Date of Birth: 27 May 1943, Vauxhall, Liverpool, UK
Birth Name: Priscilla Maria Veronica White
Nicknames: Cilla Black
Cilla Black, broke through in the 1960s as a buck-toothed pop singer in the Merseybeat boom and went on to become one of the enduring stars of television light entertainment, hosting the brassy Saturday night favourites Surprise, Surprise and Blind Date.
In August 1963 she was a 20-year-old typist in a Liverpool office. A month later, having left the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein smitten, she recorded her first hit, Love of the Loved, a Paul McCartney number. By 1965 she had become the female symbol of British youth with two No 1 hits and a season at the London Palladium, and by 1968 she was a millionaire at 25. A quarter of a century later she was the highest-paid female entertainer on British television.
She made a career out of what one critic described as “the phenomenon of ordinariness”. Indeed she would scarcely demur at the description “dead common”. “Class, I haven’t,” she conceded, “but style I’ve got.” As the Liverpool docker’s daughter and ingenue pop star trailing in the Beatles’ wake, Cilla Black resolutely adhered to type: lacquered mane of flame-red hair (the consequence of a sixpenny rinse at the age of 13) short skirts, long legs and a strong Scouse accent.
After starring in her own BBC series Cilla in the late 1960s, she moved to ITV to star in a live Saturday night variety show, popping up “somewhere in Britain” with a camera crew to knock at someone’s front door. She once famously disturbed a man who skulked blinking on to his balcony followed by someone else’s wife wrapped in a sheet; another “Come on, luv, it’s Cilla 'ere” intrusion took her into a room where rows of embarrassed men on chairs who muttered one-word answers to her increasingly querulous questions turned out to be the clientele of the local brothel.
It was her ability to combine mischievous curiosity with deadpan humour that sealed her success with Surprise, Surprise (1984) on ITV, the strangely gripping show for which she was paid £15,000 a week. As well as emotional reunions of long-lost relatives, the show featured “Cillagrams”, in which she again turned up at a location unannounced but this time marking some special occasion with a song. Invited to the run-down port of Holyhead by the local Mayor, she sang Hooray for Holyhead in the main street, the watching crowds swelled by the staff of Woolworths who trooped out to hear her while looters trooped in through the back door and plundered the shop.
Unashamedly working-class, the show was panned by the critics as rubbish, but Cilla was unflinching. “I didn’t choose television. Television chose me,” she said. “I was a bit of fun and a bit of Scouse rough and everybody liked me, I was normal. I could have been the kid next door. And then I turned into the auntie next door. And now I’m the granny next door.”
But accusations of bad taste followed when, at Christmas 1987, the show took her to a hospital at Zeebrugge where victims of the ferry disaster were being treated, and she led medical staff and survivors through the streets of Bruges singing Little Drummer Boy.
“She really is a battler,” noted The Daily Telegraph critic, “and has honed to a fine edge her skills of cajolery, intimacy and self-deprecation .”
Her second television hit, Blind Date, launched in 1985, was a game of flirtatious lucky-dip between the sexes featuring participants separated by a screen who paired off without seeing each other amid laboured, scripted repartee. She had seen the show while touring in Australia, thought it hysterical and urged LWT to make a British version. The programme was compulsive viewing for many, although it came to be criticised for its increasingly explicit sexual innuendo.
The success rate for many of the couples was low, and most viewers tuned in to watch Cilla’s brilliantly scathing put-downs delivered (usually to the men) with robust Scouse grit. Three of the paired-up couples did, however, get as far as the altar after meeting on the show, and Cilla was guest of honour at all three weddings. In January 2003 she announced during a live broadcast that she was leaving Blind Date after 18 years. Paul O’Grady and Dale Winton were both lined up to replace her, but the show was cancelled after she left.
Priscilla Maria Veronica White was born in Liverpool on May 27 1943, the only daughter of a Mersey docker. Her mother ran a market stall selling stockings and trinkets. The family lived in a four-roomed council flat above a barber’s shop on Scotland Road, the rough and ready “Scottie Road” of Liverpool folklore and an Irish-Catholic stronghold; until she was nine, they had no indoor lavatory and bathed in a tin tub in front of the kitchen stove.
Priscilla Maria Veronica White was born 27 May 1943, Vauxhall, Liverpool, UK and educated at St Anthony’s Catholic secondary modern school nearby, she left at 15 to learn office skills at Anfield Commercial College. Within a year, she had taken a job at £4 a week as a filing clerk at British Insulated Callenders Cables, where she typed and deployed her 80wpm shorthand, supplementing her wages during her lunch hour by checking the coats at the Cavern Club, the up-and-coming music venue in Mathew Street in Liverpool city centre. At night she sang with some of the emergent Merseybeat groups such as Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and the Big Three.
At the nearby Iron Door club, she also sang with the still-unknown Beatles, courtesy of John Lennon who called her “Cyril”. In early 1962 Lennon introduced her to the Beatles’ new manager, Brian Epstein, who rejected her after she underwent an impromptu audition in the middle of a Beatles show at the Majestic ballroom in Birkenhead; she sang Gershwin’s Summertime but it was not in her key.
Her luck changed when, accompanied by John Rubin’s modern jazz group, she sang a few standards at the Blue Angel club, not knowing that, again, Epstein was in the audience. By now the Beatles were on their way to stardom, and Epstein’s talent stable was expanding. “Why didn’t you sing like that before?” Epstein asked. He was convinced that Cilla would become a huge star. Having changed her name to Cilla Black (the local Mersey Beat newspaper had mistakenly called her by the wrong colour) she made her first proper appearance with the Beatles at the Odeon, Southport, on August 30 1963, watched by Epstein’s father, Harry, who predicted she would be “the next Gracie Fields”.
A week later, over Sunday tea, Cilla and her father signed a contract with Brian Epstein. She was to be his first designer pop star and so was born Cilla black.
Cilla’s first single, Love of the Loved, written by Paul McCartney, charted disappointingly at number 35. But in February 1964 she had her first number one with Burt Bacharach’s Anyone Who Had A Heart. The American singer Dionne Warwick, who had already released her own recording of the song in the US, was miffed; while her version sounded effortless it was apparent that, as one critic put it, “Cilla was straining her garters”. Cilla Black herself recalled 30 years later: “Dionne was dead choked and she’s never forgiven me to this day.”
