Reviews

THE FACING CHAIR (1963)

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Show ImageMadame Romanoff is a fortune teller. Her "pitch" is in the amusement arcade of a small seaside town. People go to her "for a laugh" or because of that tradition...the fortnight by the seaside. Some go because they genuinely need advice and have run out of people they can ask. They sit in that facing chair to pour out their troubles and hope their half-guinea will buy them a solution. When Madame Romanoff asks: "But where do I pay my half-guinea?" she sums up The Facing Chair. For here is a woman used to being a sympathetic listener who suddenly finds she needs sympathy herself. Edmund Ward, the author, summed it up: "This is not so much a play about fortune telling, but about the nature of hope...the fact that everyone needs reassurance at some time. This is a portrait of a fortune teller who needs help and reassurance." The part of Madame Romanoff is played by Ruth Dunning. In 1963, she told TV Times that although she'd had her fortune told a couple of times and found it fascinating, she wasn't really sure about fortune telling. "I do not regard the woman I play as phoney." She said. "She is a wonderful judge of character and weighs up people very quickly. A lot of it, of course, is intuition and a little applied psychology." Ward, writing his third play for television, had already had his fortune told when doing research for it. "The lady told me I had something to do with actors and was, perhaps, a writer." For Madam Romanoff the money's good, the living's comfortable. But when she smells death - it frightens her. The Facing Chair was presented as ITV's Play of the Week on Monday 1st October 1963. It was broadcast at 9.15pm. Also starring were Alexis Kanner, Campbell Singer, Jo Rowbottom and Sean Lynch. The play was directed by Michael Currer-Briggs and was an Associated-Rediffusion Network Production.

FIRST NIGHT (1963)

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First Night presented a series of new plays written for television with an emphasis on action and conflict. The series debuted on BBC with Alan Owen's The Strain on 22 September 1963 and ran through until 1964. Click here for reviews of plays in this series.

FREEDOM IN SEPTEMBER (1962)

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Show ImageA Soviet musician is missing from his hotel. He wanders through London trying to contact people he has met and known in Russia. Who are these people? What lies behind his desperate search? In Freedom in September author Leo Lehman focuses attention on those brief, but regular 1960s news items which announced that yet another Russian visitor had resolved to make his home in Britain, and asked for political asylum. Deftly, sensitively, without taking sides, Lehman examines one of these situations in the making, laying bare all the frustration, the loneliness and heart-searching which such a decision entails. He is concerned, not with the famous - like dancer Rudolph Nureyev - whose welcome was assured, but with an ordinary citizen who necessarily will pay a higher price for freedom. "For these people who are welcome but not particularly wanted by anyone, the difficulties are much greater," said Lehmann. Lencherenko (Joseph Furst) in my play is a man like this. He knows that if he stays he will be alone in a strange country. He must abandon the life he has known - the good things as well as the bad." Lehmann emphasised that the play was about people - not politics. Lecherenko, a minor composer, unknown in the West, is a member of a Russian cultural delegation on a good-will visit to London. He leaves the party so that he can be alone while making the final, fateful decision on whether he will stay or go home. We first see Lomov (Martin Sterndale), leader of the delegation, unwilling to admit that Lecherenko has disappeared as he starts the discreet, polite, deceptively unhurried enquiries that go on throughout the play. Meanwhile, as the composer in his dilemma seeks out various people he knows, he is helped by a sympathetic journalist, Prince (Patrick Troughton). He also meets a Russian exile Dornik (Alan MacNaughton) who has himself been faced with the same agonising decision. Also in the cast were Patsy Rowlands as Ivy and Amanda Barrie as a maid. The play was directed by Joan Kemp-Welch. Broadcast in the Play of the Week strand on Tuesday 18th September 1962 at 9.15 to 10.45pm.

THE GATHERING STORM (2002)

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Winston Churchill finds himself battling to convince the British Government of impending war. Click Here for review

HOBSON'S CHOICE (1950)

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Hobson's Choice The first TV adaptation of Harold Brighouse's black comedy starred Wilfred Pickles in his television acting debut as Will Mossop, a gifted but unappreciated bootmaker employed by the tyrannical Henry Horatio Hobson (Edgar K. Bruce) in nineteenth-century Salford. Hard-drinking Hobson, a widower, tries forcefully to run the lives of his three unruly daughters, who have worked in their father's establishment without wages for many years and are eager to be married and free of the shop. Alice has been seeing Albert Prosser (prolific producer Alan Bromly in a rare acting role), a young up-and-coming solicitor, while Vicky is keen on Fred Beenstock (Dennis Frazer), the son of a respectable corn merchant. But Maggie (Belle Chrsytal - pictured left) is far too useful to Hobson and when her father decrees 'no marriage' she turns to unambitious, brownbeaten Willie and bullies him into an engagement in spite of the fact that Willie is seeing Ada Figgins (Sibell Gill - pictured centre). Broadcast live on 27 May as part of the BBC Sunday-Night Theatre strand. Pickles went on to play the same role on stage. Brighouse's play has been adapted for television numerous times, not only in the UK but also in Austria, Belgium and the USA. It was also serialised in September 1967 for BBC Schools Television.

