Lew Grade, Baron Grade, OStJ, KC*SS (25 December 1906 – 13
December 1998), born Louis Winogradsky, was a Ukrainian-born
British media proprietor and impresario.
Originally a dancer, and later a talent agent, Grade's interest in
television production began in 1954 when, in partnership, he
successfully bid for franchises in the newly created ITV network,
which led to the creation of
worked for a time in the United States, he was aware of the potential
for the sale of television programming to American networks, and a
subsidiary, the Incorporated Television Company (ITC; commonly known
as ITC Entertainment) was formed with this specific objective in mind.
Grade had some success in this field with such series as Gerry
series such as Thunderbirds,
Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner, and Jim Henson's The Muppet Show.
Later, Grade invested in film production, but several expensive box
office failures caused him to lose control of ITC, and ultimately
resulted in the disestablishment of ATV after it lost its ITV
1 Early life
1.1 Early professional life
2 Media career
2.1 Television: 1954–62
2.2 Television: 1962–68
2.3 Later television productions
2.5 Later years
6 Further reading
7 External links
Grade was born in Tokmak, Taurida Governorate,
Russian Empire to Isaak
and Olga Winogradsky. In 1912, when Grade was six, the Jewish
family emigrated to escape
Cossack violence and anti-Semitism, from
Brick Lane in
Bethnal Green in the East End of
Isaak worked as a trouser-presser while his three sons (Grade and
his younger brothers, Bernard (later Bernard Delfont) and Leslie)
attended the Rochelle Street Elementary School near Shoreditch, where
Yiddish was spoken by 90% of the pupils. For two years the
Winogradskys lived in rented rooms at the north end of Brick Lane,
before moving to the nearby Boundary Estate.
Early professional life
At the age of 15, Grade became an agent for a clothing company, and
shortly afterwards started his own business. In 1926, he was declared
Charleston Champion of the World at a dancing competition at the Royal
Fred Astaire was one of the judges. Grade
subsequently became a professional dancer going by the name Louis
Grad; this form came from a Paris reporter's typing error that Grade
liked and decided to keep. Decades later, the then octogenarian
Lord Grade once danced the Charleston at a party Arthur Ochs
Sulzberger gave in New York.
Signed as a dancer by Joe Collins (father of Jackie and Joan Collins)
in 1931, around 1934, Grade went into partnership with him and
became a talent agent in their company Collins & Grade. Among
their earliest clients were the harmonica player
Larry Adler and the
jazz group Quintet of the Hot Club of France.
Following the beginning of the
Second World War
Second World War in 1939, Grade became
involved in arranging entertainment for soldiers in Harrogate, and
later joined the British Army. He was discharged after two years when
an old problem with swelling of the knees, which had earlier ended his
dancing career, recurred. In 1945, the arrangement with Collins
having been terminated, Grade formed a partnership with his brother
Leslie (Lew and
Leslie Grade Ltd., or the Grade Organisation). That
year, the brothers traveled in the United States, where they developed
their entertainment interests. His connections included, among others,
Bob Hope and Judy Garland, who performed in Britain for the first
time. The brothers became the main bookers of artists for the
London Palladium in 1948, then managed by
Val Parnell for the Moss
Empires Group owned by the family of Prince Littler.
In 1954, Grade was contacted by the manager of singer Jo Stafford,
Mike Nidorf, who notified him of an advertisement in The Times
inviting franchise bids for the new, commercial ITV network.
Assembling a consortium that included impresarios
Val Parnell and
Prince Littler, the Incorporated Television Programme Company (ITP),
which soon changed its name to Incorporated Television Company (ITC;
also known as ITC Entertainment), was formed. ITC's bid to the
Independent Television Authority (ITA) was rejected on the grounds of
its conflict of interest from its prominence and involvement in artist
The Associated Broadcasting Development Company (ABD) had gained ITA
approval for both the
London weekend and Midlands weekday contracts,
but was undercapitalised; Grade's consortium joined with the ABD to
form what became
Associated Television (ATV). Reflecting his
background in variety, Grade's favourite show and a success for
the new company was Sunday Night at the
London Palladium (1955–67,
1973–74), one of the most popular programmes on British television
in its day. Grade did not avoid the other end of the cultural
spectrum, and from 1958 Sir
Kenneth Clark began to talk about the
history of art on television.
Meanwhile, Grade committed the funds for what would become the first
trans-Atlantic success of the ITP subsidiary: The Adventures of Robin
Hood (1955–60), commissioned by UK-based American producer Hannah
Weinstein. ITC became a wholly owned ATV subsidiary in 1957, That
same year ATV established a music publishing division with ATV Music
and gained a half interest in
Pye Records in 1959, later Pye
became a wholly owned subsidiary.