Epstein had heard Warwick’s record in the USA and had returned to Britain with a copy which he played to the producer George Martin. He immediately declared it would be perfect for Shirley Bassey. When Epstein insisted he had earmarked it for Cilla, Martin doubted that the Liverpool singer had the vocal ability to pull off such a powerful number. In the event Cilla’s recording sold a million copies.
When in May she followed up with a second No 1, You’re My World, Cilla became the first British female singer to have two successive No 1 hits. She appeared in that year’s Royal Variety Performance, where she met Gracie Fields, who did not take to her. Nor did Noël Coward, watching in the stalls, who thought her “ghastly beyond belief”.
In November 1966 she appeared with the comedian Frankie Howerd in Way Out in Piccadilly (Prince of Wales), the start of a long-standing friendship between them. The following year she signed a £63,000 contract to present her own series, Cilla, on BBC Television. Paul McCartney wrote the signature tune, Step Inside Love, and the critics loved her. “She’s ordinary and unassuming,” noted Philip Purser in The Sunday Telegraph, “and still tickled to death at being plucked out of the typing pool by the great god Pop.”
Cilla Black married her long-time boyfriend and manager, Bobby Willis, in 1969 who later died in 1999.
An appearance on Terry Wogan’s television chat show in 1983 was followed by a similar date with Jimmy Tarbuck on ITV; this was seen by John Birt, then director of programmes for LWT, who was struck by her fresh, unaffected, and “delicious, naturally funny” style. Realising her potential as a game show host, he booked her for Surprise, Surprise. She became a regular guest at Birt’s lunches for fellow celebrity Scousers when, with the likes of Anne Robinson, Roger McGough and Robert Runcie, then Archbishop of Canterbury, she tucked in to chip butties, scouse stew with pickled beetroot and jelly and evaporated milk.
Cilla Black never refused an interview request, the River Room at the Savoy being her venue of choice, and the presence of her beloved husband being a pre-condition a relic of her being invited, by one journalist in the 1960s, to stroke his war wound.
Politically, she swung from supporting Harold Wilson in the 1960s to backing John Major in the 1990s. She was an enthusiastic supporter of Margaret Thatcher . In August 2014, she was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to the Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September’s referendum.
Cilla Black was named ITV Personality of the Year for Blind Date in 1987 and Variety Club Showbusiness Personality of 1991. She won a Bafta in 1995, but disliked being labelled a television presenter. “I always think of myself as a singer. That’s what I want on my gravestone: Here lies Cilla Black, singer. Not TV presenter.”
Appointed OBE in 1997, the proudest moment of her career, she once declared, was “absolutely rubbing shoulders with and meeting the Royal family”. At her own palatial 10-bedroomed house in Denham, Buckinghamshire, once owned by Sir Malcolm Sargent and bought in 1965 for £40,000, she enjoyed her 17-acre garden and, in keeping with her lifelong frugality, vacuumed it herself every Sunday (the housekeeper’s day off) “in case the Queen drops in”.
She published her memoirs, Step Inside, in 1985. In 1994 she turned down an honorary fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University (formerly Polytechnic) when some of the students complained it would “devalue” their degrees.
In 2014 the actress Sheridan Smith gave a highly acclaimed performance in Cilla, a three-part television drama about Cilla Black’s rise to fame, acted, noted The Daily Telegraph, with a “killer combination of warmth, mischievousness and vulnerability”. Cilla herself described the portrayal as “terrific”, adding, “but God knows how she sang so well with those false teeth in.”
“I didn’t want to be Doris Day,” Cilla Black once reflected, “but I wanted what went with it. She’d talk about her backyard and it was three acres of lawn; our backyard was where we kept the coal. I wanted her backyard, the fame and fortune. If there had been Blind Date then, I would have been first in the queue.”
Date of Birth: 7 August 1945, Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Birth Name: George Ian Kenneth Ireland
Nicknames: Kenny Ireland
The actor Kenny Ireland, who has died of cancer aged 68, crowned a long career on stage and screen by playing the outrageous, Speedos-clad Donald Stewart in the popular ITV sitcom Benidorm. He and Janine Duvitski played Donald and Jacqueline, members of the Middlesbrough Swingers Association looking for other sexually adventurous holidaymakers in the Spanish resort. The fictional couple were Derren Litten's first creations when he started writing Benidorm and they appeared in all six series (2007-14).
"Half the things I don't understand," Ireland said of his character's lines to Radio Times last year. "There was one episode where I had to say, '[Jacqueline prefers] the sausage in cider.' I said, 'What's funny about that?' and had to have it explained to me."
There was an innocent, straight quality to Ireland's acting that helped to bring laughs in the early series of Benidorm and continued despite the sitcom's descent into the realms of a freak show with new, less believable characters.
Ireland was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, the son of Ian, an RAF bomber pilot who was killed on a secret mission when Ireland was five months old, and Elizabeth (nee Cowie). On leaving Paisley grammar school, he worked as an apprentice at the town's thread manufacturer, J&P Coats. However, his ambition was to act and he eventually left to train at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Then, as an actor and assistant director, he helped to establish the Lyceum Youth theatre in Edinburgh.
He made his West End acting debut in Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy (Mayfair theatre, 1976) after the Traverse Theatre Company's Edinburgh production transferred to London. He was then a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (1978-80), before work at the National Theatre (1979-84), where he was Apollo in Peter Hall's production of The Oresteia, and the Old Major and Pilkington in Animal Farm. By then, he was himself directing at the Traverse theatre.
Ireland first appeared on television as an Edinburgh bank manager in an episode of the police drama Strangers (1980). In between many other one-off roles, he played Sammy, alongside Simon Cadell and Carol Royle, in the first series (1987) of the sitcom Life Without George and the thuggish American media tycoon Ben Landless in the political drama House of Cards (1990).
He was also one of the regular group of actors in Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV (1985-87), best remembered in blue dungarees and cap as the handyman Derek in the much-loved Acorn Antiques sketches, which lampooned the soap opera Crossroads. "To this day, nice camp waiters quote my dialogue at me and are slightly disappointed that I don't remember any of the lines," Ireland said in 2007.
