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Albert Eric Maschwitz OBE (10 June 190127 October 1969), known as Eric Maschwitz and sometimes credited as Holt Marvell, was an Englishmarker entertainer, writer, broadcaster and broadcasting executive.

Life and work

Born in Edgbastonmarker, Birminghammarker, the descendant of Silesian immigrants, Maschwitz was educated at Arden House preparatory school, Henley in Arden, Repton Schoolmarker and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridgemarker.

As a lyricist, Maschwitz wrote the screenplays of several successful films in the 1930s and 1940s, but he is perhaps best remembered today for his lyrics to 1940s popular songs such as "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" (music by Manning Sherwin and Jack Strachey) and "These Foolish Things" (music by Jack Strachey). Maschwitz was romantically linked to the Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong while working in Hollywood, and the lyrics of "These Foolish Things" are evocative of his longing for her after they parted and he returned to England.

Maschwitz started his stage acting career in the early 1920s, playing Vittoria in the first successful modern production of Webster's The White Devil (Marlowe Society, Cambridge ADC Theatre, 1920). He joined the BBC in 1926. His first radio show was In Town Tonight. Under contract to MGM in Hollywood from 1937, he co-wrote the adaptation of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, made by MGM-British, for which he shared an Academy Award nomination).

From August 1939, he was a postal censor in Liverpool. From November 1939, he served with the Secret Intelligence Servicemarker (SIS)/MI-6 D Section (sabotage). In 1940, he briefly worked to establish a resistance organization in Beverleymarker, Yorkshire, and for Army Welfare in London; and then was assigned to the Special Operations Executive (SOE). In 1940 he was commissioned into the Intelligence Corps. He was then sent to New York City to work for the British Security Coordination (BSC). In 1942, he returned to London. In 1942, he briefly supervised radio programs for the troops. He then transferred to the Political Warfare Executive (PWE). He ended the war as chief broadcasting officer with the 21st Army Group. He left the army as a Lieutenant-Colonel.

In 1958, near the start of the BBC/ITV ratings wars, he rejoined the BBC as Head of Television Light Entertainment. About the job he said, "I don't think the BBC is a cultural organisation. We've got to please the people. The job of a man putting on a show is to get an audience." Maschwitz left to join the rival ITV in 1963.

During the course of his varied entertainment career, Maschwitz also adapted French comedies such as Thirteen For Dinner; wrote the book and lyrics for numerous musicals, amongst them Balalaika, Summer Song, which used the music of Dvorak, Happy Holiday (based on Arnold Ridley's play The Ghost Train), and Zip Goes a Million, which was written specially for George Formby; and he was the creator of the radio series Café Collette. He also edited the Radio Times, and even turned his hand to the detective novel: Death at Broadcasting House, co-written with Val Gielgud and published in 1931, revolves around a radio play disrupted by the murder of one of the cast.

Maschwitz was married twice: firstly to Hermione Gingold, who was granted a divorce in 1945, and then immediately to Phyllis Gordon who remained his wife until his death.

His autobiography, No Chip On My Shoulder, was published by Herbert Jenkins in 1957.

He was created an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 1936.

References

  1. Barry Took, ‘Maschwitz, (Albert) Eric (1901–1969)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 19 Aug 2009
  2. BFI database page on Eric Maschwitz


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