Verity Lambert

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Television producer

Born: 27 November, 1935, in London.

Died: 22 November, 2007, in London, aged 71.

VERITY Lambert, OBE, produced some of the most renowned dramas ever seen on British television and brought to the nation's screens such institutions as Rumpole, Arthur Daley and the Daleks. She had the knack of casting a show and knew what would work - and what the public wanted to watch. Her string of hits was balanced by some mediocre films and the BBC soap Eldorado. But to TV productions such The Naked Civil Servant, Edward and Mrs Simpson, Rumpole and Minder Lambert brought an insight and energy that showed off her remarkable skills.

Verity Ann Lambert attended Roedean and the Sorbonne in Paris. She became a shorthand typist before working in ITV drama. She gained further experience in the United States before, in 1963, joining the BBC, where the producer Sydney Newman asked her to produce a science fiction series called Dr Who. At 27, Lambert was the youngest producer at the BBC and its first female producer. Under her eye the programme took off and was (and remains) a cult hit.

It was Lambert who cast William Hartnell as the first Doctor and ensured the Daleks were taken seriously - striking a balance between comedy and fear. Many at the BBC thought the Daleks would not work, but Lambert remained loyal to the alien creatures and "Operation Dalek" launched Lambert's career. Dr Who was expected to last no more than one series, but Lambert's cool eye for drama changed that.

She was given important series as a result of her success. Gerald Harper, as an Edwardian adventurer, starred in Adam Adamant Lives! and Lambert won her first BAFTA awards for a series based on Somerset Maugham's short stories. In 1969 she was poached by London Weekend to produce Adam Faith and Iain Cuthbertson in Budgie and then Thames Television offered her Rock Follies.

As head of drama at Thames, Lambert brought to the screen some of the most popular dramas ever seen on UK television. These included Edward and Mrs Simpson, which related the drama of the abdication with unfailing accuracy. Lambert's decision to cast Edward Fox as the Duke of Windsor was inspired, and the series, first seen in 1975, was sold worldwide. Similarly, her casting of John Hurt as the flamboyant Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant was absolutely right and the programme won many awards.

Rumpole had been a Play for Today on the BBC, but the corporation decided not to extend the television life of John Mortimer's loveable barrister. Lambert snapped it up and it was a regular on ITV from 1978-92. Lambert nurtured the programme and introduced fine cameo performances, but the central character, wonderfully played by Leo McKern, was lovingly fostered.

She was also much involved in Euston Films, Thames's film division. Reilly: Ace of Spies was given a mixed reception while others (The Flame Trees of Thika, Morons from Outer Space, Clockwise etc) were less successful. What caught the public's imagination was Lambert's decision to film Minder with the bumbling (and dodgy) minor crook Arthur Daley played adroitly by George Cole. The programme had a rocky start but Lambert nursed it through its first series and the programme became Euston Films's longest-running series. Lambert, in gratitude, named her great dane Arthur Daley.

One of her final programmes at Thames was Lynda La Plante's gritty series Widows before, in 1985, she set up her own independent production company called Cinema Verity. A Cry in the Dark was the first movie (with Meryl Streep and Sam Neill), based on the dingo baby death in Australia. Television still took up much of Lambert's energies and she produced Joanna Lumley in Class Act and the successful sitcom May to December. In 1991 Channel 4 commissioned her to produce GBH, about local politics - based on the turbulent early 1980s in Liverpool with Derek Hatton - then came Jonathan Creek and, in 2001, she filmed the wartime series The Cazalets, based on the books by Elizabeth Jane Howard.

In 1992 the BBC offered her Eldorado with the largest budget ever given to an independent producer. A set was built in Spain but the casting and script lacked lustre. After a year of poor viewing figures the BBC closed it down but Lambert regretted the decision. She believed she had revamped the programme sufficiently to turn it around. Her final series was Love Soup (2005), starring Tamsin Greig, and a second series is being cast.

Lambert delivered the MacTaggart Lecture to the Edinburgh Television Festival in 1990 and was awarded an honorary degree at Strathclyde University. She won many awards for her programmes, notably the Alan Clarke Award at BAFTA in 2002 and was made an OBE in the same year. Her marriage was dissolved in 1987 and there were no children.