Brian Clemens

Last updated

Brian Clemens
OBE
Born
Brian Horace Clemens

(1931-07-30)30 July 1931
Died10 January 2015(2015-01-10) (aged 83)
Occupation(s)Film and television producer, screenwriter
Spouse(s)Brenda Prior (m. 1955–1966) [1]
Janet Elizabeth Clemens (m. 1979–2015; his death)
PartnerDiane Enright (~1966–1976) [1] (Till her suicide)
ChildrenTwo with Janet Elizabeth. [2]

Brian Horace Clemens OBE (30 July 1931 – 10 January 2015) was an English screenwriter and television producer. He worked on the British TV series The Avengers and created The New Avengers and The Professionals .

Contents

Early life

Clemens was born in Croydon, Surrey, to Suzanna (née O'Grady) and Albert, [3] an engineer, who worked in music halls. [2] Clemens said he was related to Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens), and reflected this in the naming of his two sons, Samuel Joshua Twain Clemens and George Langhorne Clemens. [2] [4] He left school aged 14. [1]

Following national service in the British Army at Aldershot, [5] where he was a weapons training instructor in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, [1] Clemens wanted to be a journalist but decided he did not have any qualifications. He was offered a job with a private detective agency, but this involved taking a training course in the city of Leeds and, as he had been away from home in London for two years, he decided he did not want to go away again. [1] Instead, he worked his way up from messenger boy at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. [5] While he was a copywriter there, he had a thriller screenplay accepted and shot by BBC TV - Valid for Single Journey Only (1955). [1] This brought him to the attention of the Danziger brothers, independent, low-budget movie producers. [5]

TV career

Writer

From the mid-1950s onward Clemens was a staff writer for the Danzigers, churning out dozens of quickie scripts for assembly line 'B' movies and half-hour television series such as Mark Saber (ITV, 1957–1959; also known as Saber of London), White Hunter (ITV, 1958–1960), Man from Interpol (ITV, 1960–1961), and Richard The Lionheart (ITV, 1961–1965). [5]

He wrote for ITC Entertainment's thriller series The Invisible Man (ITV, 1958–1959), Sir Francis Drake (ITV, 1961–1962), and Danger Man (ITV, 1960–1961; 1964–1967; also known as Secret Agent), [5] for which he had written the pilot. [2] His output was so prolific during the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s that he frequently used the pseudonym Tony O'Grady.

He wrote the second episode for The Avengers [5] (ITV, 1961–1969) in 1961 [1] but not the pilot, as is often claimed. He also wrote one other episode ("One for the Mortuary") for the first season and multiple episodes of the third season. Beginning in the fourth season, Clemens became the script editor, associate producer and main scriptwriter for the series. According to the British Film Institute's profile of him, he "brought this spirit of burlesque to his other series - most notably with Adam Adamant Lives! (BBC, 1966–1967), but also with The Baron (ITV, 1966–1967), The Persuaders! (ITV, 1971–1972), The Protectors (ITV, 1972–1974), and The Adventurer (ITV, 1972–1974) - resoundingly poking fun both at the genre they were imitating and the sources of their inspiration." [5] Due to his rapid working rate and productivity, Clemens would frequently perform extensive rewrites of other writers' scripts to ensure the show consistently matched his creative sensibilities; fellow Avengers writer Roger Marshall later noted that "his influence pervades almost every scene" [6] of the show's later seasons.

Clemens cast Diana Rigg to replace departing star Honor Blackman in The Avengers. He was later quoted as saying, "I didn't do Diana a very good service. It made her an international star but I think I could have done more for her as far as the script was concerned. She was rather a stooge to Patrick Macnee's Steed." [1] He did not choose Linda Thorson to replace Rigg. [1]

Producer

Clemens created the BBC TV sitcom My Wife Next Door (1972) but left the scriptwriting to Richard Waring. The series won a BAFTA Award for Best Situation Comedy Series. Made around the same time, the TV movie The Woman Hunter was scripted by Clemens and fellow ITC writer Tony Williamson from the former's story. It was Clemens' first American credit.

He followed this with a twist-in-the-tail anthology series Thriller (ITV 1973–1976; also known as Menace), for which he wrote all the stories as well as 38 of the scripts. [1]

In the mid-1970s, Clemens sued fellow writer Terry Nation for plagiarism, saying he had given the concept of the 1975 television series Survivors to Nation in the late 1960s and that had he registered the idea with the Writers' Guild of Great Britain in 1965. Nation strenuously denied the allegation. Both sides agreed to discontinue the case due to escalating legal fees. [7]

Clemens' company The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises Ltd [1] created a French/Canadian/British co-production, [5] The New Avengers (ITV 1976-1977). The series cost £125,000 an episode to produce and was not a critical success, but sold to 120 countries. [1] To cast the central female role of Purdey, Clemens considered "about 700 girls", interviewed 200, read scripts with 40 and screen-tested 15 [1] before choosing Joanna Lumley. His company Avengers Mark One Productions went on to produce The Professionals (ITV, 1977–1983). [5]

In the early 1980s he was twice asked to produce a U.S. version of his most successful series - The Avengers U.S.A. for producer Quinn Martin and The Avengers International for Taft Entertainment [5] but neither version materialised. An earlier attempt by Clemens at a US-based Avengers-style series resulted in his writing and co-producing the hour-long pilot film Escapade which was aired by CBS in 1978; again, this project did not proceed to series. [8] However, he did write episodes for the US TV series Darkroom (ABC-TV, 1981–1982), Remington Steele (NBC, 1982–1987), and Max Monroe: Loose Cannon (CBS, 1990).

