Home > News

TV News

Peter Wyngarde, actor famous as the suave television sleuth Jason King, has died aged "around 90" (18 January 2018)
Following the War, Peter Wyngarde, who had endured the Japanese internment camp Lunghua due to his British diplomat father visiting China at the time that the Japanese invaded, returned to London and claimed to have read law at Oxford, but there is no record of him having studied there in the postwar years. His first acting credit was as a policeman at the Buxton Playhouse in May 1946, making nonsense of the 1933 birth date he claimed.
He supported Alec Guinness’s Hamlet at the New theatre in London in 1951, then played the soldier Dunois to Siobhán McKenna’s Saint Joan at the Arts in 1954. He appeared opposite Vivien Leigh in Duel of Angels at the Apollo in 1958, and said that the highlight of his career, at the Bristol Old Vic in 1959, had been playing Cyrano de Bergerac.
His burgeoning TV career brought him lead roles as Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities (1957), Long John Silver in The Adventures of Ben Gunn (1958) and the title role in Rupert of Hentzau (1964). His appearance in The Avengers (1966), inducting Diana Rigg into the Hellfire Club, is well remembered.In The Innocents (1961), he did not have a single word of dialogue; his only film lead was as a psychology professor in a horror film, Night of the Eagle (1962).
Jack Good, the man who put pop music on television, has died aged 86 (29 September 2017)
IIt was in 1957 that the BBC decided to abandon the “Toddlers’ Truce”, which required television to shut down for an hour each day between 6pm and 7pm to give mums time to put their young children to bed.
Jack Good was the producer who persuaded the BBC to accept the idea of a Saturday night TV pop show called Six-Five Special and then filled the studio floor with young listeners, creating the atmosphere of a teenage hop as they jived to the Vipers or Tommy Steele.
In 1958 he was on his way to ITV, where Cliff Richard was booked for Oh Boy!, as were Marty Wilde, Billy Fury. The show was recorded at Hackney Empire every Saturday morning and transmitted that evening, competing directly against Six-Five Special, which it swiftly rendered obsolete.
Oh Boy! lasted a year. Good followed it in 1959 with Boy Meets Girls, also for ITV, in which Marty Wilde and the Vernons Girls were the featured performers. In turn that show was succeeded in 1960 by the Good-produced Wham!, whose guests included Fury, Joe Brown and Jess Conrad.
Sir Bruce Forsyth, entertainer who began his career in variety and became an enduringly popular TV host has died aged 89 (18 August 2017)
Bruce Forsyth made his BBC television debut in 1939 on the Jasmine Bligh talent show. He later launched his career as Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom, at the Theatre Royal, Bilston, in Staffordshire, in 1942, wearing a satin suit made by his mother and playing the accordion, ukulele and banjo.
Forsyth led a busy and sometimes complicated private life with a penchant for showgirls, singers and beauty queens, made his Windmill theatre debut in 1953, performing impressions of Tommy Cooper.
During a summer season at Babbacombe in Devon in 1957, another dance act recommended Bruce to their agent, Billy Marsh, and this led to a booking on a television show, New Look, followed by the breakthrough Sunday Night at the London Palladium in September 1958; in black and white, and always broadcast “live” on ATV, Forsyth demonstrated his genius for improvisation and ad-libbing as he shuffled and chivvied the audience participants in physical competitions and word games in the show’s Beat the Clock segment.
He displayed a true vaudevillian’s talent for catchphrases; as Tommy Trinder (whom he succeeded on Sunday Night at the London Palladium) had “You lucky people”, or Arthur Askey “I thank-yeaow”, so Forsyth patented “I’m in charge” at the Palladium followed by “Nice to see you … to see you, nice!” and “Didn’t he do well?” on The Generation Game.

Ty Hardin, actor who starred as Bronco Layne, has died aged 87 (3rd August 2017)
Ty Hardin was a blond beefcake actor who appeared in films such as Battle of the Bulge (1965) and Custer of the West (1967), after making his name on television as Bronco Layne in the popular Western series Bronco.
Broadcast by the BBC from 1958 to 1962, Bronco, in which Hardin played a former Confederate captain and adept horseman roaming the Old West and meeting such characters as Wild Bill Hickock, Billy the Kid and Jesse James, was an instant hit.
Hardin’s appeal for women viewers was obvious, and the catchy theme tune embedded itself in the British psyche. The most popular of several parodies, commencing “Bronco, Bronco, tearing across the dotted line” was a reference to a shiny, abrasive lavatory paper of the day.

Sir Roger Moore, illustrious actor who starred as Ivanhoe in the 1950s TV series, has died aged 89 (22nd May 2017)
Roger Moore was born in London. Tagging along with friends in 1945 to auditions for film extras, Moore was picked to appear in a non-speaking role as a legionnaire in Caesar and Cleopatra, starring Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains. After three years in the army, Moore returned to acting, landing small roles in theatre and film, and moved to New York City in 1953 with his second wife, the singer Dorothy Squires and began getting acting work on US television. Returning to Britain, he took the lead in the 1958 television adventure series adapted from Walter Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe.
Other regular TV roles of increasing size followed, including two western series, The Alaskans and Maverick, before Moore finally became a bona fide star, playing the crime-fighter and playboy Simon Templar in the popular television crime series The Saint.
Two years after The Saint ended, Moore was cast once more as a playboy adventurer in The Persuaders!, in which he was teamed with Tony Curtis. The odd-couple pairing (Moore, as Lord Brett Sinclair, was dapper; Curtis, playing Danny Wilde, was a ruffian) and the action staged in glamorous locations made the series a hit.
Moray Watson, actor, has died aged 88 (3 May 2017)
Following repertory theatre in Nottingham, Leatherhead and Liverpool, the West End beckoned. Moray Watson made his debut in Small Hotel (St Martin’s Theatre, 1955), then was seen as the novel-writing butler, Trevor Sellers, in the comedy The Grass Is Greener (St Martin’s, 1958). He reprised the character in the film version two years later, alongside Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum. Then came rare starring roles, in The Bad Soldier Smith (Westminster Theatre, 1960-61) and The Public Eye (Broadway, 1963-4).
After his introduction to television audiences as assistant control engineer Peter Marsh in the landmark sci-fi serial The Quatermass Experiment (1953), Watson switched to soap opera, spending a year (1962-3) in the women’s magazine serial Compact as art editor Richard Lowe, then returning for the last month of its run in 1965.
He was cast to type in war films such as The Valiant (1962), Operation Crossbow (1965) and The Sea Wolves (1980) but was better utilised on television. His dozens of character roles included Godfrey Cass in Silas Marner (1964), Barrington Erle in the first series (1974) of The Pallisers, Angus Kinloch in Quiller (1975), Chief Constable Chubb in Murder Most English (1977), Mr Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (1980), Judge Frobisher (1978-88) in Rumpole of the Bailey and Wordsworth, the butler, in the sitcom Union Castle (1982).
Veteran Saturday Club presenter Brian Matthew has died aged 88 (8 April 2017)
Brian Matthew was born to musical parents in Coventry in September 1928, it is unsurprising that he blossomed on the radio music scene, capturing the attention of BBC producers after his first appearance on the new 'Saturday Skiffle Club' - later renamed 'Saturday Club' - in 1957.
He originally found employment as a news reader for the BBC Home Service, studying under the veteran broadcaster, John Snagge. He moved to the Light Programme and presented the occasional programme such as 'Housewives’ Choice' and was the announcer for the comedy programmes, 'Take It From Here' and 'Hancock’s Half Hour'.
His talents in front of a camera saw him take on television roles during the 1960s - including hosting shows 'Thank Your Lucky Stars' and 'Swinging UK' - before he cemented himself as a much-loved regular radio presenter.
And it was his 27-year stint as presenter of the Saturday morning show, 'Sounds Of The 60s', which kept him firmly in the hearts of radio listeners all the way into the 2000s. His broadcasting career spanned almost 70 years, but to many Brian Matthew's name will always be synonymous with the sounds of the 60s..

Alan Simpson, scriptwriter, has died aged 87 (8 February 2017)
Alan Simpson was half of one of Britain's most successful comedy writing partnerships. Simpson, it is always said, patiently banged away at a manual typewriter while his partner, Ray Galton, strode up and down the room declaiming ideas or dialogue. They made an odd couple, but it worked. Together they wrote the scripts for Tony Hancock's radio and TV shows, and for many comedy plays, and they created Steptoe and Son, which ran for eight series.
With Ray Galton, in 1951 he supplied the well-known comic Derek Roy with jokes at five shillings a go for his Happy Go Lucky radio programme, after which the duo were put on the show's payroll at eight guineas a week. They ended up writing all the shows, an hour once a fortnight, for 20 guineas each.
They knew they had "arrived" when Hancock offered them 25 guineas. The comedian had made a name for himself in the BBC shows Educating Archie and Kaleidoscope and in 1954 he was given his own radio series, Hancock’s Half Hour, in which he played an exaggerated version of himself. Galton and Simpson wrote the scripts, establishing a form of comedy based on character and situation, rather than sketches and gags. They continued to script the show when it was adapted for television in 1956, altogether writing 160 radio and TV programmes for Hancock between 1954 and 1961.
Desmond Carrington, actor and disc jockey, has died aged 90 (1 February 2017)
Desmond Carrington was a unique radio phenomenon: a veteran DJ for BBC Radio 2 whose weekly show of classical and popular music was broadcast from his home – a farm in Perthshire – using his personal collection of some 80,000 CDs, LPs and 78s.
Called up for second world war service in 1943, he joined the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment and was sent to India. Later posted to Colombo, where he joined Radio SEAC, and discovered that radio was a natural medium for him.
On demob, he became a member of the BBC Drama Repertory Company, and was an independent producer for Radio Luxembourg as well as the BBC. He also began to appear on TV, including in a very lucrative Daz commercial.
It was this growing experience of TV, together with his good looks, that landed him the part of Dr Chris Anderson, the new house physician at the fictional Oxbridge General hospital, in Emergency – Ward 10, a year after the series started in 1957. His original contract was for three weeks; he stayed for more than 200 episodes.
Barbara Hale, actress, Della Street in Perry Mason, has died aged 94 (27 January 2017)
Barbara Hale was best known as Della Street, the super-reliable secretary of Perry Mason (Raymond Burr), the criminal defence attorney in the popular CBS television series (1957-66), a role for which she won a best supporting actress Emmy; two decades later, the pair reunited to make more than two dozen television movies for NBC.
After appearing in such films as The First Yank in Tokyo (1945), The Boy With the Green Hair (1948), The Window (1949) and The Clay Pigeon (1949), Hale delivered perhaps her most notable movie performance in the Columbia sequel Jolson Sings Again (1949), playing a nurse and the singer's new wife.
Hale then appeared often as the female lead in a number of top-level movies, including Lorna Doone (1951) with Richard Greene, The First Time (1952) with Robert Cummings, Seminole (1953) with Rock Hudson and Hugh O’Brian, The Lone Hand (1953) and The Oklahoman (1957) with Joel McCrea, A Lion Is in the Streets (1953) with James Cagney, 7th Cavalry (1956) with Randolph Scott and The Houston Story (1956) with Gene Barry.
After the Perry Mason series ended, Hale appeared in the star-studded Airport (1970), in the lamentable The Giant Spider Invasion (1975) and alongside her son in the John Milius surfing picture Big Wednesday (1978). She also played Katt's mom on a 1982 episode of The Greatest American Hero.
Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes), glamour model and actress, has died aged 80 (24 November 2016)
In 1955 Sabrina was chosen to play a dumb blonde sidekick in Arthur Askey's new television series, Before Your Very Eyes (BBC 1952–56, ITV 1956–58) which soon made her a household name.
She made her motion-picture debut in Stock Car, in 1955. She then appeared in a small role in the 1956 film, Ramsbottom Rides Again. In her third movie, Blue Murder at St Trinian's (1957) she had a non-speaking role in which, despite sharing equal billing with the star Alastair Sim on posters and appearing in many publicity stills in school uniform, she was required only to sit up in bed wearing a nightdress, reading a book whilst the action took place around her.
Other TV appearances included Double Your Money (1955), Make Mine a Million (1959), Tarzan (1967), This Is Your Life - (Arthur Askey, 1974).
Hugh O'Brian, actor who played Wyatt Earp, has died aged 91 (5 September 2016)
Hugh O’Brian was one of the first American actors to achieve television celebrity in 1950s Britain as the marshal of Dodge City in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.
More than 200 black-and-white episodes of the series were shown on the fledgling ITV network between 1956 and 1962. Handsome and square-jawed, O’Brian landed the starring title role because he resembled the real Wyatt Earp (1848-1929) as a young lawman in late 19th-century Kansas and later in Tombstone, Arizona.
It was the first television western to be aimed specifically at adults. Series appealing to children such as The Cisco Kid and The Lone Ranger had been scheduled for late afternoon slots. Inspired by the legendary events of the real-life frontier marshal, Earp played in after-dinner prime time and transformed O’Brian into one of television’s first sex symbols.
O'Brian was a one of the founders of the Thalians, a show-business charitable organization formed in 1955 to raise money for children with mental health problems. In 1964, he established the Hugh O'Brian Acting Awards competition at UCLA.
Sir Antony Jay, writer, broadcaster and director, has died aged 86 (23 August 2016)
After National Service in the Royal Signals, Antony Jay joined BBC Television in 1955, and was a member of the team that launched the current affairs programme Tonight, which he edited from 1962 to 1963. After a further year as head of Television Talk Features, he left the BBC to work as a freelance writer and producer.
From 1981, Jay was co-author, with Jonathan Lynn, of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, the political comedies which kept the nation laughing through the Thatcherite 1980s. Yes, Minister ran for three series, before the advancement of Jim Hacker’s career (due to his valiant defiance of a new Euro directive redefining the British banger as an “emulsified offal tube”), led to its relaunch as Yes, Prime Minister, with the same cast (Sir Humphrey promoted to Cabinet Secretary), in 1986. The series ran until 1988. However, not many, perhaps, were aware that the serial was commissioned with a serious political purpose: to popularise public choice theory. It is because it succeeded spectacularly that Jay received a knighthood in 1988.
Jay also wrote the BBC TV documentaries Royal Family and Elizabeth R, for which he was appointed CVO in 1993 for personal services to the Royal Family.
Brian Rix, Lord Rix, brilliant comic actor, manager and dedicated campaigner for people with learning disabilities, has died aged 92 (20 August 2016)
Brian Rix devoted his life almost equally to stage farce – as one of the most brilliant comic actors in the postwar years – and to campaigning for people with learning disabilities. He was successful at both. In the theatre, both in management and on stage, his name became synonymous with the “Whitehall farces”, named after the London venue and with plotlines usually involving a lie, a comic deception and someone being caught with his trousers around his ankles. Rix also ran repertory companies and presented more than 90 farces on television in the 1960s – to huge audiences – starring the big names of the day, such as Dora Bryan, Sid James, Sheila Hancock and John Le Mesurier.
In 1952 Reluctant Heroes became one of the first West End plays to be partly televised. As a result, there were huge queues outside the Whitehall. Rix negotiated a contract with the BBC that lasted 17 years. The TV work included a number of Sunday Night Theatre productions under the Brian Rix Presents banner in the late 50s and early 60s.
Management was the art that mattered to him. For years he put on and appeared in the most noted farces of the West End, including Dry Rot by John Chapman, who had understudied him in Reluctant Heroes. Rix also appeared in the film of Dry Rot (1956), one of 11 film credits.
In 1949 he had married the actor Elspet Gray; the first of their four children, Shelley, was born with Down’s syndrome.
He threw himself into fundraising for learning disability charities, and in 1978 he began the Let’s Go! TV programmes for people with learning disabilities – he made 40 of them.
In 1979 a job advert in the Guardian caught Rix’s eye, for the position of Mencap’s secretary general. He applied and was initially turned down, but was later accepted and started work in 1980.
Sylvia Peters, actress and BBC continuity announcer, has died aged 90 (26 July 2016)
Sylvia Peters, who has died aged 90, was one of the faces of BBC Television during the 1950s; having introduced the historic broadcast of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, she later helped to teach the Queen the skills she needed for the annual royal Christmas message.
As well as becoming the youngest of three in-vision announcers (Mary Malcolm and McDonald Hobley were the others), she presented Come Dancing between 1954 and 1958. She also fronted the BBC Television programme For Deaf Children in 1956. With her refined accent and crisp, elegant manner, she became one of Britain’s first big television stars.
The turning point for television came in 1953 with the Coronation. At 10?am on Coronation Day, Sylvia Peters went on the air live and continued to provide linking material until 11.30 that night.
In 1954, Peters was chosen to host Come Dancing and was also the compere for Television Dancing Club, which featured the bandleader Victor Silvester.
After leaving the staff of the BBC in 1958, she became a freelance, and covered such events as Lady's Day at Royal Ascot and Come Dancing, and made less frequent appearances on screen and fronted Jim’s Inn, an advertisement magazine for the ITV.
William Lucas, television actor, has died aged 91 (8 July 2016)
William Lucas' big television break came with the part of the blackmailing car dealer Reg Dorking in Portrait of Alison (1955), a crime thriller serial written by Francis Durbridge.
He was a regular as David Graham in The Strange World of Planet X (1956), Charlton Bradbury in The Crime of the Century (1956-57), Jim Pereira in the second series (1958) of the hotel saga The Royalty, Jonathan Briggs in the serialisation of Frank Tilsley’s novel Champion Road (1958) and Durea in the London underworld thriller Solo for Canary (1958).
He starred in The Infamous John Friend (1959), in the title role of the smuggler and spy for Napoleon, and was Detective Inspector Mitchell in the crime dramas The Days of Vengeance (1960) and Flower of Evil (1961), and Eddie Prior in the thriller serial The Prior Commitment (1969).
He even took the title role in a TV production of Rigoletto (1958), recalling: “Happily, the singing was dubbed.”
Ray Lakeland, outside broadcasting pioneer, has died aged 95 (8 July 2016)
After the war Ray lakeland joined the British Forces Network, and on demobilisation transferred to BBC North, initially as a freelance reporter. He joined its radio studios in Newcastle full-time in 1947.
It was with his move to television in 1956 that Ray found his natural creative home, producing a wide range of programmes, including the first televised coverage of the launching of a liner – RMS Windsor Castle, named in 1959 by the Queen Mother – a broadcast from Blackpool illuminations, the BBC’s first pop programme, Six-Five Special, and the ballroom contest Come Dancing.
He is perhaps best remembered for his innovative coverage of the 1960 Grand National, for which he developed the system, still used today, of attaching a camera to the top of a vehicle to keep pace with the runners and riders and give viewers a greater sense of the speed and noise of the race.
Noel Neill, actress, has died aged 95 (5 July 2016)
Neill was the original big screen Lois Lane, the crack investigative reporter on the Metropolis Daily Planet who never quite figures out that that the “Man of Steel” who keeps rescuing her from the jaws of death – or worse – is really her slightly nerdy colleague Clark Kent. She took the role in two movie serials and 78 episodes of the hit television series, between 1948 and 1958.
Neill remained with Superman until the programme was cancelled in 1958 after Reeves’s death.
Her last film role was in Lawless Rider (1954), and she played in many of the early TV programmes that were extensions of the B-movie and serial factories, including The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid.
Gordon Murray, producer and puppeteer, has died aged 95 (1 July 2016)
Gordon Murray created Camberwick Green, Chigley and Trumpton, three of the best-loved series for younger children on BBC Television, first screened in the 1960s.
In 1953 he launched his own professional puppet company, Murray Marionettes in Broadstairs.
Audiences were disappointingly small but he invited Freda Lingstrom, head of BBC children’s television, to see the show and so impressed her that she offered him a job pulling the strings of Spotty Dog in a new series for toddlers called The Woodentops.
In 1955, Murray took a BBC production course and was officially taken on as a contract producer in children’s television. As well as The Woodentops he worked on The Flowerpot Men before creating a television version of the radio series Toytown.
Initially his shows were broadcast live, but Murray became frustrated by the hazards of live transmission and he developed his own film studio to record his films. In 1958 he created The Rubovian Legends, an early collaboration with Bura and Hardwick.
Murray devised new puppet techniques for television, wrote scripts, built puppets and trained a team of puppeteers to use rod and glove puppets as well as marionettes worked by strings. He worked with John Ryan on the popular Captain Pugwash series, and also produced the Sketch Club series with the artist Adrian Hill.
Ronnie Corbett, comedian, has died aged 85 (1 April 2016)
Ronnie Corbett achieved such fame as one of the Two Ronnies that his solo career was often eclipsed; as his fans knew well, he worked on his own for many years, exploiting to the full both his lack of height – he was only 5ft 1in – and his undoubted talent as a comic performer.
After National Service with the RAF, Corbett moved to London, he endured eight lean years, taking occasional engagements but mostly living on his earnings as a caretaker, house-sitter, tennis-court superintendent and advertising salesman.
For some years he lived in grimy digs, working in nightclubs or on the halls, and teamed up with Anne Hart, a singer whom he met at a club, who became his stooge and whom he later married.
He appeared with Eamonn Andrews on the children's TV programme, Crackerjack, as its resident comedian for many episodes.
But Corbett's big chance came when he was spotted by David Frost at Winston's, Danny La Rue's West End night club, and cast in his BBC show The Frost Report (1966-67), followed by Frost on Sunday for ITV (1968-69).
It was with Frost that he first teamed up with Ronnie Barker. Television extended Corbett’s appeal. Although he had become a star in his own right before meeting Ronnie Barker, The Two Ronnies (1971-1987) remained the zenith of a television career that lasted more than 40 years.
Adrienne Corri, actress, has died aged 85 (28 March 2016)
Adrienne Corri was an actor of considerable range and versatility whose career ranged from the high – with Shakespearean roles alongside Ralph Richardson and Alec Guinness – to the decidedly low, including appearances in many quota quickies and low-budget horror movies that showcased her striking red-haired beauty.
Among her dozens of television parts were Milady de Winter in the BBC series of The Three Musketeers (1954) and various appearances in episodes of ABC’s Armchair Theatre (1956-60). She featured in several BBC Plays of the Month, in one of which she was Violet in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman (1968), alongside Maggie Smith, and she played Olivia in ITV’s Twelfth Night (1969). In Measure for Measure (1979) she was the cheroot-smoking bawdy-house keeper Mistress Overdone, and she was last seen in two episodes of Lovejoy (1992).
Robert Horton, star of the Wagon Train western series, has died aged 91 (20 March 2016)
Robert Horton won legions of female fans in the role of frontier scout Flint McCullough on Wagon Train (1957-65), a television western series that became a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
In 1945 a chance encounter with a talent scout led to an uncredited part in the Second World War film A Walk in the Sun. After taking a degree in Theatre Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles, he appeared in (among others) Apache War Smoke (1952) and on television shows such as The Lone Ranger and The Public Defender before winning his part on Wagon Train.
