Jeremy Paul: Award-winning writer of plays and classic television dramas
Friday 03 June 2011
Jeremy Paul was an award-winning writer who was responsible for numerous television plays, episodes of popular series and adaptations of classic novels during his 50-year career. The bulk of his work appeared during the years regarded today as the golden age of British television drama. The star writers of that time wrote mainly single plays – and probably slightly looked down on drama series. Paul also wrote one-off plays, but he treated each episode of a drama with the same care and enthusiasm as he would have done a Hollywood feature film.
His credits included Upstairs Downstairs, The Duchess of Duke Street, starring Gemma Jones, Van der Valk with Barry Foster, the military-police series Redcap with John Thaw, and Lovejoy with Ian McShane. He also adapted Conan Doyle for the Sherlock Holmes series, with Jeremy Brett in the title role – for many Holmes fans the detective's definitive incarnation. For the episode "The Musgrave Ritual", Paul received the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America.
Jeremy Paul was born in Bexhill and was brought up by his mother, Joan Haythorne, the West End actress; through her, he developed a taste for the theatre at an early age. He was educated at King's School, Canterbury, where he excelled in sport as well as drama. He went to St Edmund Hall, Oxford, to read English, but left before completing his degree, having been offered a three-year, three-play writing contract by Associated Television. The first of these was the acclaimed Room for Justice with Marius Goring in the lead; it was directed by Peter Sasdy. Thus started their long friendship, which in 1970 resulted in the Hammer film Countess Dracula, scripted by Paul and directed by Sasdy.
Everybody who worked with Paul was drawn to his personality; his generous spirit and enthusiasm made him an ideal collaborator. Perhaps his most successful television play, directed by Alan Gibson, was the Bafta-winning The Flip Side of Dominick Hide, starring Peter Firth, and its sequel, Another Flip for Dominick. His fascinating play about Russian dissidents for BBC's Play of the Month, A Walk in the Forest, was directed by Jack Gold and starred John Alderton.
In the 1980s his sensitive, unsensational adaptation of the Warwick Deeping novel Sorrell and Son was highly regarded, while in the same decade he adapted some of the episodes of Margery Allingham's Campion series and wrote several episodes for the BBC's Civil War epic By the Sword Divided.
He continued to be in demand, and in the 1990s he contributed screenplays for the popular Hetty Wainthropp Investigates series starring Patricia Routledge, and Midsomer Murders with John Nettles.
Before moving to Swanage, Paul lived in Richmond for most of his working life and was instrumental in the creation of the Orange Tree Theatre, one of London's most successful small theatres. Sam Walters, its artistic director, said that without Paul there would probably have been no theatre. Paul wrote and directed several plays for them, most notably the musical The Lady or the Tiger, which then transferred to the West End.
Another musical play, The Little Match Girl, was an adaptation of the Andersen story with music by Keith Strachan. Out of that musical the song "Mistletoe and Wine", with Paul's lyrics, became a Christmas hit for Cliff Richard. His play The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, which he wrote specially for Jeremy Brett, ran in the Wyndhams Theatre for over a year.
Paul had many passions outside of writing. One was his love of cricket; he played for many years in The Invalids, eventually becoming their president. His experiences with them resulted in the witty book Sing Willow. As a child he was evacuated to Wolverhampton, though he became a lifelong supporter not of Wolves but of Stoke City; he was laid to rest the day before this year's FA Cup final, in which Stoke were playing for the first time.
Paul was an extraordinary friend, with great empathy. You could call him with any worry, private or professional, and he would come to your help. I know I was not the only one who took such advantage of him. He was lucky to meet his soulmate in the actress Patricia Garwood; last year they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.
Paul never retired: at the time of his death he was working on a book, The Perilous Adventures of a Rabbit Called Jones. He recorded himself reading it, giving a wonderfully actorish performance and posting the CD to friends when he knew he did not have long to live – an example of his indomitable spirit. Paul's achievement in writing for television was significant; but his achievement in humanity was exemplary.
Jeremy Paul, writer: born Bexhill 29 July 1939; married 1960 Patricia Garwood (four daughters); died Swanage 3 May 2011.
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