Frank Watts (1931 -1994)

Frank Watts, Director of Photography on 44 episodes of Space:1999 and six episodes of The Protectors, died in March aged 63. Watts was born in 1931 in London’s East End within the sound of Bow Bells and grew up in Edgware. He entered the film industry in 1949 as a clapperboy and by 1959 had graduated to a position as a camera operator for ATV. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Watts became a mainstay of the ITC action series as Director of Photography on The Baron, The Champions, Department S, Jason King, The Adventurer, The Persuaders!, Return Of The Saint, Hammer House Of Horror and Hammer House Of Mystery And Suspense, as well as the cult ABC series The Avengers. Watts’ first work for Gerry Anderson was on The Protectors in 1971, for which he replaced the late Brendan J. Stafford as Director of Photography on six episodes, among them The First Circle, a virtual two-hander between series star Robert Vaughn and UFO star Ed Bishop.

In 1973, Anderson employed him as Director of Photography/Lighting Cameraman on Space:1999. A great fan of science- fiction, Watts was in his element on Space:1999 and he lensed all but four episodes – in Year Two he was replaced by Brendan Stafford on The Mark Of Archanon, The AB Chrysalis, A Matter Of Balance and Dorzak as these episodes were being shot simultaneously with four of Watts’ episodes (The Rules Of Luton, Catacombs Of The Moon, Space Warp and Devil’s Planet respectively). Watts later went on to lense such TV movies Dangerous Davies – The Last Detective (with Bernard Cribbins), Hazard Of Hearts (with Diana Rigg), I-Man (with Scott Bakula) and Rear View Mirror (with Lee Remick), the mini-series Internal Affairs, Act Of Will, Shrinks and The Manions Of America, and the feature films Educating Rita (with Julie Walters), Rising Damp (with Leonard Rossiter), D.A.R.Y.L. and The Prisoner Of Zenda (the 1979 re-make with Peter Sellers), working as much in America and Canada as on his home soil.

Watts married in 1959 and is described by his wife Janet as “The nicest husband one could have had. He never lost his temper or shouted although I gave him plenty of cause – he would always say, ‘Let’s sit down and talk this through’ and that’s what we did.” More of an artist than a practical man, Watts had numerous hobbies and was prepared to try his hand at everything: he was a painter, cook, golfer, fisherman, bridge player, writer and a qualified silversmith. He was a man who always separated his home life from his work life, lived both lives to the full and was much loved by his family, friends and film industry colleagues.

Philosophical about his terminal illness, the week before he died Watts told his wife, “At least I’ve tried everything and done everything, and there’s nothing left for me to do.”

Originally published in FAB 15.