The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Sylvia Anderson

SYLVIA ANDERSON Producer (Year 1), Co-creator

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Born Sylvia Thomas, London, 25 March, 1927, died 16 March, 2016.

After a career as a social worker in Britain and the USA she met and married an American golf professional, Jack Brooks in 1946. For 4 years she lived in the US, before they divorced and she returned to Britain with her baby daughter, Jacqueline Dee. Another marriage, to George Thamm in 1952, also ended in divorce.

Sylvia started studying economics and sociology at the London School of Economics. While studying, Sylvia's interests in writing and drama led her into college magazines and the dramatic society, of which she became president. In 1955 she joined Polytechnic, a film company, as a part-time "Girl Friday". She gave up her studies to become a full time secretary. In 1956, two directors of the company (Gerry Anderson and Arthur Provis) broke away to form Pentagon Films, joined by Sylvia. In 1957 Anderson, Provis and Sylvia formed AP Films, with Sylvia as a director and production assistant. She was to marry Gerry Anderson in 1959.

Sylvia was involved in many aspects of production: scripting and script editing, creating series formats and, in particular, developing characters, supplying voices and editing the dialogue tapes, and as producer. She was most identified with the character of the aristocratic Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds, defining the character and providing the voice and likeness of the marionette. While Gerry Anderson concentrated on the technical side of production, Sylvia made herself responsible for the creative side, although they both collaborated to write the pilot scripts and format of each series.

Gerry and Sylvia's son, Gerry Jnr, was born in 1967. According to Sylvia's memoirs, their marriage had been marked by frequent rows and infidelities, and a number of trial separations. At the wrap-up party at the end of the first series of Space: 1999 Sylvia announced their separation (to Gerry;s surprise); they were divorced in 1981.

Keith Wilson, Sylvia Anderson, Michael Barnes and Brian Johnson in 1975

After leaving the production company she was involved in the Anglo German science fiction series Star Maidens (1976) and puppet shows. She then became a UK representative for the American cable company HBO.

She wrote a novel called "Love and Hisses" in 1983, and her autobiography "Yes, M'Lady" in 1991. A new autobiography, "My FAB Years!" was published in 2007. In 2014, she launched an arts and leisure website called gloTime.tv with her daughter Dee.

She freely admits she did not want Martin Landau cast, and feels he was a major failing of the series.

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson with the Landaus (27k)

"We were interviewing lots of actors to play the leads when we got a call from Lew Grade saying we really needed someone that was very well known, like Mission: Impossible people. I wanted Robert Culp. We met him. He was quite outrageous, but he would have given the series a very interesting angle. He would not have been the stereotyped hero; he would have been scared at times, he would have made the wrong decisions. But we had to cast Barbara Bain and Martin Landau, whom I freely admit I did not want. I battled very hard and stood up to Lew Grade and said "I don't think they're right. They were okay in Mission: Impossible, but having seen them, I don't think we're going to get what we should get." But he said that they were very popular in Mission: Impossible, and that they were a good commercial bet, and that was that."

David Tomblin, Sylvia Anderson and Frank Watts

Martin Landau on Sylvia Anderson: Sylvia was a charming and gregarious person, always ready for a good laugh, but very bright and serious when necessary. When it came time to do production on the second season, Sylvia's absence was very strongly felt by me, as I liked dealing with her openness and her sensibilities.

Johnny Byrne on Sylvia Anderson: Space was produced by two people: Gerry and Sylvia. While Gerry was largely responsible, Sylvia had very important areas and there was a certain amount of creative tension about the best way, and the best look it should have. When I was having story discussions it was usually with Gerry, but in [Troubled Spirit] it was Sylvia.

Christopher Penfold on Sylvia Anderson: I remember Sylvia's input as being largely to do with the way things looked; the style of the series. She did have good contributions to make in story terms but she was never as strong as Gerry in that department. She was very good at enthusing people and encouraging them when difficulties loomed. In actual storytelling terms I don't remember Sylvia's contributions as being terribly significant.

Zienia Merton on Sylvia Anderson: I thought she was terrific. She was a people person. She made her office totally accessible to everybody. She was a born communicator, in terms of making people feel good.


Copyright Martin Willey