So huge was the Century 21 organisation by the late 1960s that some personnel who were vital to the making of the series and feature films the company produced didn’t always receive screen credit. Such was sometimes the case with Ken Holt, Production Manager on Thunderbirds Are Go, Thunderbird 6 and UFO, who died in December 2018 at the age of 88 after a lifetime spent in the British film and television industry.
Ken joined Century 21 towards the end of production on Thunderbirds after beginning his career in the laboratories at Denham Studios. He moved from Denham to MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood, who were upgrading their own laboratory facilities. He spent many years in the Special Effects department of MGM, during which he was part of the effects team on director George Pal’s 1958 film tom thumb which won an Oscar for Photographic Effects Supervisor Tom Howard. He left MGM at the time when virtually the company’s entire operation was being utilised in the making of Stanley Kubrick’s space epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ken calculated that he might have better opportunities at Century 21, and besides, he was a science fiction fan and the move united Ken with his friend since childhood Derek Meddings. He was proved correct and quickly became Production Manager, a vitally important but uncredited role on the films Thunderbirds Are Go and Thunderbird 6, ensuring that all the equipment required by the production was in place. He was retained after the puppet series ceased production, and was Special Effects Production Manager, working with Derek Meddings, on UFO.
On the dissolution of Century 21 at the end of production on UFO, Ken stayed with Lew Grade’s organisation as the head of the film unit for ATV, staying for 14 years and remaining for the company’s change to Central Independent Television. He then became a freelance Unit Manager and Location Manager, working on television series such as Inspector Morse and London’s Burning and the children’s production Brum, plus the 1995 movie version of Shakespeare’s Richard III, starring Ian McKellen.
Ken retired in 2007, and became a popular and enthusiastic guest at conventions, even keeping in touch with fans from his hospital bed during his illness.
Ken will be greatly missed and we send our condolences to all who knew him.
Originally published in FAB 92.