Published on: 10 July 2013 in Directors UK

A tribute to Jim Goddard, by writer Trevor Preston

Reading time: 4 minutes and 49 seconds

Jim Goddard, the BAFTA winning director of Kennedys, died last month aged 77 -  you can read our obituary here. Upon hearing of his death, we spoke to close friend and writer Trevor Preston, who collaborated with Jim on the acclaimed series Out and Fox, who shared a personal tribute to the director at his funeral earlier this week. 

Trevor described the tribute as 'a heartfelt goodbye to a dear old friend'. With his kind permission, we have published Trevor's piece in full below.

'There is an old Jewish proverb – “A man dies twice, the first time when his heart stops beating, and the second time when he is forgotten.” One thing is certain, Jim will never be forgotten by his friends and his family here today.

Jim was a big man with a big heart and a big talent, reading his obituary reminds us of just how talented he was: painter, designer, television, film and theatre director, master bread-maker. He was a modest man, he stood apart from the self-obsessed clamour and the braying nonsense of celebrity, the man on the street didn’t know who he was, but producers, actors, and writers certainly did, he was the one they all wanted to work with.

I knew Jim for over fifty years, we created twenty plus hours of television drama and films together, and in that long time there was never a bad word between us; we had arguments of course, but never nasty or spiteful. When Jim knew an argument was in danger of being lost, a look would come into his eyes and a barrage of dense gobbledygook would follow that made James Joyce sound like “Janet and John.” He would simply steamroller you with incomprehension, and before you could catch your breath he would innocently move on.

Things were basically black and white with Jim, right or wrong, good or bad, there wasn’t much room for the million shades of grey most of us measure our lives by. All politics was poison, and all politicians mendacious; Jim never voted, and who could blame him looking at the pygmies we have in parliament today.

Working with Jim was a joy, everything was prepared immaculately: if I had written “ … a white cat crosses the road.”, there the cat would be, in its carrying basket with its handler, waiting to cross the road.

OUT, a six-part television series starring Tom Bell that we created together in 1978 had an extraordinary reception in America, on the west coast they broadcast the entire six episodes over a single week, one episode a night, that had never been done before and I very much doubt it will be again. OUT opened a lot of doors, and Jim and I were soon off to Hollywood, the land of unreturned phone calls to meet the moguls, the destroyers of souls. As we raced from meeting to meeting, the limp handshakes, lying eyes, and the blinding dazzle of new teeth started to get to us, we’d had enough and so we plotted escape.

That month on the west coast with Jim was totally Surreal. We drove up Highway One to San Francisco in an old hired Lincoln Continental in which Jim with his generous weight had somehow managed to break the welded seat mountings on both the driver and passenger sides, when the car turned a corner the seat didn’t. Although words are my business, it is difficult, almost impossible to describe Jim’s driving on the near vertical hills of San Francisco: the famous Steve McQueen chase scene in “Bullitt” pales in comparison.

Amtrak was our next discovery: we bought tickets to New York via Denver and Chicago: on the train we met a totally crazy psychiatrist on her way to New York to give a lecture on schizophrenia. Jim was taught the near-extinct skill of “Calling the toads” by a charming black waiter called Noel L Slithers, (I’ll never forget that name); and while we were waiting in Denver, Jim got into conversation with five angels: yes – I did say angels: very tall with gleaming, straight-combed naturally blond hair down to their waists. Jim didn’t know I was eavesdropping as all writers tend to – one of the angels asked him in a holy voice: “Are there many people loving Jesus in London, Jim?” To which Jim replied in his best Battersea: “Frankly, I don’t think there are too many who’ve heard about him.”

I could bore you rigid with tales of our trip. On one of my visits to hospital when poor old Jim was confused and hardly speaking I decided to pull up a chair and talk to him, recount the highlights of our trip. I reminded him of a sandwich he’d ordered in a New York deli, it was filled with six inches of steaming sliced meat, however he tried there was no way he could get his mouth round it to eat. The thought of Jim being defeated by a sandwich made me laugh – but best of all, Jim had a chuckle too, that made my day.

How do you sum up a man’s life in few words? A man as complex, as talented, as kind, as outrageous, as generous and as loyal as Jim? I think Maddie managed it in one of her e-mails, she simply wrote: “He was a good man and had a good life and we shall all miss him hugely.”'

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