ANDREW BROWN was one of the few genuinely original impresarios of British television. He was a big tall man, and his enthusiasm and ebullience were equally large. But behind the smiling face there was an extremely private person whom few even among his close friends ever really got to know.
A fourth-generation New Zealander of Scots and Irish stock, Andrew Brown was born in 1938, and educated at school and university in Wellington. But there was nothing academic about him, and after a summer vacation working on the Snowy River Project in New South Wales, he failed to return for the following year. Though never a hippy, he spent the early 1960s working his way round the world, stopping off for months at a time at such places as Tahiti, the Virgin Islands, Algeciras and New York. He finally settled in London in the mid-1960s.
Brown was then an aspiring writer, and Gerald Savory made him a trainee script-editor in the BBC drama department. There he did a number of adaptations and persuaded the Somerset Maugham estate to let him have the television rights to the stories. It was with these that he began his long personal and professional friendship with the producer Verity Lambert. For Thames, under the watchful eye of Stella Richman, he produced the series Jennie, Lady Randolph Churchill, which starred Lee Remick and was directed by James Cellan Jones.
When Verity Lambert moved to Thames, their collaboration continued with the ground-breaking Rock Follies (1976-77), written by Howard Schuman, and the royal romance Edward and Mrs Simpson (1978). It was directed by Waris Hussein, to whom Brown said, 'Who better than two colonials to comment on the British crown?'
For Southern Films he made the excellent Bad Blood, set in New Zealand and directed by Mike Newell. For Central, he produced Kennedy, with Blair Brown and Martin Sheen. Then Alan Bennett and Stephen Frears asked him to produce the highly successful film about Joe Orton, Prick up your Ears (1987). In 1987 he went to Euston Films as Executive Producer, where he created Selling Hitler (also by Schuman), the series Capital City, and, achieving a long-held ambition, Angus Wilson's Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, adapted by Andrew Davies and directed by Diarmuid Lawrence. He won a Bafta award for this, to add to his three others and two Emmys.
Brown was an extremely stylish man, whose homes were always immaculate, giving away no secrets. His London house was all white vinyl, with Victorian ship pictures. But his great private creation was his renovated mill house in Swanage, in Dorset, where he installed a waterwheel and black swans and made a perfect English garden. He also went jet-skiing as far as the Needles, with characteristic dash and elan.
Though Brown loved the Englishness of Swanage, he was always very ambiguous about England itself, perhaps because he was a Celt and a colonial and brought up a Roman Catholic. His house was next to the church, and he flew into a rage whenever the bells disturbed his private paradise. He had a very low patience threshold, and a caustic tongue for all stuffiness and pretension.
One of his favourite words was 'juicy'. When he left England last year, it was partly because he felt the juice had run out of British television, and that in the cowed new world of profit-seeking and market research, there was no longer a place for a trail-blazing producer. Indeed it is impossible to think of any producer with his flair and courage working in British television today.
Like everyone else in the profession he had a long list of projects which never got made. On the very last of these, his enthusiasm for the subject, his delight in what it was going to tell about hidden British life, his anarchic zest were all as stimulating as ever. For nearly 30 years Andrew Brown enormously enriched British television drama. He is irreplaceable.Reuse content