Barry Langford was born on a cold early February morning in 1926 to May and Louis Langford. He had a tough childhood with a strict father who tried to raise him as a physical strongman and fighter that caused him to try and prove himself throughout his life as the tough guy. Despite this, Barry used to proclaim that he had a happy childhood growing up alongside his younger brother, Lawrence.
At an early age, Barry showed talent in music, acting, and connecting with people, which together with his wit and street-smart manner served him well throughout his life. He left his parent's home in his mid-teens and started working in odd jobs on stage and even in a circus for a time. He was always on a quest to find and invent the "new thing", a drive that him going along the various career paths he had taken in his life.
As a steady job, he joined the family business in the famous silver vaults in London, and with his gift of the gab, became very successful in the trade, attracting high profile clientele such as Elizabeth Taylor and Liberace. By mixing with this kind of crowd, he developed a passionate desire to go into show business. Against all odds and with almost no prior training, he joined the BBC. Barry met Sir Lew Grade who guided the young man into the music business. Lew recognized Barry's talent for directing and publicity, and connected him to the right places. Within a short time, Barry became very successful creating new TV shows and directing music icons such as Tom Jones and David Bowie, to mention but a few. Some of his creations were innovative music shows, which included Juke Box Jury, The Beat Room and many more. Six of the original Beat Room programs can be viewed on YouTube. They star Tom Jones, John Lee Hooker and others.
In 1963, Barry was selected one of five UK citizens from different walks of life to be part of a documentary film named Citizen '63 that was directed by the renowned film director John Boorman. The film portrayed Barry as a man of many talents - a businessman and a music producer - and it also gave one a glimpse into his personal life. The film was shown 50 years later at the Jewish Film Festival in England. Audiences paid tribute to Barry who attended the screening.
His earlier life
Barry married Shirley Hershison (Stage name: Shirley Hale). They had two children – Jeremy, who was to become a well-known glass artist and sculptor, and Caroline, who became a successful actress in Israel.
During World War II, Barry was drafted into the British army. Using his talents, he was accepted into the army entertainment service association, and performed for the troops during his service.
In the 1970s, he left the UK and moved with his family to Australia where, true to his nature, he pioneered successful TV music shows. Once his contract ended, he uprooted the family and returned to the UK, only to turn around and move back to Australia for a second round. This time things were different ; Australian TV started buying American shows resulting in less need for original productions. Barry was forced to seek employment elsewhere, so he performed in a local nightclub in Melbourne.
While planning to leave Australia, Barry turned down an offer to work for Lebanon TV (with tongue in cheek he told them he was Jewish and was concerned what would happen to him after his contract expired). He had been a lifelong Zionist (even served jail time in the UK for smuggling guns to the nascent state of Israel) and decided to accept an offer to help set up a fledgling Israel TV station in Jerusalem. After arriving in Israel he said that it was the first place and time that he had really felt comfortable expressing his Jewishness - “even the crooks are Jewish!” he exclaimed.
His Jewish feelings came to the fore in the UK during the many fascist and anti-Semitic incidents in the 1940s. He set up, together with the late Vidal Sassoon, the 43 Group. The group was active in protecting Jews and Jewish properties in the UK in an endeavor to defeat the rampant anti-Semitism of the time.
Barry spoke no Hebrew, but despite this, he became the top music and light entertainment producer and director in Israel of the 1970s and 80s. At the time, there was not one singer or band that he did not direct. He brought his vast experience and methods from his days in the BBC which proved a milestone for Israeli TV which was just getting off the ground.
His love of dogs was uncanny. He was especially fond of British bulldogs and had quite a few of them over the years. Barry took his bulldog Chompie everywhere he went - to meetings, to bridge, to production sessions, to friends. So, when he asked his son, Jeremy, to find a home for his beloved Chompie it was a sign that his zest for life was fading.
Barry passed away in July 2012, aged 86, leaving behind two ex-wives, two children, and seven grandchildren. His first great granddaughter was born shortly after his passing.
Barry elevated Esravision standards
From Sally and Richard Halon
We first met Barry and Chompie when we joined Esravision about 15 years ago. Barry was one of Esravision’s most stalwart volunteers, tackling every project, be it large or small, with the same eager delight. In fact in his enthusiasm he often seemed to forget that he was now working with a group of inexperienced volunteers, and was not back at the BBC where his distinguished career began.
Whether he was directing a ‘Mothers and Daughters’ studio panel show, chasing a real fire with Netanya firemen, or covering the first date between two religious youngsters, Barry would envisage the finished item even before any of us had turned our cameras on. His focus was usually a little different from the expected, frequently confusing us novices, but there is no doubt that his optimistic, can-do approach helped raise Esravision’s production standards.
Barry was the senior member of Esravision, but the films that he directed had a playful, informal, modern touch that was young at heart. Barry knew instinctively, and taught us, the camera angles, the timing, the intonation, the music and the humor that worked, and we benefited enormously from his mentoring. Above all, Barry made us feel he was proud of us, which was both kind and encouraging! His spirit will always be with those of us who were privileged to work with him.
From Renee Singer: Barry was a professional in every sense – he always knew just how to frame the scene to its best advantage. It was privilege to work with him and we all benefited from his guidance. I do miss him.
From Dalia Sinclair: Barry was a vivid and enthusiastic character with lots of interests. I recall the talk show in which both he and his daughter Caroline participated which was a very special event in which father and daughter had a heart to heart and there was audience participation.
From Merle Guttmann: Barry took Esravision to new heights and broadened our vision and our media. It was he who introduced us to talk shows and to studio work. He taught us how to mold ourselves into a group team, each performing a different task to create together a studio show. Quite exhilarating and quite demanding.