In the cinema, Ireland was in the Scottish film comedy Local Hero (1983), directed by Bill Forsyth, and Peter Greenaway's Drowning by Numbers (1988). With Hugh Fraser, he founded the theatre company the Wrestling School in 1988 to produce the works of Howard Barker, directing many productions himself.
From 1993 to 2003, Ireland was artistic director of the Royal Lyceum theatre, Edinburgh. Among the productions he directed were A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Tom Stoppard's Rough Crossing, Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge. On leaving, he made a stinging attack on the Scottish arts establishment for "providing theatre on the cheap" through underfunding. In 1997, he directed his first opera, Rigoletto, for Scottish Opera.
Date of Birth: 26 May 1946, Birkenhead, Wirral, Cheshire, UK
Birth Name: Lewis Collins
Lewis Collins was part of one of the great double acts in British television: Bodie and Doyle, the Seventies crime fighting duo in the series The Professionals.
As William Bodie, a former mercenary-turned-SAS trooper, Collins played the hardman of the team restrained, tough, yet armed with as many one-liners as lethal weapons. Alongside Ray Doyle, played by Martin Shaw, and under the uncompromising leadership of George Cowley (Gordon Jackson), his character worked for the secret government agency CI5. A fictional amalgam of MI5 and the CID, it was a below-the-radar unit set up to take the fight to nefarious criminals of every stripe from international drug dealers to terrorists.
Created by Brian Clemens, a producer who had made his name as the principal scriptwriter of The Avengers in the 1960s, The Professionals was filmed over four years (1977-81, though it continued to be aired until 1983). Yet Collins very nearly missed out on the central role of his career.
When filming began, in June 1977, Shaw was partnered by Anthony Andrews (who in 1981 would go on to find fame as Sebastian Flyte in the adaptation of Brideshead Revisited). After three days of shooting, Clemens decided that the pair did not have the required undercurrent of menace to carry off the concept.
He decided to keep the bubble-permed Shaw, who had established himself on stage at the National Theatre and elsewhere (in 1974 even playing Stanley Kowalski, the part made famous by Marlon Brando, in A Streetcar Named Desire). Casting around for a foil, Clemens thought of Collins, who had played opposite Shaw in an episode of The New Avengers. The producer remembered that the two actors had not got on well, and guessed that their tetchy relationship might develop into the abrasive on-screen pairing he was looking for.
In fact, when they met again, Shaw and Collins became friends. That chemistry carried to the screen, where though they were very different personalities their two characters are essentially devoted to one another.
A potent cocktail of violence, guns, girls and gangsters, The Professionals saw Bodie and Doyle operate in a seedy world of backstreet deals and silver Ford Capris, a mise en scène which lent their efforts an alluring sense of reality, no matter how fanciful the plot. When not disarming a Middle Eastern explosives kingpin, for example, the two were likely to be moaning about their lack of overtime pay, or their sore heads from the previous night’s boozing.
It was a mixture of glamour and grime that proved highly successful, if bruising. Collins and Shaw always did their own stunts and between them sustained three broken ankles and a fractured collarbone. Those who criticised the show for its excessive violence, like Mary Whitehouse, only added to its notoriety.
Towards the end of its run, however, all concerned accepted that the formula was becoming stale. Even so, Collins hoped that Bodie’s uncompromising persona might lead him to still greater heights. After The Professionals ended, he auditioned for the role of another secret operative: James Bond.
Lewis Collins was born on May 27 1946 at Bidston, Wirral, and left Grange Secondary School in Birkenhead to train as a hairdresser at the Andre Bernard salon in Liverpool. But in the mid-1960s he changed career to become a professional musician, and after stints with bands including The Eyes and The Georgians joined The Mojos, for whom he briefly played bass guitar.
The experience kindled an interest in the stage, and Collins enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art before going into rep. He worked at Chesterfield and Glasgow, and toured with the Prospect Theatre Company before graduating to London’s West End with stage roles in City Sugar and The Threepenny Opera.
While appearing in The Farm, directed by Lindsay Anderson at the Royal Court, Collins was noticed by television producers. His early television work included roles in popular series such as Z Cars (1974) and a recurring role as the lodger in the ITV sitcom The Cuckoo Waltz (1975-77), with Diane Keene and David Roper. Crucially, he broke with his light-hearted image to be cast as a hitman in a 1976 episode of The New Avengers with Martin Shaw — they were working together again less than a year later.
Apart from The Professionals, Collins was best known for playing the SAS officer Capt Peter Skellen in the 1982 film Who Dares Wins. He even applied to join 23 SAS – a Territorial unit – in real life, passing the entrance tests but being rejected on the grounds of his fame. As well as harbouring a lifelong interest in guns, he was trained in martial arts, including karate, and held a black belt in ju-jitsu.
Roles in other action films followed, including Code Name Wild Geese (1984), with Ernest Borgnine and Lee Van Cleef; and Kommando Leopard (1985) and The Commander (1988), both with Klaus Kinski.
His audition for Bond came in 1986. Collins had hoped to re-create the original, hard-nosed character of Ian Fleming’s books, rather than the suave Lothario portrayed by Sean Connery. “He’s not over-handsome, over-tall,” Collins noted of Bond. “He’s about my age and has got my attitudes.” The producer Cubby Broccoli, however, considered him “too aggressive” for the part.
Collins’s last British appearance was in a cameo role in The Bill in 2002. More recently he moved to Los Angeles with his wife and children. There he took a two-year break from acting and trained as a director-writer at the UCLA Film School. He also qualified as a pilot.
Early last year Collins was cast to play Earl Godwin in the historically-based film of 1066, but reportedly withdrew from the production and parted company with his agent. He had been diagnosed with cancer in 2008.
Date of Birth: 15 November 1926, Islington, North London, UK
Birth Name: Michael Weinstein
Nicknames: Michael Winters, Mike Winters
Mike Winters was the straight man to his goofy-toothed brother Bernie in the comedy double act Mike & Bernie Winters.
The brothers were pioneers of television comedy, first appearing on Britain’s screens in 1955 on the BBC show Variety Parade, before becoming regulars on programmes such as Big Night Out and Sunday Night At The London Palladium. In 1965 they won their own comedy show on ITV.
Mike was the suave, pipe-smoking member of the duo, referred to as “Choochie-Face” by his brother Bernie, a lovable buffoon with a gormless grin and the cheery catchphrase: “I’ll smash yer face in”. Known for his sophisticated wordplay, Bernie would confuse “vowels” with “bowels” or say “You’ve heard of Frank Sinatra? Well, here’s Stank Tomato!”, while Mike would interrupt with an exasperated “Stop! I’m not interested.”