THE HAUNTING (1969)

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Show Image Children can sometimes have an instinct for situations that are beyond the grasp of their young minds. Twelve-year old Cathy (Christine Rees) somehow knows that the trouble with her father, Rolf (John Thaw) is more complex than the deep and natural grief he feels-and which she too has felt-over the death of her mother. It is 10 months now since the fatal car accident, and Rolf is not getting over it. He has withdrawn from all social contacts and has wrapped himself in a cocoon of memories that imprison his mind in the past. Cathy's teacher, Kate (Suzanne Neve), to whom she tries to explain her home situation, is an old friend who has her own reasons for staying away since the tragedy. But Kate can't resist the child's plea - especially as she believes that some, at least, of Rolf's memories of his wife and his marriage are rooted more in illusion than in reality. The Haunting by Ian Curteis was a one-off play presented as part of ITV's Saturday Night Theatre on 28 June 1969.

THE HOTHOUSE (1964)

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Show ImageAn ailing mango, two wives and an ambitious employee, all help to upset a youthful tycoon's weekend in the hothouse. Donald Churchill's third light-hearted comedy for Armchair Theatre in 1964 starred Harry H. Corbett and also saw the television debut of Diana Rigg (almost a year before she took on the role of Emma Peel in The Avengers). Corbett was no stranger to the series and in fact, had made a reputation for himself as a gifted and versatile actor, after a number of appearances on ITV's famous one-off play presentations throughout the 1950s. By the time he made this appearance he was a household name as Harold Steptoe in the hit BBC sitcom 'Steptoe and Son' and this may account for the fact that this particular Armchair Theatre presentation, when broadcast, pulled in an all-time audience record of 8,260,000 homes. Churchill's previous two 1964 plays had been Sharp at Four and The Cherry on the Top, the latter of which starred his wife, Pauline Yates. This time round, the author took a lead role for himself. In The Hothouse he plays Gordon Parsley, the assistant manager of a supermarket, part of a chain owned by self-made millionaire Harry Fender (Corbett). Hoping to be promoted, Gordon's prospects look bright when, at the annual staff dance, Harry takes a shine to the ambitious employee's vivacious wife, Charlotte (Miranda Connell). On the other hand, the boss's interest in Charlotte could spell trouble. Especially when Harry's own wife, Anita (Rigg), decides to meddle in the situation. She brings matters to a head by inviting the young couple to spend a weekend at the Fenders' country cottage. This is the place with the hothouse - an enclosed and steamy jungle where Harry tends his precious mangoes and melons. Sooner or later, you can be sure, Charlotte will find herself alone with the boss in the hothouse-cast in the role of passion fruit! The Hothouse was a 60 minute play directed by Guy Verney and was an ABC production.

I CAN WALK WHERE I LIKE, CAN'T I? (1964)

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Show Image Set partly on a building site, a boy (15-year old Dennis Waterman) and a girl (16-year old Judith Geeson) meet secretly in a partly-built block of flats each day after the builders leave. They are discovered, however, by two workmen doing overtime - Frank (John Thaw) and Mike (Earl Cameron). The two are friends but they see the children's retreat to the flats from different angles. So too, do the children's parents. But there is little understanding in either home, particularly the boy's, where his widowed father (Edward Woodward) and the boy "live in each other's background." The boy is totally disinterested in the woman friend his father is trying to introduce to the household, and the father is only vaguely conscious that the boy is growing up and has his own problems. Writer Rhys Adrian told the TV Times back in 1964 how he got the idea for the play whilst out walking one weekend with his five-year old son, Lewis. As he drifted on to a building site where a block of flats was being built, he saw some children playing: "High above us a couple of children, a boy and girl of about 15, were chasing each other. This was a marvellous playground and I saw the fun as quite innocent. But I began wondering if everyone would see it that way? Or does it depend on how one wants to see it?" Few of the characters have names in this Play of the Week presentation. Waterman's character is only known as 'The Boy' whilst Geeson is credited as 'The Girl'. The Girl's mother is played by Joan Newell and her father by Patrick Kavananagh. Yootha Joyce also appears. The play was directed by Graham Evans. Dennis Waterman, who had been a child actor was already something of a veteran by 1964 with over a dozen TV credits, but this was an early appearance for his co-star, Judith - later Judy Geeson (Born in Arundel, Sussex in 1948). Broadcast on ITV on Monday February 17, 1964 at 9.10pm. An ATV Network Production.