The role turned him into an international idol and he was especially popular in Britain, where Wagon Train was shown on ITV’s Monday teatime slot. When he appeared at the London Palladium, a reviewer reported that he had drawn “squeals and shrieks’’ from his mainly female audience.
Cliff Michelmore, television and radio broadcaster, has died aged 96 (17 March 2016)
Cliff Michelmore was one of the most familiar faces on British television in the 1950s and 1960s, notably as presenter of Tonight, which ran for some 1,800 editions between 1957 and 1965. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he was appearing in as many as 300 programmes a year and on screen he invariably appeared confident, calm, unhurried and unflappable.
In 1935 he joined the RAF and underwent initial training at RAF Halton, in Buckinghamshire. Having survived the war and on the strength of having done some radio commentaries on inter-service games, he was sent to Hamburg as Officer Commanding Royal Airforce Element, the British Forces Network in Germany. His rank was, by now, squadron leader.
When the regular Hamburg presenter of Two-Way Family Favourites, the Sunday lunchtime link between the forces in Germany and their families in Britain, was taken ill, Michelmore was drafted in to replace him. Before the programme began he used to chat on the closed line to the presenter at the London end, Jean Metcalfe, in whom he detected a distinctly flirtatious tone. She helped him through the early programmes, and when, in the spring of 1949, he came to London and met her, romance immediately blossomed. They married in 1950.
Michelmore’s breakthrough to evening television came in 1955 when Donald Baverstock asked him to join his topical programme Highlight, which pioneered a grittier style of interviewing. Michelmore also worked for Panorama and as a reporter on Saturday Sport. He had therefore served a thorough apprenticeship by time he was offered his big chance on Tonight.
In no time, Michelmore was rivalling Richard Dimbleby as the BBC’s leading current affairs specialist, less heavyweight no doubt, but still scrupulously well informed, and a good deal less pompous.

Sylvia Anderson, co-creator of Thunderbirds, has died aged 88 (16 March 2016)
With her then husband, Gerry, Sylvia Anderson brought to television some of the best-loved children’s puppet series of the 1960s, remembered for their groundbreaking animation and spectacular special effects. While he produced the programmes, she was responsible for character development, storylines, costume design, providing voices and directing other voice actors’ dialogue. Her most famous creation was Lady Penelope, International Rescue’s London agent in Thunderbirds (1965-66), whom she gave “not only the daring and panache of a secret agent, but also the poise of a cool and beautiful aristocrat”.
They had established AP Films in 1957, with Sylvia as a company director and production assistant, and were commissioned by ITV to make The Adventures of Twizzle (1957-59), from Roberta Leigh’s children’s stories, followed by the first run of Leigh’s Torchy the Battery Boy (1958-59). Both featured traditional marionettes, but Gerry devised innovative filming and puppetry techniques.
Sylvia and Gerry married in 1960 while making the western puppet series Four Feather Falls. Supermarionation began with Supercar (1961-62) and Fireball XL5 (1962-63), then Stingray, the Andersons’ first effort to be filmed in colour.
Vlasta Dalibor, puppeteer, has died aged 94 (21 February 2016)
Vlasta Dalibor, who has died aged 94, was the co-creator, with her husband Jan, of the unmelodious porcine puppets Pinky and Perky.
The couple began performing during the 1956 summer season at Heysham, for £25 a week. Trevor Hill (producer of The Sooty Show) saw them there and gave them their own BBC television series, featuring the pigs in both string and glove puppet form, manipulated by Jan and Vlasta.
Their debut was in “Pinky and Perky’s Pop Parade” in October 1958, set in the mythical radio station POP (later “PPC TV”), with Roger Moffat as the station announcer.
The BBC granted the Dalibors the light entertainment slot before the six o’clock news, and grown-up audiences warmed to the pigs’ gently subversive humour and high-pitched renditions of speeded-up pop songs (with opening theme We Belong Together).
Pinky and Perky joined The Beatles and Marlene Dietrich onstage for the 1963 Royal Variety performance, and the following year they appeared in America on The Ed Sullivan Show alongside Morecambe and Wise.
In 1968 the Dalibors accepted an offer from Thames Television, but in the event only two more series made it to air, though they were frequently repeated. The Dalibors retired from the small screen in 1973.
Conrad Phillips, stage and screen actor, has died aged 90 (13 January 2016)
One of ITV’s first action heroes, notable for his expertise with a crossbow, was William Tell, played by Conrad Phillips. Swashbucklers were hugely popular in ITV’s early years and William Tell (1958-59), set in 14th-century Switzerland under the tyrannical rule of Emperor Rudolph of Austria, was one of the most memorable series.
He had worked in repertory theatre, and acted in more than 30 films, including The Battle of the River Plate (1956), Sons and Lovers (1960) and Heavens Above! (1963). Phillips was often cast as police officers and military types.
The role of Tell came after the actor made guest appearances in other swashbuckling television series, such as The Scarlet Pimpernel (1956), The Count of Monte Cristo (1956), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1957) and The Buccaneers (1957). Apart from the detectives he played in the crime dramas Silent Evidence (1962) and A Game of Murder (1966), most of his subsequent television roles were one-offs. However, Phillips had runs as Robert Malcolm in the final year of the BBC soap opera The Newcomers (1969) and the NY Estates managing director Christopher Meadows in Emmerdale Farm (on and off between 1981 and 1986).
Anthony Valentine, actor, has died aged 76 (3 December 2015)
Anthony Valentine was one of Britain’s best known television baddies, the suave villain of numerous drama series from the 1960s to the 1990s.
He made his acting debut as a 10-year-old as a “little boy” in the film No Way Back (1949), and aged 12 was a youthful sleuth in The Girl on the Pier (1953). Children's TV kept Valentine busy, casting him as Humphrey Beverley in The Children of the New Forest (1955), JO Stagg in Rex Milligan (1956) and Lord Mauleverer (1955), then Harry Wharton (1956-57), in Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School. He also sang in the children's magazine show Whirligig – accompanied by Steve Race on the piano – and for two seasons in operas at Sadler's Wells Theatre.
But he came into his own as Edward Woodward’s fellow Secret Service agent and rival Toby Meres in the first two series of Callan (ITV, 1967-69), a character he brought to life as a supercilious upper-class thug whose urbane demeanour somehow fails to conceal his total lack of moral compass.
He became a household name as the sadistic German Luftwaffe officer Major Horst Mohn in the BBC series Colditz (1972-74) and was the gentleman jewel thief and ladies’ man in the Yorkshire Television hit series Raffles (1977).
Valentine’s other television credits included Dr Finlay’s Casebook, Softly Softly, Lovejoy, The Detectives, Tales of the Unexpected and Robin of Sherwood (ITV 1984-86).
Redvers Kyle, television announcer, has died aged 85 (27 November 2015)
Redvers Kyle arrived in England in 1952 from his native South Africa, and spent a year teaching in a south London school before becoming a freelance radio and television broadcaster for the BBC.
With the arrival of Independent Television in 1955 he switched to ATV London as a presenter and also joined ITN News. The following year he moved to Associated-Rediffusion (until 1968). In addition to Looking and Seeing, he worked on several other programmes including the children’s show Tuesday Rendezvous.
In 1968 he moved as chief announcer to the new Yorkshire Television in Leeds, becoming one of the best-known voices on the station, where he remained until his retirement in 1993.
Hazel Adair, writer of Crossroads and other television and radio soap operas, has died aged 95 (23 November 2015)
Hazel Adair was a pioneer of soap opera on British television. She was the co-creator of Sixpenny Corner, Britain’s first daily soap; Compact, the first serial to feature a regular black character; and, most famously, Crossroads.
Adair wrote scripts for two series, At Your Service, Ltd (1951), with Robert Tronson, and Stranger from Space (1951-53), with her husband Ronald Marriott.
She also became a scriptwriter on the weekday radio serial Mrs Dale’s Diary, alongside others such as Peter Ling and its lead writer, Jonquil Antony. This led her to create, with Antony, ITV’s first soap opera, Sixpenny Corner (1955-56): the first on British television to run five days a week.
From 1957, when the hugely popular Emergency – Ward 10 was launched, Adair wrote episodes of the hospital serial. She also co-wrote the spin-off film, Life in Emergency Ward 10 (1959), and the 1961 comedy Dentist on the Job.
Also a writer for magazines, Adair was sitting in the offices of Woman’s Own waiting to deliver a feature when she had the idea for Compact (1962-65), a serial based in the world of magazine publishing.
In 1967, Adair and Peter Ling devised Champion House (1967-68), a BBC drama series about a family-run textile firm.
Peter Dimmock, TV broadcaster and producer, has died aged 94 (22 November 2015)
Peter Dimmock became the face of BBC Sport in the 1950s, having already made his reputation as a gifted television producer by organising coverage of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, the moment the fledgling medium came of age. Dimmock had spent a year planning coverage of the day and, with technical skill and stylish aplomb, had succeeded in capturing the majestic drama as it unfolded live in front of a watching audience of more than 20 million in Britain — nearly half the population — and many millions more worldwide.
No television broadcast had been so prepared and so polished, and for this Dimmock deserved a large share of the credit. As the director as well as the producer, he displayed an intuitive eye for delivering pictures that he knew the public wanted to see.
In 1948 Dimmock had helped to organise the BBCBBC record. After ’s coverage of the London Olympics. In the course of 15 days he oversaw 70 hours of television coverage, a commentating on the 1949 Boat Race, he produced the BBCpictures to Britain ’s first televised Test match from Trent Bridge in 1950, and organised the first relay of live television from Calais in the same year.
In February 1952 Dimmock arranged television coverage of the funeral of King George VI. The sombre images of Queens at the door of Westminster Hall were three black-veiled more eloquent of the passing of an era than any spoken commentary.
Dimmock began to carve out a parallel on-screen career as the anchorman of the BBCprogramme switched from Thursday to a peak slot on Wednesday nights in August 1955, 21 per cent of the adult population regularly tuned in. In the lahost of Grandstand, before handing over the reins to David Coleman. Sportsview ran until 1964. s first ’the first regular sports magazine programme Sportsview, launched in April 1954.
In the meantime Dimmock had produced and directed the State Opening of Parliament in 1958 and, two years later, the first televised Grand National. In the same year Dimmock supervised television coverage of the wedding of Princess Margaret to Anthony Armstrong-Jones, later Lord Snowdon. From 1963 until the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977, he was the BBC’s liaison executive with the Royal family.
More than any other individual, he could be said to have single-handedly created the corporation’s outside broadcast department, having produced, directed and commentated on virtually every important event in the 1940s and early 1950s . Dimmock was also a great discoverer of television talent, and launched the broadcasting careers of Harry Carpenter, Peter O’Sullevan and Eddie Waring, among others.
In 1972 he was appointed general manager of BBC Enterprises, the corporation’s commercial arm.
He was wounded and disappointed when the BBC failed to invite him to the service at Westminster Abbey in June 2013, attended by the Queen, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation.
He was appointed OBE in 1961 and CVO in 1968. In 1977 he was made a Freeman of the City of London, and the following year was elected a Fellow of the Royal Television Society.
Joy Beverley, singer, has died aged 91 (1 September 2015)
Joy Beverley was the eldest of the Beverley Sisters, the close-harmony trio whose novelty songs became hits in the 1950s who found fame in the pre-rock and roll era with novelty songs such as I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Little Drummer Boy.
