Julia Smith (26 May 1927 – 19 June 1997) was an English television director and producer.
London-born Smith became involved in television production when she directed the series Suspense
in 1962. Soon, she was directing popular BBC shows such as Z Cars
(in 1962); and Doctor Who
(in 1966), where she directed the stories "The Smugglers
" and "The Underwater Menace
". In 1967 she directed an adaptation of The Railway Children
with Jenny Agutter
that was successful enough for it to lead to the fondly remembered 1970 film in which Agutter reprised her role of Roberta.
Whilst working on Z Cars she had met Tony Holland who was a writer for the show. The two of them became an established producer/script-editor team and went on to work for the BBC's long-running hospital drama, Angels (1975-83).
In 1983 the BBC
contacted Smith and Holland to create a new popular bi-weekly serial drama. Two ideas were given to them, one about a caravan site, the other about a shopping arcade. Neither of them liked either of the ideas, and demanded to be able to create something about what they knew
- in the words of Smith - "London - today!"
Together they came up with the idea of a serial set in the East End of London in a Victorian Square. When casting for the show, Smith had the guideline 'Only genuine Eastenders need apply'; it was this that gave her the idea for the name of the show, which would be called EastEnders after other names were rejected. Originally the show was to be called Eastenders, but Jonathan Powell, then Head of Drama at the BBC who had commissioned the show, made the tentative suggestion that the second "e" didn't look good on paper, and said that perhaps it should be capitalized. It was, for which Smith later said "...we were eternally grateful to him!"
After the success of EastEnders
, Smith and Holland collaborated again on the ill-fated BBC soap opera Eldorado
. Holland created the series — based on an original idea by Verity Lambert
— and Smith was producer. Eldorado
was produced by Verity through her own company Cinema Verity Productions
. The BBC obviously hoped that, after EastEnders
, Smith and Holland could make drama gold again. It wasn't to be, a series of circumstances meaning the series was one of the most expensive flops that the BBC had experienced. Smith was blamed for the programme's shortcomings and was fired, which left her very bitter towards the BBC, who she believed hadn't given Eldorado
a chance to establish itself. Corinne Hollingworth
took over as series producer after Smith left the show,
Following the demise of Eldorado
, Smith retired from television work. She died of cancer in 1997. Several stalwart cast members of EastEnders
, including Wendy Richard
, attended her funeral.