Ted Willis, Baron Willis

Last updated
Ted Willis, Baron Willis
Born
Edward Henry Willis

13 January 1914
Tottenham, England
Died22 December 1992 (aged 78)
Chislehurst, Kent, England
Resting place Tottenham Cemetery
Spouse(s)Audrey Hale
Children2

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. [1] [2] In 1941 he became the Secretary General of the Young Communist League, the youth branch of the Communist Party of Great Britain. [3]

Contents

Early life and War service

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 . [4]

Willis enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers in 1939, subsequently serving in the Army Kinematograph Service. [5] [6] 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.

Writing career

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. [5]

Honours and awards

Announced on 23 December 1963 he was awarded a life peerage, [7] which was created on 21 January 1964 with the title Baron Willis, of Chislehurst in the County of Kent, [8] on a Labour Party nomination. [9]

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.

Coat of arms of Ted Willis, Baron Willis
Coronet of a British Baron.svg
Willis Escutcheon.png
Coronet
Coronet of a Baron
Crest
In front of a Weeping Willow Tree a Well Head proper
Escutcheon
Or a Saltire Gules on a Chief Vert three Fountains
Supporters
On either side a Willet (Common Snipe) proper supporting with the beak a Quill Or
Motto
Will well [10]

Personal life

He married the actress Audrey Hale in 1944 and they had a son and a daughter. [6] He died of a heart attack at his home in Chislehurst, Kent in December 1992 aged 78, [5] and was buried at Tottenham Cemetery. [11]

Credits

Selected plays

Films

Selected TV

Related Research Articles

Peerage Act 1963 United Kingdom legislation

The Peerage Act 1963 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that permitted women peeresses and all Scottish hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, and which allows newly inherited hereditary peerages to be disclaimed.

Peter Carington, 6th Baron Carrington British Conservative politician (1919–2018)

Peter Alexander Rupert Carington, 6th Baron Carrington, Baron Carington of Upton, was a British Conservative politician and hereditary peer who served as defence secretary from 1970 to 1974, foreign secretary from 1979 to 1982, chairman of British General Electric Company from 1983 to 1984, and secretary general of NATO from 1984 to 1988. In the first government of Margaret Thatcher, he played a major role in negotiating the Lancaster House Agreement that ended the racial conflict in Rhodesia and enabled the creation of Zimbabwe.

Gerald Gardiner, Baron Gardiner

Gerald Austin Gardiner, Baron Gardiner, was a British Labour politician, who served as Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain from 1964 to 1970 and during that time he introduced into British law as many reforms as any Lord Chancellor had done before or since. In that position he embarked on a great programme of reform, most importantly setting up the Law Commission in 1965.

<i>Armchair Theatre</i> British television series

Armchair Theatre is a British television drama anthology series of single plays that ran on the ITV network from 1956 to 1974. It was originally produced by Associated British Corporation. Its franchise successor Thames Television took over from mid-1968.

Wayland Young, 2nd Baron Kennet

Wayland Hilton Young, 2nd Baron Kennet was a British writer and politician, notably concerned with planning and conservation. As a Labour minister, he was responsible for setting up the Department of the Environment and the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. Later he joined the SDP. He lost his seat in the Lords, following the House of Lords Act 1999.

Peter Thomas, Baron Thomas of Gwydir British politician

Peter John Mitchell Thomas, Baron Thomas of Gwydir, was a British Conservative politician. He was the first Welshman to become Chairman of the Conservative Party, serving from 1970 to 1972, and the first Conservative to serve as Secretary of State for Wales, holding that office from 1970 to 1974.

Alun Gwynne Jones, Baron Chalfont British politician

Alun Arthur Gwynne Jones, Baron Chalfont, was a British Army officer, a British politician and a historian.

Bernard Miles English actor, writer, and director (1907–1991)

Bernard James Miles, Baron Miles, CBE was an English character actor, writer and director. He opened the Mermaid Theatre in London in 1959, the first new theatre that opened in the City of London since the 17th century.

Sir William Marcus John Worsley, 5th Baronet, was a British Conservative Party politician. He served as a Member of Parliament in four parliaments between 1959 and 1974, and served as High Sheriff and Lord Lieutenant for North Yorkshire.

Douglas Houghton, Baron Houghton of Sowerby

Arthur Leslie Noel Douglas Houghton, Baron Houghton of Sowerby, was a British Labour politician. He was the last British Cabinet minister born in the 19th century. After he retired in 1967, every Cabinet minister has been born since 1900. He was also the last veteran of World War I to serve in the Cabinet and both Houses of Parliament.

Victor Maddern English actor

Victor Jack Maddern was an English actor, described by The Telegraph as having "one of the most distinctive and eloquent faces in post-war British cinema."

Mervyn Johns Welsh actor

David Mervyn Johns was a Welsh film and television character actor who became a star of British films during World War II. In the postwar era, he worked frequently at Ealing Studios.

Richard Wood, Baron Holderness British politician (1920-2002)

Richard Frederick Wood, Baron Holderness, was a British Conservative politician who held numerous ministerial positions from 1955 to 1974. He was distinctive in having lost both his legs in action in North Africa during World War II.

Robert Morrison, 1st Baron Morrison British politician (1881–1953)

Robert Craigmyle Morrison, 1st Baron Morrison was a British Labour and Co-operative politician.

Sir Pierson John Dixon was a British diplomat and writer. He was known to be a firm believer in the value of diplomacy to solve international issues.

Edmund Davies, Baron Edmund-Davies British judge

Herbert Edmund Edmund-Davies, Baron Edmund-Davies, PC was a British judge.

John Brooks was an English professional footballer and manager who played for Reading, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Brentford, Crystal Palace in the Football League. Brooks won three England caps and scored two goals. Towards the end of his career he played in non-league football with Stevenage Town and Cambridge City and in North America with Cleveland Stokers. He later player-managed Knebworth. His son Shaun Brooks also had a career in professional football.

Hilda Fenemore British actress

Hilda Lilian Fenemore was an English actress with a prolific career in film and television from the 1940s to the 1990s. Fenemore played mainly supporting roles which were characterised in her obituary in The Stage as "friends, neighbours, mothers and passers-by"; however, her many credits meant that she fell into the category of actresses who a majority of film and TV viewers would have been unable to name, yet whose face was instantly recognisable. Her longest-running role was recurring character Jennie Wren in TV series Dixon of Dock Green, who she played for six series between 1960 and 1965.

Hot Summer Night is a play by Ted Willis first produced in 1958.

References

  1. Pattullo, Polly (23 December 1992). "Obituary:Ted Willis". The Guardian . Manchester.
  2. Sutton, Shaun (23 December 1992). "Obituary: Ted Willis". The Guardian . Manchester.
  3. Landin, Conrad (28 March 2021). "The Writers' Action Group Is a Model for Today's Fight for the Arts". Tribune.
  4. Obituary, The Independent
  5. 1 2 3 Roberts, Alison (23 December 1992). "Creator of Dixon dies aged 78". The Times . London.
  6. 1 2 "Lord Willis: Obituary". The Times . London. 23 December 1992.
  7. "No. 43190". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 December 1963. p. 10533.
  8. "No. 43225". The London Gazette . 21 January 1964. p. 571.
  9. "WILLIS, Ted". British Film Institute . Archived from the original on 5 January 2008. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
  10. Cracroft's Peerage
  11. "Ted Willis, Baron Willis". Find a Grave . Retrieved 7 May 2015.

Bibliography

Party political offices
Preceded by National Secretary of the Young Communist League
1941 - c.1946
Succeeded by
Bill Brooks