During the war, the girls were evacuated together to Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, where they amused themselves by singing close harmony. Spotted by a man recruiting for the “Ovaltinies”, the harmony-singing advert for Ovaltine on Radio Luxembourg, they soon caught the eye of Glenn Miller and went on to record with his orchestra. Having signed their first contract, with Columbia Records, in 1951, by 1952 they were starring at the London Palladium. The following year they had their first Top 10 hit with I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, which reached No 6 in the charts.
As well as pop hits, for seven years during the 1940s and 1950s they had their own BBC television series , and they frequently topped the bill at the London Palladium, alongside such stars as Danny Kaye, Bob Hope and Max Bygraves, taking part in several Royal Command performances.
George Cole, actor, has died aged 90 (6 August 2015)
George Cole was a comic actor who excelled at playing shifty 'spivs’ such as the roguish Arthur Daley in Minder.
He appeared in a couple of films before joining the RAF in 1943. After the war Cole returned to acting, appearing in a variety of mediocre films including My Brother’s Keeper (1948), The Spider and the Fly (1949) and Gone to Earth (1950). He had greater success with Alastair Sim in the classic comedies Laughter in Paradise (1951) and Scrooge (1952).
Over the next decade, Cole and Sim repeated their screen partnership in a string of films, the most successful of which were the St Trinian’s series, directed by Frank Launder. In the first, The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954), Cole (as the spiv Flash Harry) received third billing after Sim and Joyce Grenfell. The film was extremely successful and was followed by five more, including Blue Murder at St Trinian’s (1958) and Cole’s only film in the series without Sim, The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s (1961).
Between films, Cole starred as the bumbling bachelor David Bliss in the long-running BBC radio series A Life of Bliss (118 episodes, 1952-67). The show was broadcast on Sunday afternoons. Cole recalled it as “wholesome to the point of nausea”, and insisted that the best part of the show had been Percy Edwards’s performance as Psyche the dog. more....
Val Doonican, singer, has died aged 88 (3 July 2015)
Val Doonican, the Irish singer who has died aged 88, rose to fame in the early 1960s when he appeared in Sunday Night at the London Palladium; his relaxed manner and easy charm made him extremely popular with family audiences, who appreciated his whimsical renditions of folk songs such as Paddy McGinty’s Goat, O’Rafferty’s Motor Car and Delaney’s Donkey.
Doonican distinguished himself from other performers at that time by sporting a range of knitwear more usually seen in Lapland and by performing many of his songs while sitting in a rocking chair.
In 1951 Val Doonican moved to London and made his radio debut as a member of the Four Ramblers on Riders of the Range. He played one of a number of bunk-house boys who were heard crooning cowboy songs in the gaps between the action. At the same time he was supplementing his income by writing musical accompaniments for Tex Ritter.
When not performing as cowboys, the group toured Britain, appearing at various variety venues. By 1953 they were working regularly in cabaret, performing at American Air Bases.
In 1959 Val Doonican auditioned as a solo performer with BBC radio and was offered a spot on Dreamy Afternoon which led to his own show, Your Date with Val. Doonicans’s mix of songs and stories proved popular and the following year he was touring the country with his own show. In 1964 Val Doonican was offered a spot on ITV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium and was acclaimed as an “overnight star”. Within a year he was appearing on BBC television in The Val Doonican Music Show and was voted BBC Personality of the Year (an award he won three times altogether).
Marguerite Patten, food writer and broadcaster, has died aged 99 (10 June 2015)
Marguerite Patten helped the nation to feed itself through the war years and for the next half century taught the British how to cook "sensible food in an appetising manner".
As a home economist with the Ministry of Food during the war, Marguerite Patten showed housewives how to get by with a tin of Spam and a ration book. She rose to prominence in the post-war years, becoming one of the BBC’s first food broadcasters, on Kitchen Front and then on Woman’s Hour.
Marguerite Patten predated Philip Harben, the Cradocks and Elizabeth David and endured for decades longer. She was the most prolific cookery writer ever, the author of more than 165 cookery books, which sold over 17 million copies worldwide. She was also one of the few people ever to have been decorated for their services to cookery.
From 1947 Marguerite Patten was the BBC’s first regular television cook, on Kitchen Front. She gave recipes on Woman’s Hour from its second day, and even starred in cookery shows at the Palladium. In 1952, she wrote a regular column for The Daily Telegraph called “Merry-go-round of Meals”.
Over the next 40 years, as Britain moved from being the nation with the reputation for the worst cooking in Europe to the most cosmopolitan food culture on earth, Marguerite Patten played a full part in showing the amateur cook how to get to grips with the huge new range of ingredients and fashions.
Peter Howell, stage and screen actor, has died aged 95 (11 May 2015)
Peter Howell found himself catapulted into the spotlight – and up to 24 million viewers’ homes – when he played Dr Peter Harrison in British television’s first medical soap, Emergency – Ward 10. Howell joined the twice-weekly serial in 1958, a year after it began, and appeared in 111 episodes through most of its 10-year history. Although he left in 1964, when audience figures were starting to slip, he returned for a short run two years later and a special appearance in the final episode, in 1967.
His West End stage plays included The Affair (Strand theatre, 1961), The Doctor’s Dilemma (Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 1963), Little Boxes (Duchess theatre, 1968) and Conduct Unbecoming (Queen’s theatre, 1969).
Among Howell’s dozens of television roles were Lord Howard in Elizabeth R (1971), Julius Caesar in Heil Caesar! (1973), Francis Knollys in Edward the King (1975), Uncle Glegg in The Mill on the Floss (1979) and Sir William Lucas in Pride and Prejudice (1980), as well as various priests, detectives, lawyers, judges, headmasters and army officers.
Pamela Cundell, actress, singer and comedian, has died aged 95 (8 May 2015)
She was best known on television for her regular appearances as the spoony, matronly-built Mrs Fox in Dad's Army, smothering American soldiers with her affections and flirting her way into getting an extra sausage off the ration from the meek butcher Corporal Jones (Clive Dunn).
Full of life, and habitually bursting into rehearsals with a flourishing "hello darlings!", Pamela Cundell's music-hall sense of showmanship cast her first and foremost as a comedy player.
In the final days of music hall she appeared as a singer and comedian alongside such stars as Jimmy Jewel, Terry Scott and Sid Millward and His Nitwits. Throughout the 1950s, alongside Dick Emery, she was a regular on BBC Radio's Workers' Playtime.
She appeared regularly in seaside revues such as Between Ourselves, which toured the east coast in 1955, and began her association with the gloriously bovine Bill Fraser, through whom she made her first television appearances in 1961 in the sitcom Bootsie and Snudge, a civvy street spin-off from The Army Game that starred Fraser and Alfie Bass.
Ronnie Carroll, Eurovision singer, has died aged 80 (14 April 2015)
After Carroll appeared in a BBC television talent show, Camera One in 1956, positive reaction to his warm baritone led to a recording contract with Philips and to frequent radio appearances on the Light Programme and Radio Luxembourg. Carroll was also a guest on the television shows of Morecambe and Wise, Bruce Forsyth, Kathy Kirby and others.
Also in 1956 his first hit record, Walk Hand in Hand, reached No 13 and the following year The Wisdom of a Fool entered the top 20. Further records were less successful, until in 1962 Carroll had a top 10 hit with Roses Are Red (My Love).
In 1962 Carroll was also chosen as the national standard bearer for that year’s Eurovision song contest. His song, Ring-a-Ding Girl, came a creditable fourth, a good enough position to ensure that Carroll became the first vocalist to represent Britain in the contest for two years running. His 1963 entry, Say Wonderful Things, composed by Norman Newell, also achieved fourth place.
Shaw Taylor, television presenter, has died aged 90 (18 March 2015)
After the War, a London County Council grant afforded him two years at Rada, where a heavy Cockney accent was ironed out of him. Work on stage in the West End and small parts in films and television dramas followed throughout the 1950s.
After standing in for six weeks as a relief announcer at ATV in the summer of 1957 Taylor was offered a staff job at the station. Tired of the thespian life and describing himself as an actor “of no consequence”, he decided on a change of direction and began his career in broadcasting.
He quickly became one of the station’s best-known faces, and was in demand as a quizmaster on shows like Tell the Truth, Pencil and Paper and Password and Dotto. He also commented on royal occasions and on ITV’s coverage of the Cenotaph ceremony, and worked as a sports commentator for the channel.
But it was as the host of Police 5 that Taylor found sustained success. The show was the brainchild of Steve Wade, the head of outside broadcasts at ATV. It was commissioned by the ATV boss Lew Grade in June 1962 and devised to fill a gap left by an American import that ran for 55 minutes instead of the required 60 minutes.
Gerry Wells, radio enthusiast, has died aged 85 (December 2014)
Gerry Wells was a self-confessed obsessive whose life was dominated by his fascination with radio apparatus.
By the time of his death he had amassed a collection of more than 1,300 radio and television sets and associated equipment, covering the entire pre-transistor history of broadcasting. This had become the British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum, and today it occupies his lifelong home, a substantial Edwardian house in Dulwich, south-east London. The collection contains many working examples, most of them found and brought back to life by Wells himself. Visitors can have the unique and somewhat unsettling experience of watching live television programmes in the old 405-line, black-and-white format, abandoned in 1984.
Pauline Yates, stage and screen actor, has died aged 85 (21 January 2015)
Pauline Yates was a spirit of domestic calm when she played his wife in the mayhem led by Leonard Rossiter as the erratic Reggie Perrin, whose bizarre behaviour she treated as normal and in need of no explanation.
Yates’s looks and ability to learn lines quickly, a trick perfected during her years in rep, made her a popular choice for TV casting directors. In 1957 she appeared in one of the first hospital soap operas, ITV’s Emergency Ward 10, and she appeared in the BBC police series Z Cars and Softly Softly, and, on a number of occasions, in ITV’s Armchair Theatre, for which her husband Donald Churchill wrote several plays.
Yates’s career path was almost like a route map through British TV comedy in the 70s and 80s. She was a consummate comic foil, appearing in The Ronnie Barker Playhouse on ITV in 1968, but also taking on central roles as the Tory MP in the BBC’s My Honourable Mrs (1975), opposite Derek Nimmo, and the divorcee finding a new life after marriage in Thames TV’s Harriet’s Back in Town (1972).
Lotte Hass, model and undersea film-maker, has died aged 86 (14 January 2015)
Lotte Hass was an underwater photographer and model who, with her husband Hans, produced pioneering films of the sea depths during the 1950s.
Shot on early watertight cameras, the Hasses’ footage offered viewers a glimpse of an underwater world unparalleled in its intimacy – at considerable personal risk to Lotte, who dived using a lightweight rebreather and a fashionable swimsuit that afforded her little protection from aquatic predators.
The couple’s commercial success allowed Hass to purchase a 170-foot hull, the Xarifa, and Lotte accompanied him on expeditions to the Caribbean and Galapagos islands, where they shot Under the Caribbean (1953).

Diving To Adventure, the couple’s 1956 BBC series, was the first of its kind for British television, proving a great hit with critics and viewers alike.
Ronnie Ronalde, artiste famous for his whistling and yodelling, had died aged 91 (13 January 2015)
In 1950 the EMI record producer Norman Newell was in a pub on the Edgware Road when Ronalde performed "If I Were A Blackbird" on the radio. As the customers were silent as he performed, Newell realised that this could be a hit record. That and "In A Monastery Garden" became best-selling records and favourites on the BBC programme Housewives' Choice.