It is somewhat difficult in hindsight to see what people found so funny; even in their heyday critical opinion was mixed. An oft-quoted story told of Bernie following his brother on stage at the notorious Glasgow Empire, to be greeted by a voice from the stalls: “Good God, there’s two of them!”. Meanwhile, when Morecambe and Wise were asked what they would have done had they flopped in show business, they replied: “We’d have been Mike and Bernie Winters.”
Yet they were immensely popular. Their ITV show ran for eight years, regularly reaching the top three in the ratings and attracting guest stars such as Tom Jones and The Beatles, who appeared on the programme three times.
The brothers continued to work together, but in 1978 they fell out, allegedly over Bernie’s long-running affair with a dancer 20 years his junior. While Bernie dreamed up a new act starring a new partner, his St Bernard dog Schnorbitz, and became a regular on television shows such as Punchlines and Give Us A Clue, Mike abandoned showbusiness and emigrated to Florida to become a businessman.
Michael Winters was born Michael Weinstein on November 15 1926 in Islington, North London, into an Orthodox Jewish family. His brother Bernie was born in 1929.
Michael attended the City of Oxford High School for Boys and won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music where he studied the clarinet. During the war he served in the Merchant Navy despite being underage. Discharged on medical grounds, he subsequently enlisted in the Canadian Legion as a musician.
He had a facility for jazz and after the war, with brother Bernie on drums, he began getting gigs at the Stage Door Canteen, an ex-servicemen’s club in Piccadilly. To keep the audience entertained they began interrupting their solos with short comedy impressions, and soon found work entertaining the troops abroad, appearing in the Occupied Zone in Vienna.
From 1955 to 1958 Mike and Bernie Winters were regulars on the BBC’s Variety Parade, after which they moved to ITV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium, supporting Shirley Bassey. They did pantomimes in Cardiff, cabarets in Sheffield and summer seasons in Yarmouth where, in 1967, despite the resort also boasting Rolf Harris, Morecambe and Wise and Val Doonican, each in their own their rival shows, Mike and Bernie broke all box-office records for the season — an achievement that still stands. In 1962 the brothers starred at a Royal Variety Performance and the following year they starred with Frankie Howerd and Tommy Cooper in Michael Winner’s film The Cool Mikado.
After the brothers’ act broke up, Mike emigrated to Florida, where he became a successful Miami nightclub owner, did much work for charity and wrote several books including a memoir, The Sunny Side Of Winters (2010). He eventually retired to Gloucestershire.
Although he and his brother never worked together again, they made their peace before Bernie’s death in 1991.
Date of Birth: 25 June 1935, East London, UK
Birth Name: Raymond William Butt
Nicknames: Ray Butt
Ray Butt, was the original producer of Only Fools And Horses, BBC Television’s award-winning comedy series which was regularly voted the nation’s favourite sitcom.
Its motley cast of eccentric, droll and low-life oddballs was headed by Del and Rodney Trotter, two south London brothers, played by David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst, who sold “dodgy gear” from a clapped-out yellow three-wheeler van (“Trotter’s Independent Trading Company, New York, Paris, Peckham”), in a perpetual quest for illusory fortune (“This time next year, Rodders, we’ll be millionaires!”).
The show had its origins in a conversation in a BBC bar between Butt, then directing the sitcom Citizen Smith (1977-1980), and John Sullivan, a former BBC scene-shifter turned scriptwriter whose latest idea for a new sitcom called Readies, set in modern multicultural London, was already causing jitters within the BBC hierarchy.
Over a drink, Butt and Sullivan compared their working-class backgrounds. Butt’s parents had run a stall on Roman Road market, and Sullivan had worked on street markets as a boy. They agreed that the most interesting market characters were the unlicensed fly-pitchers, always helped by a younger lookout, who sold useless goods like fake perfume or bogus designer clothes out of suitcases.
Butt and Sullivan started meeting regularly at Butt’s local pub, the Three Kings on the corner of North End and Talgarth Roads in Fulham, hatching the scenario that would become Only Fools And Horses. When Butt received Sullivan’s initial script, he fell about laughing. “It was marvellous, simple as that.”
Where Readies had rung alarm bells within the BBC, the new script was so enthusiastically received by comedy bosses that a six-part series was commissioned on the spot, without the usual pilot episode to test audience reaction.
But when it came to casting the main part of Del Boy, Butt only settled on David Jason after catching a repeat of Open All Hours in which Jason played the dozy Yorkshire shop assistant Granville to Ronnie Barker’s miserly Arkwright.
Sullivan, however, was not convinced that Jason could create the brash, fast-talking south Londoner he had in mind. Butt stuck to his guns, and invited Jason in to read for the part with Nicholas Lyndhurst, already cast as Del’s gauche younger brother, Rodney, finally persuading Sullivan that Jason would be ideal. He also convinced BBC bosses that even though Jason and Lyndhurst looked nothing like brothers, “that’s the fun of it!”
For all Butt and Sullivan’s high hopes, the first series in 1981 met with a muted response. They felt that the BBC, embarrassed by some of the more “colourful” aspects of the show, had buried it in the schedules. A second series also failed to make an impact, but when the episodes were repeated, they shot straight into the Top 10 ratings. By the end of series three, Only Fools And Horses was drawing 15 million viewers a week.
Eventually it broke all viewing records. Although it ended in 1991, a final three-parter in 1996, in which Del and Rodney discovered a watch worth £6 million, attracted more than 24 million viewers, the highest-ever audience for a British sitcom episode.
Butt found that working with the famously insecure Sullivan could lead to some narrow squeaks. Sullivan always delivered his scripts at the last minute, and by the time Only Fools And Horses was topping the ratings in 1989 he was so pressured that he was sending Butt a scene at a time. Only Fools And Horses won three Baftas and several other television industry awards.
With Sullivan, Butt had further success with the witty but bittersweet romantic comedy Just Good Friends (1983–86), starring Paul Nicholas and Jan Francis; and Dear John (1986-88), about a man whose wife has left him for his best friend.
