.”
Stand-up comedian Rob Beckett is to become one of the faces of BBC One’s prime-time Saturday night schedule. The BBC has announced that he will host All Together Now, a six-part entertainment format involving singing. The show will be broadcast in 2018.
Tony Award-nominated actor Kelsey Grammer is making his West End debut in the premiere of the American musical ‘Big Fish’, which is set to begin performances at The Other Palace on November 1. Kelsey, still a huge hit on Channel 4 with repeats of ‘Frasier’, tells me: “I have appeared in a musical in the US but not here, so I figured I should change that and well, I am so excited to be appearing in this one. It should be fun.”
Barbara Knox has been a beloved actor on Coronation Street for more than 53 years. She has been involved in a plethora of high-profile storylines as Rita Littlewood/ Fairclough/Sullivan/Tanner. Now it appears she is being lined up for an exit storyline – and fans want to know why ... it’s money. Ms Knox is one of the soap’s highest paid actors after Bill Roache, and Granada, ever keen to keep costs down, have simply given her an exit storyline.
If you think that Joan Collins got a start in showbiz as an unknown, think again. Not only was the Dynasty star’s father a top agent, but it’s also emerged that her uncle Godfrey was the owner of the top make-up brand Rimmel, giving Joan great access to many actors, agents and the world of celebrity. Joan herself says she is “very proud” of that fact too ... so not quite discovered from nothing.
Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood tells me he does struggle at times with recognising the ‘stars’ they bring to the show. “Darling, as you can imagine it’s tough, but I think that it’s fun as they try harder for attention and can be the surprise heroes of the show. We all love a tryer, don’t we?” he laughed.
Jeffrey Holland’s career has encompassed stage, screen and radio, though he is still best remembered as Spike Dixon, the naive comedian at Maplins holiday camp in the classic sitcom Hi-De-Hi! Now he tells me he has taken on another great comic legend. “I tour with my one-man show, Mr Laurel, dedicated to my heroes Laurel and Hardy,” he said. “They were so wonderful and funny and people today still love them, so keeping his name alive is so nice for me. I do enjoy it, but I know I will always be Spike to many people.”
Actor Jack Lane is to go on tour this autumn with the stage show ‘Wisdom Of A Fool’, about Norman Wisdom’s rise through the post-war variety circuit. He takes on the personas of 30 characters and tells me: “I cover the period when Norman was at the height of his fame as a Rank Film star. This has been a labour of love, as he really is my favourite comedian of all time.”