Tony Gruener

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Interview Date(s): 
23 Jan 1997
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Born Hackney (Stamford Hill) October 23rd 1921. Father journalist with the Evening Standard, mother kept a sweet shop at the local cinema. Early interests in left-wing politics. Attended the Stamford Hill cinema; took part in school plays. The Mercer School, Holborn and Regent Street Polytechnic. Political activities against the pre-war fascists. One called Bluebird who he met again in the Army, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Tried for glider pilot or parachutist but found he had a perforated eardrum. Reassessed as C3, and discharged in 1944. Became Deputy Editor of the Young Communist League Journal “Challenge”.  Joined the Hampstead Observer. G.B.Puttock-Buss. Bought typewriter. Lived in Golders Green. Scotsman in Fleet Street. Exchange Telegraph as a sub.[editor]. Hampstead Express wanted a reporter. Arts critic North London Observer. Harold Myers. Variety. Chairman, trade branch of NUJ [National Union of Journalists]. Broad front. Jimmy Moran. Kardar, Hungary. Daily Film Renter, with Harold Myers. Granada Theatres. Sydney Bernstein. Television; Freelance publicity, Manchester. TV writing school. Lewis Greiffer. Daily Film Renter. Trade union side of business. Edited ACT Journal for three years after Granada. Early 1960s. Paul Talbot, 38 Dean Street: salesman, Talbot TV. Gave up journalism.


Talbot TV; Black Beauty Ted Willis. Syd Cole, Cyril Bennet. 1971 Malcolm Hulke. Rubinder; Brian Tesler. ABCTV. Germany WWF; Animal Doctor; Swiss Family Robinson. Scottish TV. 1975. Goodson Todman shows. LA; Mark Goodson; BBC Blankety Blank; STV The Better Sex. ATV Family Fortunes; Germany Christopher Schmit. Childs Play 1975. 1990 Sales and production TV game shows; American bought into Talbot. 2% commission. Pension. Fremantle 1994. Distribution organisation; Business has changed; More difficult. The future? Mega companies dominating. Marcus Plantin; Profitability everything. 1960s and 70s golden days.



12.12.2010Tony Gruner, who has died aged 89, became known as the "king of the gameshows". After working as a local newspaper reporter, he entered the world of television in his early middle age when he became a salesman at the London office of an American TV company. The job required Tony to sell the format of gameshows that were popular in the US to British television channels, resulting in hits such as Play Your Cards Right with Bruce Forsyth, Blind Date with Cilla Black, and Family Fortunes, presented by Bob Monkhouse.

He was born into an upper-middle class family in Stamford Hill, north London. He attended Mercers' school in the City of London and Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster). In 1944, he married Jean, whom he had met at a Communist party rally the previous year.

Tony started out as a reporter on the Hampstead and Highgate Express in 1947 and became the secretary of the North London branch of the National Union of Journalists. He was also organising secretary of the Hampstead Communist party, but left the Communist party after the Hungarian uprising in 1956. After the Ham and High, he worked part-time on the film industry magazines Kine Weekly and the Daily Film Renter. But with four young children to feed, he was on the lookout for full-time work when the television opportunity arose.

Once his new television career had taken off, Tony was able to produce his own programmes. As a child, one of his favourite books had been Anna Sewell's Black Beauty. He suggested televising the story and was given the go-ahead by London Weekend Television to produce the series. It was a big success in 1972, tapping into the nostalgia for a gentler age.

Tony continued selling gameshows to television companies throughout Europe until his retirement 10 years ago.