Producer. An appreciation.

Born: November 5, 1916;

Died: January 2, 2016

LEONARD White, who has died aged 98, was one of the most outstanding producers of the golden age of television drama. He produced the celebrated drama series Armchair Theatre and developed the series Police Surgeon which became The Avengers starring Patrick Macnee. He also worked as a producer with Scottish Television.

When I joined ABC Television at Teddington Studios at the end of 1965, Leonard was then producer of Armchair Theatre – making an unbelievable 35 plays a year for the ITV network.

The series boasted some of the most successful writers of that era, including David Mercer, Giles Cooper, John Hopkins and William Trevor. It also gave a platform to an eclectic range of untried writers, some of whom went on to have successful careers in television drama.

Starting out, as I was, in a job that aimed to provide a solid training for would-be producers, I received much help and encouragement from Leonard, which was to stand me in good stead in my own later career as producer and executive.

ABC was then the pre-eminent drama company in ITV with Leonard White heading a team of highly professional directors and script editors.

Born in Newhaven, Sussex, Leonard’s career began in theatre, both in the UK and in Canada. He never forgot his theatrical roots, and even after he had become a leading figure in television, he maintained his connections with the stage, partly through his direct involvement with the ABC Television Trainee Theatre Directors Scheme, and also taking any opportunity that arose to direct a play in theatre.

I well remember seeing his production of Christopher Fry’s A Sleep of Prisoners in Toronto in the late 1980s. He was every proud of that. Also, of course, before he had taken responsibility for Armchair Theatre, Leonard had developed and produced the series Police Surgeon which eventually morphed into the highly popular The Avengers starring Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman.

When I became head of drama at Scottish Television in 1979, I decided we would benefit from Leonard’s inclusion in our team. He was then in his seventies, but enthusiastic as ever and with no thought of retirement.

It was a different environment from ABC and Thames Television, with no great tradition proceeding us, and with somewhat fewer resources. That didn’t deter Mr White. With his habitual sharp eye and professionalism, he went on to produce several quality network drama series for STV, starting with a six-parter Skin Deep, written by Julia Jones and Drew Griffiths, and far ahead of its time.

He followed that with two strong drama series for younger viewers, both set in and around Glasgow and the Clyde. The first was Stookie, written by James Graham and Allan Prior, and a year later following Stookie’s success, Shadow of the Stone by Catherine Lucy Czerkawska.

In the latter, he gave debut major television roles to rising Scottish stars Alan Cumming and Shirley Henderson. It was typical of the man that he should identify promising talent and take pride in its subsequent successes.

There were other assignments during these years, always keenly embraced, and all made a significant contribution to STV’s growing reputation as a network drama producer.

Leonard White was an extremely able and motivated individual, but also a thoughtful and kindly man. He made many friends “up north”, all of whom will be remembering him with great affection and respect. Not least myself.