Grade was deputy managing director of ATV under
Val Parnell until
1962, when he became managing director having contrived to have the
board oust Parnell. Grade soon decided that the Midlands deserved
its own regular soap opera as a rival to Coronation Street.
Crossroads, much derided but ultimately a serious challenge to
Granada's series in the ratings, began its initial quarter century run
in November 1964.
ITC's success continued and had many internationally successful TV
series, leading Howard Thomas, managing director of the Associated
British Corporation (ABC), to complain that Grade distributed
programming for "Birmingham, Alabama, rather than Birmingham,
England". These series included The Saint (1962–69), which was
sold to over 80 countries, and two featuring Patrick McGoohan:
Danger Man (1960–68) and
The Prisoner (1967–68). These series,
exclusively thrillers, were normally used as summer replacements for
American-made programmes until the mid-1960s. While many of
Grade's series used American actors in lead roles (
The Baron and Man
in a Suitcase, for example) it was those series which used an
exclusively British cast, such as The Saint (and The Avengers, made by
another ITV contractor), which were more successful in the United
AP Films became a subsidiary of ITC. Co-founded by Gerry
AP Films produced the children's marionette puppet
("Supermarionation") series during the 1960s, Thunderbirds
(1965–66), and (as Century 21), Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons
(1967–68). After a screening of the pilot for Thunderbirds ("Trapped
in the Sky", 1964), Grade insisted that the episodes be lengthened to
fill a one-hour slot. Unusually for children's television series,
these colour programmes were generously budgeted for the time (Grade
paid £22,000 per episode), and has been successfully repeated
In 1966, Grade's companies were re-organised again to form the
Associated Communications Corporation
Associated Communications Corporation (ACC). That year, The Sunday
Times investigated the interconnected nature of the companies
controlled by Grade and his two brothers,
Bernard Delfont and Leslie
Grade. Their firms, effectively amounting to a "cartel", were agents
for most of the major talents in acting as well as entertainment and
controlled theatres in both
London and the rest of the UK and ATV was
a major provider of televised entertainment.
Later television productions
The following year, ATV lost its
London franchise to what would become
London Weekend Television (LWT); at the same time, however, ATV's
Midlands franchise was expanded to run throughout the week from July
1968. Through ATV Music, Grade acquired Northern Songs, gaining
control of the
Lennon–McCartney song catalogue.
Foreign sales remained strong for a time (valued at $30 million
in 1970) and the ACC received the Queen's Awards for Export in
both 1967 and 1969.
Some of the 1970s distributions performed poorly: these included The
Julie Andrews Hour (1972–1973), which aired for only one season on
ABC Television Network
ABC Television Network in the United States. This received
positive reviews and seven Emmy Awards, including the title Best
Variety Series. Neither action shows
The Protectors (1972–74) and
The Persuaders! (1971–72), nor the live action science fiction
shows UFO (1969–71) and Space: 1999 (1975–77) were notably
successful. After Space: 1999,
Gerry Anderson made no new series for
ITC, but maintained a connection with Grade until Grade lost control
of his companies in 1982.
In the mid-1970s Grade approached American puppeteer Jim Henson, who
was in need of assistance for his latest TV project. Henson wanted to
create a new variety show starring his Muppet characters, but had been
dismissed by American networks on account of his contributions to
children's programmes such as
Sesame Street (from 1969).[citation
CBS came close to agreeing to broadcast The Muppet Show, but
only if it was during a syndicated block of its programming. After
watching one of Henson's pilots and recalling a special made in one of
his studios Grade allowed Henson to realise his project in Britain
(the series was recorded at ATV's
Elstree Studios) and distributed
internationally by ITC. Grade's action was instrumental in bringing
The Muppet Show
The Muppet Show to the screen in 1976 and ensuring its
Grade's other accomplishments in TV included the mini-series Jesus of
Nazareth (1977), which was successfully sold to the American market
and secured a record-breaking $12 million in revenue. Several
years in preparation, the deal with the Italian broadcaster
Franco Zeffirelli was announced in August 1974. Grade
promoted "quality" productions on ATV as a challenge to the
for example, dedicating a whole evening to a live broadcast of Tosca,
starring Maria Callas, from
La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy.
Blake Edwards to revive the Pink Panther franchise as
a TV series, an option Edwards was not keen on, but he did work on
developing scripts. Eventually, he persuaded Grade to finance the
property as a feature film project with he and
Peter Sellers waiving
their fees in return for a profit-sharing arrangement. Both men's
careers had not been prospering for a few years. Only Grade's
second big budget feature, ITC produced the eventual film The
Return of the Pink Panther (1975), while
United Artists (UA), who had
earlier rejected the project themselves, gained distribution rights
and a 5% share of the profits. Distribution in other countries was
undertaken by ITC.
