On this day in history : 27th March 1927 – The birth of voice actress, writer, TV and film producer Sylvia Anderson – who with her then husband, Gerry Anderson, created the cult series “Thunderbirds”….
Sylvia was born in South London, the daughter of boxing promoter and gym owner, Sidney Thomas….and Beatrice, a dressmaker…. She attended the London School of Economics, where she gained a degree in Sociology and Political Science….
She married her first husband, American golfer Jack Brooks, in 1946 and they had a daughter…. The couple lived in the US, where Sylvia worked as a journalist…. The marriage ended in divorce but Sylvia remarried in 1952, to George Thamm – only this marriage too was to break down…. It was in 1955 that Sylvia returned to the UK – and in 1957 she joined Polytechnic Films as an office assistant – and it was then that she met Gerry Anderson…. They were married in late 1960….and went on to have a son, Gerry Anderson Jr….
Following the collapse of Polytechnic Films Gerry Anderson formed AP Films with Arthur Provis…. Sylvia joined the board of directors, along with colleagues John Reed and Reg Hill….
The Andersons worked as a team…. In the early 1960s Sylvia and Gerry created ‘Thunderbirds’…. The groundbreaking puppetry sci-fi exploits and adventures of the Tracy family set in the 2060s…. American ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy, a widower, living on Tracy Island with his five grown up children:- Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan…. The family make up ‘International Rescue’ – a secret organisation set up to save human life….each of the Tracy brothers having their own Thunderbird machine…. Then there is undercover agent Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, one of the show’s most popular characters – and her chauffeur, Parker….driving around the British countryside in the FAB 1 pink Rolls Royce….
Sylvia’s role was to create the characters, devise the storylines and design the costumes…. She was well aware that the show was intended for an American audience and wanted characters that would appeal…. The result was a fusion; an American central family with a strong British flavour to the show…. Lady Penelope, the poised, elegant aristocrat – based on Sylvia herself and who provided the voice for the the puppet – and the Cockney Parker…. “Yes, M’Lady”….
Two series of the show were filmed, giving 32 fifty-minute episodes…. Two feature films were released ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ in 1966 and ‘Thunderbird 6’ followed in 1968…. Sylvia and Gerry created the series ‘UFO’ during 1969-70, which she co-produced and designed the costumes for…. However, by the early 70s cracks were beginning to appear in the marriage and Sylvia and Gerry’s creative partnership ended in 1975, when the marriage broke up…. They divorced in 1981….
Sylvia’s semi-autobiographical novel ‘Love and Hisses’ was published in 1983 – followed by her autobiography ‘Yes, M’Lady’ in 1991 – which was republished in 2007 as ‘My FAB Years’…. For some 30 years Sylvia was to work as a talent scout for American TV network HBO….and then in 2013 she began work with her daughter Dee, a jazz singer, on an idea for a new TV show – ‘The Last Station’….
Sylvia died on the 15th of March 2016, aged 88….