Raymond William Butt was born on June 25 1935, the son of an east London street trader who had a stall selling sweets and cigarettes on Roman Road market in Bow, the oldest known trade route in Britain . Ray’s father also ran a sweets and tobacconists wholesalers elsewhere in the East End. The story of how his father and business partner cycled to Ascot to sell sweets at the races loomed large in Butt family lore.
As his parents moved around the East End, Ray moved from school to school, finishing at the William Ellis School in Highgate. As a teenager he worked for Tommy Cooper, the future comedian who long before he made a success in show business practised his patter selling ice cream in the Roman Road market.
Butt did two years of National Service in the RAF as an electrician, some of it stationed in Norfolk. His entree into television was accidental: when a relative spotted an advertisement for electricians at the BBC, he applied and was accepted.
Like John Sullivan, Butt was a protégé of the veteran comedy producer Dennis Main Wilson, who had previously presided over such classics as The Goon Show, Hancock’s Half Hour and Till Death Us Do Part. After working his way up from electrician to cameraman, by 1969 Butt was a full-blown director, his first major series being The Liver Birds.
He went on to direct many other BBC shows including Are You Being Served? (1972); Last Of The Summer Wine (1973); It Ain’t Half Hot Mum (1974); Citizen Smith (1977); and Hilary (1984).
After leaving the BBC in the mid-1980s, he directed two sitcoms for the ITV contractor Central in 1989, Sob Sisters and Young, Gifted and Broke, but they made little impact, and he retired at the age of 54.
Date of Birth: 8 August 1928, Brampton, Cumbria, UK
Birth Name: Derek Batey
Derek Batey, once asked a contestant on Mr and Mrs to name his wife's favourite flower. "Oh Derek, that's easy," came the reply from the husband as he smiled at his wife. "It's Homepride."
But the ITV show with which the Cumbrian presenter became synonymous, and which was watched by 11 million ITV viewers on Saturday nights by the late 1970s, was not premised on spreading marital misinformation to a nation of couch potatoes. Rather, its aim was to encourage conjugal felicity: the show's theme song went "Mr and Mrs, be nice to each other / Mr and Mrs, we've got to love one another". Coterminous with an era in which divorce rates soared and casual sex became socially unexceptionable, Mr and Mrs proselytised for the straight and narrow virtue of heterosexual commitment.
The show's format was simple: one partner sat in a soundproofed booth while Batey asked the spouse three questions. For example: What is your partner's favourite way to eat an egg? What part of your partner's body is she or he most embarrassed about? What animal is your partner most scared of? The pair then swapped places. Couples who got one question correct won £10 and those who got all six right won a jackpot of £2,000. Losers received a carriage clock and Batey's condolences.
For viewers, one of Mr and Mrs' pleasures was the insight into the otherwise inscrutable privacy of the British marriage. Batey once asked: "When you're having a meal at home and there's no one else around, just you and your wife, do you always have serviettes, sometimes have serviettes, or never have serviettes?" "He looked at me for about three minutes," recalled Batey, "and then said slowly, 'Do you mean boiled or fried?' " It wasn't always husbands who gave dopey answers, but mostly. Perma-smiling Batey, with his dapper bouffant and unflappable geniality, was a perfect foil to such follies. The show made him a national star.
Until 1967, though, he had been merely a presenter and interviewer on Border Television, the long-defunct ITV franchise based in Carlisle. In that year, he saw a tape of a Canadian version of the show that had been on air for four years, and he realised its potential. "I liked it and decided to run a Border Television version of it for 13 weeks. The response from our viewers was fantastic and it stayed in our local schedule every year from then until daytime television opened up in 1973, when it was taken by the full ITV network and was an immediate hit nationally."
He presented Mr and Mrs 500 times on television and 5,000 times on stage. For 12 years from 1975, he presented a Sunday-night stage version of Mr and Mrs at Blackpool's Central Pier.
Batey was born in Brampton, Cumbria, and won a scholarship to the local grammar school. He developed showbiz aspirations after watching variety acts including Arthur Askey, Will Fyffe, Ted Ray and Harry Lauder, and ventriloquist AC Astor, at Her Majesty's theatre, Carlisle.
In 1940, he bought a ventriloquist's doll for three guineas and called him Alfie. One day, little Derek was practising his ventriloquism act in the bedroom. "I heard a sort of squeaking noise behind me and turned round to see our window cleaner just about to fall off his ladder at the sight of a 12-year-old boy talking to a wooden doll in a mirror." After leaving school in 1944 to become articled to a firm of accountants, he continued with semi-professional "vent shows" several nights a week.
Batey's break came when he was booked by the BBC to perform his ventriloquism act, improbably, on local radio. Later he became a radio reporter on The Voice of Cumberland and Points North, a radio show from Manchester introduced by Brian Redhead. In 1957, he moved to TV as a regional compere on Come Dancing. In 1960 he was lured to become a presenter on the newly launched Border Television; there he produced and presented programmes about religion, politics and sport, and wrote calypso numbers.
As well as for Mr and Mrs, Batey was known in the 1970s for Look Who's Talking, a talk show whose guests included Ken Dodd, Norman Collier, Dukes and Lee, and Jim Bowen. At the height of his celebrity, Batey was on ITV three times a week – he also hosted Your 100 Best Hymns. In 1978, he joined Border's board of directors.
After retirement, Batey divided his time between homes in St Anne's in Lancashire (where he kept his collection of ventriloquist's dolls, including the venerable Alfie), Gran Canaria and Florida.
ITV axed Mr and Mrs in 1988, but in 2006 the production company Celador considered a version with gay and/or unmarried contestants. Batey, who owned the rights to the show, frowned on the idea, saying: "It is a format that has lasted throughout the times and I see no reason to change it." But it did change: now Phillip Schofield presents a celebrity version of Mr and Mrs on ITV.
Date of Birth: 14 January 1934, Merton, Surrey, England, UK
Birth Name: Richard Briers
Richard Briers, played the engaging free spirit who strove for a self-sufficient lifestyle in Surbiton in BBC Television’s classic 1970s comedy series The Good Life.
Although acclaimed on television for a style of dithering comedy which reminded an earlier generation of the Aldwych farceur Ralph Lynn, Briers also proved adept in serious roles in the classics. In Kenneth Branagh’s 1997 film of Hamlet, his Polonius was praised by one critic for its “conspiratorial edge”.
