I’m sorry to report the passing of Peter J. Greenwood, a pioneer of Australian and international film appreciation – and someone I considered a friend.
His passing, now known to be due to COVID-19 and underlying health conditions, was announced last week by his wife Lynn Ramey Greenwood, who I and many others hold in our thoughts at this sad time, and who I know Peter loved very much.
Peter, who had long lived in the United States, will be best known to his friends as an ardent enthusiast of vintage genre TV, particularly for his work in both locating hidden assets and reinvigorating interest in shows such as My Favorite Martian, the hit 1960s comedy starring Bill Bixby and Ray Walston, and the rather short-lived but fondly remembered Living Doll, starring Bob Cummings, and Julie Newmar as an android finding her place in the world.
Both shows were produced by Jack Chertok Television Productions and Peter was that company’s determined representative. As such I first came into contact with him back in the late 2000s, as we battled to recover the original art for the “My Favourite Martian” strip, largely drawn by Bill Titcombe published in early issues of TV Century 21, from the archives of the Daily Express.
Thanks to his dedication, that mission, as were many of his “missions”, was a success, although sadly re-publication of the strip as comics or collection eluded us, despite the growing interest in the original show. The show’s revival in fortunes was undoubtedly thanks to Peter’s dedicated work bringing it to Blu-Ray and DVD, and developing specialist merchandise, too.
(The TV21 “Martian” pages have however been used as special features on the US DVD release of the TV series from MPI, for the Australian DVD release from Umbrella Entertainment, and more recently on the Australia New Zealand DVD release from Shock Entertainment).
While, unlike the Gold Key “Martian” comics there has yet to be what I would describe as a proper collection of the TV21 strip, Peter never lost hope that it might happen, and as with his other projects, such as a revival of Living Doll, he was fervent in his belief it could happen, and, equally, an unstoppable force in trying to make things happen, all stemming from his love of classic TV, be it 1950s or 60s in origin, or later.
Along the way, since our paths first crossed in around 2008, Peter would drop into my life with unexpected phone calls, sharing recent vintage finds, sometimes making odd requests – tracking down original “Skippy the Bush Kangaroo” art from TV Comic the most recent. Along the way, I learnt of his work as a voice artist on films such as The Rescuers Down Under, as an extra playing heavies in Australian soaps, and much more.
He often talked about projects such as the attempt to develop a US version of Red Dwarf, and told me of the hopes of an American film producer to bring “The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire” from Look and Learn to the big screen; his work developing Space:1999 merchandise and involvement in Firestorm for Anderson Entertainment.
He was also forthright in his opinions of how classic film and TV properties were being treated, in terms of the lack of care for assets – revealing, for example, how he’d once found a stash of priceless TV show relics, including art, hidden, unknown and unloved under a Hollywood sound stage.
He was, rightly, scathing of the scant regard major web companies had proven in terms of copyright protection and equally dismissive when an attempted revival of a classic property was woefully mishandled, such as The Tomorrow People; predicting, rightly, such attempts would fail, sooner rather than later, because, in his view, those who tried to exploit them singularly failed to understand why they had become a success in the first place.
My favourite quote from Peter was his description of would-be entrepreneurs and publishers seeking to exploit classic properties as having “champagne tastes, with beer barrel budgets”, an adage I’m rather fond of repeating.
More than anything, Pete’s views, his work, his love of classic animation, TV, film and its spin off merchandise, from colouring books and comics, to models and pinball machines, was undeniable. It drove him – sometimes, he knew, perhaps to his cost. But more than anything, that drive was infectious, because it was so joyous, so enthusiastic.
It was that joy, more than anything, that made him so appreciated, so admired by those he came into contact with, and we are all that little bit less for his sudden and tragic passing.
I freely admit to not knowing Peter as well as many others, Lynn of course, in particular who was both his wife and business partner. There are many who have spoken of how he devoted his life to saving classic TV, of his good nature and generous heart. I’m sure they will have their own memories of this dedicated soul and his work, and perhaps they will share them below.
But to have known him at all was a pleasure and a blessing. He will truly be missed.
• Peter J. Greenwood, born 19th October 1962, died 7th January 2021
• A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to support Peter’s wife and business partner Gay Lynn Greenwood, who is still recovering from a car accident 18 months ago and is, of course, heartbroken at the loss of her husband
Peter’s only work vehicle, for which he worked for another business, was taken away right after he had died leaving Gay Lynn unable to get around and she is still suffering injuries from the serious crash and is in a situation where funds are needed to support her living where she is and to help buy a vehicle.
Peter on Film
Actor, director and producer Peter Greenwood’s early 2008 appearance on The Florence Henderson Show, where Peter shares looks at rare toys and artwork. The item features a clip from the unaired My Favorite Martian pilot film. (clip used by permission of Peter Greenwood and The Jack and Florence Chertok Trust).