The Return of the Pink Panther
The Return of the Pink Panther was a commercially
It also prompted Grade to move into the film industry, where he had
success with Farewell My Lovely (1975). Other films of the period
made with Grade's involvement include the co-releases The Boys From
Brazil (1978) with
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox and
Movie Movie (also 1978) with
Warner Brothers. He was a producer on the
Ingmar Bergman films Autumn
Sonata (1978) and
From the Life of the Marionettes
From the Life of the Marionettes (1980). One
domestic British film made by the ITC subsidiary Black Lion Films, The
Long Good Friday (1980) was purchased and released by HandMade Films
after Grade and his company had effectively disowned it, for in
Grade's reputed opinion, seeming to be sympathetic to the IRA.
Only HandMade's second release, their first success, Monty Python's
Life of Brian (1979), was originally to have been made by EMI Films,
but after company head Bernard Delfont, Grade's brother, read the
script the financing was abruptly withdrawn.
Grade's backing of an expensive "all-star" flop was to prove decisive.
Of Raise the Titanic (1980), an adaptation of the novel by Clive
Cussler, Grade himself observed that "It would have been cheaper to
lower the Atlantic". The film was panned by critics and, after
costing $36 million, returned only $8 million in rentals.
This and other expensive box office failures – including Saturn 3
The Legend of the Lone Ranger
The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981) – marked the end of
Grade's involvement in major film production. Despite
this, several of the most critically acclaimed films produced by Grade
were released after the failure of Raise the Titanic: these included
On Golden Pond (1981) and Sophie's Choice (1982), both winners of
Academy Awards, as well as
The Dark Crystal
The Dark Crystal (1982), which was Jim
Henson's final project created in association with ITC.
In 1980, Grade's standing in the mass media industry was damaged by
three events: Henson's decision to end
The Muppet Show
The Muppet Show after five
years, the poor reception to Raise the Titanic, and a decision that,
effective from 1 January 1982,
ATV Midlands would be permitted to keep
its licence only on the condition that it terminate its association
with Grade and ITC (ultimately leading to its re-branding as Central
Television). Grade resigned his position in the company while it
underwent a series of partnerships and mergers. In 1982, he lost
control of ACC to Robert Holmes à Court, who dismissed him and all
Grade was brought in by American producer
Norman Lear in June 1982 to
London division of Embassy Communications International
involved in the production and distribution of films and television
programmes. Subsequently he became a producer of Andrew Lloyd
Webber's musical Starlight Express. After Coca-Cola had bought
Embassy, he became the head of a new venture, the Grade Company in
1985, and was elected a vice-president of the Loews Group chain of
cinemas in the United States. The Grade Company produced
adaptations for television of works by novelist Dame Barbara Cartland;
he owned the rights to 450 of her romances.
By the mid-1990s, Grade had returned to ITC to head the company one
final time until his death in 1998. Grade was a member of the Founding
Council of the
Rothermere American Institute
Rothermere American Institute at the University of
Knighted in 1969, Grade was created a life peer — Baron Grade,
Elstree in the County of Hertfordshire on 22 June 1976. He
Elstree as his territorial designation because ATV's main
studios were based there.
Grade died of heart failure, 12 days short of his 92nd birthday, on 13
December 1998 in London. To celebrate Grade's life and mark the
centenary of his birth,
BBC Radio 2 transmitted two special one-hour
tribute programmes on 24 and 25 December 2006.
^ a b c d e Lewis, Roger (16 March 2010). "The Last Great Showman".
Daily Mail. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
^ "Person Page 19133". The Peerage. 23 October 2011. Retrieved
2013-12-31. Lew Grade
^ julia&keld (18 February 2010). "Lew Grade". Television and Movie
Producer. Find a Grave. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
^ Horace Newcomb, Encyclopedia of Television
^ a b c "Lord Grade of Elstree, showman, died on December 13th, aged
91". The Economist. 17 December 1998. Retrieved 31 December 2013. [H]e
felt betrayed when in 1982 he lost control of Associated
Communications Corporation, the parent company of his television and
other interests, to Robert Holmes à Court, an Australian. Lord Grade
had felt so close to the Australian that he allowed him to buy 51% of
the voting shares. Holmes à Court then deposed him in a boardroom
coup and purged the company of all his staff, even, Lord Grade noted
sadly, his tea lady. Later, he observed waspishly, "Robert died quite
a young man, for all his millions".
