John Hawkesworth

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7 May 2003
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Philip Purser obit in Guardian His most enduring series was Upstairs, Downstairs, which ran to 75 episodes from 1971 to 1975, achieved a considerable following in America and inspired Beacon Hill, a state-side version of the same formula set in snobbish Boston.

The Upstairs, Downstairs plot spanned the 30 years of English social history from 1900 to 1930, as played out within one household. Upstairs, the young members of the Bellamy family . Below stairs, the maids, the footmen and the chauffeur .

A series marginally more to be expected from a former soldier was Danger UXB (1979), about the Royal Engineers' bomb-disposal squads during the Blitz. Here, they were more individual, with Anthony Andrews's brave raw subaltern well matched by Maurice Roëves as his cocky sergeant.

The son of an army officer who rose to be a lieutenant-general, Hawkesworth went to Rugby school and Queen's College, Oxford, with a spell as an art student in Paris in between. On completing university in 1941, he was commissioned into the Grenadier guards, served with their 4th battalion throughout the north-west Europe campaign, and reached the rank of captain. He married Hyacinthe Gregson-Ellis, who was also from a military family.

On demobilisation, his first ambition was to pursue the artistic leanings he had acquired in Paris, where he had spent some time in Picasso's studio. He began to exhibit in a number of galleries, including the Royal Academy summer show, where his work attracted the attention of the art director Vincent Korda, who invited him to work as a designer on such classic British films as The Fallen Idol (1948) and The Third Man (1949).

In the mid-1950s, Hawkesworth took the side-step from the scenic craft of making a film to that of its scenario. He worked on Father Brown (1954) and The Prisoner (1955), and was associate producer of the sunset-of- empire story Windom's Way (1957). He also co-wrote and produced the popular melodrama Tiger Bay (1959), featuring John and Hayley Mills.

This dual capacity, plus an eye for the look of the show, was the role Hawkesworth strove to deploy in television during the next decade. The breakthrough came with The Short Stories Of Conan Doyle for BBC2 in 1967. Though Harry Moore was the producer, the idea of raiding the creator of Sherlock Holmes for his neglected, non-Holmes yarns was Hawkesworth's, and he furnished most of the scripts. He went on to produce and write the 13 episodes of The Gold Robbers for LWT in 1969.

The idea for Upstairs, Downstairs was cooked up by the actors Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh, both of whom had forbears who had been in service. They took their scheme to Hawkesworth, who, by now, had set up an independent programme company with John Whitney, and, after a long process of development, LWT bought the project. Thanks to imaginative invention, realistic set design and inspired casting - in short, Hawkesworth's own clutch of talents - the show scarcely put a foot wrong. It won him an Emmy, a Bafta award, and the supreme compliment of a wonderful parody by Stanley Baxter.

After that, what Hawkesworth did mostly, and brilliantly, was to develop projects. Another variation on the theme of high life and low life at a good address, The Duchess Of Duke Street (BBC, 1976-77), was followed by Danger UXB (Thames Television, 1979) and The Flame Trees Of Thika (Euston Films, 1981). He went back to the BBC for the civil war epic By The Sword Divided (1983), and then returned to Conan Doyle, this time for Sherlock Holmes himself and the excellent 1984 Granada series with Jeremy Brett. His final credit, in 1992, was the screenplay from one of Paul Gallico's patronising novels featuring the aspirate-dropping Mrs 'Arris.

In retirement, he returned to painting, and held four one-man shows of his watercolours. His wife and son survive him.

· John Stanley Hawkesworth, television producer and artist, born December 7 1920; died September 30 2003