In Review: Gerry Anderson: A Life in Pictures

Gerry Anderson: A Life in Pictures

Edited by Stephen La Riviere
Foreword by Jamie Anderson
Publisher: Anderson Entertainment Media Limited
156 Pages
Out: Now

The Book: Gerry Anderson: A Life in Pictures photo book features carefully selected photographs from Gerry Anderson’s personal archive, from his childhood and teenage years, his first years in television, behind-the-scenes shots of his most famous productions like Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, UFO and Space:1999, through to his twilight years and death in 2012.

A percentage of sales will go to the Alzheimer’s Society’s Gerry Anderson Tribute Fund.

The Review: While there have been several books about Gerry Anderson himself – surprisingly, none currently in print, including Simon Archer’s authorised biography, published way back in 1996 – Gerry Anderson: A Life in Pictures takes a different, more visual approach to the life of the famous TV producer, whose work is about to be re-discovered again by a new generation as ITV ramps up its Thunderbirds Are Go series for launch in 2015.

This book is more like a beautifully-presented scrapbook of the creator’s long life, from his earliest days through to his final attempts to get new projects off the ground, his final years sadly blighted by a crippling disease. Each part of Gerry’s long life gets no more than a couple of spreads of photographs, in part drawn from his own private collection discovered after his death, but the images are carefully chosen and offer intriguing snapshots of many of his productions down the years….

Gerry Anderson: A Life in Pictures: Sample Spread

Gerry as a young man and brother Lionel, who was killed during World War Two.

Gerry Anderson: A Life in Pictures: Sample Spread

One spread from the book documenting Fireball XL5, one of Gerry’s earliest Supermarionation productions.

Gerry Anderson: A Life in Pictures: Sample Spread

Photographs from behind the scenes of one of Gerry’s most successful series, Thunderbirds.

Gerry Anderson: A Life in Pictures: Sample Spread

Images from the making of Captain Scarlet.

Gerry Anderson: A Life in Pictures: Sample Spread

Gerry Anderson: A Life in Pictures doesn’t have much on the huge amount of merchandise Gerry’s shows have spawned, but it does offer up this spread of the positively bizarre “Candy and Andy” project, whose comic ran for an incredible 150 issues.

Gerry Anderson: A Life in Pictures: Sample Spread

Designs for the unrealised Thunderbirds revamp, T-Force.

The book offers a wonderful tribute to Gerry’s work, acknowledging both his personal demons (family life never sat easily with him, we’re told) and many of those who helped make series such as Thunderbirds an enduring success, right into the 21st century where so many of his shows were set.

Given the book’s format, some aspects of Gerry’s long career don’t get huge coverage. There isn’t much on the comics that his shows spawned – Lady Penelope gets a passing mention – but there is a spread devoted to one of Gerry’s strangest projects, “Candy and Andy”. This comic (allegedly withdrawn from some newsagents, according to some who remember it, perhaps in nightmares) centred on two life-size mannequin children whose parents are pandas, Mr and Mrs Bearanda, and ran for 150 issues. Quite frankly, it’s one of the creepiest, most bizarre concepts Gerry’s team came up with. You can’t imagine it getting past the drawing board today, and TV producers were singularly unimpressed with the idea in the 1960s, according to Gerry’s official site  – but it surely inspired plenty of psychedelic pop songs back in the 1960s (Or was inspired by them…).

Overall, Gerry Anderson: A Life in Pictures is a fascinating book, and the design and production quality is excellent. There are some terrific photographs – I particularly liked the shot of the Lady Penelope minutes before an alligator bit her leg off (no, really!), and the promotional visuals from Captain Scarlet with the band The Spectrum in full uniform, for example. There are also some great spreads offering snapshots of projects that never got off the starting blocks, such as T-Force, an update of Thunderbirds.

It lovingly charts a fascinating life story from early years to his death in 2012. Despite the spartan text, I have to confess to being moved once more as the book documents Gerry’s final days and passing.

Anderson Entertainment have set a high standard for themselves with this title, so I for one will be interested to see what comes next.

Buy Gerry Anderson: A Life in Pictures direct from Anderson Entertainment

• A percentage of sales will go to the Alzheimer’s Society’s Gerry Anderson Tribute Fund, which has already raised over £3 million

Categories: Books, Reviews, Television

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