David Dent obituary
My father, David Dent, who has died aged 97, produced 13 feature films in the 1950s giving British actors such as Diana Dors, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Sid James and Petula Clark some of their earliest big-screen roles.
He was born Cecil David Abrahams in Glasgow to Arthur Abrahams and his wife, Hettie (nee Lazarus). Arthur was a charismatic and successful travelling film salesman who changed his surname to Dent after the picturesque village of that name in the Yorkshire Dales. The family moved to London when David was two and he attended University College school before going to St Edmund Hall, Oxford, in 1940 to study jurisprudence.
After a year of study, during which he won the Winter Williams law scholarship, David was commissioned into the army, eventually joining the 4th Hussars, Winston Churchill’s old regiment. (While producing the BBC documentary series Timewatch in the 1990s, I was astonished to spot my father among a huge crowd of soldiers in a 1943 British Pathé newsreel covering Churchill’s trip to Egypt.) He landed in Italy in April 1944 and saw active service as a tank troop leader as the allies pushed north. Mentioned in dispatches and promoted to captain, he ended the war in Austria.
On home leave in September 1945, David found that his Oxford scholarship granted him early demobilisation. He graduated in 1947 and served as a pupil to the barrister and novelist Henry Cecil Leon, author of the successful Brothers in Law series.
In 1949, David joined his father and elder brother Stanley in the family business, Adelphi Films, an independent distribution and production company. He produced a diverse variety of British films, ranging from the football comedy The Great Game (1953) and Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary (1953), both starring Diana Dors, to dramas such as The Crowded Day (1954) and Intimate Relations (1953), whose incestuous undertones gained it an X certificate. He produced Penny Points to Paradise and Let’s Go Crazy (1951), both comedy feature films starring Sellers and Milligan. My Death Is a Mockery (1952), about capital punishment, was withdrawn from circulation after it was said to have inspired the 16-year-old Christopher Craig to murder a policeman. In later life, David ran a fashion publishing business and a commercial property company. He retired in 2007, aged 85.
In 1957, David married José Crayson, a television producer; she died in 2015. He is survived by my sisters, Carey and Louisa, and me, and five grandchildren.