OBITUARY: Sir John Terry

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The Independent Online
John Terry was one of the finest advocates and indeed one of the most accomplished ambassadors of the British film industry. He was knighted in 1976 for services to the film industry after managing the National Film Finance Corporation (NFFC) for over 20 years. During that time he supported hundreds of films and helped launch the careers of many great talents including Karel Reisz, Ken Loach, Alan Parker, Ridley Scott, Michael Apted, Jeremy Thomas, Tony Garnett, Alan Marshall and David Puttnam, a now equally distinguished champion of British film, whom he used to refer to as "the wretched Puttnam".

Perhaps most important of all while he ran the NFFC was the part he played in nurturing the relationship between government and British films, particularly through his friendship with Harold Wilson, who had been at the Board of Trade when the corporation was launched.

John Terry was one of the founding fathers of the National Film School in 1970 and remained a governor until 1981. He chaired the Prime Minister's Working Party on the Future of the British Film Industry in 1975 and following that became Deputy Chairman, under Harold Wilson, of the Interim Action Committee on the Film Industry which was set up as a result of his report. When the Government disbanded that committee, Terry, together with John Chittock and Michael Deeley, set up the British Screen Advisory Council, of which he was Deputy Chairman from 1993 and which still is the only body that is representative of all sides of the British film and television industry.

Terry was not only a very original film mogul, he was also a wise and canny lawyer with real experience of the sharp end of business affairs. Although I worked on a number of films that were supported by the NFFC under his guidance, I didn't really get to know him until after he "retired". It was in his legal capacity that he became the godfather of our production company Skreba and as such a most valued partner.

No record of John Terry's life would be complete without an anecdote and none better than the one told to the congregation at his funeral by his son. At lunch once in a Soho restaurant Terry asked if there were fresh peas. When told that there weren't, he left his friends, strolled out to Berwick Street, bought fresh peas and returned, thrusting them at the astonished matre d', demanding they be cooked for his lunch. Typically, he became one of the restaurant's favourite clients.

Terry was much admired and respected. Splendidly gregarious, he loved life in the best way. He kept working until just a few months before he died and spent a long and fruitful "retirement" just as busy as he had been when he had a full-time occupation.

John Elliott Terry, film financier and lawyer: born 11 June 1913; solicitor, National Film Finance Corporation 1949-56, secretary 1956-58, managing director 1958-78; Kt 1976; governor, National Film School 1970-81; governor, London International Film School 1982-90; governor, Royal National College for the Blind 1980-95; honorary vice-president, British Screen Advisory Council 1993-95; married 1940 Joan Fell (one son, one daughter); died 29 March 1995.