Obituary:Susan Gautier Smith

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The Independent Online
No one loved life more than Susan Gautier Smith. A television producer who worked with the comedians David Baddiel, Steve Coogan, Patrick Marber, Armando Iannucci, Chris Morris and others, there was no dark side to her.

The elder of two daughters of a neurologist, Susie was educated at Wimbledon High School and the Lycee, where she won an Exhibition to study English at King's College, Cambridge. It was here that her flair as a producer emerged, notably on the European tour of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas for the director Sam Mendes and with David Baddiel on his Footlights pantomime Robin Hood. Despite suffering from rheumatoid arthritis from childhood, which often left her tired and in pain, she had boundless energy; one summer vacation was spent travelling through China.

After a year spent teaching in a crammer, Gautier Smith began her career in television by making corporate health videos, including one about proctoscopy, which became a source of much amusement. Her break came at Yorkshire Television, where she began as a runner on Lucinda Lambton's architecture series Hooray For Today. Soon afterwards she was despatched to Los Angeles to charm a reclusive Californian boffin into making a programme about computer hackers. She won him over immediately; the result was Spy Catcher, which she produced.

It was this genius for getting on with people, including difficult creative types, coupled with her legendary phone book, which made Gautier Smith a natural producer. On one occasion she had a day to find five bellringers, a troupe of acrobats who could juggle toasters, some Archers lookalikes, several dwarves and a naughty seaside postcard model; she of course took it all in her stride.

In 1992, Gautier Smith went to New York University to study film production. In America, her zest for life found full expression; one friend recalls a wild weekend in Washington which culminated with a visit to a gay club - she had many gay friends, as well as loyal girlfriends and smitten boyfriends - with Gautier Smith dancing on a podium, surrounded by a gaggle of go- go boys.

Her favourite party outfit was a black velvet bustier by Vivienne Westwood, which showed her spectacular bosom to full advantage. On her 30th birthday three years ago, for which she paid (with characteristic generosity) for two dozen friends to spend the weekend in a grand country house, she emerged for the evening in bustier and blonde wig, the perfect look for her husky voice.

Back in Britain, Gautier Smith began her association with Talkback Productions, where she worked on The Day Today, Knowing Me, Knowing You and Saturday Night Armistice. Successful as she was, she was never consumed by ambition or schmoozing her way up the greasy pole.

Happiness was something she pursued with more passion and in 1993 she met her match in Matthew Batstone, whom she had first known at Cambridge. Though thoroughly settled (he called Susie "The Boss") they were never stuffy; their wedding, in May 1995, was a glorious celebration: prayers were read by a gay vicar; the bride wore a silver dress; the wedding cake was a mocked-up cover of Hello!

In January this year, Matthew got a place at Fontainebleau to do an MBA and Susie, a fluent French speaker, went too. With customary organisational skill, she immediately got pregnant; the couple talked of having four children.

The pregnancy wasn't easy; Susie had chronic morning sickness and suffered from breathlessness, which was attributed to asthma. Despite these discomforts, she was thrilled to be starting a family and enjoyed her new shape. (She had in the past sometimes worried about her weight.) In July, when she was four months pregnant, Susie and Matthew went on holiday to South Africa, a place they considered raising their brood.

It was during this trip that Susie Gautier Smith suffered her first heart failure and it emerged that her breathlessness was in fact cardiomyopathy. In intensive care for a fortnight, her condition stabilised and she came home in August for hospital treatment. Tragically, she suffered a second heart failure and lost the baby at seven months. Courageous to the end, she died earlier this week, leaving a gaping hole in many lives.

Ruth Picardie

Susie Gautier Smith's slightly wobbly walk, a combination of over-ambitious shoes and persistent arthritis, always raised a laugh and it was usually from her, writes Roger Clarke.

She confounded every image of the chronically ill person. She was always magically and effusively sexy; even the drab business of producing science documentaries for Yorkshire TV in the late Eighties was given a special glamour by her. When she moved on to making television comedies and various vehicles for the Smith & Jones company Talkback, her career seemed ever upwards.

She will be much missed at the wedding of her childhood friend Emily Sheard, who is married today in the Isle of Wight, scene of Susie's many holidays as a little girl with the Sheard family in Freshwater.

Susan Gautier Smith, television producer: born London 10 September 1963; married 1995 Matthew Batstone; died London 8 October 1996.

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