Back in the UK, he worked on the BBC's Bergerac (1981–1991), the anthologies Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (ITV, 1984–1986) and Worlds Beyond (ITV, 1984–1989), and adapted Gavin Lyall's espionage thriller The Secret Servant as a three-part drama for the BBC (1984). [5]

He then, in the US again, worked on the Father Dowling Mysteries (NBC, 1989; ABC-TV, 1990–1991), as executive script consultant for the feature-length revival series of Raymond Burr's Perry Mason (CBS, 1985–1995) for which he wrote three teleplays. He wrote for the Dick Van Dyke mystery series Diagnosis: Murder (CBS, 1992–2001). [5]

He wrote for the Bugs TV series in the UK (BBC, 1995–1999) and Highlander: The Series in the US. Clemens' final credit was for Jane Doe: How To Fire Your Boss in 2007.

Films

In 1971, he wrote and produced for Hammer Film Productions Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde and, in 1972, wrote and directed Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (his only directorial effort). He also wrote the screenplays and/or stories for the feature films Operation Murder (1957), The Tell-Tale Heart (1960), Station Six-Sahara (1963), The Peking Medallion (1967), And Soon the Darkness (1970), See No Evil (1971), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), The Watcher in the Woods (1980), and Highlander II: The Quickening (1991). [9]

Selected filmography

Theatre

In 1988, Clemens wrote the play Holmes and the Ripper, which was inspired by Stephen Knight's book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution . The play has the great detective Sherlock Holmes and his colleague Dr. Watson become embroiled in the grisly murders in Whitechapel in 1888. The play would be adapted into an audio drama by Big Finish Productions. [10]

In 2008 Clemens wrote the play Murder Hunt, which was performed at The Mill at Sonning and starred David Monteith as Captain K'Maka, a native African policeman who has to find the murderer amongst a bunch of guests stranded at a remote safari lodge. [11] The list of plays he helped to write and produce: [12]

YearTitleCollaborationGenreNotes
1971The Avengers Terence Feely Stage version of television show
1972LoverThriller
1972Shock!Thriller
1973Dear HeartTerence FeelyDramaLoosely based upon life of Joe Orton
1975Edge of DarknessDrama
1977Our KidOne act DramaBased upon the Moors Murders and Myra Hindley
1979I'm Only Going to Kill her Dennis Spooner Comedy
1979Will You Still Love Me in the MorningDennis SpoonerSex comedy
1982All About MurderThriller
1986Sting in the TaleDennis SpoonerDrama
1988Holmes and the RipperMysteryBased on the Whitechapel murders and Sherlock Holmes
1990Anybody for Murder?Dennis SpoonerDrama
1993Inside JobThriller
2001The Devil at MidnightThriller
Without Trace
2006Strictly MurderThriller
2012Murder WeaponThriller

Personal life

Clemens married his first wife Brenda Prior in 1955; they divorced in 1966. [1] From 1967, he was with the actress Diane Enright, who was Diana Rigg's stand-in as Emma Peel during the 1965-1967 Avengers series. Enright died by suicide in 1976. [1] He then married Janet Elizabeth with whom he had two sons; they stayed together until his death.

Clemens was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours. [13]

Death

Clemens died at home on 10 January 2015, aged 83. [14] The cause of death was a leaking aneurysm. His son said his father had died shortly after watching an episode of The Avengers, and that his last words were: "I did quite a good job." [15]

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 "TV Times magazine". 22 October 1977. p. 22.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Interview with Brian Clemens, Classic Images website, May 1999". Archived from the original on 30 October 2004.
  3. "Brian Clemens obituary". The Guardian . 12 January 2015. Archived from the original on 8 April 2023.
  4. "BBC America website". Archived from the original on 25 June 2007.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 "British Film Institute profile of Brian Clemens".
  6. http://theavengers.tv/forever/bio-marshall.htm
  7. Bignell, Jonathan; O'Day, Andrew (2004). Terry Nation. Manchester University Press. p. 21. ISBN   0-7190-6547-X.
  8. Goldberg, L. (2015). Television fast forward: sequels & remakes of cancelled series 1955-1992. Calabasas: Adventures in Television.
  9. R.I.P. Brian Clemens, Writer of ‘See No Evil’ And ‘Thriller’, Dies At Age 83
  10. "Production of Holmes and the Ripper | Theatricalia".
  11. "Murder Hunt". The Mill at Sonning web site. Archived from the original on 26 May 2008.
  12. "Brian Clemens". doollee.com. Archived from the original on 14 May 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  13. "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 9.
  14. Brian Clemens Dies, Creator Of ‘Avengers,’ ‘The Professionals’
  15. "The Avengers writer Brian Clemens dies aged 83". thestage.co.uk. 13 January 2015.