Dr Gordon OSTLERE (1921-2017)

Richard Gordon This Is Your Life
  • The first subject to refuse to appear live on air!

programme details...

  • Edition No: 376
  • Subject No: 377
  • Broadcast date: Thu 28 Feb 1974
  • Broadcast time: 10.15-10.45pm
  • Recorded: Wed 20 Feb 1974
  • Venue: Euston Road Studios
  • Series: 14
  • Edition: 16

on the guest list...

  • George Layton
  • Richard O'Sullivan
  • Geoffrey Davies
  • Ernest Clark
  • Robin Nedwell
  • Jo - wife
  • Lucy - daughter
  • Kate - daughter
  • Simon - son
  • Anthony - son
  • George Ellis
  • Peggy - mother
  • Charles Caturier
  • William Beal-Collins
  • John Roberts
  • Charles Pick
  • Tony Tynon
  • Howard Corer
  • Sidney Halliday
  • Beryl - sister
  • Filmed tributes:
  • PG Wodehouse
  • Betty Box
  • Ralph Thomas

production team...

  • Researcher: Nina Burr
  • Writer: John Viner
  • Director: Peter Webb
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

A Novel Life

a page-turning good read

A Life Refused

those who said 'No'

Behind the Scenes

the programme's best kept secrets


the show's fifty year history

Not on your life

Press coverage of Richard Gordon's 'on air' refusal of the big red book

This is his life...

Irish magazine RTE Guide reveals some behind-the-scenes secrets

Obituaries: Eamonn Andrews

Press coverage of the death and memorial service of Eamonn Andrews

Secrets Of 'Life': The ones who got away

Producer Malcolm Morris exposes some production secrets to TV Times

Secrets Of The Big Red Book

TV Times launches another new series

BBC harks back to a previous life

The Guardian reports on the return to the BBC

This Is Your Life

The Daily Mail profiles the programme's history

Ratings slump sounds death knell for This Is Your Life

Press speculation on the future of This Is Your Life

Biggest night of all for the big red book

Press coverage for The Night of 1000 Lives

This Is Your Life Set For TV Comeback

Press coverage of the programme's relaunch

Not on your life, mate!

Daily Mail feature

George Layton

Richard O'Sullivan

Richard Gordon This Is Your Life Richard Gordon This Is Your Life Richard Gordon This Is Your Life Richard Gordon This Is Your Life Richard Gordon This Is Your Life Richard Gordon This Is Your Life Richard Gordon This Is Your Life Richard Gordon This Is Your Life Richard Gordon This Is Your Life Richard Gordon This Is Your Life Richard Gordon This Is Your Life Richard Gordon This Is Your Life

Screenshots of Richard Gordon This Is Your Life

Lucy Cussans, daughter of Dr Gordon Ostlere, recalls her experience of This Is Your Life in this exclusive contribution to the BigRedBook website...

There was a huge build-up to the show, and it was all very exciting. Our aunt Beryl had flown in from New York. All the children at my school were watching the show live. I personally was thrilled to go on the show - I was very proud of my red dungarees and matching red jacket.

It was difficult to keep the secret from my father. Given that he is, in his words, "pathologically shy", we were unsure whether he would enjoy going on the show - but no one anticipated his reaction. The moment he refused to take part on live TV was very upsetting. It was so unusual that it made the front page of the newspapers the following day. Despite being clearly very uncomfortable, he did agree to take part. It was very nerve-racking for all of us. My mother must have been very stressed by the whole thing, but in retrospect she stayed extraordinarily composed.

The highlight of the show was my father watching a message from P.G. Wodehouse. My father was a huge fan, and it was very special to hear Wodehouse's praises.

Malcolm Morris biography

Producer Malcolm Morris recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is My Life...

...at the beginning of a live programme that I was directing, Richard Gordon, of the 'Doctor' books and films fame, came into Thames Television reception in London. Suddenly Eamonn Andrews appeared beside him.

As he saw Eamonn, Richard also spotted two cameras in the corridor.

'Hello,' said Eamonn. 'Tonight, Richard Gordon, this is your life.'

Richard looked at Eamonn. 'Are we on now?' he asked.