IN SEARCH OF HAPPINESS (1960)

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Show Image The story of a crowded day in the life of a modern Russian family - a day in which a young girl falls in love, a black marketeer is trapped by police, and a few hasty words spark a teenage rebellion. Romance and comedy are blended in this warmly human play. In Search of Happiness by Victor Rozov was a box office-hit straight from Moscow. Translated by Nina Froud and adapted by Gerald Savoury this immensely successful Russian play, presented by Granada, starred Elspeth March, William Squire, Dilys Hamlett and Wensley Pithey. Russian Nina Froud was interviewed by TV Times magazine in 1960. A frequent visitor to Russia she said she knew "many, many families living in just the sort of flat seen in the play and they think, talk and behave exactly as Rozov's characters do." The Author had previously written almost exclusively for children but had always been popular with audiences of all ages. With this play, wrote one Russian critic, Rozov had grown out of being a children's writer. In the three years since opening at the Moscow Central Children's Theatre in 1957 the play had been produced in 98 theatres. It had won a prize competition for best Russian play and was voted the most popular Russian play of 1958.

The widowed, hard - up Klavdia (Elspeth March) is the central character. Revolving around her, relying on her according to their needs are her four children. The eldest, the intellectual Fyodor (William Squire) is browbeaten by his wife Lena (Dilys Hamlett). But Lena is intensely practical and has to think of the furniture for the flat they are going to get. Meanwhile, everything she owns is piled up in Kalvdia's flat. Klavdia's other two children are at university. Tanya (Jayne Muir) is 19. Nikolai (Donald Bradley) 18, is in love with Marina (Irene Hamilton), a neighbour's daughter. Completing the main characters is 15-year old Oleg (Richard Palmer), an adventurous, imaginative boy who is always falling in love. Rozov's play depicts a day in their lives. The 46 year old author wrote that he was chiefly interested in the characters of the young people of the day. "It seems to me that their period of life is rich in inner conflicts, and is always of particular interest to the writer. Their conflicts are of the most diverse character and, of course, are expressed by different natures in different ways. Sometimes grown-ups find the restlessness and soul-racking "torments" of the youngsters amusing and naive, and this, I believe, is also very interesting for a drama. But I am attracted not only by the young nature and character. I like to observe the way relations develop between young people and their elders. I have found that grown-ups often interfere with the normal development of the young.

"I do not think it is just to reproach a young man or girl, and sometimes a whole generation, with being "bad." This reproach should be addressed first of all to ourselves-their elders. For no matter how bad the children may be, we and only we are responsible for their behaviour." In an article written especially for the TV Times, Rozov accepted that the British viewer was hardly familiar with Soviet plays, but found it gratifying that his would be shown in Britain. "I hope it will help pave the way for a better understanding," he wrote. "After all, the finest thing in life is goodwill among men." The play was shown under the Play of the Week strand. Also among the cast was a young Kenneth Cope.

IT IS MIDNIGHT, DR. SCHWEITZER (1953)

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Show Image The earliest complete surviving BBC television play of the 1950s, It Is Midnight, Dr. Schweitzer stars André Morell as Dr. Albert Schweitzer who is running a small hospital in French Equatorial Africa on the eve of the First World War. The imminent outbreak of hostilities and the threatened closure of the hospital sparks unrest amongst the natives. Schweitzer receives a sick child at the hospital, rescued from tribesmen who were preparing to kill her as a devil. Amidst the threat of war there is time for romance and on the same night Commandant Lieuvin (Tom Fleming - pictured), the district's military commander, arrives to see Sister Marie (Greta Gynt - pictured), Schweitzers chief nurse, and proposes marriage. But as war is declared, Leblanc, the civilian governor arrives with orders that Schweitzer, as a German citizen, must be arrested. The War has changed everything and as Lieuvin and Marie's relationship falls apart Schweitzer is led away by Leblanc. It Is Midnight, Dr. Schweitzer was written by French novelist Gilbert Cesbron and adapted for television by Rudolph Cartier, a ground-breaking producer of television who was always looking to push the technical limits of the medium to their limit. In this live production Cartier made full use of pre-filmed inserts, normally only used in dramas of the day as establishing shots-but here for dramatic effect and atmosphere expanding the narrative into the jungle around the main hospital to give the play life beyond the confines of the television studio. Broadcast on Sunday 22 February 1953, the play over-ran by twenty minutes and cuts had to be made for the 'second performance' the following Thursday. It is the second of these two showings that survives in the archives.