^ a b c d Hoge, Warren (14 December 1998). "Lew Grade, 91, Flamboyant
Shaper of British TV and Movies". The New York Times. Retrieved 13
^ Palmer, Alan Warwick (2000) . The East End: Four Centuries of
London Life. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
p. 106. ISBN 0813528267. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
^ Bethnal Green: Building and Social Conditions from 1876 to 1914: a
History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11: Stepney, Bethnal Green
(1998), pp. 126–32; retrieved 14 November 2006.
^ a b Television Greats: Lew Grade, Television Heaven entry.
^ Brozan, Nadine (22 May 1992). "CHRONICLE". New York Times. Retrieved
31 December 2013.
^ "Joe Collins, Dynasty Star's Father". Chicago Tribune. 12 April
1988. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
^ a b c Faith, Nicholas (14 December 1998). "Obituary: Lord Grade".
The Independent. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
^ a b c d Sergio Angelini "Grade, Lord Lew (1906–1998)", BFI
^ Carl Ellis: Lew Grade, Part 3: the War and After Archived 5
September 2008 at the Wayback Machine., TV Heroes, Transdiffusion.
^ a b Michael Palmer and Jeremy Tunstal Media Moguls, Routledge, 1991,
^ Jonathan Bignell ""And the Rest is History: Lew Grade, Creation
Narratives and Television Historiography", in Catherine Johnson and
Rob Turnock (eds.) Itv Cultures: Independent Television Over Fifty
Years, Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2005, p. 50
^ a b c Sergio Angelini: ITC, BFI screenonline.
^ Louis Barfe Where Have All the Good Times Gone? The Rise and Fall of
the Record Industry, London: Atlantic Books, 2005, p. 134
^ John Williams "Crossroads - The 1960s", BFI Screenonline
^ Carl Ellis Lew Grade, Part 4: Embracing the 1950s Archived 28 July
2011 at the Wayback Machine., TV Heroes, Transdiffusion.
^ James Chapman Saints and Avengers: British Adventure Series of the
1960s, London: I.B Tauris, 2002, p.100
^ Stuart Hood "Export Backlash", The Spectator, 25 November 1966, p.
^ Chapman, Saints and Avengers, p. 11
^ "Thunderbirds". Classic TV Info. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
^ Gilhooly, Rob (26 December 2001). "Still F.A.B. after all these
years". The Japan Times. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
^ Richard G. Elen; ATV, BFI screenonline.
^ Philip Norman Shout!: The Beatles in Their Generation, New York:
Fireside, 2005, pp. 422-24
^ Entrepreneurs: Top Grade, TIME, 4 October 1971.
^ Martin Sullivan " A television Jesus", The Spectator, 23 August
1974, p. 15
^ a b c
Lew Grade on IMDb
^ Obituary: Blake Edwards, telegraph.co.uk, 16 December 2010
^ Julian Upton Fallen Stars: Tragic Lives and Lost Careers,
Manchester, Headpress, 2004, p.28
^ Bob Thomas "Pink Panther Sequel Spelled Success", The Blade (Toledo,
Ohio), 17 November 1975, p. 18
Roger Lewis The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, London: Arrow
Books, 2004 , p. 845n.
Lew Grade the new knight in shining armour for British films",
The Irish Times, Dublin, Ireland, 27 October 1975, p. 14.
^ Mark Duguid "Long Good Friday, The (1979)", BFI Screenonline;
accessed 24 December 2015.
^ Sian Barber The British Film Industry in the 1970s: Capital, Culture
and Creativity, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, p. 39
^ a b Howell Raines "Lew Grade, at 81, Retains His Zest for a Deal",
New York Times, 17 April 1988.
^ Cuff, Daniel F. (24 June 1982). "Lord Grade Joins
Norman Lear Team".
The New York Times. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
^ Bennetts, Leslie (23 February 1987). "A Transformed Starlight
Express Strives Towards Broadway Opening". The New York Times.
Retrieved 13 July 2017.
Lew Grade Biography (1906-1998)". Film Reference. Retrieved 12
^ "No. 44790". The
London Gazette. 14 February 1969.
^ "No. 46943". The
London Gazette. 24 June 1976. p. 8773.
Chester, Lewis (2010). All My Shows are Great: The Life of Lew Grade.
Aurum Press, Limited. ISBN 9781845135089. Retrieved 31 December
Davis, Clifford (1981). How I made
Lew Grade a millionaire-- and other
fables : almost an autobiography (paperback ed.). London, UK:
Mirror Books. ISBN 0859392473. LCCN 82112749.
Grade, Lew (1987). Still Dancing: My Story. London, UK: Collins.
ISBN 0002177803. LCCN 88124903. Retrieved 31 December
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