Dennis Main Wilson

Dennis Main Wilson
Dennis Main Wilson (1 May 1924 – 20 January 1997)

Dennis Main Wilson was born in 1924 and joined the BBC in 1941 as a junior production assistant. Following war service, he became head of light entertainment at a local radio station in postwar Hamburg. He rejoined the BBC upon demobilisation, and became head of auditioning in the variety department, where his ability to spot and nurture new comedy talent soon emerged. In 1951, he became a BBC radio producer, one of his first productions being 'The Goon Show'. Dennis went on to produce the first three series up to May 1953.

Also in his first year as a producer, Dennis was brought in to help the ailing show 'Happy-Go-Lucky'. He immediately replaced the writers with the young Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.

Dennis' other radio productions included 'Forces All-Star Bill' (1952-53) and 'Star Bill' (1953-54), both scripted by Galton and Simpson and starring Tony Hancock. 'Forces All Star Bill' became so popular that the BBC gave their approval for Hancock's own show, 'Hancock's Half Hour', which was first broadcast on 2 November 1954. Dennis produced the series until February 1957.

Dennis also worked extensively with Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques on the long-running 'Sykes' series. Some of his other credits include 'The Rag Trade' (BBC, 1961-63), 'Lance at Large' (BBC, 1964), starring Lance Percival; and three BBC specials starring Terry Scott, 'Scott On...' during 1964 and 1965.

Dennis recognised the importance of the writer. He enjoyed a long working relationship with Marty Feldman, and also worked extensively with Johnny Speight, initially on the first series of 'Sykes and a…' in 1960, but more famously, on 'Till Death Us Do Part' (BBC, 1966-75) In 1968, Dennis received the BAFTA award for top light entertainment producer for his work on the series.

Another writer Dennis promoted was John Sullivan. Whilst working as a sceneshifter at the BBC, Sullivan approached Main Wilson with a script he had written. Main Wilson was impressed with what he read, and the script led to 'Citizen Smith', the majority of episodes being produced by Dennis. Sullivan later went on to create 'Only Fools and Horses' in 1981.

Highly regarded by all who worked with him (Johnny Speight described him as "one of the greatest of comedy directors"), Wilson created a standard of comedy that has rarely been equalled, let alone surpassed. He died from lung cancer in January 1997.