JOURNEY'S END (1937)

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Show Image Adapted from R.C. Sheriff's successful play, Journey's End is set against the background of life in the trenches during World War One and concentrates on a group of officers behind British lines at St. Quentin, France. The characters live in a world of fear and disillusionment as they struggle to come to terms with the strain of each new attack order given from headquarters, while having to endure the German machine guns relentlessly sending out their messengers of death and destruction. The tale concentrates on the once brave and exhuberant Captain Stanhope now a mere shadow of his former self as he loses hope and sinks into desperation. Broadcast in 1937 this was the first time that an entire evening's programming was given over to one play. George More O'Ferrall condensed the script without sacrificing continuity and rhythm. The play was broadcast, as all programming was in those days, live from Alexandra Palace but used filmed inserts from (reportedly) G.W. Pabst's 1930 feature film Westfront 1918, which seems odd as Journey's End was filmed the same year. The film version starred Colin Clive and was directed by James Whale and just a year later director and actor teamed up once more for the classic Hollywood horror movie, Frankenstein. This TV version starred Reginald Tate as Stanhope and was broadcast just once, on 11 November 1937.

KID FLANAGAN (1948)

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Show Image A young boxer's career is destroyed by a scheming woman (Jenny Laird) when she convinces him to murder her husband; a fight manager. Johnny Flanagan is played by Michael Medwin making his TV debut and Sid James (billed as Sidney James) stars as the Kid's promoter, Sharkey Morrison. This one-off (live) play based on Max Catto's novel was broadcast on BBC television on 1st August 1948 and produced by Joel O'Brien. In 1950, American producer Robert Lippert formed a business alliance with Hammer studios (to produce a number of b-movies) and in 1953, under the name of Exclusive, they produced a big-screen version called The Flanagan Boy (US title Bad Blonde). The blonde is played by US actress Barbara Peyton who plays up the femme fatale's sexuality more obviously than would have been seen in the TV production as she first seduces Flanagan and then convinces him to do the dirty deed. Sid James reprised his TV role for the movie.

LORD ARTHUR SAVILLE'S CRIME (1960)

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Show Image Lord Arthur Saville postpones his wedding in order to commit a murder. Which of his many relatives is to have the honour of being the victim? Polished comedian, sartorially spendid Terry-Thomas, made his ITV drama debut on 3rd January 1960 in the ABC Armchair Theatre presentation Lord Arthur Saville's Crime, which was based on a short story by Oscar Wilde. A self-confessed Edwardian at heart, Thomas was in his element as the elegant Lord Saville in top hat and tails and using his own cigarette holder-a gold one with 42 diamonds that was insured for £2,000. Terry Thomas was supported in Gerald Savory's adaptation by June Thorburn and Robert Coote. Arthur, the perfect gentleman, finds himself on the eve of his wedding to Lady Sybil (Thorburn) in a dilemma. A palmist has foretold that Arthur will commit murder, so he decides he must do this odious piece of work before he can consider himself morally free to marry. The fun arises from his efforts to accomplish this self-imposed task before his wedding date, which has already been postponed once-much to the annoyance of his fiancee's overbearing mother, Lady Julia (Ambrosine Phillpotts). Aided and abetted by his butler, Baines (Robert Coote), Arthur's first concern is to select a "client." Arthur thinks he "should keep this sort of thing in the family" but as he is "endowed with relatives to the point of saturation" there is plenty of scope. So it remains for them only to arrange the details of the deed-which they do with great ingenuity-and for Arthur to pull off his crime.

"It is a period I adore," said Terry-Thomas when interviewed by 'TV Times' magazine. "There was so much time to enjoy oneself, there was space and style and some jolly nice horses and carriages." There was also, he agreed, "a hell of a lot of advantages," but these he discounted ion favour of clean air and the lighter, more delicate sense of humour that he enjoyed. This was Terry-Thomas's first straight play for nearly five years. The ones before this-both at about the same time-were two other rivals, "Room For Two" at London's Prince of Wales Theatre and Bird In Hand on television. June and Terry had worked together before-in the film "Tom Thumb," when she played the Fairy Queen. It was Robert Coote's first appearance in an ITV play. Lord Arthur Saville's Crime also starred Ernest Thesigner, Eric Pohlmann, Arthur Lowe, Nora Nicholson, Kynaston Reeves and Michael Hitchman. It was directed by Alan Cooke and produced by Sydney Newman. The recording was lost and the tapes presumed wiped for many years but in 2008 it was discovered and returned to the British Film Institute as a result of their hugely successful "Missing Believed Wiped" initiative.

