Peter Maxwell (born Peter Margitai) was a pioneer of British and Australian television drama.
Maxwell was born in Vienna on January 23, 1921, the son of newspaper journalist Leo Margitai and his wife, Johanna. The family fled Austria in the 1930s because (according to family legend) Leo dared to criticise the Nazis in print. Interned in Britain, young Peter Margitai changed his surname to Maxwell to join the British Army, hoping that his German would be useful. To his surprise, he was sent to India, where he ended the war as an officer. Returning to Britain, he worked at London Films, under the formidable producer Sir Alexander Korda, learning his craft as an assistant director on films including I Was a Male War Bride (1949) and The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954).
He was one of Britain’s first film-for-television directors, taking television drama out of the studio with pre-filmed videotape, to make series such as The Errol Flynn Theatre (1957), The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1957), William Tell (1958-59) and The Invisible Man (1959). In his spare time, he directed B-movies such as The Desperate Man (1959) and The Long Shadow (1961).
In 1960, Maxwell came to Australia for several episodes of Whiplash, an Australian western (coproduced by Britain’s ITC and Australia’s Artransa Park Studios), with rising American actor Peter Graves as the gun-toting owner of Cobb & Co coachlines. More polished than any previous Australian-produced series, it still lasted only one season.
Maxwell returned to Britain, directing Patrick McGoohan in the series Danger Man. Maxwell’s fondness for Australia, however, meant that Artransa had an easy job luring him back in 1967 for the glossy action series Riptide. This time he stayed, and he would direct several episodes of the series. He also directed Country Town (1971), a movie spin-off of the ABC drama Bellbird. Maxwell also directed some 80 episodes of A Country Practice, directing his final episode in 1990. (The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 June 2013: 39)