He recorded the songs of the day, singing and whistling his way through "Hair Of Gold, Eyes Of Blue" and "Mocking Bird Hill". He discussed bird song with the ornithologist Percy Edwards and when he recorded "Ballad Of Davy Crockett" he made sure that his choice of birds was right for the area. He could mimic flutes and violins, while his version of "I Believe" highlighted his commanding tenor voice.
Ronalde was a major attraction and audiences marvelled at his lightning-fast versions of "Tritsch Tratsch Polka" and "Can-Can". He hosted variety series for the BBC and ITV, but in the late 1950s there was a decline in variety acts and he was seen as an anachronism.
Roberta Leigh, Children's author and puppeteer, has died aged 87 (27 December 2014)
Roberta Leigh wrote romantic novels and children’s stories under a variety of noms de plume and in the 1960s was successful as a creator and producer of popular puppet series on ITV.
After the publication of her first romantic novel, In Name Only, by Harlequin books in 1950, Roberta Leigh published more than 10 novels over the next decade and branched out into children’s writing, magazines, newspaper columns and television.
Roberta Leigh began her television career with The Adventures of Twizzle in 1957, which was turned into her first children’s book in 1960. She created, produced, scripted, and wrote the music and lyrics for the puppet series (and then for a further seven puppet film series), all shown on ITV.
As well as Sara and Hoppity (1962-63), a 50-episode television series about a little girl and her mischievous doll with one leg shorter than the other and Space Patrol (1963, Planet Patrol in America), a 39-episode science fiction series incorporating elements of Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation techniques, these included Torchy the Battery Boy; Wonder Boy and Tiger; Send for Dithers; and Picture the Word (52 animations for a “Fun to Learn” series).
To make the films, she acquired the Soho-based National Interest Pictures and a second film studio in Harlesden, becoming the first woman producer in Britain to have her own film company.
John Freeman, Soldier, MP, diplomat and broadcaster best known for his series of interviews, Face to Face, has died aged 99 (20 December 2014)
John Freeman was offered work by the BBC, first as a freelance current affairs reporter on Panorama, then on Press Conference, a political discussion programme. On Panorama he conducted a merciless interview with Frank Foulkes, the Communist President of the Electrical Trades Union, who had been accused of rigging the union ballot.
Cross-examination was his forte – a skill he may have acquired from his father. It reached its flowering in Face to Face, a series that began in 1959. Until then, there had been few instances of the hard-hitting, confrontational TV interview. Public figures were given a fairly easy ride by broadcasters, with any hint of potential embarrassment scrupulously avoided.
Freeman recognised that provocation would generally draw out more truth from interviewees than politeness. Sitting with the back of his head towards the camera, and with the victim’s face in close-up, he turned the programmes into gladiatorial contests. In an unemotional, forensic style, he would nag away at any weaknesses he perceived in his subjects’ defences. In one notorious programme, the game show panellist Gilbert Harding was reduced to tears during a relentless interrogation about his family history. The series was immensely popular and in 1960 Freeman was named television personality of the year.
Rex Firkin, television producer, has died aged 88 (7 December 2014)
The producer and director Rex Firkin described himself as being "in the engine room of commercial television" at its inception in Britain. Starting in 1955, when Lew Grade's ATV opened, he spent more than 30 years at ITV, made some of its biggest popular and critical successes and brought others to the screen himself after becoming head of drama at LWT.
In 1953, Firkin looked for work in television, but a string of job applications to the BBC were rejected. A meeting with Norman Collins, who became a founder of ATV, led to his becoming a trainee programme director in 1955 when the commercial channel opened. His first work was directing The Adventures of Noddy, Theatre Club, the live drama serial One Family and the advertising magazine Home with Joy Shelton.
He directed (1957-60), then produced (1959-60), Emergency – Ward 10, television's first occupational soap, following the lives of doctors and nurses at the fictional Oxbridge General Hospital. It was watched by up to 24 million viewers and won a 1957 Society of Film and Television Arts Merit Award.
While continuing to direct occasionally, he spent the next quarter of a century as a producer. He began with the Ward 10 spin-off Call Oxbridge 2000 (1961-62), then made the second and third series (1961) of the newspaper drama Deadline Midnight and the final run (1962) of Probation Officer.
As a producer, Firkin then created, with Wilfred Greatorex, another drama set in the workplace. Against the wishes of ATV's casting department he hired Patrick Wymark to star in The Plane Makers (1963-5) as the bullying aircraft factory boss John Wilder, locked in battles with unions on the shop floor and management in the boardroom.
Cherry Wainer, pianist hailed as “the female Liberace”, has died aged 78 (14 November 2014)
Wainer first appeared on ITV’s Lunch Box, the lightest of light entertainment shows.
It was through one such appearance that along with her future husband, Don Storer a highly paid jobbing drummer, she came to the attention of Jack Good, who had been commissioned to produce the first series of Oh Boy!
During live broadcasts of Oh Boy! on ITV in the late 1950s, screams became cheers for Cherry Wainer, seated at an upholstered Hammond organ as part of the programme’s house band, Lord Rockingham’s XI.
Jack Good also brokered a recording contract for Wainer. Her output was to include Money (1960), historically the first Tamla-Motown number to be covered in the UK.
While chart entries proved elusive for Wainer in her own right, a maiden Rockingham single, Fried Onions, made the US Hot 100. Hoots Mon, the follow-up, was a domestic No 1 – and was heard on a section of Oh Boy! featured in the 1959 Royal Command Performance. Wainer became the focal point of the band – publicised as “the female Liberace” – with solo spots as both a singer and instrumentalist.
After the final edition of Oh Boy! in 1959, Wainer went on to star in another ITV series, Boy Meets Girls, which was aimed at a wider audience.
Angus Lennie, actor, has died aged 84 (14 September 2014)
On television, he was in Armchair Theatre, "The Mortimer Touch" (ABC, 1957), during its earlier, less adventurous period, in this case a stage play by Eric Linklater. By contrast, Lennie appeared in Mario (BBC, 1959), for the experimental drama movement the Langham Group, employing montages and still photography in adapting a short story by Thomas Mann. More in character was Para Handy – Master Mariner (BBC, 1959-60), as Sunny Jim, deckhand on the Vital Spark, commandeered by lean, craggy-faced Duncan Macrae in the title role.
After The Great Escape, Lennie stayed in RAF uniform for 633 Squadron (1964), chiefly remembered for Ron Goodwin's stirring score, and was directed by Attenborough in the panoramic Oh! What A Lovely War (1969).
Sir Donald Sinden, actor, has died aged 90 (12 September 2014)
Donald Sinden joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon for the 1946-47 season. In October 1947 he made his West End debut as Aumerle in Richard II, and in 1948 joined the Bristol Old Vic. He left Bristol to appear as Arthur Townsend in The Heiress, an adaptation of Henry James’s Washington Square. Sinden had nine lines and appeared in all 644 performances of the show.
During the 1950s, he immersed himself in cinema work, appearing in more than 20 films, including The Cruel Sea (1953), in which he shared top-billing with Jack Hawkins, and Mogambo (1954), a huge safari epic in which Sinden received fourth billing after Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly, as Kelly’s cuckolded gorilla-hunting husband.
After playing Tony Benskin, a womanising medical student in Doctor in the House (1954), Sinden began to find himself being typecast in comic roles. He played Benskin and characters like him for the next eight years.
When the British film industry began to falter in the early Sixties, Sinden’s film career ended.
Sinden went on to make a name for himself as a comedian and farceur. He appeared as Robert Danvers in There’s a Girl in My Soup at the Aldwych in 1966, and won Best Actor awards for his appearances in the Ray Cooney farces Not Now, Darling (1967), Two into One (1984) and Out of Order (1990). In 1976 he was nominated for a Best Actor Tony Award for his performance on Broadway as Arthur Wicksteed in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus.
Bill Kerr, Australian actor, has died aged 92 (30 August 2014)
Bill Kerr made his name on the radio in Britain in the 1950s, becoming particularly well-known for his role (alongside Sid James and Hattie Jacques) as one of Tony Hancock’s three cronies in Hancock’s Half Hour.
But Kerr was also a character actor of distinction, giving memorable performances as a racketeer in My Death is a Mockery (1952); as the bomber pilot Micky Martin in The Dam Busters (1955); and as a mentally disturbed crook in Port of Escape (1956), co-starring Googie Withers and Joan Hickson. His other films of this period included Appointment in London (1952), You Know What Sailors Are (1954) and The Night My Number Came Up (1955).
In 1954 he joined Hancock’s Half Hour, which ran on the radio for six series and later moved on to television. As Hancock’s Australian lodger at the dilapidated 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, Kerr appeared as the gormless, slow-on-the-uptake butt of his landlord’s humour. The role made Kerr a household name in Britain, and he later resumed his partnership with Sid James in the first series of the television comedy Citizen James (1960).
Lord Attenborough, actor and director, has died aged 90 (24 August 2014)
Richard Attenborough was one of the pillars of British cinema, originally as an actor and subsequently as an Oscar-winning director; his 1982 biopic, Gandhi, won best film of the year in the annual Academy Awards, Attenborough himself being named best director and Ben Kingsley best actor in the title role.
Having first made his name on screen in his student days, playing a Navy stoker, terrified under fire, in the war film In Which We Serve (1942), Richard Attenborough was just 24 years old at the time of filming his standout role as Pinkie Brown, the adolescent gangster of Brighton Rock.
In later years his own warmth of personality came to the fore, and with Jurassic Park (1993) he endeared himself to a whole new generation of fans, playing an avuncular professor whose naivety almost proves fatal when things go awry at his dinosaur-filled island theme park.
But it was Gandhi that was the apex of Richard Attenborough’s career and displayed a facility, unsuspected in his acting days, for handling large casts and epic, sweeping narratives.
Juno Alexander, actress, broadcaster and local politician, has died aged 88 (2 August 2014)
Juno Alexander was the older sister of the Conservative politician Lord St John of Fawsley (Norman St John Stevas) and the first wife of the actor Terence Alexander; she made a name in her own right as an actress, broadcaster and local politician - and as a woman of idiosyncrasy and verve.
During the war she joined the Free French and worked with the Resistance; later she served as a Conservative councillor on Richmond council, south-west London.
From the late 1940s to the 1960s, Juno Alexander made frequent appearances on television, in programmes such as The Alfred Marks Show, The Max Miller Show and The Eamonn Andrews Show. After the births of her children, she did less work, but still had small parts in films and in television series, among them Compact and Garry Halliday (a precursor to Dr Who in which she appeared with her husband as his air stewardess girlfriend), and also appeared in series such as Harpers West One (1961) and Love Story (1963), She also appeared on television and radio panel shows including Petticoat Line, with Anona Wynn, Just A Minute and Going for a Song.
Neal Arden, actor and one of the voices behind Housewives’ Choice, has died aged 104 (1 August 2014)
Neal Arden was for more than 20 years one of Britain’s favourite presenters on Housewives’ Choice, the popular record request programme broadcast every morning, six days a week, from 1946 to 1967 on the BBC Light Programme.
In a long and varied career in theatre, film, radio and television, Arden worked with many of the leading stars of their day, from Richard Tauber, Leslie Henson, Trevor Howard and Dulcie Gray to Roger Moore, Harry Secombe, Prunella Scales, Donald Sinden and Doris Day. He was an assiduous fundraiser for charity and, as an actor, took numerous supporting roles both on stage and in television series such as Maigret, Ivanhoe, Z Cars, Dixon of Dock Green and I, Claudius. He also wrote songs, plays and film and television scripts.