LOVE ON THE DOLE (1967)

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Show Image Hankey Park, Salford, 1933. The slump, unemployment, the means test: "I wonder how much longer us women'll take to learn that living and loving's all a damn swindle? Love's all right on the pictures, but love on the dole ain't quite the same thing." Walter Greenwood's moving 1933 novel about the crisis of unemployment following the General Strike (of 1926 although the main action takes place in 1931) concentrates on a working-class community trying to come to terms with poverty whilst retaining their dignity. The novel was adapted for the stage by Ronald Gow and opened at the Manchester Repertory Theatre in 1934. This 1967 television adaptation by John Finch starred the comparatively unknown Anne Stallybrass as Sally Hardcastle who falls in love with a doomed socialist agitator, Larry Meath. The role of Sally had previously been the springboard for a successful career for Wendy Hiller who was in the London production - following a long and record-breaking tour - that bought her to the West End stage for the first time. She was an instant success. Ruth Dunning (Television Actress of the Year 1961) was next to find Love On The Dole a launch pad for recognition. A walk-on part in the London production, in 1935, was her first professional engagement. And when Wendy Hiller left to lead the New York production, Ruth succeeded her as Sally.

It was Ronald Gow who first approached Walter Greenwood about turning the novel into a play. "Over coffee we agreed about the play," he said. "But with one condition. We were to make money out of it, so it mustn't be a high-brow piece. I think he had an idea I was some sort of egg-head!" Gow had been a schoolmaster just embarking on what was to prove a successful writing career and had been more of an observer of the slump years than the totally involved Greenwood. who had been on the dole several times and in and out of jobs with monotonous frequency. In Love On The Dole, set in his native Salford, he wrote about the Hardcastle family. With their father (played in this production by Jack Woolgar) out of work, the brunt of keeping the family falls on Sally Hardcastle and her brother Harry (Ronald Cunliffe). Sally and Larry Meath (Malcolm Tierney - both pictured) are courting, to the active disapproval of bookmaker Sam Grundy (George A. Cooper) who tries to lure Sally away by offering to make her "housekeeper" of his home in Wales. Greenwood said he "tried to show what life means to a young man living under the shadow of the dole, the tragedy of a lost generation who are denied consummation, in decency, of the natural hopes and desires of youth." The novel received much attention from writers, journalists, and politicians. However, the British Board of Film Censors would not allow a film to be made during the 1930s: it was a "very sordid story in very sordid surroundings", and in Gow's words "regarded as 'dangerous'". It was eventually filmed and released in 1941 by British National Films with Deborah Kerr as Sally. This production, shown from 9.40pm to 11.00pm on Thursday 19th January, 1967 as part of the ATV network's Play of the Week strand, was produced by Derek Bennett. It was made by Granada Television.

LUCK OF THE DRAW (1962)

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Show Image Accepting the luck of the draw has become the Green's family motto. But Arthur, at 28 the only unmarried one, begins to have doubts. Should he carry on as before or should he forget family tradition and give fate a definite hand? Luck Of The Draw was about a sensitive and self-conscious young man who finds it hard to get on with girls. Arthur Green, played by Michael Caine, is a shy cockney waiter in his late twenties. A bungling dancer, an incompetent small-talker, he radiates tension when confronted by a pretty girl. And, like animals that attack when they pick up the scent of fear, the girls turn aggressive and humiliate him, which makes him feel worse. And so it goes on. In desperation, Arthur goes to the Devereux Introduction Bureau in order to overcome his shyness by finding his perfect match. The owner, Mrs Devereux (Jenny Laird) is helpful and sympathetic, and arranges a meeting with his "opposite number," Jenny Miller played by Ann Lynn. She is a Northerner, alone and friendless in London. All looks well until Arthur's mother (Joan Young) depresses him by saying only fate can fix marriages. Author Philip Levene's play was a comedy, and fate, as well as Mrs Devereux, was on Arthur's side. Said 29-year old Michael Caine: "It's a warm, sentimental play and Arthur is a pleasure to play-because I can remember feeling just like him." Shown under ITV's Drama 62 strand and aired on Sunday 9th September 1962 at 9.35pm lasting 60 minutes.

THE MAJOR BARBARA (1962)

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"The greatest of our evils and the worst of our crimes is poverty, and our first duty, to which every other consideration should be sacrificed is not to be poor." CLICK HERE

THE MAN OUT THERE (1966)

