James Cellan Jones

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James Cellan Jones
Born(1931-07-13)13 July 1931
Died30 August 2019(2019-08-30) (aged 88)
Alma materSt John's College
OccupationTelevision director and producer
Years active1960–2001
Known forThe Forsyte Saga (1967)
Fortunes of War (1987)
TitleHead of Plays, BBC Television
PredecessorChristopher Morahan
SuccessorKeith Williams
ChildrenSimon Cellan Jones
Rory Cellan-Jones
Deiniol Cellan Jones
Lavinia Cellan Jones[1]

Alan James Gwynne Cellan Jones (13 July 1931 – 30 August 2019) was a British television and film director. From 1963, he directed over 50 diverse television series and films.

He was particularly associated with the "Classic Serial" during the golden age of BBC drama,[2] and some of his most significant work was in televising late 19th-century and 20th-century British literary works. Two of his most ambitious and successful directorial adaptations were the miniseries The Forsyte Saga (1967), which became a national and international hit,[1] and Fortunes of War (1987); and he was also noted for his award-winning productions of Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974) and Harnessing Peacocks (1993).

Cellan Jones was Head of Plays at BBC Television, chairman of BAFTA, and chairman of the Directors Guild of Great Britain.

Early life and education[edit]

James Cellan Jones was born in 1931 in Swansea, Wales, the son of surgeon Cecil Cellan-Jones and his wife Lavinia (née Dailey).[1] James later dropped the hyphen in his surname.[1]

He was educated in England, attending Dragon School in Oxford, and Charterhouse School in Surrey.[1] From a family of physicians,[2] he studied natural sciences at St John's College, Cambridge, where he received his BA in 1952, later raised to an MA in 1978.[3]


Cellan Jones's true interest was acting and directing rather than medicine, however,[1][2] and he began working at BBC Television in 1955 as a callboy, and rose steadily to become a production manager. In 1960 he began directing for the BBC, and by 1965 was directing several major productions a year for the corporation. In 1967, he directed seven episodes of the award-winning 26-part adaptation of The Forsyte Saga, which became a massive national and international hit;[1] and his other period dramas included numerous adaptations of works by Henry James and George Bernard Shaw. In the 1970s, he directed two notable historical biographical sagas: the award-winning miniseries Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1976), and the 13-episode miniseries The Adams Chronicles (1976), about the American Adams political family.

From 1976 through 1979, Cellan Jones was Head of Plays at the BBC, where he was ultimately responsible for scores of productions a year. Upon leaving the post, he became a freelance television director, and continued to work steadily for 20 years. Highlights of this period include the World War II miniseries Fortunes of War (1987) starring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, and the award-winning television film Harnessing Peacocks (1993).

Cellan Jones was chairman of BAFTA from 1983 to 1985.[4] He was also chairman and honorary president of the Directors Guild of Great Britain.[5][6][7]

Awards and nominations[edit]

For the serial Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974), Cellan Jones won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series, and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. For The Adams Chronicles (1976) he was nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series, and was nominated two years successively for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series.[8]

He received the United States CableACE Award in 1987 for Best Dramatic Series for his anthology series Oxbridge Blues,[8] first transmitted in the UK in late 1984. His television film Harnessing Peacocks (1993) won the prestigious Golden Nymph award for Best Television Film at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival.[9]

Cellan Jones received seven BAFTA TV nominations, for the serials Roads to Freedom (1970); Eyeless in Gaza (1971); Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974); Oxbridge Blues (1984); and Fortunes of War (1987). A Fine Romance (1981, 1982) won the Broadcasting Press Guild award for Best Comedy in 1982.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Cellan Jones married television editor and production manager Margot Eavis in 1959, and they had a daughter and two sons, including director Simon Cellan Jones. BBC journalist Rory Cellan-Jones is his son, by Sylvia Rich, a BBC secretary, prior to his marriage.[10][1]

He died following a stroke in August 2019.[1]

Selected filmography[edit]




  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "James Cellan Jones obituary". The Times. 10 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "James Cellan Jones and the Classic Serial", Screen. November 1969; Vol. 10, Issue 6: pp. 33-44.
  3. ^ University of Cambridge. The Cambridge University List of Members for the Year 1991. Cambridge University Press, 1991. p. 228.
  4. ^ Chairmen – 1947 to Present. BAFTA. BAFTA.org. 28 June 2012.
  5. ^ Cellan Jones, James. Forsyte and Hindsight: Screen Directing for Pleasure and Profit. Kaleidoscope Publishing, 2006. Text from back cover and frontispiece.
  6. ^ Screen International: The international film & television directory, Volume 1. EMAP Media Information, 1993. p. 387.
  7. ^ Cellan Jones, James. Forsyte and Hindsight: Screen Directing for Pleasure and Profit. Kaleidoscope Publishing, 2006. pp. 167–168.
  8. ^ a b c James Cellan Jones – Awards at the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ "ITV Wins Major Awards". MediaTel. 11 February 1994.
  10. ^ Cellan Jones, James. Forsyte and Hindsight: Screen Directing for Pleasure and Profit. Kaleidoscope Publishing, 2006. pp. 14–15.

External links[edit]