Denis Forman, a TV exec who fostered some of Blighty’s most innovative and succesful skeins such as “The Jewel in the Crown” and “7 Up,” died Sunday night in a London nursing home. He was 95.
TV titan achieved widespread recognition for his work on boundary-pushing, leggy TV shows such as “Coronation Street,” “Brideshed Revisited” and “World in Action,” among others — many of which redefined British television.
Career spanned more than five decades and included stints as director of the British Film Institute and deputy chairman of the Royal Opera House.
Forman was also, and perhaps most notably, one of the founding exex of Granada TV, where he went on to become its joint managing director and chairman from 1974-87. He was also deputy chairman of the Granada Group from 1984-90.
Forman was born as John Denis Forman on Oct. 13, 1917 in Dumfriesshire, in Scotland, where he lived on a country estate that made him skeptical of upper class piety and prerogatives, as well as scared of bores.
Educated at Scotland’s private Loretto School, where he served as head boy, Forman matriculated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and moved on to brief careers as a soap salesman and trader before getting drafted for WWII, during which he served in North African and Italian campaigns. Because of a shrapnel wound from the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy in ’44, though, Forman lost his left leg and was discharged as a lieutenant colonel.
After recuperating, Forman trekked to Dehra Dun, India, to help in the handover of the military academy to the Indians, and when the war culminated Forman ventured into the film biz, landing, in 1947, a job as chief production officer for the Central Office of Information films.
In 1955 Forman joined Sidney Bernstein as a director of Granada TV, where some of his most prestigious work would be done.
Efforts include “The Jewel in the Crown,” a 15-hour skein from the 1980s that amassed more kudos than any other series in TV history, and “7 Up,” which has examined a cross-section of Britons from different social classes over the course of seven-year intervals.
First iterations of the “Up” docu skein were broadcast in ’64 as part of Granada TV’s “World in Action” program. “56 Up” was shown in Blighty last year and bowed Stateside this year.
Forman also penned three volumes of memoirs and scribed several pieces about music, including a 1971 survey of Mozart’s piano concertos and “The Good Opera Guide.” He was in 1980 appointed director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and bagged spots as deputy chairman and chairman of the Opera Board.
Forman was appointed OBE in 1956 and knighted in 1976.
He married first, in 1948, to Helen Blondel de Mouilpied, who died in 1987, and second, in 1990, to Moni Cameron. He is survived by Cameron, two sons from his first marriage and a stepson and stepdaughter.