'Yes,' said Eamonn, 'this is live.'

'Balls,' said Richard. He then turned to dash out of the building.

'We've got a lot of guests waiting to see you,' said Eamonn rather anxiously.

'I didn't invite them,' replied Richard.

By this time I had faded the picture out and started a stand-by programme on actor Sam Kydd, due to have gone out the following week.

Richard Gordon was now halfway out of the studio door.

'Oh, come on,' said Eamonn.

Richard paused. 'Oh, all right,' he said.

He went back into the studio with Eamonn and we recorded the programme for the following week.

I don't know why Richard Gordon said no in the first place, but what I do know is that he made the front page of nearly every newspaper in the country on the following day.

Eamonn Andrews biography

Scriptwriter Tom Brennand recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, Eamonn Andrews...

Richard Gordon the author of the 'Doctor' books was the second to 'do a Blanchflower' He said no or, more precisely, 'Oh balls!' when Eamonn confronted him not long after Thames Television had started producing the programme.

But Gordon could not run as fast as Blanchflower. Eamonn caught him as he tried to open a studio door which also happened to be locked but this time those same exhortations, which by then Eamonn had fashioned into a plea that would soften the hardest of hearts, or most embarrassed of souls, persuaded him to change his mind.

That widely headlined encounter nearly did not happen however. The programme's original plan was for the confrontation to be pre-recorded at an outside location (in which case the company would have been obliged to cut the offending word). But because of a demarcation dispute it had to be scrapped at the last minute and in a desperate bid to save the show from being junked, too, the production team managed to lure Gordon into the studio almost on the dot of transmission time.

So, by a stroke of sheer good fortune – which had at first promised disaster for the programme – Gordon's anatomical answer to Eamonn's invitation was transmitted live and so, accidentally, gave its viewing figures one of the best boosts ever.

Gus Smith biography of Eamonn Andrews

Gus Smith recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, Eamonn Andrews His Life...

Eamonn still found the pick-up moment nerve-racking. He never knew when a potential subject would say no and walk away.

The Danny Blanchflower affair was still fresh in his memory. Yet, subsequently, when Richard Gordon, best-selling creator of the famous 'Doctor' books and television series, refused to appear on This Is Your Life, Eamonn admitted that he experienced the same kind of agony as when Danny Blanchflower walked off. 'I really don't know why he refused. Perhaps he just didn't want to face the cameras.'

More than twenty million saw the author walk off the set at Thames Television, with Eamonn following him close behind in a desperate bid to persuade him to stay. After a few moments confusion, the screen went blank. Then a recorded version of a standby programme, featuring the actor Sam Kydd, was shown.

Richard Gordon had been brought on as a mock 'Doctor' sketch was being played by members of the Doctor In The House cast from London Weekend Television. Eamonn held up the large Life book and told him, 'You won't need a script tonight because, Richard Gordon Ostlere this is your life!' It was at that moment that he decided to snub Eamonn. He later returned to the studio however and explained to the audience of 200 that he was 'pathologically shy'. He then went ahead with a recording of the programme.

After the incident Thames Television was inundated with telephone calls from viewers wanting to know what had happened. A spokesman for Thames explained that sometimes the show was recorded and sometimes put on live. 'As luck would have it tonight's show was live. But live or recorded, it is always a surprise to the subject. Tonight was a surprise to us. We hope to show the Richard Gordon Life at a future date.'

At the point of the author's refusal to cooperate, Eamonn had looked shaken and pale. It was obvious that some programmes were proving more nerve-racking than even he cared to admit. But he was prepared to endure the pain for the sake, as he would say, of the thrill of a live programme.

Series 14 subjects

Jim Dale | Vic Feather | Hayley Mills | Pete Murray | George Sewell | David Nixon | Robert Dougall | Deryck Guyler
Derek Dougan | William Coles | Jimmy Jewel | John Alderton | Patrick Moore | Sam Kydd | John Dankworth
Gordon Ostlere (Richard Gordon) | Lionel Blair | Sheila Scott | Roy Dotrice | Barry Briggs | Christopher Lee
Beryl Grey | Terry Biddlecombe | Don Revie | Robert Morley | David Hemery | Eamonn Andrews