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Show Image In the loneliness of space the world's first astronaut, cut off from base, is linked up by freak radio reception with a Canadian trapper's wife isolated with a life or death problem. For Patrick McGoohan, known to viewers as the star of Danger Man, there were even greater dangers in Donal Giltinan's dramatic play The Man Out There. Pressure suited and fastened firmly into a capsule, he is hurtled into outer space as a Russian astronaut. McGoohan had been a television space traveller before-in 1958, when he played in The Greatest Man in the World, a satire based on a James Thurber story. Sending a man into space was still a remote possibility then, so the play was set forward in time to 1961. It was now 1961 and astronauts had become news headlines. In Giltinan's play, Nicholai Soloviov (McGoohan) is the first man to venture the earth's atmosphere. But although he goes into orbit, the success of the project is jeopardised by a mechanical failure. This raises doubts about the astronaut’s safe re-entry. Because of sunspots, he loses radio contact with Russia. So while the lonely capsule circles the world, tension mounts at control. The scheduled flight time of five hours runs out and scientists and technicians work to right the fault. The general in charge of the project (Clifford Evans) voices his doubts. By a freak of radio reception Nicholai makes contact with Marie (Katharine Blake), the wife of a trapper living in the rugged, blizzard - swept North-West of Canada. Giltinan centres his play in this situation of two people cut off from the rest of the world, both urgently needing help and talking to each other. The Man Out There was directed by Charles Jarrott and produced by Sydney Newman. Shown as part of ITV's ABC Armchair Theatre strand and aired on Sunday 12th March 1961 at 9.05pm.

MASTER OF ARTS (1961)

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Show Image This single play, a televised version of a popular farce was not actually shot in a television studio, but from The Playhouse, Salisbury, the same stage where it made its debut. Salisbury Playhouse was a garrison theatre during the war. On its bills then were famous names like Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Edith Evans and Flora Robson. In 1961 the Salisbury Arts Theatre Company got the chance to bring to television a play that had packed out the house for several months. Master of Arts was a modern comedy by William Douglas Home that also enjoyed a six-month run in London's West End. At a famous - but unnamed - public school, a housemaster is in love with a girl without realising that her young brother is a member of his house. The boy takes a photograph of his sister in the housemaster's arms. Using the "awkward" photograph as a lever, he gets the housemaster's reluctant approval to go racing at Ascot. The housemaster then has to cover up for the boy. David Garth, a familiar face on television back in the 1960s (having appeared in Probation Officer, Emergency-Ward 10, Boyd Q.C. and The Larkins) played the housemaster. The sister of the blackmailing schoolboy was played by Nancy Herrod, a member of the company for two years. David Hemmings played the boy with the camera, five years before his most famous role as a photographer in what many people consider to be the definitive 'swinging sixties' movie, Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blowup." Master of Arts was an ABC Television Production in conjunction with Southern Television. It was produced for the stage by Oliver Gordon and adapted for television by Peter Alexander. Director was Michael Mills. Shown as part of ITV's 55 minute Comedy Matinee strand on Sunday 12th March 1961.

A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE (1962)

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Show Image Should a doctor tell his patients the truth - whatever the cost? Harry Branksome, brilliant surgeon, is dedicated to the truth, no matter whom it hurts. Surgeon Harry Branksome is a bore. He has stripped himself of all emotion, all kindnesses. He treats both patients and colleagues with either brutal indifference or savage rudeness. This is the way he has chosen to live. The way that helps him bear the heavy responsibility of having men's lives in his hands. A superb technician at the operating table, he has become unfeeling, ill-mannered and unsympathetic in all his personal relationships. The key to "A Matter of Principle" is whether or not Branksome's brilliance as a surgeon will continue to outweigh his deficiencies as a human being, and whether or not he can survive the political intrigues at the large London teaching hospital where he works without a radical alteration to his approach. Branksome's character was quite a problem for Charles Gray, who played the part. "I started off rehearsals by trying to give Branksome a bit of charm, in spite of the way he behaved. But that made it difficult for everyone to say what a pig he was - and tended to slow up the pace. So I decided to act him as the boor he undoubtedly is." In the even more thankless part of the rather pathetic woman who loves Branksome was Pamela Brown. "It's not the sort of part I'd want to do on stage," she told TV Times. "But on television there is more opportunity to register emotions in close-up." A Matter of Principle was adapted for television by John Clark from the book 'A Lady's Hand' by Edward Candy. Candy was the pen-name for Mrs B. A. Neville, herself a doctor. "I picked the pen-name because I started writing detective stories and felt a man's name more suitable," she said. "I didn't want to be thought of as a writer of women's books. The play is a story about people who could be in any profession. I set it in a teaching hospital because I was trained in one and knew I wouldn't make mistakes in the detail." An ATV Network Production by H. M. Tennent shown in the Play of the Week strand at 9:15 - 10:40pm on Tuesday September 11th 1962.

