Brian JOHNSTON (1912-1994)

Brian Johnston This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 605
  • Subject No: 601
  • Broadcast date: Wed 24 Nov 1982
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Fri 22 Oct 1982
  • Venue: Royalty Theatre
  • Series: 23
  • Edition: 6
  • Code name: Cake

on the guest list...

  • Tommy Trinder
  • Patrick Mower
  • Stirling Moss
  • Jack de Manio
  • Linda Cunningham
  • Neil Durden-Smith
  • Rachael Heyhoe Flint
  • Michael Denison
  • Brian Rix
  • Richard Stilgoe
  • Cardew Robinson
  • John Woodcock
  • Pauline - wife
  • Clare - daughter
  • Joanna - daughter
  • Ian - son
  • David - son-in-law
  • Wynford Vaughan-Thomas
  • Barry - son
  • Andrew - son
  • Anne - sister
  • Harry - brother-in-law
  • Christopher - brother
  • Barbara - sister-in-law
  • Jim Harmsworth
  • Jimmy Lane Fox
  • William Douglas Home
  • Geoffrey Hampshire
  • Lord Home
  • Alfred Shaughnessy
  • Lewis Gwinnurth
  • Frank Rushton
  • Stewart MacPherson
  • Bob Newman
  • William Lomas
  • Peter Baxter
  • Frank Anderson
  • Christopher Martin-Jenkins
  • Don Mosey
  • Bill Frindall
  • Peter West
  • E W Jim Swanton
  • Denis Compton
  • Bill Edrich
  • Gubby Allen
  • Leslie Ames
  • Basil D'Oliveira
  • Derek Underwood
  • George Mann
  • Alec Bedser
  • Godfrey Evans
  • Sir Len Hutton
  • Felicity Lane Fox
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Tony Lewis
  • Trevor Bailey
  • Fred Trueman

production team...

  • Researchers: Vivien Lind, Michael Waterhouse
  • Writers: Tom Brennand, Roy Bottomley
  • Directors: Paul Stewart Laing, Terry Yarwood
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...
Brian Johnston This Is Your Life Brian Johnston This Is Your Life Brian Johnston This Is Your Life Brian Johnston This Is Your Life Brian Johnston This Is Your Life Brian Johnston This Is Your Life Brian Johnston This Is Your Life Brian Johnston This Is Your Life Brian Johnston This Is Your Life Brian Johnston This Is Your Life Brian Johnston This Is Your Life Brian Johnston This Is Your Life

Screenshots of Brian Johnston This Is Your Life

Brian Johnston biography

Barry Johnston, Brian Johnston's son, recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, Johnners The Life of Brian, reproduced here with kind permission of the author...

It may have been the media attraction surrounding his birthday which prompted Thames Television to consider Brian as a possible subject for This Is Your Life. In many ways it was surprising that they had not featured him on the programme before. Nevertheless, a researcher contacted Pauline and, swearing her to secrecy, asked her to draw up a list of all Brian's closest friends and colleagues who might make suitable guests on the programme. She had been writing out the list one afternoon when Brian came home unexpectedly and noticed the paper on her desk in the sitting room. He spotted the names of all his friends and asked her what it was for. Pauline blurted out that it was her Christmas card list. As this was in the middle of summer he knew something funny was going on but he did not know what. When we asked him later he admitted that he thought Pauline must be arranging a surprise birthday party for him later that year. He never suspected for a moment that it was for This Is Your Life.

In August I received a telephone call in Los Angeles from Thames Television to ask whether I would like to appear on the programme. They offered to fly me home first class and put me up in a hotel in London for a few days. At the time I was studying at a broadcasting school in Hollywood and working part time as a waiter in a French restaurant called Robaire's, so I did not need to be asked twice.

My brother Andrew had been living in Sydney for about seven years, so they arranged for him to fly to Los Angeles to meet me and on 20 October we flew together to London. On arrival at Heathrow I rang Boundary Road to let Pauline know we had arrived, but Brian answered the phone so I had to put it down quickly.

Thames Television had booked rooms for us at the White House Hotel in central London. There is so much secrecy surrounding the programme that each subject is allocated a code name and only three or four people on the production team know who it really is. Brian had been given the code name Cake – for obvious reasons – and we had to check in the hotel as Barry and Andrew Cake. We were informed that the reason for such tight security was that a receptionist might notice that reservations for the Johnston family were being paid for by Thames Television, guess that Brian was to be the subject of This is Your Life, and leak the story to the newspapers.

