Born Sylvia Thamm, London, 1927.
While studying economics and sociology at the London School of Economics, her interests in writing and drama led her into college magazines and the dramatic society, of which she became president. After a career as a social worker in Britain and the USA she met and married an American golf professional. For 4 years she lived in the US, before they divorced and she returned to Britain with her baby daughter, Jacqueline Dee.
In 1957 she joined Polytechnic, a film company, as a "Girl Friday". Later, two directors of the company (Gerry Anderson and Arthur Provis) broke away to form AP Films, and Sylvia joined them. She was to marry Gerry Anderson in 1959. Sylvia was a company director, 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. Their son, Gerry Jnr, was born in 1967. According to her 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 Gerry and Sylvia announced their separation; they were divorced in 1981.
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.
She freely admits she did not want Martin Landau cast, and feels he was a major failing of the series.
"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."
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.