MISSING FROM HOME (1960)

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Show Image Nell Merriman disappears from home and the police organise a search on a large scale. Anxiety for her safety mounts, but the one person who is completely happy and undisturbed by events is Nell. Jessica Dunning stars as Mrs Merriman, whose daughter, nine-year old Nell, (Wendy Turner) disappears from home and is feared to have been led away by a strange man. Although Missing From Home dramatises the suffering of all those caught up in the drama of a kidnapped child, it is not developed round that situation. The play was written for television by Rosemary Timperley - adapted from the story "An Idyll" by Shelley Smith. Interviewed by TV Times in 1960, the play's director Tony Robertson explained the motivation for the story: "(It) is not really concerned primarily with Nell's safety or her parents suffering, but with the effect the experience has on the young girl's mind. Nell's mother and father never really understand the nature of Nell's thoughts and feelings during this ordeal. The only person to understand them, because he shared them, is George, the man who ran away with her. Shelley Smith is really exploring that curious lack of communication, or absence of understanding, between the mind of the child and the mind of the adult." The task of interpreting the play fell on 13-year old Wendy Turner, as the girl, and Hugh Burden, as George. For Hugh Burden the part of George was, he admitted, "extremely difficult. "He said: "George should arouse pity, not horror. He may be a homicidal maniac, but he is lonely and hungry for affection. Like Nell, he retains the innocence of childhood." Superintendent Marlowe, who tries to trace the missing child, was played by Richard Pearson, who spoke of the dilemma of all parents - hjow to warn children against men like George without unduly alarming them. "We feel (children) must be on guard against strangers, but we also know that it is dangerous to plant fears in a child's mind." The Cathcart family, neighbours of the Merrimans, are the first to warn Nell's parents that she has been playing truant from school and meeting a strange man in the park. These parts were played by James Maxwell and Phyllidia Law. The part of their daughter, Nell's friend, was played by Therese McMurray. Also starring were Wiloughby Gray as Clive Merriman and June Brown as Freda. Presented by ATV as part of the Television Playhouse strand. The programme was broadcast on Friday 8th April 1960 at 9:35pm.

THE MOVE AFTER CHECKMATE (1966)

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Show Image "I've waited 27 years to get Sellman and tonight I've got him...because I've got his son." Michael Crawford is caught between two long-time adversaries who use him as a pawn in their grudge fight in this Play of the Week presentation from May 1966. On either side of him are Donald Pleasence and Peter Vaughan as the old enemies. Pleasence plays a police chief into whose hands the boy falls. Vaughan plays the boy's ex-gangster father. Crawford had recently been awarded the title of Most Promising Actor of the Year by the Variety Club of Great Britain for his performances as an acid tongued, scooter-riding mod, on television and for his part in the London stage play Travelling Light. The Move After Checkmate was a departure for Crawford and was far removed from the comedy parts that he was already gaining a reputation for. Here he plays Tony Sellman, a public schoolboy who, after a few drinks, crashes his Jaguar and seriously injures his girlfriend. Superintendent Smith recognises his name. Tony's father is a successful business-man - but 27 years earlier he was a gangster known as "Big Tony." Smith believes the father responsible for three killings which were previously filed as unsolved cases. Unable to prove Tony's guilt back then, Smith sees an opportunity to fulfil an ambition that has been something of an obsession for years and works single-mindedly to finally get his man. Sellman senior reverts to his old ways and begins getting together a mob of thugs...It was the first time that Donald Pleasence and Peter Vaughan had appeared together in leading parts even though they had shared a flat in Bayswater in the days when they began their acting careers. The Move After Checkmate, written by Barry England and also starred Derren Nesbitt and John Woodvine was an Anglia production broadcast at 940pm on Monday 2nd May, 1966 and was directed by Alvin Rakoff. Producer was John Jacobs.

A NIGHT OUT (1960)

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Show Image Albert Stokes finds himself perpetually fighting the dominance of women, not least of all his possessive widowed mother (Madge Ryan) who "wears him down with constant rebukes about her loneliness and by her endless questioning." Albert plans a night out against her wishes. At an office party he is involved in an embarrassing incident which leads to a more eventful evening than he had bargained for. Tom Bell starred as Albert with Jose Read (left of picture) as Joyce and Maria Lennard (right of picture) as Eileen, the two girls he meets at the party. Produced by Sydney Newman and shown at 9.05pm on Sunday 24 April 1960 under the ABC Armchair Theatre strand, A Night Out was the first Harold Pinter play to be written especially for television. Using his stage name of David Baron, Pinter appeared in his play as Seeley, one of Albert's fellow insurance clerks. Also in the cast as Mr King was Arthur Lowe. Directed by Philip Saville. An ABC Television Network Production.

1984 (1954)

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Show Image During the early days of the infancy of British dramatic television, perhaps no single play illustrated the fledgling mediums hitherto unsuspected power to shock and galvanise an entire nation than the BBC's original live production of novelist George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. With great foresight, the BBC had purchased the television rights to Nineteen Eighty-Four soon after its publication in 1949, although it wasn't until 1953 that the first scripted version was ordered by then BBC Head of Drama Michael Barry from writer Hugh Faulks. In spite of Faulks' pedigree, and the fact that he had worked the script in consultation with Orwell's widow, Sonia, when Barry appointed producer Rudolph Cartier to oversee the project it was Cartier's choice to turn to 'Quatermass' creator Nigel Kneale for the finished version. Whether or not Cartier was unhappy with Faulks' script is not known but Cartier certainly had good reason to feel confident in asking Kneale for a rewrite, as the two of them had worked together the previous year on 'The Quatermass Experiment,' which had been greatly received by critics and public alike. Originally the television presentation was planned to go out in April 1954, but both Cartier's and Neil's late arrival pushed the date back to early December.

