Hughie Green

Hugh Hughes Green[1] (2 February 1920 – 3 May 1997) was an English radio and television presenter, game show host and actor

Hughie Green
Green presenting the first episode of Double Your Money, 1955
Hugh Hughes Green

(1920-02-02)2 February 1920
Marylebone, London, England
Died3 May 1997(1997-05-03) (aged 77)
Resting placeGolders Green Crematorium, London
EducationArnold House School
OccupationRadio and television presenter, game show host, actor
Years active1943–1978
Known forDouble Your Money
Opportunity Knocks
Claire Wilson
(m. 1942; div. 1975)
Children4, including Paula Yates

Early life

Green was born in Marylebone, London, to a Scottish father, Hugh Aitchison Green, a former British Army officer from Glasgow who made his fortune supplying tinned fish to the Allied forces in the First World War, and an English mother, Violet Elenore (née Price),[2] from Surrey, the daughter of an Irish gardener. The family had a home in Meopham, Kent, where the children lived with their mother, who took frequent lovers, while their father did business from the Savoy Hotel, and often stayed there. Green attended Arnold House School, a boys' prep school.[3]


Child performer

After the family business went bankrupt, Green's father encouraged his stage-obsessed son into performance, and by the age of 14 Hughie Green had his own BBC radio show and created and toured with his own all-children cast concert party called "Hughie Green and his Gang". After an extensive tour of Canada, in 1935 Green appeared in his first film, Midshipman Easy, then went to Hollywood where he appeared in the film Tom Brown's School Days and at the Cocoanut Grove with his cabaret act.

Second World War

Having already fathered his first illegitimate child with Vera Hands, a Birmingham usherette at the age of 17, and having been caught in North America on the declaration of war, during the Second World War Green served as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, ferrying aircraft across the Atlantic with RAF Ferry Command. In 1942, he married Montreal society beauty Claire Wilson, and went on to work in the aircraft industry as a ferry transport pilot and stunt pilot. From 1947, when he returned to London, he was involved in business activities that included selling aircraft.

Radio presenter

In 1949 Green devised a talent show called Opportunity Knocks, which was commissioned by BBC Radio. The show lasted for only one series, and Green was apparently told it was "too American" for the British audience.[4] After the show was cancelled, Green sued the BBC, Carroll Levis, and six friends and family of Levis, alleging a conspiracy to keep his Opportunity Knocks show off the air to preserve Levis's rival show, "Discoveries". The case came to trial at the High Court in May 1955, with Green represented by Viscount Hailsham.[5] The trial lasted for twenty days, but on 27 May, after a retirement of only 20 minutes, the jury returned a verdict for the defendants.[6] As a result of the costs in the case, Green's creditors filed a petition for his bankruptcy, and a receiving order was made on 8 May 1956.[1] He was not discharged from bankruptcy until 18 June 1958.[7]

Mainstream popularity

Green became a household name in 1955, with the ITV quiz show Double Your Money, which had actually originated some years earlier on Radio Luxembourg. Green brought his future co-host Monica Rose to the screen. Rose, a chirpy 15-year-old Cockney junior accounts clerk, had won £8 answering questions on famous women and was invited back by Green to be a hostess.

On 8 November 1966, Hughie Green presented the show from The House of Friendship in Moscow. Along with Monica Rose, he also had Natasha Vasylyeva as assistant. Because the Communist Party would not allow money as a prize, the top prize was a television set.[8]

Green's most successful show format was his self-developed long-running talent show, Opportunity Knocks. It started as a UK-wide touring show produced for the radio, and one of Green's early finds was singer Frankie Vaughan, who came second as part of a duet.[9] When the show transferred to television on the ITV network, first in 1956 and then again from 1964, it began the show business careers of Les Dawson, Lena Zavaroni, Pam Ayres and Mary Hopkin, among others. Green, who possessed a pilot's licence, would fly the panel of judges between audition venues all over Britain, in his small Cessna aircraft.

