Green presenting the first episode of
Double Your Money, 1955
|Born||Hugh Hughes Green
2 February 1920
Marylebone, London, England
|Died||3 May 1997
Chelsea, London, England
|Cause of death||Lung cancer|
|Resting place||Golders Green Crematorium, London, England|
|Education||Arnold House School|
|Occupation||Television presenter, game show host|
|Known for||Double Your Money
|Spouse(s)||Claire Wilson (m. 1942; div. 1975)|
and 1 other
|Parent(s)||Hugh Aitchison Green
Violet Elenore Price
Green was born in Marylebone, London to a Scottish father, Hugh Aitchison Green, a former British Army officer from Glasgow who made his fortune supplying tinned fish to the Allied forces in the First World War, and an English mother, Violet Elenore (née Price), from Surrey, the daughter of an Irish gardener. The family had a home in Meopham, Kent, where the children lived with their mother, who took frequent lovers, while their father did business from the Savoy Hotel, and often stayed there. Green attended Arnold House School, a boys' prep school.
After the family business went bankrupt, Green's father encouraged his stage-obsessed son into performance, and by the age of 14 Hughie Green had his own BBC radio show and created and toured with his own all-children cast concert party called "Hughie Green and his Gang". After an extensive tour of Canada, in 1935 Green appeared in his first film, Midshipman Easy, then went to Hollywood where he appeared in the film Tom Brown's School Days and at the Cocoanut Grove with his cabaret act.
Second World War
Having already fathered his first illegitimate child with Vera Hands, a Birmingham usherette at the age of 17, and having been caught in North America on the declaration of war, during the Second World War Green served as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, ferrying aircraft across the Atlantic with RAF Ferry Command. In 1942, he married Montreal society beauty Claire Wilson, and went on to work in the aircraft industry as a ferry transport pilot and stunt pilot. From 1947, when he returned to London, he was involved in business activities that included selling aircraft.
In 1949 Green devised a talent show called Opportunity Knocks, which was commissioned by BBC Radio. The show lasted for only one series, and Green was apparently told it was "too American" for the British audience. After the show was cancelled, Green sued the BBC, Carroll Levis, and six friends and family of Levis, alleging a conspiracy to keep his Opportunity Knocks show off the air to preserve Levis's rival show, "Discoveries". The case came to trial at the High Court in May 1955, with Green represented by Viscount Hailsham. The trial lasted for twenty days, but on 27 May, after a retirement of only 20 minutes, the jury returned a verdict for the defendants. As a result of the costs in the case, Green's creditors filed a petition for his bankruptcy, and a receiving order was made on 8 May 1956. He was not discharged from bankruptcy until 18 June 1958.
Green became a household name in 1955, with the ITV quiz show Double Your Money, which had actually originated some years earlier on Radio Luxembourg. Green brought his future co-host Monica Rose to the screen. Rose, a chirpy 15-year-old Cockney junior accounts clerk, had won £8 answering questions on famous women and was invited back by Green to be a hostess.
On 8 November 1966, Hughie Green presented the show from The House of Friendship in Moscow. Along with Monica Rose, he also had Natasha Vasylyeva as assistant. Because the Communist Party would not allow money as a prize, the top prize was a television set.
Green's most successful show format was his self-developed long-running talent show, Opportunity Knocks. It started as a UK-wide touring show produced for the radio, and one of Green's early finds was singer Frankie Vaughan, who came second as part of a duet. When the show transferred to television on the ITV network, first in 1956 and then again from 1964, it began the show business careers of Les Dawson, Lena Zavaroni, Pam Ayres and Mary Hopkin, among others. Green, who possessed a pilot's licence, would fly the panel of judges between audition venues all over Britain, in his small Cessna aircraft.
His game show The Sky's the Limit was generally considered a failure and was dropped by most ITV regional companies after the first run, although it lasted until 1974 in the Yorkshire and Granada regions, eventually being cancelled due to low ratings, combined with a falling-out between Green and producer Jess Yates.
Right up until its final shows, Opportunity Knocks was a ratings hit that attracted up to 18 million viewers weekly. But Green, known for his right-wing politics, had decided he was bigger than the show format he had devised and began politicising an apolitical family-friendly format. It has been suggested that Green believed that Harold Wilson and his Labour government were communists and that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, should replace Wilson as leader of the country and, to that end, he used Opportunity Knocks as an end-of-year soapbox, telling the country at the end of 1974 to 'wake up!' Two years later, in December 1976, Green sang a rant about the state of the United Kingdom called "Stand Up and Be Counted", with the words coming up in subtitles: "Stand up and be counted, where the managers manage and the workers don't go on strike". It was released as a single in 1977. Partly seen as an open support of Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher, he was disciplined by Thames Television, but continued to make political comments. After numerous viewer complaints, Thames axed the show in March 1978, despite its attracting high ratings, something Green mentioned in a bitter rant against Thames in his last show. Family-friendly Opportunity Knocks was replaced by youth-orientated comedy The Kenny Everett Video Show which attracted 14 million viewers.
After his rather slow-paced and "end of the pier" entertainment-style shows were replaced with more active audience participation formats, Green tried presenting variants on the Opportunity Knocks theme in Ireland, Australia and one show in the USSR, where a TV set was the top prize (no cash prizes were allowed).
Green provided the voice for Tony the Tiger in the 1970s TV advert for Frosties.
