Johnny Goodman, a tribute

We are very sad to pass on the news of the passing of television and film producer Johnny Goodman.

Johnny’s entry into the world of film and television came when he returned home from school one day, with what he described as “probably the worst exam results that have ever been published”. His father, realising that he spent more time in the cinema than studying, suggested that he should go to the local film studio and see what chances there could be for him.

Johnny went to Lime Grove, Sheppard’s Bush – which would later become the BBC – and entered Gaumont British Films and Gainsborough Pictures. He was taken into the office of Albert Fennell – a very young studio manager at the time, who would later go on to produce The Avengers – and was offered a job as a page boy; and so in 1943, Johnny began work in the mail room of a film studio, with a salary of seventeen and six a week (the equivalent of about 75p in today’s money).

Towards the end of the 1940s, Johnny volunteered for military service and joined the Army for three years. He then worked in America and got a job at Twentieth Century Fox as a dialogue editor in their foreign versions department. In 1951 he returned to England and began working his way up the ranks, starting as a third assistant director.

In 1952 Johnny worked on Ivanhoe for MGM British Studios in Borehamwood, starring Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine and George Sanders. Among the crew were the famous stunt actors Yakima Canutt and Paddy Ryan. Other films followed, in which Johnny worked as assistant director, unit manager, production manager and production supervisor.

In 1962 Johnny became the production supervisor on one of the TV series for which he is most famous – The Saint, starring Roger Moore. Filmed at ABPC studios in Borehamwood, now Elstree Studios, Johnny worked on the show for the first four years, and later returned as associate producer up to the final year of the show in 1969. During the 1960s Johnny also worked on other programmes including another two ITC productions – The Baron, between 1966-67, and The Champions, between 1968-69.

When The Saint began, Johnny was responsible for finding a car for Roger Moore to drive in the show. He contacted every company he knew – Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar – and all said that it wouldn’t be possible to loan a car to the production. Product placement was a pretty much unknown element in British productions at the time. Johnny told a friend of his difficulty in finding a vehicle, who recommended he look at a relatively unknown Swedish manufacturer – Volvo. Volvo were more than happy to be involved and donated two P1800 model cars to the production. The show was an immediate hit, and sales of Volvo cars rocketed. The Saint is still repeated today, all around the world.

Roger Moore became known for his practical jokes on set, and Johnny and Roger became firm friends for the rest of Johnny’s life. When The Saint came to an end, Johnny, Roger and producer Robert S Baker, formed a production company and produced The Persuaders! TV series in 1970, starring Roger and Tony Cutis. Lew Grade announced “I expect this to be the biggest selling TV series in the world”. The show didn’t quite meet that target, but it is much loved and a fantastic Blu-ray set from Network was released in 2011. Johnny contributed to the special features.

Johnny’s later work included further TV series – including Quatermass in 1979, Reilly: Ace of Spies in 1983 and Minder for Euston Films between 1979-84. One of Johnny’s last, but also most important, roles within the industry came in 1987, when he became the Chairman of BAFTA for a two year term. In 2010, Johnny gave his time to The Elstree Project as our 10th interviewee. He told us some wonderful stories about his time on set with Sir Roger Moore, and the story of his exciting and remarkable career. Johnny was a warm, talented and generous man.  We are incredibly grateful to Johnny for sharing his memories with us, and we send our thoughts to his wife and family at this time.

Johnny Goodman, 15 October 1927 – 30 January 2015.

Johnny Goodman

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