Sylvia Anderson – 27th March 1927 – 16th March 2016

Picture above: Sylvia Anderson with the puppet, Lady Penelope and then husband, Gerry Anderson.

Thunderbirds co-creator Sylvia Anderson, best known for voicing Lady Penelope in the hit TV show, has died aged 88.

Anderson voiced Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds from it’s debut in 1965 until 1968.

Video: Lady Penelope Stops The Hood’s Car – Thunderbirds

She worked with Ian Hendry on the film Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun – as one of the screenwriters and producers, alongside her then husband, Gerry Anderson. Donald James and Tony Williamson are also credited for the screenplay. The spaceship in the film is clearly influenced by their earlier creation, Thunderbird 2.

 

Thunderbirds 2 Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun 1969

Sylvia Anderson

Sylvia Anderson (née Thamm, 27 March 1927 – 16 March 2016) was a British television and film producer, writer and voice actress, well known for her collaborations with Gerry Anderson, her husband between 1960 and 1981.[2]In addition to serving as co-creator and co-writer on their TV series during the 1960s and early 1970s, Sylvia’s primary contribution was character development and costume design.  She regularly directed the bi-weekly voice recording sessions, and provided the voices of many female and child characters, in particular Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds. The Andersons divorced at the start of the 1980s following a five-year separation.

After graduating from the London School of Economics with a degree in economics and sociology, Sylvia Thamm became a social worker and emigrated to the United States to live with her first husband, an American golfer.Returning to the UK with a daughter, she joined the newly founded and short-lived Polytechnic Films as a secretary in 1957.There, Thamm would meet Gerry Anderson, an editor and director. That year, when Anderson and his business partner Arthur Provis created AP Films following Polytechnic’s collapse, she joined them on the board of directors of the new company, alongside their colleagues John Read and Reg Hill. In 1960, Thamm and Anderson married, after which she played a wider role in production duties.

The Andersons’ creative partnership ended when their marriage broke down during the production of the first series of Space: 1999 in 1975. Gerry announced his intention to separate on the evening of the wrap party,following which Sylvia ceased her involvement with the company, which by this time had twice been renamed and was now called Group Three. In 1983, she published a novel, Love and Hisses, and in 1994 reprised her role as the voice of Lady Penelope for an episode of the sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. She worked as a London-based talent scout for the American TV network HBO for 30 years.

Anderson’s autobiography, Yes M’Lady, was first published in 1991; in 2007, it was re-published as My FAB Years with new material to bring it up to date with the latest developments in her life, such as her role as a production consultant for the 2004 live-action film adaptation of Thunderbirds. Of the film, Anderson commented, “I’m personally thrilled that the production team have paid us the great compliment of bringing to life our original concept for the big screen. If we had made it ourselves (and we have had over 30 years to do it!) we could not have improved on this new version. It is a great tribute to the original creative team who inspired the movie all those years ago. It was a personal thrill for me to see my characters come to life on the big screen.”My FAB Years was re-released as a spoken CD, narrated by Anderson, in 2010.

Co-founders of adventure series Stingray, Gerry and Sylvia Andersone

Picture: Co-founders of adventure series Stingray, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson with some of the puppets

In 2013, Anderson was working with her daughter Jacqueline Dee, a jazz singer, on a concept for a new TV series named “The Last Station”. They have set up a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for followers to contribute and be a part of the new series.

Obituary – The Guardian

A producer and writer, Anderson created the Supermarionation puppet series with her husband, Gerry. She died at her home in Bray, Buckinghamshire, following a short illness, her daughter Dee Anderson said.

“Sylvia was a mother and a legend. Her intelligence was phenomenal but her creativity and tenacity unchallenged,” her daughter said. “She was a force in every way, and will be sadly missed.”

 

Lady-Penelope-from-Thunderbirds + Parker

Picture: Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward and Parker in Thunderbirds.

Gerry Anderson died in 2012 aged 83 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

As well as voicing Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward in Thunderbirds from its debut in 1965 until 1968, Sylvia Anderson also worked on Joe 90, Captain Scarlet and Stingray.

Born in south London to a boxing champion and a dressmaker, she went on to have a career in television spanning five decades. She recently worked as head of programming for HBO in the UK and had been writing a show with her daughter entitled The Last Station.

Dee Anderson said her mother “would always find time to take care of people who were suffering or in need of support”. The pair had planned a charity ball for Breast Cancer Care, which will go ahead in May in Sylvia’s memory.

She is survived by her daughter, who is a singer-songwriter, son Gerry Anderson Jr, an anaesthetist, four grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward

She was an aristocrat, a secret agent and, frankly, the subject of many a schoolboy crush in the late sixties and seventies.

An original Lady Penelope puppet from the Thunderbirds television programmes was expected to fetch up to £10,000 at auction in 2011. Since the mid-60s the 50cm (20ins) high puppet, which has a head full of electronics allowing the mouth to move, has been in the care of her maker, Christine Glanville.

The marionette was one of the stand-out characters in Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s beloved adventure series. Always perfectly turned out, Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward was wont to travel in a pink six-wheeled Rolls Royce, usually driven by her chauffeur Parker.

She lived in a splendid stately home in the British countryside and communicated with International Rescue, the secretive do-gooders based on the tropical hideaway of Tracy Island, via a device hidden in her teapot.

The characters Lady Penelope and Parker were designed to play up to an American audience’s perception of the British upper class. Her face was based on the character from a shampoo advert of the day.

Our thoughts and condolences go to the family and friends of Sylvia Anderson.

Until next time,

Neil Hendry
Editor, Official Website of Ian Hendry

Further Reading

A detailed account of the life and work of Ian Hendry in the new biography:

Read:  ‘Send in the Clowns – The Yo Yo Life Of Ian Hendry’ by Gabriel Hershman

Send In The Clowns - The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry

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