TV's most prolific writer dies at 78

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TED WILLIS, who created Dixon of Dock Green and scores of other characters for film, television and radio, died of a heart attack yesterday, aged 78.

Lord Willis had earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the most prolific writer for television. He once said: 'I've never had writer's block in my life. I've a demon that drives me. I've enough ideas to keep me going until the day I die.' He had been planning a series based on Dixon, and his estimated output was 20 million words since 1942.

But it is for George Dixon, played by Jack Warner, that Lord Willis will be best remembered.

The series originated from the 1949 film, The Blue Lamp, in which the constable was killed by a character played by Dirk Bogarde. However, Dixon proved to be so successful that he was resurrected and became a television favourite from 1953 to 1975, when Warner was 80.

It was the policeman's catchphrase, 'Evening All', that Lord Willis used for the title of his autobiography, published last year.

But Dixon was only a part of his creative output, which included 34 stage plays, 39 films, including Woman in a Dressing Gown, and 40 television series.

Lord Willis was born into a working-class family in Tottenham, north London, the fourth of five children. He left school at 14. He was made a life peer in 1963, and became active on the Labour benches in the House of Lords. Many credited him as the pioneer of the 'kitchen sink' dramas of the 1950s, but he once said it would be impossible to call him an angry young man, adding: 'Apart from Hitler, I've never hated anyone in my life.'

He made a controversial start to his career as a radio scriptwriter for Mrs Dale's Diary, writing an episode in which Mrs Dale and various friends plunged to their deaths after reversing a hire car over Beachy Head. He was promptly fired.

Married for nearly 50 years, he leaves a widow, Audrey, and two children. His son, John, said he died at home in Chislehurst, Kent, after collecting newspapers.

(Photograph omitted)