He made his screen debut in the 1934 film Princess Charming. Other film credits over the years included the wartime anti-Nazi thriller “Pimpernel” Smith (1941); John Wesley (1954); and The Shakedown (1960). His most substantial role was in Norman Walker’s Life of St Paul (1938), in which he played the saint from beardless youth to bewhiskered old age.
His early theatrical credits included Toad of Toad Hall (Royalty, 1933); Blossom Time (1942, with Richard Tauber, Lyric); Night of the Garter (Strand, 1942); and The Lilac Domino (His Majesty’s, 1944).
In the 1950s Arden wrote many scripts for the new Independent Television and record reviews for newspapers and magazines.
Dora Bryan, actress and comedienne, has died aged 91 (23 July 2014)
Dora Bryan was one of Britain’s most versatile performers; she was at home in revues, restoration comedies and musicals and equally comfortable in dramatic roles, most notably in the film A Taste of Honey (1961), in which she played Rita Tushingham’s slatternly mother and for which she won a Bafta award for best actress.
With her tiny frame, round, friendly and mobile face, her warm-hearted grin and Lancashire gurgle, Dora Bryan had the gift of appealing to every audience as soon as she appeared. To all her work she was able to bring a breezily adaptable and engaging personality.
She starred in several television series designed to showcase her talents, including Our Dora (1968), According to Dora (1968) and Dora (1972), in all of which she played various hapless, apparently simple-minded characters.
Dora Bryan made her screen debut in the late Forties, appearing in a variety of films, including Odd Man Out (1947), The Fallen Idol (1948) and in The Cure for Love (1949), in which she co-starred with Robert Donat. Her versatility was demonstrated by her taking roles in films as diverse as the old-fashioned police thriller The Blue Lamp (1950) and the madcap comedy Mad About Men (1954).
James Garner, actor and producer, has died aged 86 (20 July 2014)
James Garner made his reputation in the late 1950s as the shrewd, anti-heroic gambler Bret Maverick in the iconoclastic Western series of the same name — and sealed it as the 1970s private investigator Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files.
In 1955, Warner Brothers hired him for small roles in Cheyenne, one of the western series infesting television, and advanced him to Marlon Brando's buddy in the movie Sayonara (1957).
Then, after appearing in Towards the Unknown in 1957, Garner was offered the lead in a new television Western series, Maverick. He accepted because he was eager to play characters that upset traditional models: “At that time all cowboys were tough and spent their time shooting one another. Maverick was different because he avoided trouble wherever possible. He hardly shot anyone and he was always on the look-out for a fast buck.” The series was an immediate success and prompted one critic to claim that James Garner “defined 'cool’ for a whole generation”.
"We nearly killed the cowboy shows," said Garner. "It was hard after Maverick to see those guys go around being brave without laughing." Maverick was the hottest show from 1957 to 1959; it reinforced ABC when the network was struggling, and won a 1959 Emmy. more ....
Frank Mumford, master marionettist, has died aged 95 (13 July 2014)
Frank Mumford, who has died aged 95, was a master of marionettes whose career in variety spanned eight decades.
After the Second World War, he and his wife, Maisie, created a speciality act featuring 2ft-tall puppets with large heads and scaled-down bodies. Their line-up included hippos, skating cats, skeletons, dancers , a matador and bull — and their most famous creation, Mademoiselle Zizi, a diminutive chanteuse based on Lana Turner and Gypsy Rose Lee.
The Mumfords played top London nightspots - including the Coconut Grove, Grosvenor House, Ciro’s, the Embassy and the Dorchester - and variety shows and cabarets around the world .
The Mumfords made many television appearances in Britain, working at Alexandra Palace in the early days of children’s television . Mumford carved the early versions of the Watch with Mother puppet character Andy Pandy and also featured in Time for Tich (1963-4) alongside the ventriloquist Ray Alan’s dummy Tich and his pet duck Quackers.
Mumford’s last public appearance was in 2004 - 72 years after he had first appeared on stage with his creations aged 14.
Dickie Jones, child star of cowboy films and rodeos, has died aged 87 (9 July 2014)
Richard 'Dickie' Jones hit the big time - aged 13 - when he voiced Pinocchio for Disney’s 1940 classic animated feature film.
Jones excelled as the voice of the mischievous marionette whose dreams of becoming a real boy are hampered by a propensity for telling tall tales - until, that is, his nose points him in the right direction.
Jones began working at rodeos at the age of six, billed as “The World’s Youngest Trick rider and Roper”. He was soon discovered by Hoot Gibson, an actor and rodeo champion. Film work followed. He played opposite Al Jolson in Wonder Bar (1934) and James Stewart in Mr Smith Goes to Washington and Destry Rides Again (both 1939).
In the Forties and Fifties he appeared in a series of film and television westerns (including a number of Gene Autry features). He had his own short-lived series, Buffalo Bill Jr, from 1955 to 1956. He also starred as sidekick Dick West in The Range Rider western series alongside Jock Mahoney.
Francis Matthews, glamorous star of the BBC's Paul Temple and voice of Captain Scarlet, has died aged 86 (14 June 2014)
Francis Matthews' television debut, for the BBC in its single-channel days, was in Prelude to Glory (1954). For Durbridge, he first did My Friend Charles (1956), as a seemingly affable fellow revealed in the last episode to be a drug-dealing villain.
Tall, slender and with a quietly amused expression, Francis Matthews was ideally suited to play Francis Durbridge's gentleman sleuth Paul Temple, in the popular television adaptations of the 1960s and 70s. But his 60-year career also spanned horror films, comedy and modern classics, and as the voice of Captain Scarlet he reached a new generation of admirers.
Matthews's first film was the Raj tale Bhowani Junction (1956). His clean-cut qualities were also at work in several horror movies. He was an eager assistant to Peter Cushing in Hammer's The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), then played Boris Karloff's son in Corridors of Blood (1958), with Christopher Lee. Matthews grappled with Lee, on the same sets, in Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1965) and Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966).
Paul Temple, which started in 1969 and ran for 64 episodes, was one of BBC1's first colour series. It enabled extensive film sequences and overseas locations, the glamour of which transferred to Matthews and his co-star Ros Drinkwater, playing his wife, Steve. The couple appeared almost impossibly elegant to television audiences of the day, George Sewell as their down-at-heel sidekick helping to underline their suavity.
Overhearing an interview in which Matthews did a jokey impression of Cary Grant, the producer Gerry Anderson cast him in his puppet saga Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (ATV, 1967-68).
Joy Laurey, puppet maker and puppeteer, has died aged 90 (2nd June 2014)
Joy Laurey was born the great grand daughter of the famous Drury Lane clown Sam Laurey.
She started her professional career with E.N.S.A. during the Second World War with her sister and mother making up the Laurey Puppet Company. They entertained  troops with puppet shows up and down the country in a wide variety of locations from Balloon sites on the mainland, to H.M.S. Bulldog at the time of the official announcement that it had liberated Guernsey.
At the end of the war, Joy continued entertaining with puppets, although concentrating the focus on children's entertainment, performing regularly at such venues as the Lord Mayor's Children's Party held at the Mansion House London, appearing with the Laurey Puppet Company regularly for summer  seasons at seaside resorts, and representing Britain in puppet festivals in countries such as Rumania.
During the early 50's Joy Laurey was offered an opportunity to make a puppet character for a one-off television show called "Whirligig".  She made a puppet based on a vegetable, and it was  named "Mr Turnip".  The pilot show proved so successful that it went on to run for over 6 years and Mr Turnip was one of the very first television puppets ever to become a celebrity in his own right.  Mr Turnip was so popular in his day that there was great demand for Mr Turnip toys, dolls, games and even toiletries such as Mr Turnip soap.  Cardboard cut outs were printed on the back of cereal boxes and even fleecy material was printed with Mr Turnip on it for  making children's pyjamas. The programme "Whirligig" was the first "magazine" type children's  programme ever to be produced  by the B.B.C. and featured appearances from many famous names such as: Humphrey Lestocq, Steve Race, Peter Butterworth, Francis Coudrill with his puppet "Hank", and Rolf Harris.
Sir Jack Brabham, World champion racing driver and constructor, has died aged 88 (19 May 2014)
Jack Brabham was three-time Formula One World Champion Driver and two-time Formula One World Champion Constructor, becoming the first driver to win the title in a car of his own making.
“Black Jack” Brabham, an Australian, proved that the pre-requisites of the racing star — quick judgment, lightning reflexes and exuberant dash — are not exclusive to youth. He was past 30 when he started to race Formula One cars, making his debut at the British Grand Prix in 1955 at Aintree, driving a Cooper that he had built himself, before returning home where he won the Australian Grand Prix. The next season, he was signed by John Cooper for his Cooper Car Company team.
Over the next few years, Brabham shone in minor formula races while gradually gaining experience in Formula One. He won his first three World Championship points in 1958, and then at the start of the 1959 season won the Monaco Grand Prix in a “works” Cooper car, setting a new course record. He followed this with a second place in Holland, a third in France and Italy, and victory in the British Grand Prix.
He was in his 34th year when, in 1959, he first won the World Championship. When, the next year, he won the World Championship again, he told his family that he might give the sport a further two years. However, he was still racing as hard as ever, and successfully, after becoming World Champion for a third time in 1966, when he had turned 40.
Eli Woods, comedian who was a stuttering stooge to the great Jimmy James, has died aged 91 (16 May 2014)
Eli Woods was one of the last links to the great era of twice-nightly British variety theatre. A stooped and gangling figure with a long, lugubrious face and permanently gaping mouth, clad in flapping trousers, too-tight jacket and deerstalker hat, he had a stammer which he exaggerated to tremendous comic effect. Woods spent his early career as a stooge for his uncle, Jimmy James, the innovative music-hall comedian who eschewed traditional jokes in favour of elaborate and surreal flights of fancy and was revered in the business as "the comedian's comedian".
Jimmy James, a Northumberland comedian, was renowned for his drunk routines – "The Spare Room", "His First Night", "Sober as a Judge". The most enduring was "In the Box": James was the vaguely inebriated gent who falls into conversation with two idiots named Hutton Conyers and Bretton Woods. The lanky Woods, inhabiting a suit that had long ago parted company with sartorial logic, would stand next to James as though in a stupor, jaw agape, struggling to follow a bizarre exchange about the contents of a shoe box.
"In the Box" evolved through several changes of personnel. Jimmy James' real surname was Casey, and it was his nephew James (Jack) Casey who became the definitive Bretton (later Eli) Woods. From 1948 the young Casey was employed as James' driver, until they arrived in Preston to find that one of the stooges would not be able to make the performance. Casey became Woods, and was persuaded to stay.
Hutton Conyers was first played by James' brother-in-law Jack Darby, later by Dick Carlton, and for three years (1956-59) by Roy Castle, who had temporarily abandoned his own act to perfect his comic timing under the acknowledged master.
Efrem Zimbalist, star of 77 Sunset Strip, has died aged 95 (2 May 2014)
Efrem Zimbalist played leading roles in two of American television’s most celebrated crime dramas, 77 Sunset Strip (1958-64) and The FBI (1965-74).
The first of these featured a pair of former government agents (Zimbalist as Stu Bailey, Roger Smith as Jeff Spencer) who set up as private detectives with an office on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. They were assisted in their investigations by “Kookie” (played by Edd Byrnes), a hip car-parking valet. Introduced by a catchy theme song, the series had a breezy, light-hearted edge that prefigured similar television dramas that would become popular throughout the Sixties.
