Not on your life
Richard Gordon This Is Your Life
related pages...

A Life Refused

those who said 'No'

Behind the Scenes

the programme's best kept secrets

Eamonn Looks Back

first-hand recollections

Danny Blanchflower

Press coverage of the footballer's refusal to participate

It's the show that balances on a tightrope

TV Times interviews footballer Danny Blanchflower

Not on your life, mate!

Daily Mail feature

Monica Dickens

Richard Gordon

Sam Kydd

The Daily Mail: This Is Your Life article

Daily Mail 21 February 1974

Not on your life, Doctor Gordon tells Eamonn

Daily Mail Reporter

Millions of television viewers last night saw author Richard Gordon refuse to appear on the programme This Is Your Life.

When programme compere Eamonn Andrews surprised Mr Gordon in a London ITV studio with the words, 'Tonight, this is your life,' Mr Gordon stunned viewers by saying 'Oh b...., it's not' and walked out of the studio.

He was pursued by Mr Andrews pleading, 'Come back.'


The live show was faded out and screens went blank for several moments before a recorded This Is Your Life programme, featuring actor Sam Kydd, was substituted.

Meanwhile, Mr Gordon was persuaded to take part in the disrupted programme, which was recorded and will be shown at a later date.

Eamonn Andrews said: "I was shattered. We were live. It was all happening."

"Fortunately Richard went the wrong way, and the way he was going there was no way out. I went after him and we had a medicinal drink and talked for about five minutes."

"He said things like, 'I am shy,' and I think he probably is a very shy man. Appearing as a subject of the show is a very traumatic experience, but I think he will be a very happy man in the morning."

Mr Gordon went to the studio believing he was to meet some of the cast of the Doctor At Large series.

Viewers saw him enter the studio, part of which was dimmed to hide the audience. Then Eamonn Andrews emerged to tell Mr Gordon that he was the subject of the programme – and the fun started.

Mr Gordon told Eamonn Andrews: 'I am a pathologically shy person, although I think I over-reacted this time. But I consider this a gross intrusion of privacy.'

The only previous This Is Your Life refusal was made by footballer Danny Blanchflower in February 1961.

Richard Gordon, 52, gave up medical practice in 1952 and turned his talents towards writing novels.

Until then he was Dr Richard Ostlere, who had been a ship's surgeon and was a research assistant at Oxford.

But he abandoned that sheltered life with the publication of his first book, Doctor In The House, in 1952.

It was an immediate success and led to a play, a radio series and a film.

Mr Gordon lives in Bromley, Kent.

The Guardian: This Is Your Life article

The Guardian 21 February 1974

'Doctor in disgrace'


Mr Richard Gordon, author of the "Doctor" series of novels, said "balls" to one of television's greatest honours last night, and walked off This is your life on Thames Television.

Mr Eamonn Andrews, the presenter of the programme, which consistently tops the ratings, did not appear over-faced by the mishap to what was to have been a live performance. Instead, he came up with a pre-recorded episode of This Is Your Life featuring Mr Sam Kydd, the actor.

Thames Television said later that Mr Gordon had been suffering from "a bit of stage fright." He was persuaded not to torpedo the programme on his life and agreed to take part in a recording which will be screened soon. The only other person to walk off the programme was the footballer, Danny Blanchflower.

The essence of the programme is its surprise quality, but it proved too much for Mr Gordon. Thames had arranged for members of the Doctor series of films to be in the studio reading a new script and the author arrived at 7pm to hear them. Viewers saw the actors tell him he was a little late, and then Mr Andrews walked on and told him: "This is your life."

Mr Gordon said, "Oh, balls," and walked off the stage, followed by a slightly disconcerted Mr Andrews. The author, who is no stranger to television, was obviously not only surprised – a not unusual reaction – but also distressed by the confrontation.

The programme was only on the air about 15 seconds when the Thames announcer returned to the screen and said: "This is your life. Anything can happen – and tonight it did," which sounded as if the company had prudently supplied its announcers with scripts in the event of a disaster.

The Times: This Is Your Life article

The Times 21 February 1974

Author brings TV show to abrupt end

Richard Gordon, author of the Doctor in the House books, brought the Thames Television "live" programme This Is Your Life to an embarrassed halt last night.

When Eamonn Andrews, the presenter, made the usual surprise announcement, "This is your life", Mr Gordon uttered a rude remark and walked out.

Another recorded programme was shown instead. Thames said that although Mr Gordon had been taken aback at first, he went on to record a programme.

The Sun: This Is Your Life article

The Sun 21 February 1974

The man who said No to Eamonn


Millions see writer Richard snub Eamonn

TV SCREENS were blacked out last night when Eamonn Andrews' latest This Is Your Life "victim" walked out on him.

But not before 8 million viewers heard Richard Gordon – author of the Doctor books – say a rude word.

The Sun: This Is Your Life article

The live confrontation was then cut off and Thames quickly switched to a standby tape of actor Sam Kydd's life story.

It was only the second time in the programme's 20-year history that a subject has refused.

The first was footballer Danny Blanchflower, who walked out on Eamonn in BBC days – 13 years ago almost to the day.

Gordon, a real-life doctor turned writer, was lured to Thames' Euston studios on a pretext.

He was told to meet members of the cast of the ITV series, Doctor At Large, which is based on his books. They stood in a lit corner of the main studio, with the audience in darkness.

In came Richard Gordon – and up popped Eamonn.

"Richard Gordon, this is your life," he said – the programme's traditional greeting.

Gordon, aged 51, replied: "Oh! It's not, you know."

Gordon then turned and walked straight off camera.

Eamonn, pleading: "Oh, come on," followed him behind scenery.

Gordon was eventually persuaded to go back into the studio and record the show for a later date.

He had been picked up by a chauffeur-driven car at the Garrick Club about 30 minutes before the show.

He was told he was being taken to the editing department at Primrose Hill.

But chauffeur Harry Thamswell arrived at the back of Thames's studios a few minutes too early.


Gordon asked him: "Am I going to appear on This Is Your Life?"

When the chauffeur did not reply, he said: "Well if it is, I'm not going on."

After the walk-out he told Eamonn: "When I have watched your 'victim' I have often thought that if it were me I would say 'Not on your nelly.'"

Eamonn said later: "Richard appeared on the programme we did on Monica Dickens three years ago and he told me then that he didn't think it was a bad programme."

"So we thought everything would be all right."