91 (passed away Dec. 14th, 1998)
Dec. 25th, 1906
Lew Grade's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
Sir Lew (later Lord) Grade, the English entertainment impresario who critics loved to disparage as Sir Low Grade," was born Louis Winogradsky on December 25, 1906 in Tokmak, Ukraine, in the former Russian Empire. His parents Olga and Isaac, who were Jewish, emigrated to England in 1912 to escape the pogroms of their native land. The settled in London's End End, where Isaac managed a movie theater. Lew and his two brothers, Leslie and Bernard (who later took the name Delfont) attended the Rochelle Street School in Shoreditch. His formal education over, he became an agent for a clothing firm at the age of 15 but soon went into business for himself. His fate was changed when he won a Charleston competition at the Albert Hall in 1926. He took the name Grade (which was adopted by his brother Leslie) when he became a professional dancer, and as Lew Grade, the World Charleston Champion of 1926, made his way into show business.
Lew Grade and his brother Leslie Grade founded a talent agency in 1933, which grew into the largest in the UK. With partner Joe Collins, father of Joan and Jackie Collins, the agency eventually represented some of the biggest and most prestigious stars in British show business, including Sir Ralph Richardson (I) and Lord Laurence Olivier. His other brother Bernie, now Bernard (later Lord) Delfont, also made his way into show business, later becoming the head of the music industry behemoth EMI. (Lord Grade's own interests included Pye Records.)
Entering television, Grade's production company ITC Entertainment was responsible for the iconic 1960s British TV series "The Saint" and "The Prisoner." He acquired the independent production company AP Films in 1962, which produced the popular children's marionette adventure series "Thunderbirds" among others. AP Films also produced three feature films, and the live-action sci-fi series "Space: 1999."
As a movie producer, Grade helped finance the big screen incarnation of The Muppet Show, for which he was immortalized by Jim Henson, who made a Muppet in his image -- Dr Bunsen Honeydew. Henson also used Grade for the character of movie mogul Lew Lord (played by Orson Welles) in "The Muppet Movie."
Grade was the force behind the private British TV broadcasting network ATV, which he wanted to rival the BBC. The network featured extravagant 'quality' productions such as a live broadcast of "Tosca" from La Scala starring Maria Callas, which took up an entire evening's broadcast time. He produced director 'Franco Zefferelli' 's award-winning TV mini-series "Jesus of Nazareth" (1977), which provided a financial windfall when it was resold to the American market. The mini-series garnered a then-record $12 million licensing fee (approximately $39 million in 2005 dollars, when adjusted for inflation). On the downside, Grade's high-budget, 'all-star' film adaptation of Clive Cussler's best seller "Raise the Titanic" proved to be a monumental flop. A self-deprecating Grade remarked about laying this big egg, "It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic." Subsequent flops led Grade to abandon motion picture production.
Grade was knighted in 1969 for his services towards promoting international trade, and was made a life peer (a baron) in 1976, both times under Harold Wilson's Labour Government. He was married to Kathleen Moody for 56 years, until his death. Lew and Kathleen adopted a son, Paul Dancer. Of his wife, Grade said, graciously, "Marriage was the best business deal I ever made. After that, `Jesus of Nazareth' and 'The Muppets.'"
His nephew, Michael Grade, currently is the Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors. Lord Grade died in December 13, 1998. He was 92 years old.
- Uncle of 'Michael Grade' (qv) and 'Anita Land (II)' (qv).
- Knighted in 1969 for services to export
- Disparaging critics loved to have fun with his name by calling him "Sir Low Grade".
- Jim Henson modeled the Muppet Dr. Bunsen Honeydew after Lord Grade as a show of gratitude for financing "The Muppet Show." Lord Grade was delighted.
- Brother of 'Bernard Delfont' (qv) - sometime head of EMI and THF leisure.
- First partner in the agency was Joe Collins, father of 'Jackie Collins (I)' (qv) and 'Joan Collins' (qv).
- Brother of 'Leslie Grade' (qv) with whom he ran Britain's largest PR/Talent agency, representing the likes of Sir 'Ralph Richardson (I)' (qv) and Lord 'Laurence Olivier' (qv).
- Lew and Kathleen adopted a son Paul Dancer in his youth. Was World Charleston Champion of 1926.
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