Object of the Week : M is for MGM

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Whilst the Museum is closed and our collections unable to be seen by visitors, we have created a weekly virtual museum with an Object of the Week feature from our collections.

Object of the Week : M is for MGM  

This year commemorates the 50th anniversary of the closure of MGM Studios in Borehamwood.

MGM British was a subsidiary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and construction for the Studios began on the north side of Elstree Way in 1935.  This site was bordered by Shenley Road and adjacent to Thrift Farm. The Studios were sold to J Arthur Rank in 1938 and during the Second World War were requisitioned by the British Government for war work.

Films made here included Ivanhoe (1952) and The Dirty Dozen (1967). The castle built as a set for Ivanhoe could be seen when driving into Borehamwood and was often mistaken for a genuine historical monument.  The mound where the castle was built, is now part of the Film and Heritage Trail which runs through the Studio Way estate.

In 1970, the Studios closed and in the early hours of May 1973, a fire swept through the site, damaging a number of buildings being demolished in preparation for use as a cold store by Christian Salvesen. During 1973, a film crew for the production Holiday On The Buses filmed some of the demolition work as part of the climax of the film.

In 1987, despite local campaigns and protests,  the iconic Clock Tower was demolished when Christian Salvesen finished operations at the former studio. Unfortunately none of the buildings were listed and the site was cleared for industrial purposes.  The former library and leisure centre were built on an adjacent site and the backlot became the Studio Way estate.  According to former Museum Curator, Alan Lawrence, only a few bricks remain from the original wall alongside the road, marking where the Studios once stood.

This Polaroid Swinger camera, in the Museum’s collection, was used by MGM staff to record actors and sets in the 1960s.

The Plaster Vase is part of the private collection of Paul Welsh and was loaned to the Museum for display.  The vase was used to decorate sets and actors’ dressing rooms with flowers.

A book about the history of MGM has been written by local historian Paul Welsh and can be purchased from

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