During summer breaks between 77 Sunset Strip and The FBI, Warner Bros cast Zimbalist in several feature films, including Too Much Too Soon, Home Before Dark, The Crowded Sky, The Chapman Report and Wait Until Dark (in which he appeared alongside Audrey Hepburn). His other films included By Love Possessed and Airport 1975. In the 1990s he recorded the voice of Alfred, the butler, in the cartoon Batman series.
Sir Christopher Chataway, record-breaking athlete, broadcaster and government minister, has died aged 82 (19 January 2014)
In the 1952 Helsinki Olympics he tripped going for the lead in the 5,000 metres, recovering to finish fifth, 12 seconds behind Emil Zatopek. In his last year at Oxford, in the Varsity match, he cut his best for the mile to 4 mins 8.4 sec, then the third fastest by a Briton. In May 1953 Bannister set his record of 4 mins 3.6 sec, paced by Chataway.
For Chataway, the bridge from athletics to politics was television. Chataway joined ITN two months before ITV went live. The reader of ITN’s first bulletin on October 11 1955, he was one of a cluster of contemporaries who became household names: Robin Day (with whom he shared ITN’s debut), Ludovic Kennedy and Geoffrey Johnson Smith. He excelled, but wanted to do more reporting — and in 1956 he moved to the BBC as an interviewer with Panorama.
After winning the June 1970 election, Heath made Chataway, not yet 40, Minister for Posts and Telecommunications. He came under immediate pressure from Mary Whitehouse to "clean up" programmes, and from colleagues to stop jamming pirate stations such as Radio Caroline and to legalise commercial radio. Setting up commercial radio as Minister for Posts and Telecommunications, he spent 12 years with the medium as chairman of LBC.
Geoffrey Wheeler, presenter of Songs of Praise and Top of the Form, has died aged 83 (2 January 2014)
Geoffrey Wheeler began making radio programmes for the BBC while studying Law at Manchester University and in 1954 was appointed the Corporation’s radio producer for the northern region.
He cut his teeth on variety shows, working with such entertainers as Ken Dodd, Benny Hill and Morcambe and Wise.
As the smartly-blazered, avuncular question master on Top of the Form from the early 1960s to 1975, Wheeler earned a place in the cultural hinterland of a generation of vaguely bookish, mostly middle-class, viewers of the sort who now do sterling service as members of pub quiz teams.
The show began in 1948 on the BBC’s Light Programme and Wheeler joined as co-question master with Paddy Feeny. Each would present his half of the show from a different school hall, the two being connected by a then state-of-the – art (for the BBC) landline.
In 1962 the show transferred to television, slimmed down to a single location and with Wheeler as its sole presenter.
Wheeler went freelance in 1963 and as well as presenting Top of the Form, appeared as a panellist on Call my Bluff, as a story teller on Jackanory, and spent 21 years as a regular presenter of Songs of Praise, now the world’s longest-running television religious programme.
David Coleman, Sports |Commentator, has died aged 87 (21 December 2013)
David Coleman was the face and voice of BBC Television sport for 40 years, the anchorman for the flagship Grandstand programme on Saturday afternoons and later the affable host of the popular quiz A Question Of Sport.
In 1953 he started freelance radio work in Manchester and the following year joined the BBC in Birmingham as a news assistant. Having made his first television broadcast on Sportsview in May 1954 on the day Roger Bannister became the first runner to break the four-minute mile, Coleman was appointed sports editor, Midland Region, in November 1955. After the editor of Sportsview, Paul Fox, had seen him interview the footballer Danny Blanchflower on regional television, Coleman transferred to London. In 1958 the BBC’s Head of Sport, Peter Dimmock, offered Coleman the frontman’s job on the new sports magazine programme, Grandstand.
He made his name on the programme where his ad libs and mastery of football trivia standing alongside the teleprinter as the football results came in revealed remarkably acute and detailed research. But he became frustrated by being always studio-bound and yearned for a new challenge. In 1967, however, after repeated wooing by ITV, he signed a new seven-year BBC contract at £10,000 a year, making him the highest-paid broadcaster in television sport.
Jean Kent, actress, has died aged 92 (1 December 2013)
Jean Kent adopted a variety of stage names. At different times she was Peggy Summers and Jean Carr, finally adopting the name Jean Kent in 1943 in It’s That Man Again, a film version of the popular radio show ITMA, starring Tommy Handley.
Her big break came when she was hired as a dancer and understudy in the Max Miller show Apple Sauce (1941) at the Palladium. During rehearsals one of the leading ladies was sacked and Jean was asked to replace her at short notice. She was then spotted by Weston Drury, casting director at Shepherd’s Bush studios, and signed to a contract with Gainsborough Pictures.
She landed her first leading role, in Caravan (1946). In the interim, she had played supporting parts in such pictures as Champagne Charlie (1944), a Tommy Trinder musical about the heyday of music hall, Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944) and The Wicked Lady (1945).
Through much of the Fifties, Jean Kent concentrated on the theatre, appearing in plays and pantomimes (notably a Prince Charming in Cinderella) for which she had hitherto had little time.
In later years she was seen more frequently in television. She played Good Queen Bess in a 1962 series based on the life of Sir Francis Drake and subsequently appeared in such long-running series as Emergency Ward 10, Up Pompeii, Crossroads, Lovejoy and Shrinks.
Stan Stennett, comedian, actor and pantomime veteran, has died aged 88 (26 November 2013)
With his doleful face, good-natured smile and ever-gleaming teeth, the stalwart entertainer Stan Stennett was a favourite in pantomimes and seaside shows around the UK for decades. After starting out as a musician, he found success at the BBC, cracking jokes on the radio series Welsh Rarebit and compering The Black and White Minstrel Show on television in the 1960s.
Stennett's period with The Black and White Minstrel Show did not endear him to the younger and more politically correct generation of TV comedy producers who later took charge. Stennett argued that when the clever satirists took over, audiences tended to stay away. He revered comedians such as "Laurel and Hardy, Mack Sennett, Buster Keaton – these were the gods … We are trying feebly to imitate these people."
Jack Alexander, singer and musician, has died aged 77 (13 November 2013)
Jack Alexander was the singer and pianist with the Alexander Brothers, the duo he formed with his elder brother Tom. They were two of Scotland’s best-loved entertainers, and during a career lasting five decades they toured the world with their versions of traditional Scottish songs, releasing more than 50 albums.
Their big break came in 1962, when the songwriter and producer Tony Hatch saw them perform at the Metropolitan Theatre, Edgware, and suggested that they record an album. Hatch, who had begun his career working with Petula Clark, immediately understood the potential for an act playing traditional Scottish tunes.
Their first album, Highland Fling, was recorded in London, and included favourites such as “A Scottish Soldier” and “Scotland the Brave”, becoming an enormous success. They followed the success of Highland Fling with the single “Nobody’s Child”, which topped the charts in Scotland in 1964, outselling the Beatles that year.
The following year, inspired by the reception of the single, Andy Stewart invited the brothers to tour with him in Canada and the US. They performed alongside Shirley Bassey on the television variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium and by 1965 had been given their own show on STV and had become a mainstay of The White Heather Club, the yearly televised Hogmanay celebrations.
Graham Stark, actor who was frequently cast in supporting roles in comedy films starring his close friend Peter Sellers, has died aged 91 (31 October 2013)
After the war Stark joined the bohemian coterie frequenting the ornate Grafton Arms pub in Victoria where up-and-coming entertainers like Terry-Thomas, Jimmy Edwards, Tony Hancock, Dick Emery and Alfred Marks held court. It was in the Grafton’s back bar that Stark renewed an RAF friendship with Peter Sellers while Sellers and Spike Milligan experimented with material that, in 1951, would metamorphose into The Goon Show.
As well as providing madcap voices for The Goons, Stark also appeared in other popular radio shows of the day, notably Educating Archie, with the ventriloquist Peter Brough, and Ray’s A Laugh, starring the Liverpool comedian Ted Ray.
Whenever Spike Milligan failed to turn up for a Goon Show recording, Stark would stand in for him; and when Milligan and Sellers moved into television with A Show Called Fred in 1956, Stark joined the cast.
In 1964 Stark starred in his television comedy sketch series, The Graham Stark Show, which — although written by Johnny Speight, later to create Till Death Us Do Part — proved a flop.
Singer Joan Regan, who had chart success in the late 50s and early 60s, has died aged 85 (15 September 2013)
Joan Regan had a number of hit records, including Ricochet, May You Always and If I Give My Heart to You.
Regan also had her own BBC television series, Be My Guest, for several years.
The singer starred on both sides of the Atlantic with artists such as Perry Como, Max Bygraves and Cliff Richard.
Regan, who was born in 1928 in Romford in Essex, was one of the most popular British singers of her era and appeared regularly on radio and TV.
Her career took off after theatrical impresario Bernard Delfont heard her recordings and signed her up with his agency.
Regan soon won a recording contract with the British record label, Decca Records, although only for a trial period of three records, which by her own admission "didn't exactly set the hit parade alight".
However, Decca released a recording she had made some months earlier of a song called Ricochet.
The record paved the way for theatre, radio and television engagements.
Regan was later to feature on American television with major performers including Eddie Fisher, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Perry Como.
She appeared at the London Palladium many times, with other entertainers such as Max Bygraves, Cliff Richard, Russ Conway and Edmund Hockridge.
In 1984, she hit her head in the shower causing a blood clot on the brain which left her paralysed and without speech.
But after therapy she made a complete recovery, singing again in Britain on radio and in concerts.
David Jacobs, actor and radio and TV broadcaster, has died aged 87 (3 September 2013)
David Jacobs' first acting role was as Laurie in the BBC's first TV adaptation of Little Women (1950-51). When Charles Chilton's Journey into Space proved to be a great radio hit in the 1950s, Jacobs introduced it and took 22 roles.
After a period on Radio Luxembourg he was offered the freelance job of disc jockey on the radio programme Housewives' Choice, on which Jacobs had to play record requests and punctuate them with anodyne chat.
He was perfect for the job. It was a natural progression when he took over Juke Box Jury on TV, chairing a celebrity panel as they assessed likely chart hits – hailed with a hotel-reception-counter bell – or misses – dismissed with a hooter. At one time Jacobs seemed to be always on television whenever the on-switch was turned, with appearances on What's My Line, Top of the Pops, the Eurovision Song Contest, Come Dancing, Miss World and many more.
When a senior BBC executive advised him that it was all too much, he reinvented himself as a player with more gravitas, to succeed Freddy Grisewood on Any Questions? Having conceded that he was "too square for the pop scene", Jacobs became a stalwart of Radio 2, presenting music programmes in a succession of formats right up until a few weeks before his death.
Mike Winters, straight man to his goofy-toothed brother Bernie, has died aged 82 (27 August 2013)
The brothers were pioneers of television comedy, first appearing on Britain’s screens in 1955 on the BBC show Variety Parade after which they moved to ITV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium, supporting Shirley Bassey.
In 1965 they won their own comedy show on ITV which 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. 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.
But in 1978 they fell out, and Mike abandoned showbusiness and 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.
Jeremy Geidt, presenter of Childrens's TV Caravan in the 1950s, has died aged 83 (17 August 2013)
Jeremy Geidt acted in London, moving to the USA in 1961 where he acted at Yale Repertory Theatre before helping to start the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He also taught at Harvard University.
