Production Personnel Biography
by Anne Frost, Dennis' sister
Of all the writers to work on The Avengers, Dennis Spooner was perhaps most closely allied with the show, or, more particularly, with Brian Clemens. At a dozen scripts, he places third behind Clemens and Philip Levene, and it is noteworthy that he and Clemens together generated all but three of The New Avengers stories.
Born on the first of December, 1932, in Tottenham, North London, Dennis was the eldest of three children, having two sisters. He left school at 14 to become a telegram boy for the Post Office; he later worked in various offices and even played professional football for Leyton Orient for a time. Always included in Ralph Reader's Gang Shows, this boy scout eventually got a taste for show business. 1950 bought National Service and he served with the RAF, eventually joining their "concert party" whilst stationed in the Suez. Afterwards he returned to office work where he met and married his wife in 1954; they had three children during the 60s and 70s.
Soon after marrying he decided to try a career in show business, and upon meeting Leslie Darbon, began working in a double act akin to Morecambe and Wise. While they managed to play the London Palladium for a time when there was a variety show being staged there, they realized it would not be enough for them to achieve success. Dennis then wondered if his talent lay in writing rather than performing, and he wrote a half hour script for Harry Worth—for which he received £5. Harry screened Dennis' comedy (which went down very well) and asked Dennis to write more, thus launching his new career.
By the 60s he began submitting scripts for other programs, such as Coronation Street, which were always accepted, and while attending the show business functions to which he was invited, he met future contacts who approached him for contributions. Gradually becoming known in the industry, he wrote for Bergerac, The Professionals, Doctor Who, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Stingray and The Avengers to name a few, and he also developed series concepts which led to Randall and Hopkirk, Man in a Suitcase, The Champions, Department S and Jason King, amongst others.
Along the way he made great friends with Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and, in particular, Brian Clemens, with whom he worked almost exclusively in later years. He was Script Editor for various series, and had an office at Elstree Studios. During this time he learned how to play bridge and would often enter tournaments; one day, having no one to partner him, he wound up playing with Omar Sharif, and then went on to author a couple of books about bridge. As if this wasn't enough, he occasionally played football for Showbiz XI when asked.
Producers in America learned of his talents via The Avengers, and in the early 80s he was invited several times a year to work in the US on Dempsey and Makepeace scripts, often staying with Patrick Macnee, with whom he'd become friends during the filming of his Avengers teleplays. His most successful creation was The Sting in the Tail, which is still being shown at times around the world. But he loved theatre work as well, and his last performance was with the Watford Rep Company (Brian Clemens, Producer) as President Roosevelt in their production of Annie.
Dennis died suddenly of a heart attack on the evening of Saturday, 20 September 1986, eleven months after his mother had passed away. He was 53. Dennis was a very kind, quiet, generous man, always able to find something amusing in every situation. His work never affected him; he always remembered his background and roots. He claimed that one of the nicest people he ever met was William Conrad (Cannon)—a "real gentleman" was how Dennis described him. And it is true what Brian Clemens said of Dennis: he was as happy talking to a dustman as a Duke.
The BFI has a
bio of Dennis (wonder where they got that photo of him?).
materials copyrighted per their respective copyright holders.