Very sad news about the passing of David Croft. His greatest achievements were in comedy, rather than variety, so he got only a passing mention in Turned Out Nice Again. One of the more uncomfortable editorial decisions I had to take, but there we are. To redress the balance slightly, I think this previously-unpublished passage from the transcript of my interview with former BBC TV head of light entertainment Jim Moir is worth sharing.
“We were discussing how when you come off the training course, you get stuck with a whole bunch of producers. I was attached to David Croft for a show called Ad Lib. It was an early ‘you take a sentence, I’ll take a sentence and we’ve got to get to this conclusion’ type show. Very experimental for BBC2. There were two trainees on it, me and a fellow called Dick Clement. I did my bit, ran the floor, I was in the bar with David and he said ‘Well what do you think?’. I said ‘Well, I was just thinking what else we could put in the show. What about if we got a jazz singer, a scat singer? Because that’s kind of ad lib.’ He went ‘Mmmhmm’. Three weeks later, Annie Ross rocks up on the show. He had not said one single word to me, but he had listened to me, thought it was a good idea and just went out and did it. I’d not said anything to him ‘Did you do that because I said so?’ because clearly he did.
When that series came to an end in about May, the boards for the permanency – I’d been a trainee for about 6 months, the boards were in June. And it was David Croft who gave the report on me after 6 months of traineeship, and said ‘Hire this boy’. I have everything to thank him for, for that opportunity, and I can honestly say that he was probably the greatest head of light entertainment we never had. I don’t think he could have afforded the drop. He’d be looking round to commission himself. He was a powerhouse. He brought on an enormous amount of in-house talent. He was generous, as was Michael Hurll with the people who came up under him, as was Yvonne Littlewood. I don’t think people even know they’re doing it. It’s not ‘Today I will bring on X amount of talent’. You just do it. You recall the chances you were given.”