Obituary: Antony Craxton

ANTONY CRAXTON was the first producer of royal television broadcasts and was responsible for some of the most memorable ones, such as the wedding of Princess Alexandra in April 1963, when he arranged for the commentator, Richard Dimbleby, to be seated in a soundproof box immediately behind him in the television control room in Westminster Abbey. This production won Craxton an award from the Guild of Television Producers and Directors, now known as Bafta. The technique he developed is still used.

A particularly challenging experience followed the wedding of Princess Margaret in 1960. Craxton and Richard Dimbleby had left Westminster Abbey almost immediately after the service, to journey to the Tower of London, from where the Royal Yacht Britannia was sailing. Craxton decided to go on the air as the couple left Buckingham Palace, and to fill the 20-minute journey to the Tower with a sequence of pictures from the four Tower cameras.

Little did he know that the 20 minutes would be more than doubled before the royal car arrived. Having completed the rehearsed sequence Craxton searched for visual material to interest the viewers: the Tower, London Bridge, the jetty, the Yeoman Warders, Britannia, the skyline of London; every possibility was used. Near the end Dimbleby began to show some impatience towards the helicopters circling noisily overhead. But his facility in finding words and Craxton's ingenuity in choosing pictures prevented viewers from realising that anything was amiss.

That close relationship between Craxton and Dimbleby was particularly effective in the coverage of Sir Winston Churchill's funeral at St Paul's Cathedral in 1965, when Craxton's cameras panned slowly over London from old monuments to new tower blocks and Dimbleby's unscripted words evoked images of permanence in change.

Craxton was the second son of the pianist, accompanist and teacher Harold Craxton. He was educated at Gordonstoun, where he overlapped with Philip Mountbatten, later the Duke of Edinburgh. He joined the BBC in 1941 as a junior programme engineer specialising in the presentation of music, and the following year became an announcer in the Home Service. He spent six years in Appointments, where he recruited Paul Fox (later managing director of BBC Television) among others.

He moved to the television service at Alexandra Palace in 1951 and became a pioneer producer of Outside Broadcasts of cricket, rugby and music, relaying more than 150 classical concerts from around Britain.

He soon became the major producer for all royal ceremonial occasions. These included the Queen's first television Christmas broadcast, the Duke of Edinburgh's Round the World in 40 Minutes (both 1957) and all the royal marriages. They also encompassed the Lying in State of the Duke of Windsor, the funeral of Field-Marshal Montgomery, the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales, 10 state visits abroad and 19 visits by foreign heads of state to Britain. He took early retirement in 1977.

Antony Craxton was a tall, well-dressed and elegant man with a quirky sense of humour. He had married in 1944, and when his marriage was dissolved in 1978, Craxton, to the surprise of many of his colleagues, declared that he was homosexual.

Leonard Miall

Harold Antony Craxton, television producer: born London 23 April 1918; joined BBC Radio 1941, Home and Overseas Announcer 1942-45, Outside Broadcasting Producer, Television 1951-63, Senior Producer 1963-77; MVO 1968, CVO 1977; married 1944 Anne Sybil Cropper (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1978); died Kingston upon Thames, Surrey 21 June 1999.

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