In The Good Life Briers played the hapless Tom Good, a draughtsman who decided to abandon the office rat race and live off the land. Instead of moving to the country, however, he and his wife Barbara (Felicity Kendal) eviscerated the lawn at their suburban home, planted vegetables and kept livestock all to the horror of their relentlessly middle-class next door neighbours Margo and Jerry Leadbetter (Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington).
With his omnipresent grin and boyish mannerisms, Briers proved perfect for the role. The Goods’ attempts to be truly self-sufficient were constantly thwarted by the machinations of the snobbish Margo, who feared that they were lowering the tone of the neighbourhood beyond repair; but Tom and Barbara always laughed in the face of adversity, and never lost their affection for their tormentor.
Written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey and screened in 30 episodes between 1975 and 1978, The Good Life was probably Briers’s most famous vehicle on television. It was “a happy and somewhat rare combination of intelligent writing and superb playing”, judged the television critic of The Daily Telegraph.
From 1984 to 1987 Briers starred in another popular sitcom, Ever Decreasing Circles. Also written by Esmonde and Larbey, it featured an obsessive, middle-aged fusspot whose settled routine is unexpectedly threatened by a flashy rival for his wife’s affections. Penelope Wilton played his long-suffering wife and Peter Egan the too-smooth neighbour.
It all seemed a far cry from Briers’s earnest portrayal of the Dane in a student production at Rada of Hamlet, when his naturally rapid delivery led WA Darlington of The Daily Telegraph to liken him to “a demented typewriter”. Yet with his sense of timing, air of hapless innocence and his ability to keep the straightest of faces amid the mayhem typical of his brand of embarrassed humour, it was no great surprise that Briers went on to become one of Britain’s leading practitioners of farce and light comedy.
Briers continued to be offered television work, and starred as the Rev Philip Lambe in All In Good Faith (1985-88). Lambe, the former vicar of an affluent rural parish, had to knuckle down to life in a tough Midlands city and meet its challenging problems. But after Briers’s conspicuous success at the BBC, this series his first for ITV was reckoned a disappointment.
Richard David Briers was born on January 14th 1934 at Merton, Surrey. His father, Joe Briers, was, among other things, a bookmaker, but found it hard to hold down a job and frittered away money in pubs. “[He was] a smashing man,” his son recalled, “but he was never settled in one job, and he was not as ambitious or acquisitive as I am. We were always on the edge, so I grew up in a slightly tense atmosphere.”
The family lived at Raynes Park, south-west London, and occasionally received handouts from a wealthy relation. Richard was educated at Ridgeway School in Wimbledon, where he failed to shine scholastically “I never even got a Z-level” but showed an interest in acting. The family’s flat overlooked a Rialto cinema, and he could hear the sound of the films playing below. His screen idols as a boy were James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart.
His first job, at 16, was as a filing clerk in the Strand, and after two years he endured “a further two years’ hard grind” doing similar work for the RAF during his National Service. He relieved the boredom by taking part in amateur dramatics and was encouraged in this by the actor Terry-Thomas, his father’s cousin.
Briers was offered a place at Rada, where he was a contemporary of Albert Finney and Peter O’Toole. For the first time in his young life he found himself excelling, and he won Rada’s silver medal for his portrayal of Hamlet. “Until then, I could just see failure staring me in the face,” he recalled. “Now there was a glimmer of hope.”
He made his professional debut at the Playhouse Theatre in Liverpool, where he met his wife, Ann Davies, herself an actress. “My first professional part,” Briers recalled, “was as a botanist who was mad about getting rare plants from America, and I’ve played fanatics on and off ever since.”
After touring in a farce, Something About A Sailor, and spells in rep at Leatherhead and Coventry, Briers made his first London appearance opposite one of the West End’s most famous theatrical couples, John Clements and Kay Hammond, in Lionel Hale’s comedy Gilt And Gingerbread (Duke of York’s, 1959). Other early West End work included Double Yoke (St Martin’s), It’s In The Bag (Duke of York’s) and Noël Coward’s Present Laughter (Queen’s).
Unlike some actors, Briers was not content with the notion of “resting” between jobs. His childhood poverty made him yearn for financial security; he seized every opportunity that came his way, and was careful with his money.
His break into television came in 1962, as a troubled pupil barrister in Henry Cecil’s Brothers In Law in a 13-part adaptation by Frank Muir and Denis Norden. Although he was a success in the first series, he declined to take part in a second, despite being offered double the money. “I wanted to be an actor rather than a TV personality,” he explained, although in the event it was television that drove his career forward.
Created specially for him, Marriage Lines (1963-66) was the series that established him in the public eye. Briers starred as a young man adjusting to married life with his former secretary in a small flat in Earl’s Court, south-west London. The series ran for 45 episodes and helped Briers to establish the amiably enthusiastic comic persona that became his signature.
His stage career continued in parallel, his most notable parts being Mortimer Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace (Vaudeville, 1966); Moon in The Real Inspector Hound (Criterion, 1968); and two of his favourite roles as Butley in the play of the same name in 1972, and Sidney Hopcroft in Absurd Person Singular at the Criterion in 1973.
In 1972 Briers returned to Shakespeare in the title role of Richard III on a provincial tour for Toby Robertson’s Prospect Productions. A decade or so later he earned further critical respect, particularly as Hjalmar Ekdal, the naive father in Ibsen’s grim masterpiece The Wild Duck (Lyric, Hammersmith, 1980), and as Uncle Vanya, for Kenneth Branagh’s touring Renaissance Theatre Company.
Briers’s television career continued to flourish with parts in The Other One (1977-79); One-Upmanship (1976-78); and the Alan Ayckbourn trilogy The Norman Conquests (ITV, 1977). When he befriended Kenneth Branagh, the young actor cast Briers in stage productions of Twelfth Night (1987), King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (both 1990) and Coriolanus (1992), and in his film versions of Henry V (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Frankenstein (1994) and In The Bleak Midwinter (1995). Hitherto Briers’s film career had been comparatively low-key, with appearances in A Matter Of Who (1961), All The Way Up (1970) and Rentadick (1972).
Between 2000 and 2005 Briers played the engagingly dotty laird Hector MacDonald in the BBC Television series Monarch of the Glen, alongside Susan Hampshire, Alastair Mackenzie and Julian Fellowes.