His game show The Sky's the Limit was generally considered a failure and was dropped by most ITV regional companies after the first run, although it lasted until 1974 in the Yorkshire and Granada regions, eventually being cancelled due to low ratings, combined with a falling-out between Green and producer Jess Yates.

Right up until its final shows, Opportunity Knocks was a ratings hit that attracted up to 18 million viewers weekly. But Green, known for his right-wing politics, had decided he was bigger than the show format he had devised and began politicising an apolitical family-friendly format. It has been suggested that Green believed that Harold Wilson and his Labour government were communists and that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, should replace Wilson as leader of the country and, to that end, he used Opportunity Knocks as an end-of-year soapbox, telling the country at the end of 1974 to 'wake up!' Two years later, in December 1976, Green recited a monologue about the state of the United Kingdom, followed by a choir singing "Stand Up and Be Counted", with the words coming up in subtitles: "Stand up and be counted, where the managers manage and the workers don't go on strike". It was released as a single in 1977. Partly seen as an open support of Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher, he was disciplined by Thames Television, but continued to make political comments. After numerous viewer complaints, Thames axed the show in March 1978, despite its attracting high ratings, something Green mentioned in a bitter rant against Thames in his last show. Family-friendly Opportunity Knocks was replaced by youth-orientated comedy The Kenny Everett Video Show which attracted 14 million viewers.[10]

After his rather slow-paced and "end of the pier" entertainment-style shows were replaced with more active audience participation formats, Green tried presenting variants on the Opportunity Knocks theme in Ireland, Australia and one show in the USSR.[8]


Green was often mocked for his permanent door-to-door salesman's smile and Canadian accent. His catchphrase "I mean that most sincerely" was also mocked, to such an extent that it is sometimes mistakenly believed to have been invented by the impressionist Mike Yarwood, who was known for his impersonation of Green. Green told Phillip Schofield in a TV interview in 1992 that he came up with the catchphrase himself.[8] During Double Your Money Green kept up an occasional but good-natured feud with "rival" quiz show host Michael Miles, who compered Take Your Pick, Miles even appearing on one occasion with a huge bouquet of flowers for a guest, to Green's mock indignation.

Personal life

Green met Montreal society beauty Claire Wilson on a cruise liner in the mid-1930s when both were still teenagers. They married in 1942 and settled in Montreal, before moving to London in 1947. The couple had two children, son Christopher Green and daughter Linda Plentl (née Green). The family lived in a fifth-floor flat in Baker Street, London, although with Green's numerous affairs and self-obsession, including taking luxury holidays and spending Christmas often on his own, his children defined it as "highly dysfunctional." The Greens separated in 1961 and filed for divorce in March 1975 after Green started an affair with Gwen Claremont, the sister of an earlier lover, Pat. Later that year, Claire married Upstairs, Downstairs actor David Langton. After separation from his wife, Green's drinking became more compulsive, while his affairs continued even during the height of his fame presenting Opportunity Knocks. Journalist Noel Botham approached Green to expose him, but Green countered with a lawsuit threat. Eventually the two became good friends.

Botham then became key in two stories in Green's life. Green grew frustrated by Yorkshire Television's failure to remove programme producer Jess Yates when he requested this to be done and so leaked to Botham the stories of Yates' affair with the young actress Anita Kay, whose story, published in the News of the World, destroyed Yates' career. After Green's death from lung cancer, Botham wrote the exposé story, also in the News of the World, of Green being the biological father of Jess Yates' daughter, TV presenter Paula Yates,[11] a fact she had first learned after the tabloids printed the story. Through his daughter Linda, Green had four granddaughters, Delia, Christina, Stephanie and Marina. Through his daughter Paula, Green had four other granddaughters whom he never knew: Fifi, Peaches and Pixie Geldof, fathered by Bob Geldof, and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence, fathered by Michael Hutchence. Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence was legally adopted by Bob Geldof in 2007. Green also chose to never contact his son Barry Hands and his grandchildren Robert and Karen Hands.


