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The ChampionsThe Creators
The Stars
The Creators of The Champions
Monty Berman
Dennis Spooner
He Launches the Adventures
Two imaginative Londoners are responsible for “THE CHAMPIONS”. They are the producer, Monty Berman, and the script supervisor, Dennis Spooner.
Monty Berman
A pocket watch is an indication that Monty Berman, producer of “The Champions” series, is a practical as well as an imaginative man.
It’s an alarm watch. A quiet ring is a reminder that it’s time for him to cut short whatever he is doing and keep his next assignment.
It is typical of the crisp efficiency with which this apparently easy-going Londoner conducts everything he does and which is reflected in the clean-cut, no-nonsense polish to be found in his film productions.
Monty Berman doesn’t look like a movie tycoon. He has a deceptive air of mildness. He never gets flustered. And he thoroughly enjoys his work, with only an occasional sign of nostalgic regret that he is now an executive instead of working on the studio floor as a cameraman.
Behind everything he does is an acute realisation of the public’s love of action and adventure. “I believe in giving people what they want,” he says simply - and by giving them what they want in feature and television films he has become one of the most successful of British producers.
Since entering the television world, he has been associated with Britain’s most internationally popular film series as co-producer of “The Saint” and “Gideon’s Way” and producer of “The Baron”.
He is a man who knows film production as a technician as well as a creative producer. He has been in the movie industry since he completed his education at the University College School and became a camera assistant at Twickenham Studios. He worked as a cameraman on a large number of films before meeting Robert S. Baker. They went into partnership together with Bob Baker as a director and Monty Berman as cameraman, jointly producing pictures on a modest scale.
Their small-budget films certainly showed no signs of setting the world on fire until, by sheer chance, they came across a 7/6d. book on famous crimes in history. It revolutionised their careers.
The book sparked off a series of hair-raising thrillers which caught the public imagination: action-filled stories which made the cinema box-office registers ring like fire-bells. The first to hit the jackpot was a film based on the horrific crimes of Jack the Ripper, one of the blood thirstiest of all mass murderers. Then came a film based on the exploits of the notorious body-snatchers, Burke and Hare, followed by another based-on-fact drama, the story of the classic battle of Sidney Street in which Winston Churchill, then the Home Secretary, personally took charge of the operations.
They had hit on a sure-fire formula. One nerve-tingling thriller followed another: “Blood of the Vampire”, “The Trollenberg Terror”, “Voice of Merrill”, “Tiger by the Tail”, and widening their scope with such productions as “Sea of Sand” and numerous others.
Then they obtained the TV-film rights of “The Saint” and a new chapter began in their meteoric careers with such success that, inevitably, they should become independent producers in their own right. Now, with “The Champions”, Monty Berman is making the most ambitious series he has yet embarked on..
Dennis Spooner
He reminds one of Bob Hope and he has the irrepressible humour of the traditional Cockney. The former Post Office telegraph boy did, in fact, serve his entertainment apprenticeship as a comedian. Today, Dennis Spooner is the most prolific of Britain’s scriptwriters and is script supervisor on “The Champions” series.
His own success story is as romantic as anything he has written.
He is near enough a cockney in that he was born at Tottenham (in 1932) and is a Londoner through and through—a young man who, because of the war, had practically no education, left school at the age of 13, and has tried his hand at a wide variety of jobs.
His family stuck it out through the wartime blitz on London. Dennis grew up to the sound of bombs, ack-ack fire and rockets. The incessant day-and-night drama probably went a long way towards developing the sense of drama which is so evident in everything he writes.
Two enthusiasms were paramount. One was for football (he played to a high standard and might well have become a professional). The other was for theatre, which found its outlet as a member of Ralph Reader’s Boy Scout “Gang Show” productions.
He went into the Post Office when he left school. His first task was to deliver telegrams and after that he worked in several different departments. At one time, he was a postman; another time, a clerk. By the time he had settled on his career as a writer, his jobs had included window-cleaning, factory work and importing-exporting.
His National Service in the RAF was something of a turning point. He appeared in station shows and, in Egypt, had his own radio programme on the Forces Broadcasting Service. In doing so, he met a lot of entertainment personalities and when he completed his service he went into the theatre as a comedian. Not, he admits, with any great success; but he did display a flair for writing original comedy material, and more established comedians than himself asked him to write material for them.
After a time, he was earning more as a writer than as an entertainer, and he realised that this was where his immediate future looked the most promising. Before long, he was contributing sketches to television comedy shows.
His writing veered towards more dramatic subjects, both for radio and television. He wrote some of the early “Avengers” stories and episodes for “No Hiding Place”, “Coronation Street” and other series.
The next turning point was when he met Gerry Anderson, producer of television puppet films. “Gerry,” he says, “did more than anyone to teach me film writing. I learned to think in pictures rather than in dialogue.”
And he was introduced to the world of science-fiction as scriptwriter of 15 of the “Fireball XL-5” episodes and numerous stories in the “Stingray” and “Thunderbirds” series. Science-fiction continued to dominate his output when he wrote scripts for “Dr. Who” and then became script editor of the series for a year.
He wrote other shows with scriptwriter Richard Harris, and they later devised the “Man in a Suitcase” series together.
ITC offered Dennis a contract to write ten scripts a year, and under this contract he wrote many of “The Baron” stories before creating “The Champions” with Monty Berman.
But he is still not satisfied. “I am,” he admits, “very ambitious—perhaps too ambitious.”
His ambition is to become a producer. One man he has always admired tremendously is Ralph Smart, the noted writer-director-producer who created the “Danger Man” (“Secret Agent”) series for Patrick McGoohan, on which he was executive producer and for which he also wrote far more scripts than any other writer.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that Dennis Spooner, as script supervisor in “The Champions” has persuaded Ralph Smart to write some of the scripts for the series!
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