29 June 1936|
9 June 1990 (aged 53)|
Cause of death
David Bell (29 June 1936–9 June 1990) was a Scottish light entertainment TV executive, known for programmes such as The Stanley Baxter Show and Live From Her Majesty's, and responsible for making famous acts like Russ Abbot and Cannon and Ball. As a producer and director in the 1960s, he worked on STV's The One O'Clock Gang and BBC Scotland's beat music show, Stramash!.
In the mid-1950s, Bell was working in a textile job in his home town of Selkirk, but upon finishing his training he quit to become a trainee cameraman with the newly-established Scottish Television in Glasgow "in the days when they were taking cameramen off the streets". Starting out as a "cable-basher', the humblest role in a studio camera crew, he progressed to become a fully-qualified cameraman and spent time as a floor manager before, in the 1960s, becoming a director of programmes such as The One O'Clock Gang.
When BBC2 opened Bell moved to London to work on various music shows, directing Juke Box Jury for a while.
Bell's biting wit and flair meant he enjoyed the respect of all in his production team.
He then went on to produce The Stanley Baxter Show for BBC Scotland from 1967 to 1971.
When Bell moved to LWT he took Baxter with him in 1972. Bell won three Bafta awards for his programmes with Stanley Baxter between 1973 and 1982. The shows are widely considered to have represented an unsurpassable high-point in television entertainment because more time and money went into the making of them than any television company could later afford. He also had a Bafta for his work on The Benny Hill Show.
In 1978 Bell was involved with Michael Grade's move bringing Bruce Forsyth to ITV to present his ill-fated Saturday night spectacular. He found, developed and made famous newcomers like Russ Abbot and Cannon and Ball.
In the mid-1980s, Bell became head of light entertainment at LWT. His successes there included The Stanley Baxter Show and Copy Cats. It was Bell who convinced Jeremy Beadle not to leave LWT for the BBC after the success of Game for a Laugh, convincing him to stay and develop a new show called Beadle's About.
Bell's greatest passion was for the 'Big Shows' — Live From Her Majesty's, The Royal Variety Performance, The Night of 100 Stars. Towards the end of his time at LWT, comedian Tommy Cooper collapsed on stage during a live screening of Live From Her Majesty's on 15 April 1984.
In October 1984 it was announced that Bell was quitting his controllership to go back to producing. From 1 January 1985 he started a new contract to make major shows for LWT. This put paid to rumours that Bill Cotton, the BBC's recently-appointed managing director of television, would re-unite Bell with Michael Grade, as entertainment supremo for his new-look BBC.
A long illness as a result of AIDS meant he was unable to work much in the late 1980s and he died in 1990, aged 53.
- 'The Big Three who put on The Big Noise', Evening Times, 28 December 1965, 3.
- Jeremy Beadle, Watch Out! (Century, 1998), Chapter 9.
- 'The Death of Tommy Cooper, Live on TV'. Huffington Post, 27 July 2012.
- 'London Weekend Television's entertainment controller David Bell quits', Guardian, 15 October 1984.