Ukrainian-born English television and film impresario, who has been described as the UK's answer to US film producer Sam Goldwyn. A founder of independent television with ATV (Associated Television) in the 1950s, Grade was a leading figure in the industry, launching such popular programmes as Crossroads (which ran for 24 years) before turning to a final and less successful career as a film producer.
Grade was originally a professional dancer. He formed a theatrical agency with his brother in 1943, called the Grade Organization. He became managing director of ATV in 1962, and retired from ATV in 1976 to produce feature films using his Associated Communications Corp. (ACC). Although he had notable successes with the Academy Award winners On Golden Pond (1981) and Sophie's Choice (1982), Raise the Titanic (1980) was such a failure that Australian financier, Robert Holmes á Court, was able to buy ACC cheaply and oust Grade from the board in 1982. Grade then launched an independent film-maker in 1985, the Grade Company, which he ran until his death in 1998. He was knighted in 1969 and in 1976 became a life peer.
Grade was born in Tokmak, Ukraine, the eldest of three sons (his brothers were Leslie Grade, the agent and father of English television executive Michael Grade, and Bernard Delfont). In 1912 his family emigrated to England and settled in London's East End. Although Grade held a grammar school place, he left to work aged 14 in the family tailoring trade. He first made a career as a professional dancer (his speciality being the Charleston, the world championships of which he won in 1926), and changed his name to Grad. Invalided out of World War II, he then formed a theatrical agency, the Grade Organization, with his brother Leslie.
Having invested in the ATV franchise in the 1950s, Grade became managing director in 1962. There he launched a string of popular variety shows which included Sunday Night at the London Palladium, The Muppet Show and The Saint, and later more innovative productions such as The Power Game (considered the first programme to depict the business world convincingly). In 1965 he bought Stoll Moss, the UK's largest theatre chain.
His autobiography, Still Dancing, was published in 1987.
All my shows are great. Some of them are bad. But they are all great. The Observer , `Sayings of the Week', 14...