Christine Glanville

Geoff Felix

as one of Gerry Anderson's chief puppeteers and puppet-makers, Christine Glanville saw the whole evolution of film and television puppetry and was at the heart of that development. She worked on almost all of the classic Anderson television series of the 1960s, including Stingray and Thunderbirds.

Alan holding a picture of Christine Glanville
Christine Glanville 1924 – 1999

She was born in Halifax in 1924, but moved with her family to London as a child. Originally trained as an artist, she had visions of entering Fleet Street after the war (a relative was a cartoonist on Punch) but her parents were involved in puppetry and encouraged her to join Ebor Marionettes, one of the leading companies of the 1950s, as an assistant. She also built up her own marionette cabaret act, which featured a fine ballerina puppet based on Margot Fonteyn and toured both the UK and Germany.

A friendship with another puppeteer, Joy Laurey (creator of Mr. Turnip), led to work as a puppet operator on the television show The Adventures of Twizzle (1956) and the start of a lifelong association with Gerry Anderson. Torchy the Battery Boy (1957) followed, with puppets made by Glanville herself, whose style and attention to detail worked well in front of the camera. She found that she was more able to adapt her manipulation to the small screen than others trained in the live theatre.

After Torchy came Four Feather Falls (1958-59) and Supercar (1959-60), each production more ambitious than the last. Glanville teamed up with Mary Turner, who was also working for Anderson, and together they found themselves heading an ever-growing team of puppeteers as well as helping to make the famous characters.

Fireball XL5 (1961-62) followed by Stingray (1962-64) were next, and for these she was responsible for the design and sculpture of many of the most popular puppet characters, including Doctor Venus, Atlanta and Agent X20. The character of Titan, in Stingray, was based loosely on the actor Laurence Olivier. As the puppet was being delivered, the head of Titan was accidentally destroyed. Glanville, who had spent many days making it, simply pursed her lips, said "It's OK", and set to work again.

She regarded Stingray as one of her favourite series and felt that Thunderbirds (series one 1964-65, series two 1966) featured some of her best work. For this she created Scott and Alan Tracy – two of the five brother pilots of International Rescue – and Tin-Tin. The feature film Thunderbirds Are Go! followed in 1966 for which she helped recreate a performance by Cliff Richard and The Shadows.

For Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1966-67), in partnership with Mary Turner, she made the "Angels", the female fighter pilots. These had more realistic proportions than previous puppets and were more difficult to operate, so new techniques were developed and for some sequences they were worked from below. Joe 90 (1967-68) and Secret Service (1968-69) were two of the later programmes in the "Supermarionation" era, each with Glanville and Turner in charge of puppetry.

In 1968 she stopped working for Anderson for a time and formed her own company called "Stage Three" which toured England with a rod puppet show featuring Rupert the Bear. During this period, she also worked as a freelance manipulator for the television series The Munch Bunch and Rupert the Bear.

In a valedictory speech, Gerry Anderson praised her great qualities as a puppeteer and her human qualities of never losing her temper and leading by example. I had the opportunity of seeing this when we worked together for a short period on Terrahawks in the early 1980s and again in 1997 on The Avengers when we were engaged to film the sequence for the character Invisible Jones. There she was, still climbing ladders at 72 years old and still getting it right, usually on the first take. She never tired or became cynical about the industry and never lost her enthusiasm for puppetry.

Her last years were marked by more freelance work. She continued to work with Gerry Anderson – helping to make the Dire Straits' "Calling Elvis" video, which he directed – and gave talks on her work with him. These were always well attended and she would continue for hours until all questions were answered and everyone was satisfied.

Text originally appeared in The Independent Arts & Entertainment section