Green was often mocked for his permanent door-to-door salesman's smile and Canadian accent. His catchphrase "I mean that most sincerely" was also mocked, to such an extent that it is sometimes mistakenly believed to have been invented by the impressionist Mike Yarwood, whose impersonation of Green was celebrated. Green told Phillip Schofield in a TV interview in 1992 that he came up with the catchphrase himself. During Double Your Money Green kept up an occasional but good-natured feud with "rival" quiz show host Michael Miles, who compered Take Your Pick, Miles even appearing on one occasion with a huge bouquet of flowers for a guest, to Green's (mock) indignation.
Green met Montreal society beauty Claire Wilson on a cruise liner in the mid-1930s when both were still teenagers. They married in 1942 and settled in Montreal, before moving to London in 1947. The couple had two children, son Christopher and daughter Linda. The family lived in a fifth-floor flat in Baker Street, London, although with Green's numerous affairs and self-obsession, including taking luxury holidays and spending Christmas often on his own, his children defined it as "highly-dysfunctional."
Claire and Green separated in 1961 and filed for divorce in March 1975 after Green started an affair with Gwen Claremont, the sister of an earlier lover, Pat. Later that year, Claire married Upstairs, Downstairs actor David Langton. After separation from Claire, Green's drinking became more compulsive, while his affairs continued even during the height of his fame presenting Opportunity Knocks. Journalist Noel Botham approached Green to expose him, but Green countered with a lawsuit threat. Eventually the two became good friends.
Botham then became key in two stories in Green's life. Green grew frustrated by the lack of Yorkshire Television's action to remove programme producer Jess Yates when he requested and so leaked to Botham the stories of Yates's affair with the young actress Anita Kay, whose story, published in the News of the World, destroyed Yates' career. After Green's death from lung cancer, Botham wrote the exposé story, also in the News of the World, of Green being the biological father of Jess Yates's daughter, TV presenter Paula Yates, a fact she had first learned after the tabloids printed the story. Through his daughter Linda, Green had four granddaughters, Delia, Christina, Stephanie and Marina. Through his daughter Paula, Green had four other granddaughters whom he never knew: Fifi, Peaches and Pixie Geldof, fathered by Bob Geldof, and Tiger Lily Hutchence, fathered by Michael Hutchence. He also chose never to contact his son Barry Hands and a grandson Robert Hands and granddaughter Karen Hands.
After a failed court case against the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation over a copyright case which cost him £250,000 in 1989, Green lived out his life away from the media in solitude, confined to his Baker Street flat and lacking many of the financial riches of his former fame. After a lifetime of smoking a pipe, heavy drinking and latterly taking recreational barbiturates, Green was diagnosed with and died from lung cancer in the Royal Marsden Hospital, Chelsea, London.
Green's son Christopher postponed his wedding and flew from Canada to be at his dying father's bedside.
Retrospective media coverage
In light of the death in 2000 of his daughter Paula Yates, his son Christopher Green, now a Canadian resident, wrote the autobiographical perspective Hughie and Paula: The Tangled Lives of Hughie Green and Paula Yates.
On 2 April 2008 a TV film about Green's life was broadcast on BBC Four. In the film, entitled Hughie Green, Most Sincerely, Trevor Eve was cast in the lead role. In The Sunday Telegraph of 3 February 2008, his daughter Linda Plentl said the new BBC drama about her father would reopen intolerable wounds. She told of her struggle with his legacy and her three meetings with half-sister Paula Yates.
- Hughie and Paula: The Tangled Lives of Hughie Green and Paula Yates, by Christopher Green ISBN 1-86105-609-5
- The London Gazette: . 11 May 1956.
- Green, Christopher (2003). Hughie and Paula: The Tangled Lives of Hughie Green and Paula Yates. Robson Books. p. 34. ISBN 9781861056092.
- Joe Moran, "Stand Up and Be Counted: Hughie Green, the 1970s and Popular Memory", History Workshop Journal, 70 (Autumn 2010): 179, citing Christopher Green with Carol Clerk, Hughie and Paula: the Tangled Lives of Hughie Green and Paula Yates, London, 2003, p. 96.
- "High Court of Justice", The Times, 3 May 1955, p 5.
- "High Court of Justice", The Times, 27 May 1955, p. 5.
- The London Gazette: . 29 July 1958.
- "'Television s Greatest Hits – 1966 – Game Shows'". Retrieved 20 October 2014.
- "Frankie Vaughan". The Guardian. 18 September 1999. Archived from the original on 31 October 2004. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
- "The Network that Trashed itself". transdiffusion.org. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
- "As a new film exposes the truth behind TV legend Hughie Green, his son reveals the demons that led to his father's behaviour". London: Daily Mail. 31 March 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
- "'I thought I was at the darkest point – now this', BBC news report on Paula Yates". BBC News. Retrieved 3 February 2008.
- "(Hughie) Green v Broadcasting Corp of New Zealand". Copyright Theft. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2008.[dead link]
- "Hughie Green, TV legend, dies at 77" at independent.co.uk
- "How dare Hughie Green's son brand him a womanising bully, by his last lover". London: Daily Mail. 10 April 2008. Retrieved 21 April 2008.
- "Hughie Green". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
- "Hughie Green, Most Sincerely". Retrieved 31 March 2008.
- Hastings, Chris (3 February 2008). "The Life and Many Loves of Hughie Green, Sunday Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 3 February 2008.