After a failed court case against the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation over a copyright case which cost him £250,000 in 1989,[12] Green lived out his life away from the media in solitude, confined to his Baker Street flat and lacking the riches he enjoyed during his fame.

In July 1993, after a lifetime of smoking a pipe, heavy drinking and latterly taking recreational barbiturates, Green was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, and therefore admitted to the Royal Marsden Hospital, Chelsea, London. By 1997, the cancer had spread to his lungs. Green died in hospital on Saturday 3 May 1997.

Green's son Christopher postponed his wedding and flew from Canada to be at his dying father's bedside.[13] His memorial at Golders Green Crematorium, reads: "You were the star that made opportunity knock. You will never be forgotten".[14]

Retrospective media coverage

In light of the death in 2000 of his daughter Paula Yates, his son Christopher Green, now a Canadian resident, wrote the autobiographical perspective Hughie and Paula: The Tangled Lives of Hughie Green and Paula Yates.

On 2 April 2008 a TV film about Green's life was broadcast on BBC Four. In the film, entitled Hughie Green, Most Sincerely, Trevor Eve was cast in the lead role.[15] In The Sunday Telegraph of 3 February 2008, his daughter Linda Plentl said the new BBC drama about her father would reopen intolerable wounds. She told of her struggle with his legacy and her three meetings with half-sister Paula Yates.[16]

Partial filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1934 Little Friend Boy uncredited
1935 Radio Pirates Impressionist
Midshipman Easy Midshipman Easy
1937 Melody and Romance Hughie Hawkins
1939 Down Our Alley Hughie Dunstable
Music Hall Parade Himself
1940 Tom Brown's School Days Walker Brooke
1947 If Winter Comes Freddie Perch
1948 Hills of Home Geordie
1949 Paper Orchid Harold Croup
1978 What's Up Superdoc! Bob Scratchitt final film role


  • Hughie and Paula: The Tangled Lives of Hughie Green and Paula Yates, by Christopher Green ISBN 1-86105-609-5
  • John Holmstrom, The Moving Picture Boy: An International Encyclopaedia from 1895 to 1995, Norwich, Michael Russell, 1996, p. 96–97.


  1. "No. 40776". The London Gazette. 11 May 1956. p. 2799.
  2. Green, Hugh Hughes [Hughie] (1920–1997), entertainer : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – oi. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/65454.
  3. Green, Christopher (2003). Hughie and Paula: The Tangled Lives of Hughie Green and Paula Yates. Robson Books. p. 34. ISBN 9781861056092.
  4. Joe Moran, "Stand Up and Be Counted: Hughie Green, the 1970s and Popular Memory", History Workshop Journal, 70 (Autumn 2010): 179, citing Christopher Green with Carol Clerk, Hughie and Paula: the Tangled Lives of Hughie Green and Paula Yates, London, 2003, p. 96.
  5. "High Court of Justice", The Times, 3 May 1955, p 5.
  6. "High Court of Justice", The Times, 27 May 1955, p. 5.
  7. "No. 41460". The London Gazette. 29 July 1958. p. 4762.
  8. "Television s Greatest Hits – 1966 – Game Shows". Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  9. "Frankie Vaughan". The Guardian. 18 September 1999. Archived from the original on 31 October 2004. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  10. "The Network that Trashed itself". Archived from the original on 3 April 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  11. "'I thought I was at the darkest point – now this', BBC news report on Paula Yates". BBC News. Retrieved 3 February 2008.
  12. "(Hughie) Green v Broadcasting Corp of New Zealand". Copyright Theft. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  13. "Hughie Green, TV legend, dies at 77". The Independent. 4 May 1997.
  14. Darryl W Bullock (2015). The World's Worst Records: Volume One: An Arcade of Audio Atrocity. Bristol Green Publishing. p. 194. ISBN 978-1-4826-2446-5.
  15. "Hughie Green, Most Sincerely". Retrieved 31 March 2008.
  16. Hastings, Chris (3 February 2008). "The Life and Many Loves of Hughie Green, Sunday Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 3 February 2008.
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