Off camera, Briers’s pursuits were essentially suburban: gardening or drinking in the garden, golf, entertaining friends and reading. He took a particular interest in theatre history, and was a member of the Garrick. He published four books, Natter Natter (1981); Coward and Company (1987); A Little Light Weeding (1993); and A Taste of the Good Life (1995).
For many years Briers and his wife divided their time between a house in Bedford Park, west London, designed by Norman Shaw, and a country cottage to which he escaped as often as he could.
He was appointed OBE in 1989 and CBE in 2003.
Diagnosed with emphysema in 2008, he estimated that he had smoked half a million cigarettes before giving up the habit in 2003.
Date of Birth: 21 May 1924, Kennington, London, England, UK
Birth Name: John Ammonds
John Ammonds was one of British television's finest producer/directors specialising in the field of light entertainment. He shaped countless peak-time shows during the so-called "golden age" of TV; and helped Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise and many other major stars reach the summit of their small-screen careers, setting a standard of quality in terms both of content and form that continues to command respect.
Among his distinctive contributions to the success of the Morecambe and Wise show was the droll little dance with which Eric and Ernie ended each performance (Ammonds got the idea from seeing Groucho Marx do something similar in the 1932 film comedy Horse Feathers), the deployment of star guests as unlikely comic stooges, and Eric's use of the close-up to make conspiratorial remarks to the viewers (a conceit that has inspired many imitations). He also ensured, as the writer Eddie Braben's amiably relentless taskmaster ("If you sent him a Christmas card, you'd expect him to send it back for a rewrite"), that the standard of the scripts remained remarkably high.
Ammonds was a calmly efficient organiser and encourager of diverse talents, temperaments and techniques; he could be creative and flexible as well as disciplined and managerial; he possessed an exceptionally sharp eye and ear for detail; and he always acted as though he was the servant of the public rather than of his profession. The most polished of populists, he epitomised the BBC's traditional dictum about "giving viewers what they want but better than they expected it".
He was born in Kennington, London, to working-class parents. His mother, Jessie, one of 16 children, had married his father, John, a watchmaker, in what John junior described as a "shotgun wedding" and he would say later that he remembered only the arguments between this "quite unsuited" couple during his formative years.
It was his father who introduced him to the world of entertainment. As a frustrated actor with a passion for the work of Charles Dickens, Ammonds senior sometimes co-opted his son into the amateur dramatic troupe he had formed, the Dickensian Tabard Players, to tour the workhouses and prisons in and around Southwark. One of the most vivid memories John would retain of these juvenile performances was of the occasion when, aged about 13, he appeared as Oliver Twist in a production staged inside Holloway prison before an audience of "extremely interested" women prisoners: "They were good and started shouting and screaming only after Bill Sikes had killed Nancy."
Although John won a scholarship to a grammar school at Sutton in Surrey, he found much of his education uninspiring, preferring to amuse himself at home by constructing a variety of crystal and cat's whisker radio sets in his father's garden shed. Rather than stay on to complete his Higher School Certificate, he left at the age of 15 and instead sat the entrance examination to become a civil servant at the London county council (mainly because it seemed to promise a job for life and a pension at the end of it). After sampling the job on a part-time basis, however, he decided to try something else.
His career in broadcasting began in 1941, after he sent a speculative letter to the BBC asking if there were any openings for a junior engineer and was invited to apply to become a sound effects operator in the corporation's engineering division. He spent the next 13 years in the BBC's variety department at London, Bristol and Bangor, before moving to Manchester to be a producer. By the mid-1950s, he was responsible for several popular radio shows, working with such popular northern performers as Jimmy Clitheroe, Dave Morris and, in their debut series, Morecambe and Wise.
Moving into television at the end of the decade, John soon won a reputation not only for the competence of his productions but also for his knack of embellishing the image of his stars. It was his idea, for example, to begin Harry Worth's shows with a much-mimicked optical illusion, involving his "levitated" reflection in a shop window, and his idea again to get Val Doonican to croon one song each week sitting in the rocking chair that ended up being his trademark.
It was after he was reunited with Morecambe and Wise in 1968, however, that John achieved his greatest success, proving himself, not only as producer/director but also as an all-purpose creative sounding board, as invaluable to the pair as George Martin had been to the Beatles. He taught them how best to use their talents for television, turning their show into the most admired entertainment of the time.
He left the show in 1974, after eight series, in order to devote more time to his wife, Wyn, whom he had married in 1952 and had then recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. However, he continued to oversee numerous other productions for both the BBC and ITV, including shows featuring Mike Yarwood, Dick Emery and Les Dawson. He was also reunited once again with Morecambe and Wise when they asked him to supervise their final few shows for Thames.
Ammonds was appointed MBE in 1975 for his services to entertainment who retired from broadcasting in 1988. Living in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, he continued to help care for his wife until her death in 2009, and acted as a wise and generous adviser to many writers and documentary makers keen to chronicle the era of television he had graced.
Date of Birth: 14 April 1929, Bloomsbury, London, England, UK
Birth Name: Gerald Alexander Anderson
Nicknames: Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson, after suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was the main mover behind a number of puppet series commissioned by Lew Grade's Independent Television Corporation. They made the company a fortune from the space age: perhaps the best known was Thunderbirds (1965-66), and among the others were Fireball XL5 (1962-63), Stingray (1964) and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-68).
Anderson embarked on Thunderbirds in 1964. For Grade, international sales particularly into the US market – were a key concern. So Thunderbirds focused on the Tracy brothers, with first names borrowed from the US astronauts Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, John Glenn and Gordon Cooper. Enormously popular in its time, the series is still being repeated today.
Scott and the others were members of International Rescue, based on a south Pacific Island, set up, in a nod to the Bonanza western series, by their father, former astronaut Jeff Tracy. Thus did the brothers, with their motto "Thunderbirds are go!", fight fires in mines and villains in Monte Carlo, rescue solarnauts from the sun, quench blazing gasfields and take on the evil of The Hood, a villainous mastermind operating from a Malaysian jungle temple over some 32 episodes. The British featured with aristo blonde bombshell Lady Penelope (voiced by, and modelled on, Anderson's then wife Sylvia Thamm) and Parker, Cockney butler-cum-chauffeur of Penelope's 21st-century Rolls-Royce, FAB 1.
