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Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK
Desmond Wilcox: A passion for people
Desmond Wilcox and Esther Rantzen
Desmond Wilcox and his wife Esther Rantzen
Desmond Wilcox, who has died at the age of 69, was one of the UK's most innovative documentary makers.

His ground-breaking programmes introduced millions of people to moving stories of human lives in extraordinary circumstances.

His talent lay in the passion he brought to the subject matter and his unfussy presentation.

David and Desmond Wilcox
The story of David captivated millions of people
He believed that real life provided enough drama without "beefing up" a story, and rejected the "fly on the wall" approach as being fundamentally flawed.

In an interview in 1986 he said: "Real life honestly portrayed is sufficiently dramatic in itself.

"The idea that might lurk in some people's minds that you somehow have to beef it up, or pump it up or invent the circumstances to make it more colourful, is an idea born of Fleet Street and ignorance."

Among his most memorable programmes was the series following the story of David Jackson, a badly-deformed Peruvian boy whose face was rebuilt by a Scottish surgeon who adopted him.

Real life honestly portrayed is sufficiently dramatic in itself

Desmond Wilcox in 1986
Millions of TV viewers were captivated by the story of the baby rescued in the Amazonian jungle by a charity worker.

The series won six international awards and Desmond Wilcox recently returned to the story of David's life.

He began his career in journalism as a reporter on a weekly newspaper in 1949, after a brief time working as a deckhand in the merchant marine.

He moved to Fleet Street after two years of National Service.

He worked for the Daily Mirror, becoming a foreign correspondent in the New York bureau.

In 1960 he moved to television as a reporter on ITV's This Week current affairs programme, where he stayed for five years until joining the BBC.

Man Alive tv titles
Desmond Wilcox formed the Man Alive documentary unit
It was with the BBC that he was to make many of his award-winning documentaries.

He was co-editor and presenter of the landmark Man Alive series in 1965, pioneering some innovative documentary techniques.

His instinct for exploring the strength and frailty of human relationships produced a wealth of fascinating documentaries.

He later formed the Man Alive Unit.

From 1972 to 1980 he was head of general features at the BBC and went on to make series such as Americans, The Visit, Black in Blue and A Day in the Life.

He was married to television presenter Esther Rantzen for 22 years, with whom he had three children.

He leaves three other children from an earlier marriage.

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