Cast in the leading role of Winston Smith was the young Peter Cushing, already coming to notice in a number of smaller television productions such as 'Anastasia,' this was one of Peter's first major roles. And his performance only enhanced his growing reputation. Winston Smith is a member of the Outer Party, who works in the Ministry of Truth, rewriting history to accord with the Party Line. Throughout the course of the story, Smith's gradual unease at his work slowly transforms into dissatisfied dissent as he enters into a forbidden love affair with a co-worker, Julia. But tragically, both his love and his blossoming individual aspirations brand him as a "thought criminal" in the omniscient, strictly regimented eyes of the all-powerful Party regime, and in the bleak and unremittingly grim and hopeless world depicted by Orwell and his adaptors, there is no room for hope, nor happy endings. Rebellious tendencies are crushed out of hand, and the spark of individualism is casually snuffed out without question or pity. In his introduction to the drama in Radio Times, prior to its transmission, Nigel Kneale wrote: 'Orwell guessed at a final evil to consolidate all others - the abolition of ideas through the destruction of words to express them.' However, Kneale's forewarning of the bleakness of the play did nothing to dilute the public reaction following its airing. Many viewers complained about the horrific and upsetting nature of the content. One viewer, according to the Daily Express, was so shocked, that she collapsed and died as she watched. In an interview with the same newspaper, Rudolph Cartier defended the production, stating defiantly that: "Our job was to shake, and if we have succeeded in shaking half of the nation then we have done the job we set out to do. It was right and wise to put this terrible vision before the largest possible audience - as a warning against totalitarianism in all its forms."

Political reaction, on the other hand, was divided. Five MP's tabled a motion in the House of Commons deploring "the tendency, evident in recent British Broadcasting Corporation television programmes, notably on Sunday evenings, to pander to sexual and sadistic tastes". In spite of calls to abandon a second staging four days later on 16th December (TV shows were not regularly taped in the early 1950's and repeat showings often had to be re-stagings), the BBC Board of Governors stood firm voting in favour of a second performance. The furore and advanced publicity ensured that the Corporation had its biggest audience since the previous year's broadcast of the Coronation with seven million viewers tuning in. (A remarkable number considering ITV was still a year away and ownership of television sets in Britain at the time was still in the minority range). However, when it became clear what an important piece of drama this was, the BBC arranged for a telerecording to be made of the second performance and it is this (and not the original) that survives in the archives to this day. Stark, grim, downbeat, yet a triumphant early indication of the power of television fiction when handled with intelligence, integrity, commitment, and most importantly talent, Nineteen Eighty-Four was one of the great early high-water marks of a medium which would go on to produce examples of the single drama that would, quite literally, help change the face of contemporary society. (Co-writer: Stephen R. Hulse)

NOAH GIVES THANKS (1952)

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Noah Gives Thanks Described in The Television Annual for 1953 as a 'Slight' play, Eric Crozier's Noah Gives Thanks, at 60 minutes, was shorter than the usual television play length at that time. Noah, Sarah and Jeremiah live quietly in the old almshouses. Noah's 70th birthday is due to coincide with a visit from the Bishop and for the occassion, using his own savings and ingenuity he plans for the Memorial Chapel to be decorated with as many fruits, flowers and produce of the earth as he can muster. Broadcast live on 22 January, with no telerecording having been made, it was repeated at the request of viewers at a time when the Beeb was finding it difficult to select appropriate programmes due to the fact that the country was in mourning with King George VI lying in state. On both occasions Noah Gives Thanks caused what the 1953 TV annual describes as a 'furore'. "The BBC was bombarded with letters of enthusiastic appreciation and gratitude for this simple yet moving piece of drama; but the greater part of the bombardment fell on Herbert Lomas", the actor who played the part of Noah (pictured centre). At 66 years of age and a veteran actor of some forty years Lomas said "I have never known such fan-mail." Pictured with Herbert Lomas in a scene from the play are Mary Jerrold and Beckett Bould. Also in the cast, in one of his earliest TV roles, was Deryck Guyler.

NUMBER THREE (1953)

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The play that possibly inspired the Quatermass series. A Nigel Kneale adaptation of a stage play concerning nuclear scientists faced with a terrible dilemma. Click Here for review.