The pre-ITV world of the early 50s had been one of puppets such as Muffin the Mule and the Flowerpot Men, a mirror for a Britain on extremely visible strings. Rocket men, on BBC radio, Radio Luxembourg and in the Eagle comic, meant Dan Dare and Jet Morgan recycled Biggles and Battle of Britain pilots. After Anderson, they were destined for the galactic dole queue, just as Eagle's demise was hastened by the arrival of Anderson spin-offs such as TV Century 21 (1965-71). "Everything we did," Anderson told his biographers Simon Archer and Marcus Hearn, in What Made Thunderbirds Go! (2002), "was in an endeavour to sell to America," and Grade spectacularly achieved that with Fireball XL5, a US network sale to NBC. Thunderbirds, shown across the world and more than a dozen times on British TV, is the show that defines the Anderson achievement, yet never attracted a US network.
There was also the merchandising, for all the hit Anderson series, but spectacularly for Thunderbirds. While listening to the Royal Netherlands Air Force's rendition of the theme tune, the consumer could contemplate the purchase of the Dinky Toy FAB 1. There was a (very) minor hit record for Fireball XL5 and, beyond toys, wrote Chris Bentley in The Complete Gerry Anderson (2003), there were "clothing, toiletries, crockery, bedding, soft furnishings, ornaments, stationery, confectionery and baked beans".
Grade and Anderson's collaboration began in 1960, in the wake of the latter's western series for children, Four Feather Falls. Anderson proposed Supercar, featuring just before astronauts took off a test pilot hero from Arizona, Mike Mercury. Grade slashed Anderson's projected budget by a third, commissioned 39 episodes, and sold the series to the US, where it was a huge hit. That year, Anderson married Sylvia, beginning their tempestuous creative partnership.
Two years later, as Fireball XL5 was going to NBC, Grade's Associated Television (ATV) purchased Anderson's company, Anderson Provis Films (APF). The deal enriched Anderson, and left him, Grade aside, in creative control. In October 1964 Stingray, with Captain Troy Tempest of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol, battling, among others, Titan, ruler of Titanica, waded ashore on ITV and netted ITC millions worldwide. After Thunderbirds came Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, and then Joe 90 (1968), which was erratically broadcast or not around the ITV network.
However, the moment seemed to have passed: television appeared clogged up with Anderson's Supermarionation puppets. Two Thunderbird movies had flopped; the tide was ebbing.
Anderson was born in London, the younger son of Deborah and Joseph Abrahams. Joseph's parents were Jews from eastern Europe. Deborah Leonoff's background mixed Jewish and Cornish roots. Their vituperative marriage gave Anderson an unhappy childhood. His father was a socialist, increasingly debt-ridden and trapped in low-paid jobs. The family gravitated from Willesden Green to penury in Kilburn, and then on to Neasden. In the face of the commonplace antisemitism of the times, mother and son, prevailing over Joseph, had the family surname changed to Anderson.
Gerry was educated at Kingsgate infants school in Kilburn and Braintcroft junior and senior schools in Neasden. Puppetry did not feature indeed, he preferred knitting. Escape was provided in the front stalls at the Kilburn State and Grange cinemas, facing each other across the Kilburn high road. He won a scholarship to Willesden county secondary school and became a chain smoker. The death of his Mosquito pilot brother, Lionel, on active service in 1944 devastated the family. Anderson enrolled at the local polytechnic, flirted with a career in architecture, and developed an aptitude for plaster modelling, which triggered dermatitis.
Then a friend invited him to the Pathé laboratories at Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, and Anderson the moviegoer became intrigued by film. At the end of the war he became a trainee at the Colonial Film Unit, before joining Gainsborough Pictures as an assistant editor. Work on two bodice rippers, Caravan (1946) and Jassy (1947), and a thriller, Snowbound (1948), was followed by a posting as an RAF radio operator. By 1950, he was a freelance dubbing editor. The films included The Clouded Yellow (1950) with Trevor Howard and Jean Simmons, Appointment in London (1953) with Dirk Bogarde, A Prize of Gold (1955) with Richard Widmark and Mai Zetterling, and Devil Girl from Mars (1954). It was a journeyman's career path, in a then declining industry.
In the mid-50s, commercial TV arrived. Anderson and Arthur Provis, a camera operator, set up Pentagon Films, whose recruits included Sylvia as a secretary. After Pentagon went bust came APF, which struggled until commissioned to produce a 52-part, 15-minute puppet series, The Adventures of Twizzle (1957-58). This was followed by Torchy the Battery Boy (1959-60). The wild west was big on late 50s British TV, via shows such as Wagon Train and Wells Fargo. APF came up with Four Feather Falls. Nicholas Parsons voiced, and Michael Holliday sang, Sheriff Tex Tucker. Bought by Granada, the programme debuted on ITV in February 1960. Tucker, his English-accented horse Rocky (Kenneth Connor), his dog Dusty and Pedro the villainous bandit rode into British children's teatime to be followed by Supercar.
In 1960 Anderson had produced and directed the B-movie Crossroads to Crime. At the other end of the decade, alongside a late and ill-starred puppet-live action series The Secret Service (1969), he produced the science fiction movie Doppelgänger. The live action TV series UFO (1970), The Protectors (1972-74) and Space 1999 (1975-78) followed. None greatly prospered.
In 1975, financially battered, and in the era before video sales, Anderson sold off his share of APF royalties. That year, too, he and Sylvia separated. Soon his relationship with ATV, in decline since the late 60s, ended. Anderson's finances were collapsing; his career reached its nadir before signs of revival in the 80s.
From the 1990s onwards the work of Anderson and the group of gifted puppeteers and film-makers he had worked with in 1960s Slough was rediscovered. There were conventions, live shows and repeat showings. Anderson developed other projects, but nothing really compared with those strange times and the mystery of Supermarionation, credited from the later episodes of Supercar.
Not that there was a mystery: it was the product, as the 60s advanced, of increasingly sophisticated and expensive technique. Just as the Wizard of Oz turned out to be a man behind a curtain, so Supermarionation merely combined the words "super", "marionette" and "animation". "It didn't mean," Anderson told Archer and Hearn, "anything other than that."
He was appointed an MBE in 2001. His first two marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Mary, two daughters from his first marriage, a son from his second, and a son from his third.