Sunday, March 3, 2013
Sir Denis Forman, the former chairman of Granada TV, who was responsible for beaming programmes such as Coronation Street into living rooms across the country, has died aged 95.
The great television pioneer was one of the founding executives of Granada TV and was the driving force behind bringing The Jewel in the Crown – one of the most expensive series of all time – to the small screen, starring Highgate actors Charles Dance and Tim Pigott-Smith.
Sir Denis, who lived in Hampstead Hill Gardens, Hampstead, during the summer, served as chairman of Granada from 1974 to 1987 and deputy chairman of the Granada Group from 1984 to 1990, overseeing hit programmes World in Action, 7 Up and Brideshead Revisited, as well as commissioning the popular soap Coronation Street.
He went on to become deputy chairman of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden between 1984 and 1988.
Hampstead resident Peter Gorb, who met Sir Denis in India in 1947 in the aftermath of the Second World War, said: “He was an interesting, charming man, extremely witty, very knowledgeable and very cultured.
“He spent most of his time in London at his two clubs, The Garrick and Savile Club. Whenever I saw him he would always buy me a glass of champagne because it was his favourite drink.”
Born in Dumfries in 1917, Sir Denis studied at Pembroke College Cambridge before being drafted into the Army.
Posted to Italy, he was injured by an exploding smoke canister during the battle of Monte Cassino, shattering his lower leg. It was later amputated.
After the Second World War, he worked briefly at the Central Office of Information before becoming director of the British Film Institute (BFI).
In those years he founded the National Film Theatre on the South Bank and grew the BFI’s membership from 2,000 to 25,000.
In 1955, Sir Denis left to join Sidney Bernstein as a director of the new Granada company and started with a small, yet popular programme, What the Papers Say, scrutinising the press.
Later he turned his attention to turning author Paul Scott’s four-volume masterpiece Raj Quartet into something fit for a television drama.
Before the project no-one in the industry had ever attempted to shoot on location in India and financing the scheme seemed an insurmountable task. But Sir Denis won the backing of oil company Mobil and the 15-hour series was filmed over 20 weeks to the tune of £5.5million. It won more awards than any other series in the history of television.
ITV director of television, Peter Fincham, said: “Sir Denis Forman was one of the great pioneers of British broadcasting. He made a lasting contribution to quality drama and investigative journalism. He was a remarkable man and will be sadly missed.”
Sir Denis died at a nursing home in London on Sunday.
He is survived by second wife Moni Cameron, former wife of Hampstead journalist James Cameron, two sons from his first marriage to Helen Blondel de Mouilpied, who died in 1987, and a stepson and stepdaughter.