The Children's Television Caravan was an Outside Broadcast unit which traversed the British Isles during the summer for five years starting in 1956. It utilised a very large vehicle which, by letting down one of its sides, formed a miniature stage on which a team made up of a compere and master of ceremonies, two clowns, a pianist, and a drummer provided continually changing entertainment. Local children, chosen for their talent, appeared in this caravan theatre as a regular part of the programme
. It was compered by Jeremy Geidt with resident artists Clive Dunn (as Mr. Crumpet) and Elton Hayes.
Alan Whicker, interviewer and documentary maker, has died aged 87 (13 July 2013)
Alan Whicker was the quintessence of the glory days of British television, the time between the late 1950s and the late 1970s when there were no more than two or three channels and any notable programme would be seen by more than half the population.
He was doing odd jobs for BBC radio when Alasdair Milne, then working for its flagship current affairs programme Tonight, spotted his ability to ask "impertinent" questions without giving offence.
In 1957 Whicker was invited to join the BBC’s early evening magazine programme Tonight, presented by Cliff Michelmore. His first story was about Ramsgate landladies. Nine reports from Northern Ireland about the uneasy truce between Catholics and Protestants went unused after vociferous complaints about his deadpan, even-handed approach from the local BBC controller and the Bishop of Derry. From then on Whicker insisted on seeing the footage first, then writing his own commentary. The technique served him well as he looked all over the world for kinks in human character and behaviour for Whicker's World.
In the 1960s he got his own show, Whicker’s World, which allowed him to travel continually around the globe from Alaska to the Outback and turned him into a household name. By the 1970s Whicker’s World was coming top in the ratings, beating Coronation Street. He worked seven days a week, meeting luminaries such as John Paul Getty, Papa Doc Duvalier, Peter Sellers, Luciano Pavarotti, Sean Connery, Salvador Dali and the Sultan of Brunei. It was a frenetic pace, belied by the smooth, dapper and unruffled persona on screen.
In 1993 Whicker was the first to be named in the Royal Television Society's Hall of Fame for an outstanding creative contribution to British TV. A fanclub was formed, consisting of members who dressed up as Whicker and discussed their hero once a month. His singular style also gave rise in 1972 to Monty Python's celebrated Whicker Island sketch, with all of the team doing impressions.
Whicker remained active into old age, continuing to make TV and radio series until recently, and publishing volumes of memoirs. He had become wealthy, with a Nash flat in Regent's Park and a handsome home in Jersey. In 2005 he was appointed CBE.

Hans Hass, marine biologist, oceanographer and zoologist, has died aged 94 (25 June 2013)
Hans Hass was a pioneer - with his wife Lotte - of spectacular films of the sea depths, and in the mid-1950s shot the first underwater footage for the BBC.
The Hasses’ first BBC series, Diving To Adventure, largely filmed in the Aegean, was screened in 1956. The programmes proved hugely popular and the couple returned to the screen two years later with another series, The Undersea World of Adventure, shot in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
The couple’s exploits beneath the sea, filmed on comparatively primitive cameras and broadcast in black and white, thrilled television audiences throughout the late 1950s and 1960s by opening a window on to a breathtaking and hitherto unseen world. Rivalled only by Jacques Cousteau, Hass and his wife managed - often in perilous circumstances - to capture the habits and activities of a range of deep-sea creatures including dangerous sharks, barracuda and giant manta rays.
The pictures he brought back also helped to inject the emerging sport of scuba-diving with some much-needed glamour, as did the television series Sea Hunt, launched in 1958 and starring the actor Lloyd Bridges.
Frank Thornton, actor, has died aged 92 (18 March 2013)
Frank Thornton was conscripted into the air force as a navigator in 1943 and, after the end of the war, remained in the RAF entertainment unit where, among his charges, were Dick Emery, Peter Sellers and Tony Hancock.
He appeared in the Edgar Lustgarten-hosted series The Silent Witness in 1954 and, a year later, was credited in the part of Inspector Finch in the British film Radio Cab Murder.
The next 15 years saw him appearing in a wide range of small character parts in films and TV series including The Avengers and Danger Man.
He also appeared in various comedy programmes such as It's a Square World, Hancock's Half-Hour, The Benny Hill Show, Sykes and Steptoe And Son, as well as movie spin-off Steptoe And Son Ride Again.
But it was in 1972 when he took the role of the officious Captain Stephen Peacock in the comedy series, Are You Being Served? that he became known to millions. Frank Thornton played the lugubrious, disdainful and immaculately tailored Capt Peacock in the long-running BBC Television sitcom for 12 years.
Dale Robertson, Western film and TV actor, has died aged 89 (27 February 2013)
Dale Robertson was a skilled rider at the age of ten and training polo ponies by the time he was a teenager. He often said that the only reason he acted professionally was to save money to start his own horse farm in Oklahoma, which he eventually did.
In the movies he was a ruggedly handsome counterpart to leading ladies like Betty Grable, Mitzi Gaynor and Jeanne Crain. On television he had starring roles in popular westerns like 'Tales of Wells Fargo' which appeared from 1957 to 1961; 'Iron Horse' from 1966 to 1968; and 'Death Valley Days' which he hosted from 1968 to 1972.
He developed, owned and starred in the “Wells Fargo” series, playing Jim Hardie, a troubleshooter for the stagecoach company. To make the character distinctive, he had the right-handed Hardie draw his gun and shoot left-handed.
“Wells Fargo” was originally shown in black and white and in half-hour episodes. In 1961, however, the producers wanted to turn it into a full-hour show, broadcast it in color and expand the ensemble of characters. Mr. Robertson refused and sold the show to them.
In 1981 he played an oil wildcatter in early episodes of 'Dynasty'. The next year he had a recurring role in another glitzy nighttime soap opera, 'Dallas'.
Reginald Turnill, the BBC’s former air and aerospace correspondent, has died aged 97 (13 February 2013)
Turnill covered the golden age of post-war aviation from jet power to the Space Shuttle; though he reported on the success of the first Moon landing, his most celebrated story was the scoop that Apollo 13 was in difficulties.
Turnill joined the BBC in 1956. There he became assistant industry correspondent. After covering Sputnik in 1957, however, he was so enthralled with space that, in 1958, he agreed to become the corporation’s air and space correspondent, with a brief to cover defence. As a result he covered bombing raids over Vietnam – only to irritate the US Air Force by pointing out their inaccuracy.
As the public enthusiasm for the Moon declined after the first landing, the BBC grumbled about Turnill still wanting to go to America. But he proved his value with the Apollo 13 trip in 1970. After the astronauts’ safe return, there were no more demands that he remain in London, and his wife received $75 for being his editorial assistant.
On October 4 1957, Turnill was on hand to announce “the starter’s pistol for the race to the Moon” – the Soviet launch of Sputnik. He covered the space race in its entirety, travelling first to Moscow to describe Yuri Gagarin’s guarded press conference after the cosmonaut became the first man in orbit in 1961, and then to Cape Canaveral for Alan Shepherd’s account of his 15-minute sub-orbital “lob”.
During the periods between launches Turnill found plenty to occupy him, notably the joint development of Concorde by Britain and France, with its mixture of scientific difficulties, national pride and astronomic costs. But it was undoubtedly the pictures beamed from the surface of the Moon in 1969 that proved the most intoxicating story of all.
Peter Gilmore, actor and star of The Onedin Line, has died aged 81 (9 February 2013)
Gilmore began his stage career as a vocalist, appearing with the George Mitchell Singers in summer seasons with Harry Secombe and the comedian Al Read. Between 1954 and 1956 he played in the popular Crazy Gang revue Jokers Wild (Victoria Palace). From the mid-1950s he also made television commercials in Germany, Ireland and the United States.
After working in provincial stage productions, with occasional London dates, stardom beckoned in 1958 when he was cast as Freddy Eynsford Hill in the West End production of My Fair Lady (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane). At the last minute, however, he was replaced because he was a baritone and the score called for a tenor.
His big television break came the same year in the ITV series Ivanhoe, in which he worked with the executive producer Peter Rogers, later to develop the Carry On comedy canon. Gilmore made several appearances in Carry On films, including Carry On Jack (1963) and Carry On Cleo (1964), both of which afforded him seaborne roles, as well as Carry On Up The Khyber (1968) and Carry On Henry (1971).
Robert Kee, writer and broadcaster, has died aged 93 (12 January 2013)
Robert Kee was well known as the presenter of such programmes as Panorama, This Week, Yorkshire Television’s Various Faces of Communism, and ITN’s lunchtime news programme, which he launched in 1972; he was, however, probably most famous, both as a presenter and writer, as a historian of Irish nationalism.
In 1958 Kee joined the BBC to report on the Algerian war for Panorama, helping to set new standards for television reportage. In a series of vivid on-location reports, he gave the viewers a sense of being in the thick of the action.
In 1962 he left the BBC to become one of the founders of a freelance agency, Television Reporters International. When that did not get off the ground, he accepted Jeremy Isaacs’s invitation to join Associated Rediffusion’s This Week. For the next 14 years he worked on and off for various other independent television companies, most notably, from 1972, as presenter of First Report, ITN’s first lunchtime news programme, for which he won the Bafta Richard Dimbleby Award. In 1978 he returned to the BBC to work on the Ireland series. Three years later he replaced David Dimbleby as presenter of Panorama.
Kee specialised in strife. For television he reported on conflicts in Algeria and the Congo, as well as the Prague Spring; as a historian, he also chronicled the key years of the Second World War. His interest in the troubled history of Ireland developed in the 1950s, when he embarked on a three-volume study which eventually saw the light of day in 1972 as The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism.
Alasdair Milne, the only Director-General of the BBC to be dismissed from office, has died aged 82 (9 January 2013)
Alasdair Milne joined the BBC as a general trainee in 1954, being one of two selected from 1,110 applicants (the other was Patrick Dromgoole, later managing director of HTV).
By February 1957 he was one of the architects (later he became editor) of BBC Television’s nightly news and current affairs flagship Tonight, in charge of a team which included such future stars as Cliff Michelmore, Alan Whicker, Geoffrey Johnson Smith, Macdonald Hastings, Fyfe Robertson, Derek Hart and Kenneth Allsop. It went on air every weeknight at 6.05pm.
The vigorous, young Tonight team aimed for a new, more incisive style of interviewing that, in Milne’s words, would test the ability of politicians to think on their feet. When ITV presented the Corporation with its first-ever competition, the BBC’s overall audience share plunged to an all-time low of 28 per cent; Tonight, however, succeeded in maintaining its nightly viewing figure of between eight and 10 million.
When his boss, Donald Baverstock, was promoted to Assistant Controller of Programmes, Milne took his place. Under his editorship, the programme spawned Tonight Productions, a stable which included Whicker Down Under and the memorable 26-part documentary series The Great War.
Daphne Oxenford, Radio presenter and actress, has died aged 93 (4 January 2013)
Known to millions as the voice of Listen With Mother, Daphne Oxenford would open each programme by asking: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin."
She was also one of the original cast members of Coronation Street, playing Esther Hayes, and was a cast member of Midsomer Murders until 2008.
Debuting in 1950, Listen With Mother consisted of stories, songs and nursery rhymes for children under the age of five. It began at 1:45pm every weekday, to coincide with the end of children's lunchtime meal. At its peak, it had an audience of more than a million.
Oxenford narrated the programme from 1950 to 1971, and her meticulously modulated opening phrase was eventually included in the Oxford dictionary of quotations.
But regular listeners will also recall the words that would precede her arrival: "And when the music stops Daphne Oxenford will be here to tell you a story".
  News Archive - Click here

Return to home page

If you have any comments or further information of interest, please e-mail webmaster@whirligig-tv.co.uk