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James Cellan Jones

13 July 1931 to 1 September 2019

Chairman of BAFTA: 1983-1985

Born in Wales into a family of doctors, Cellan Jones graduated from Cambridge with a degree in natural sciences. Considering himself too old to begin an acting career and with a long held fascination in directing, he resolved to work through the ranks at the BBC after joining as a callboy in 1955.

He was assistant floor manager, floor manager, production assistant and – despite being told he would never get to direct – his break came with the classic serial Lorna Doone in 1963. The advantage of his education on the shooting floor was, he claimed, that it taught him how to do the job by osmosis . At the same time he had to dissociate his directing style from the more mechanical demands of his previous jobs.

In this he was clearly successful, as before the decade was out Cellan Jones was in demand to direct more high profile television productions such as The Scarlet and the Black (1965), An Enemy of the State (1965), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1966), The Forsyte Saga (1967) and The Portrait of a Lady (1968).

He worked with writer David Turner adapting Sartre’s The Roads To Freedom (1970) and was recognised with the first of six BAFTA nominations. The others came for Eyeless In Gaza (1971), Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974), two years running for the sitcom A Fine Romance (1981-84), the drama Oxbridge Blues (1984) and the epic series Fortunes of War (1987).

Cellan Jones also served as BBC Head of Plays between 1976 and 1979, championing Jack Rosenthal’s Bar Mitzvah Boy (1976), Dennis Potter’s Pennies From Heaven (1978), Alan Clarke’s Scum (1977) and Trevor Griffith’s Comedians (1979) among others.

Although he remained active in television for many years after, his feature films were fewer and include Bequest To The Nation (1973).