Beryl Vertue, ‘Sherlock’ Producer, Dies at 90

Beryl Vertue, the renowned British television producer and founder of Hartswood Films, died on Saturday, her family has confirmed. She was 90.

No cause of death has been given but her daughters, Sue and Debbie Vertue, who worked with her at Hartswood Films, confirmed she died “peacefully” and surrounded by family.

“It’s with the heaviest of hearts that we have to share the sad news that mum/Beryl passed away peacefully last night,” her daughters and Hartswood Films co-producers Sue and Debbie said in a statement. “It wasn’t Covid, it was just her nearly 91-year-old body saying enough is enough.”

“We were there so the passing was as good as one could hope for. Nothing wrong with her brain – even earlier this week she was grilling us both about work. It’s really impossible to believe that she has gone though, because I know we’re not alone in thinking that somehow she’d go on forever. She meant so much to so many.”

“She wasn’t just our mum, she was our best friend, our mentor, our adviser, our role model, our holiday companion, our giggle-maker and our boss! She adored her family and was so proud of us all. She also adored her career and spending time with everybody.”

“She loved a glass of wine at lunchtime, she loved asking the common sense question, she was often the last person at a party, she didn’t suffer fools, she was fair, she was kind, she was fun, she was stubborn, in fact she was the total package and we will miss her beyond words.:

“She was more than a mother to us – she was also a friend. To many in the industry she was more than a friend – she was often a mother.”

Nicknamed “Sherlock’s godmother” by the show’s star Benedict Cumberbatch, who presented her with a lifetime achievement award at the 2016 Women in Film and Television awards, Vertue began her career as a typist, writing up scripts for “Steptoe And Son” scribes Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, before becoming an agent for comedians such as Frankie Howerd.

In 1979, Vertue founded Hartswood Films but it took a few years for the company to get off the ground. “I began to lose confidence,” she recalled in a 2016 interview. “I thought: I can’t do it. Then I happened to see a piece of paper on a desk – God must’ve put it there or somebody – some blurb from a publisher, and there was this book ‘Men Behaving Badly.’ I thought I’ll send off for that, it’s a funny title, it might be a film … I read the book and then thought it’s a TV series, that’s how it began.”

“Men Behaving Badly,” which made stars out of Martin Clunes and Neil Morrissey, ran for six series as well as a number of specials and a short-lived U.S. re-make starring Rob Schneider.

Around this time Vertue’s daughters, Sue and Debbie, also joined the company; Sue from Tiger Aspect, where she produced shows including “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme” and Debbie from film production.

Hartswood continued to be a family affair with Vertue’s son-in-law Steven Moffat (Sue’s husband) writing a number of shows for the production company, including “Jekyll,” starring James Nesbitt, and “Sherlock,” which featured Cumberbatch in the title role.

Vertue continued to executive produce into her ninth decade, with credits on shows including “The Guilty,” starring Tamsin Greig, “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” starring Richard Madden and Holliday Grainger, and of course “Sherlock,” which ran for four seasons and became a global phenomenon.

Vertue reportedly resisted numerous offers from bigger entities to buy the company, saying: “We very much value our independence, and the minute people pay a lot of money for you you must do what they say. So you’re making things for accountants if you’re not careful, and that’s not much fun.”

In 2000 Vertue was made an OBE for her services to the industry; a CBE followed in 2016.

Following news of her death, stars of the British small screen paid tribute to Vertue on social media, including Amanda Abbington, Dawn French, Rob Brydon and Mark Gatiss, who co-created “Sherlock” with Moffat.

Abbington, who played Mary Watson in “Sherlock,” tweeted: “Desperately sad to hear the news about the wonderful and incredible Beryl Vertue. She was a powerhouse of a woman. She used to grab my cheeks and squeeze them really hard for being ‘a funny girl’. Which coming from her was the biggest compliment. She will be so very missed.”

French tweeted: “Beryl Vertue. Mighty & marvellous. A huge loss.”

Brydon wrote: “Beryl Vertue was a most remarkable woman, a true pioneer and lovely with it. I was so fortunate to know and work with her. My thoughts are with Sue, Debbie and all the family.”

Gatiss said: “Beryl Vertue. What a life. An extraordinary legacy. From Goons to Rag & Bone Men, Daleks to Consulting Detectives. She saw it all and did most of it. But foremost – a wonderful woman, a loyal colleague and an absolute scream. She was loved.”

“Veep” showrunner Simon Blackwell tweeted: “Beryl Vertue was an amazing woman. Absolutely transformed the narrative comedy industry. A force of nature, full of stories and enthusiasm, creativity, wit and wisdom. Very sad indeed to hear that she’s left us. We really won’t see her like again.”

Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s chief content officer, also paid tribute to Vertue in a statement, saying: “Beryl Vertue enjoyed an extraordinary career as one of the most influential women in British broadcasting. A patron of British comedy and drama, she was a produce known for her great tenacity and charm – and she literally helped shape the TV industry as we know it today.”

“She was always incredibly kind and generous with her advice,” Moore continued. “She was an inspiration and a true role model for all women in television. It’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to a legend of the entertainment world. Beryl will be hugely missed and our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time.”

Vertue is survived by her two daughters.

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