That evening we were taken to the production offices at Thames Television for a script conference with Eamonn Andrews. We had all been asked to provide anecdotes, which had been incorporated into the script, and this was our last chance to correct any mistakes and rehearse our contributions. It was a tradition on the programme that friends or relatives from overseas were kept until the end before they made their appearance with the time-honoured words: 'You thought he was in New York / Sydney / Hong Kong, but no, we've flown him ten thousand miles to be here with you tonight... you haven't seen him for twenty years... it's your long-lost son, Jack!' At which point there would be a roll on the drums and Jack would appear, with floods of tears all round. This was always Brian's favourite part of the programme.

The production staff knew that Brian watched This Is Your Life every week and would be wise to such a scheme. They had decided it would be better for Andrew and I to come out near the beginning of the programme, instead of at the end. When we read the script, we said, 'You can't do that, it's his favourite bit!' They explained that if we came out later, Brian would be distracted, wondering when we were going to appear, which did make sense.

The next day Brian was due to record an edition of Down Your Way in Chelsea. His producer, Tony Smith, had arranged that there would be a collection of custom-built vehicles in the middle of Sloane Square, and Brian was informed that he would be interviewing the owner of the vehicles. As soon as Brian stepped into the square, a van drew up alongside him and the back doors were flung open. Out of them appeared Tommy Trinder, Michael Denison, Cardew Robinson, Patrick Mower and a host of other Lord's Taverners. Then Eamonn Andrews emerged from the passenger seat and confronted Brian with the famous big red book.

'You've guessed it, Brian,' cried Eamonn, 'the man they never switch off even when the cricket match is rained off... ace commentator Brian Johnston, This Is Your Life!' Brian was caught completely unawares. A few minutes later, after he had recovered, he was driven off to the Thames Television theatre in Kingsway.

Once the programme had started, Andrew and I had to wait behind a screen while the rest of the family was introduced. When Eamonn mentioned my name, the doors went back and I walked towards Brian with my arms outstretched to give him a hug. We had not seen each other for eighteen months, but he hated any public display of affection. He stood up, with his back towards the audience, and as I neared him he whispered, 'We don't kiss, do we?' 'No,' I said as we embraced quickly, 'but Andrew is going to give you a big wet one!' It was a family joke that Brian hated wet kisses. On the programme you could see him looking apprehensive as Andrew walked out towards him. But Andrew knew his father as well as I did, and gave him a firm handshake instead.

There were more than fifty guests on the programme, from Brian's wartime scout-car driver Lewis Gwinnurth to the former Prime Minister Lord Home and cricketing legend Sir Len Hutton. The final surprise guest was Felicity Lane Fox, who had a special reason for wanting to thank Brian. Her brother Jimmy Lane Fox, Brian's best friend at Eton, explained why: 'When we became friends at school,' he said, 'Brian often stayed at my home and became a friend of the whole family, especially my sister, who was six years younger than himself. But when she was twelve, my sister was crippled by polio and Brian took it upon himself to help her live as normal a life as possible. Often he would take her on outings to the cinema and the theatre, carrying her to her seat cradled in his arms. For that kindness and consideration she has always been grateful to him.'

Felicity Lane Fox, who had recently been created a baroness for her services to the disabled, entered in her wheelchair and laughed as she added, 'If anyone asked me why he was carrying me he would say, "Oh, she's drunk again!" and never mention my disability. For which I've always been grateful.'

Afterwards there was a wonderful party backstage during which everyone talked to everyone else at once and watched themselves on-screen as a recording of the programme was relayed on television monitors. It was a memorable day.

Series 23 subjects

Ranulph Fiennes | Diana Dors | Joan Collins | Katie Boyle | Diane Keen | Brian Johnston | Leslie Mitchell | Lewis Collins
Marty Wilde | Catherine Cookson | Allan Wells | Stan Stennett | Gloria Hunniford | Robert Carrier | Johnny Briggs 
John P Spencer | Eva Turner | Kenny Dalglish | Gerald Durrell | Jo Grimond | Anna Neagle | Kitty Wilson
Charlie Magri | Sandy Gall | Arthur Marshall | Jimmy Tarbuck