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Howard Thomas

Profile

Born
5 March 1909
Death
6 November 1986
Dates
1944-1955
Role
Producer-in-Chief
Newsreels / Cinemagazines
Pathe Pictorial
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Notes
In January 1945 Thomas was described as ‘Production Manager, Pathe Pictorial,' while Fred Watts [qv] was ‘Production Manager, Pathe Gazette.' Cinema, 3/1/1945, p. 54:

Career

Howard Thomas was a Manchester journalist and copywriter in advertising before he had a play, ‘Beauty Queen’, broadcast by the BBC in 1936. Further commissions followed, often on a Lancastrian theme, and in 1938 he was asked by Gerald Sanger (qv) to write the script for the Christmas edition of British Movietone News which was to be ‘edited’ by Gracie Fields. This was released as GRACIE FIELDS EDITS MOVIETONE’S CHRISTMAS NUMBER (no. 499). During the Second World War Thomas became a BBC staff producer, and was responsible for several successes, including the ‘Brains Trust’ series.

In February 1944 Thomas became ‘Producer-in-chief’ at Pathe Pictures Ltd., and took charge of the Pathe Gazette and Pathe Pictorial cinemagazine. He changed the name of the newsreel to Pathe News from January 1946. New titles and music were introduced. ‘The newsreel editor [Louis Behr qv] was near retirement and I began to work more directly on the production so that I could inject originality and news-sense into the bi-weekly editions.' He appointed Bob Danvers Walker [qv] as Acting Editor before appointing G. Clement Cave in 1947. He made Terry Ashwood [qv] chief cameramen, and they appointed several new staff, despite opposition from the ACT and Pathe’s shop steward, Ken Gordon [qv]. He appointed Paul Fox for a short period on Pathe News, and signed by Eamonn Andrews [qv] as commentator for Pathe Pictorial, but overlooked Frank Muir as a potential writer on the cinemagazine. In 1948 he appointed Tommy Cummins [qv] as Editor, with Cave becoming News Editor. As Chairman of the Newsreel Association in 1953, and with the Royal Rota cameraman, John Turner [qv], being then attached to Pathe News, Thomas had overall responsibility for the newsreel coverage arrangements for the coronation of Elizabeth II.

In 1955, with the arrival of Independent Television, Thomas became Managing Director of ABC Television, remaining there until 1968. From 1969 to 1974 he was Managing Director of Thames Television, following the merger with ABC, and thereafter its Chairman, becoming Chairman of Thames Television International 1974-1981. He was Chairman of Independent Television News 1974-1976. He held many key posts in broadcasting, was a Governor of the British Film Institute 1974-1982, Vice-President of the Royal Television Society (1976-1984),

Sources

H. Thomas, ‘With an Independent Air: Encounters During a Lifetime of Broadcasting’ (1977), passim: Who’s Who 1897-1996 CD-ROM.

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