Politicians lead tributes to 'brilliantly beguiling' interviewer David Frost who has died aged 74

David Cameron led tributes to "a friend and a fearsome interviewer" yesterday  as politicians and television personalities spoke of their deep admiration for Sir David Frost after his death from a heart attack aged 74.
 
His remarks were echoed by some of the esteemed broadcaster's famous interviewees including former prime minister Tony Blair and former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell.
 
The Prime Minister offered his condolences to Sir David's wife Carina, adding: "Sir David was an extraordinary man – with charm, wit, talent, intelligence and warmth in equal measure. He made a huge impact on television and politics.
 
"The Nixon interviews were among the great broadcast moments – but there were many other brilliant interviews.
"He could be – and certainly was with me – both a friend and a fearsome interviewer."
 
Blair fondly recalled interviews with the revered journalist and described news of his death as "very sad".
 
"Sir David Frost was a huge figure in broadcasting," he said.
 
"He had an extraordinary ability to draw out the interviewee, knew exactly where the real story lay and how to get at it, and was also a thoroughly kind and good natured man.
 
"Being interviewed by him was always a pleasure but also you knew that there would be multiple stories the next day arising from it. David was a great professional and a good friend. My deepest condolences to his lovely wife Carina and family. "
 
Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell hailed Sir David as a "peerless" broadcaster.
 
"To be interviewed by David Frost was never a chore, even when trying to defend the indefensible," he said.
 
"But his scrupulous and disarming politeness hid a mind like a vice. David Frost could do you over without you realising it until it was too late."
 
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said: "Very sorry to hear of the sudden death of Sir David Frost – he was such a friendly man, but also a brilliantly beguiling interviewer".
 
Actor and comedian Stephen Fry expressed his shock on Twitter and said he last spoke to Sir David just two days ago.
 
"Oh heavens, David Frost dead? No!! I only spoke to him on Friday and he sounded so well. Excited about a house move, full of plans … how sad."
 
BBC producer Barney Jones, who edited Breakfast with Frost for more than 10 years, told BBC News: "He brought an enthusiasm to everything he did which was quite extraordinary.
 
"David loved broadcasting, did it brilliantly for more than 50 years and was eagerly looking forward to a host of projects – including interviewing the Prime Minister next week – before his sudden and tragic death.
 
"We will all miss him enormously."
 
Peter Fincham, director of television at ITV, said: "David Frost was one of the giants of television. He co-founded London Weekend Television and was a hugely influential figure in the development of ITV.
 
"He was a major presence on screen for five decades, able to switch effortlessly from light entertainment to interviewing world leaders. And he was the most courteous and generous man you could hope to meet, always making it seem that it was his great good fortune to know you, rather than vice versa.
 
"He was the epitome of old school charm."
 
BBC Director-General Tony Hall said: "You couldn't write the history of broadcasting today without realising the huge influence David had on it.
 
"From satire to comedy to the big political interviews, for more than 50 years he brought us the history of the world we live in today, that's the mark of the man.
 
"I had lunch with him just three weeks ago to discuss a new series on his work. As a broadcaster and as a friend he was always warm, enthusiastic and brilliant.
 
"David was one of the BBC greats and he will be hugely missed."
 
Bob Zelnick, who worked with Sir David as executive editor on the Nixon interviews, hailed the "utterly brilliant and riveting performance" he had delivered while asking the former president about the Watergate scandal.
 
"Every one of us involved in that project knew that we could not survive with our reputations anywhere near intact if the perception was that Nixon had successfully countered us," Zelnick told BBC News.
 
"The fact that it drew almost universal praise was a tribute to David's hard work and his very, very tough attitude once the bell rang and the fight started."
 
Speaking to BBC Radio Berkshire, fellow veteran broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson said: "He was a remarkable man, I was lucky to know him. He was extraordinary and inspired a generation.
 
"An incredibly talented man, adept at so many things, an all rounder.
 
"He was part of the cultural opening up of the 1960s, and he broke boundaries.
 
"Sir David was also an entrepreneur who helped put together the Two Ronnies, and helped the Pythons get together.
 
"The Nixon interview was a huge gamble, he had to mortgage his house, but one of the best political interviews of all time."
 
Historic moments in his career included a tense interview with Margaret Thatcher over the sinking of the Argentine warship the Belgrano during the Falklands conflict in which he suddenly introduced the word "bonkers".

He was also the last person to interview Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.

Outside world affairs, his roster included such greats as Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams, Noel Coward, Peter Ustinov, Woody Allen, Muhammad Ali, the Beatles, Clint Eastwood, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir John Gielgud, Norman Mailer, Warren Beatty and many more.

Born on 7 April, 1939, the son of a Methodist preacher, at Tenterden, Kent, he was educated at Gillingham Grammar School, Wellingborough Grammar School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

His big break came when he co-created and hosted satirical show That Was The Week Was in the early 1960s.

Another of his early programmes, The Frost Report, effectively launched John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett on their subsequent careers.

In more recent times, he had hosted Breakfast with Frost on Sunday mornings (1993-2005) and panel game show Through The Keyhole (1987-2008).

He was currently working for Al Jazeera English and had recently interviewed Chilean novelist Isabel Allende and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton.

 

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