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Green, Hughie (1920-1997)

Presenter, Actor

Main image of Green, Hughie (1920-1997)

A household name on British television for over 20 years, Hughie Green helped accommodate the rise to fame of many of the 60s' and 70s' biggest variety acts through his talent show Opportunity Knocks! (ITV, 1956; 1964-78). However, his stellar career came to an abrupt end, and since his death has often taken second place to revelations about his private life.

Born to an army major and a gardener's daughter, he was encouraged by his father to take to the stage when the family business went bust. By the age of 14 he had his own radio show and touring concert party, at one point playing 700 concerts in one year. After touring Canada, he made his film debut in Radio Pirates (d. Ivar Campbell, 1935). This was soon followed by a leading role in Midshipman Easy (d. Carol Reed, 1935) and a move to Hollywood, where he continued his screen career with Tom Brown's Schooldays (US, 1940).

Green made a few more films after serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II, but it was on television that he found greatest fame, becoming host of Double Your Money (1955-68), one of ITV's first quiz shows. Borrowing a format originally premiered on Radio Luxembourg, the show presented contestants with a choice of fifty subjects, the prize value doubling for every correct answer. The following year he had his second television success fronting Opportunity Knocks, a show he had earlier presented on the radio. Allowing the viewing public to choose the winner by postal vote, the show helped launch the careers of Les Dawson, Mary Hopkin, Lena Zavaroni and Pam Ayres, regularly attracting 18 million viewers in the process.

Green's position, however, was not unassailable. The Sky's the Limit (ITV, 1971-74), a travel-themed follow-up to Double Your Money, was dropped by most regions after its first season, and in 1978 his increasing use of Opportunity Knocks as a platform for his own right-wing views led to cancellation. He struggled to find further television work, and lived out of the spotlight after losing £250,000 in a failed lawsuit in 1989. Four years before his death from cancer he made a knowing cameo appearance as himself in Rik Mayall Presents Micky Love (ITV, 1993), the fictional tale of another seemingly invincible TV behemoth's fall from grace.

Green gained a posthumous tabloid notoriety when it was revealed that he was the real father of the troubled TV presenter Paula Yates. The story was incorporated into a surprisingly sympathetic BBC drama, Most Sincerely (tx. 2/4/2008).

Richard Hewett

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Thumbnail image of Double Your Money (1955-68)Double Your Money (1955-68)

Glitzy ITV quiz show - the first in the UK to offer cash prizes

Thumbnail image of Sunday Night at the London Palladium (1955-74)Sunday Night at the London Palladium (1955-74)

Long-running variety show that helped to make ITV a hit

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