John Lageu (1934-1995)

I am sure that many fans of Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons will be saddened by the death of my father, John Lageu. He died peacefully on 24th February after a long and brave struggle against cancer.

Born in London, from an early age his artistic abilities were obvious, but in those days you found a proper job and he became an engineering draughtsman in the aerospace industry. During this time he worked on the drawings for Britain’s only space rocket, Blue Streak. Legend has it that while watching an early episode of Thunderbirds, he remarked how unrealistic the flightdecks of the aircraft were. I was watching with him and though only four years old, apparently said something like “Why don’t you tell them, Dad”. He wrote to Gerry Anderson, secured an interview and talked his way into a job.

According to his contract he started working at AP Films on 1st February 1966 for the sum of £28 per week. He joined the Art Department under Bob Bell and worked alongside his assistants Keith Wilson and Grenville Nott. Dad quickly became a valuable member of this team, working on the last episodes of Thunderbirds and the feature film Thunderbirds Are Go. The far more realistically detailed aircraft interior sets seen at this time are evidence of his contribution. Soon, a brand new series was in production. Captain Scarlet gave dad his first screen credit and the opportunity to design some very important sets. Both Colonel White’s and Lieutenant Green’s control desks were his design.

In the Sixties, we lived in Maidenhead, only a few miles from the studios in Slough and Dad would often go into work on Saturday and Sunday mornings and as a special treat he would take me with him. I was five or six then but I still have vivid memories of the studio, busy even at weekends with carpenters and painters completing new sets. I remember being very impressed with the set for the Angels launch room and the puppets. I also saw the Cloudbase model. This was some weeks before the series went on air and, of course, I couldn’t wait to see it. On one visit I saw the restaurant set for Thunderbird Six under construction and a lot of the model railway track and trains from this later found their way home, much to the pleasure of a certain little boy!

Dad left Century 21 Productions after episode 16 of Captain Scarlet but he did work for them again briefly as a freelancer providing some designs for the aforementioned Thunderbird Six. He had an ambition to work with human actors and in August 1967 started work on another great cult series The Prisoner starring Pat McGoohan. Soon after, he worked on some of the last episodes of The Saint to star Roger Moore.

Through the Seventies, he worked on many films and met some big stars. He was very proud of his brief appearance as an extra in a scene with John Wayne in Brannigan. In 1981, he joined the staff of Central TV in Birmingham and designed the sets for the popular Michael Elphick series Boon.

His career ended in 1991 when he was made redundant along with 475 others at Central. This was a terrible blow to dad who loved his job and cared deeply about the future of British television. Only a few months before, he had undergone surgery for cancer. He made a full recovery but two years later the cancer returned. Despite this, he kept himself busy with his hobby of photography and became semi- professional.

He will be greatly missed by his many friends.

Tim Lageu

Originally published in FAB 20.