Ted Willis, Baron Willis
Edward Henry Willis
13 January 1914
|Died||22 December 1992 (aged 78)|
|Resting place||Tottenham Cemetery|
Edward Henry Willis, Baron Willis (13 January 1914 – 22 December 1992) was a British playwright, novelist and screenwriter who was also politically active in support of the Labour Party.In 1941 he became the Secretary General of the Young Communist League, the youth branch of the Communist Party of Great Britain.
Born in Tottenham, Middlesex, in Patrick Dickinson's book Could Do Better, Willis described when he was leaving school at the age of fourteen: "I had a two-second 'career interview' with my Headmaster. He asked me what I wished to do for the future and I told him that I intended to become a writer. His response was a cackle followed by the remark: 'You will never make a writer in a hundred years. You haven't got the imagination for it or the intelligence. Go away and learn a good trade.'"
Willis was elected Chairman of the Labour League of Youth as the candidate of the left in 1937. He was also drama critic for the Daily Worker .
Willis enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers in 1939, subsequently serving in the Army Kinematograph Service.He often spoke at meetings during the Second World War in favour of opening a second front, in order to help the Red Army, which was bearing the brunt of the Nazi onslaught.
His passion for drama first manifested in plays he wrote for the Unity Theatre, based in a former chapel near St Pancras, during the war. He was best known for writing the television series Dixon of Dock Green , based on the stories of Gordon Snashall, a local Chislehurst policeman with whom he was great friends; the series ran for more than twenty years. He was Chairman of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain from 1958 to 1964. Willis created several British television series such as Virgin of the Secret Service , Hunter's Walk, The Adventures of Black Beauty , Copper's End, Sergeant Cork and Mrs Thursday .
He was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most prolific writer for television; he also wrote 34 stage plays and a number of feature films.
Announced on 23 December 1963 he was awarded a life peerage,which was created on 21 January 1964 with the title Baron Willis, of Chislehurst in the County of Kent, on a Labour Party nomination.
Willis was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1959 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews in the club at the BBC's Lime Grove Studios, in London's Shepherd's Bush.
He married the actress Audrey Hale in 1944 and they had a son and a daughter.He died of a heart attack at his home in Chislehurst, Kent in December 1992 aged 78, and was buried at Tottenham Cemetery.
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