Jeremy Hawk – the quiet quizmaster

Meet the host of Criss Cross Quiz

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 4 August 1958

OLD Harrovian Jeremy Hawk sipped a glass of white wine in the Public Schools’ Club overlooking London’s Green Park and said: “Frankly, old boy, this is something quite new for me.

We were discussing Jeremy’s appearance on ITV as a quizmaster. For actor Hawk is now seen regularly as compere of Granada’s highly successful Criss Cross Quiz.

Jeremy Hawk

As the programme is screened on three evenings a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — Jeremy has become the most frequently televised compere on ITV.

His selection came after weeks of secret tests, before studio audiences, for which many of TV’s top personalities entered. Students from Manchester University appeared as contestants — at two guineas a show. Each try-out was studied by Granada executives.

After watching five programmes, Eddie Pola, Granada’s variety chief, announced himself satisfied, and signed up Hawk.

How does TV’s latest quizmaster like the series? “For one thing,” he says, “it doesn’t insult the public’s intelligence. Yet it still has excitement and entertainment. The contestants have a choice of nine subjects in each game, and there is no limit to the amount a contestant can win.”

After Harrow, 39-year-old Jeremy, who was born in South Africa, had a short spell in his step-father’s wool business in Yorkshire. “I hated it,” he said. “I used to stand on the bales and sing Any Old Iron. The workers loved it — but it held up production.”

His family compromised and sent him to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His first job was assistant stage manager with Bournemouth Repertory at £3 a week. Jobs with other repertory companies followed, until revue writer Eric Maschwitz saw him at Reading and picked him for the 1940 revue New Faces at the Comedy Theatre. Here, he sang and danced with Betty Ann Davies.

Other West End producers engaged him as a juvenile lead in the early years of the war. One of these productions was for the Arts Theatre in the John Jacques Bernard classic Springtime of Others.

Although Criss Cross Quiz gives him the first chance to appear on ITV in his own show, Jeremy has contributed to the success of other programmes. George and Alfred Black engaged him to direct the comedy sequences in Get Happy, the series which established comic Arthur Haynes as a TV star. He also appeared as a performer in its successor, The Arthur Haynes Show.

Before that, he partnered Benny Hill in two Sunday Night at the London Palladium programmes.

Jeremy’s partnership with Benny, however, isn’t the first time he has worked on stage with a comedian. For three years he appeared, with the late Sid Field, in the role of Dr. Sanderson in the comedy Harvey at the Prince of Wales Theatre.

While Jerry Desmonde was compering The 64,000 Question, Jeremy replaced him temporarily as “straight man” to comedian Norman Wisdom. Now, Jeremy follows Jerry and gives up comedy partnerships for quizmastering. From Jerry Desmonde’s success, it looks as though the best training for the specialised role of a TV quizmaster comes from that seldom acknowledged yet all-important occupation … a comedian’s “straight man”.

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