It is 1915. Young Annie Hudd, in spite of her family's jeers, is determined to go to France to help the wounded soldiers. She is to suffer many setbacks before her ambition to become a nurse is realised. Thomas Hardy argued that "war makes rattling good history" - and in choosing four plays about the First World War, grouped together under the title For King and Country, ITV claimed it was combining history with entertainment. The plays reflected the phases and feelings of the four bitter years with their devastating new methods of warfare, disastrous casualties and sweeping social changes. In a war that for the first time moved into the air, brought tanks and gas into battlefield, endangered civilian populations and effectively, lastingly changed the role of women in the life of the nation, there was much for artists, poets, dramatists to pass on to prosperity.
The series started in the first week of August 1963-49 years after that fateful week of 1914 when Britain's declaration of war against Germany on the 4th set racing a fever of patriotism and urgent recruiting drive. In the first, buoyant phase we see in Out There by Irish born American dramatist J. Hartley Manners, who started his career on the English stage and reached his peak with "Peg O' My Heart." Manners wife, Laurette Taylor, originally played both Peg and the heroine of Out There, Annie Hudd-the part taken in this production by Jennie Linden. The play concerns Annie's driving determination to do her bit for the war effort and her ambition to get to France, where, with the help of Dr. Hanwell (Frank Gatliff) she is able to work in a hospital. Later she embarks on a fiercely patriotic drive, having already pressed into uniform her reluctant brother, Herbert Hudd (James Bolam). 23-year old Linden was born after the outbreak of the Second World War and was tucked safely away in Wales with her mother and sister until it was over. "So I don't remember a thing about bombs or fighting," she said, "and really until I saw the script and started to ask around I knew nothing of the First World War." On her part Jennie said: "Annie is plain and, well normally perhaps I look rather flouncy blonde, so I have a brown wig with a bun-marvellous. It makes me look entirely different and helps a lot with the part. Also among the cast were Christopher Beeny, Jack Woolgar, Joan Hickson, Fulton MacKay and the part of the 'Canadian' was played by Donald Sutherland. Other plays in the "For King and Country short series: Part Two-The Barricade Part Three-Tunnel Trench Part Four-The Enemy
Frederick James Parsons is a fanatical, dedicated, sincere; with his willing but slow-witted accomplice, Harry Warblow, he has planned a crime so sensational that it will surely call world-wide attention to his aims. Confidently he sets the wheels in motion, and then events take charge. Peace With Terror, first of the new Television Playhouse series which was broadcast on Friday 21st September 1962, had originally been scheduled for a June showing. But ITV decided that Peter Cushing's performance was so strong and the production more suitable for a weekday rather than Sunday night, that is was decided to hold it over. Cushing himself said at the time, "I had lots of letters, and many kind people stopping me in the street, asking where I'd got to that Sunday that I felt quite guilty." Cushing plays Parsons, a text-quoting religious fanatic who heads a far-out sect called The Union for Peace. With the help of a hired accomplice, Harry Warblow (Brian Wilde), he evolves a sort of latter-day "Gunpowder Plot." But his objective is to blow up, not Parliament, but the War Office. There, he believes, lurk the "war-mongers"-and only by killing them off can he hope to preserve the peace of the world. Peace With Terror was an ATV Network Production. Sheila Manahan also starred as Alice Parsons. The play was produced by Quentin Lawrence. After it finished at 1045pm ITV transmitted the first of a brand new programme in which teams of students from all over Britain met in a contest of general knowledge: University Challenge.
The world of beautiful women and fashion photographers-what happens when a girl from the country arrives in London and finds herself out of her depth? In Kenneth Jupp's play, Robert Stephens plays fictional top fashion photographer Bryan Baker, whose pictures influence thousands of women, just as he could also influence, mould and make famous a model whose looks might capture his imagination. One model in particular, until her suicide three weeks earlier, was Joanne, the girl currently on nearly every hoarding and magazine cover and, in Baker's studio, in a huge portrait he comes across as he finishes work for the day. Clearly the portrait disturbs him, and Baker's assistant Gerry (Derek Jacobi) and secretary, Anne (Mary Miller), are anxious on his behalf. For already his life of nervous tension is telling. The work may have an aura of glamour but, contrary to popular belief it's a world of hard grind. It is an alien world to Grace (Susannah York), Joanne's sister, a shy country school teacher who arrives to see Baker. Grace is fascinated by the influence Baker had on her sister's life and wants to see for herself this strange, highly charged environment that had been her sister's making-and undoing. Authenticity was given to the play by having the then current top London fashion model, (and later 'Vogue' cover girl) Paulene Stone appear in the opening scene (being photographed by Baker) and the play's author, Kenneth Jupp, knew the fashion scene well as his own wife, Amercian Debbie Condon, the daughter of Richard Condon, who wrote 'The Manchurian Candidate,' was a top fashion model at the time. She too was seen in the play, though not in person. The portrait of Joanne was Debbie, photographed by world-renowned photographer Norman Eales. Similarities were drawn to the 1966 Antonioni movie 'Blowup' but Jupp was quick to point out that he wrote The Photographer before Blow Up was made. Produced by Anglia Television The Photographer also starred Cyril Luckham, Veronica Carlson, David Nettheim and Hoima MacDonald (the first Cadbury's Flake girl). Broadcast on Thursday 29th January 1968 at 8.30pm as part of ITV's Playhouse strand.
A group of building workers have one thing in common - their dreams for the future. Tom wants to move with his wife to a "superior" neighbourhood; Nipper longs for a beautiful girlfriend; and Paddy thinks only of returning to his native Ireland. But Ken, the foreman, is cruelly determined to make them see that their dreams can never be fulfilled.
Four building labourers are toiling on a London site. It is not a big, exciting construction job, just a conversion-dirty, boring work. They are disgruntled and preoccupied with their various ambitions. Tom (William Hartnell) has been building his own house in his spare time; Larry (Bryan Pringle) wants to become a salesman; Paddy (Paul Farrell) has been trying to save money to return to Ireland; and Nipper (Dudley Sutton), the tea boy, day-dreams about success with women. Their foreman (Robert Shaw) is an unpleasant man, unable to get his teams respect. So, in the guise of a realist, he mocks each worker, attempts to destroy their dreams and never loses an opportunity to tell them that only he will succeed and become a guv'nor.
Author Patrick Hughes knows the background intimately. Although writing is his great interest, he also works as an architect. "When I was a student I worked on building sites as part of my training," he said. "I would like to issue bouquets to the cast, director and designer for making the play look so authentic." In fact, the fulfilment of an ambition is a subject that touches Hughes personally. In 1958 Hughes gave up architecture to write, and said at the time: "I had to give up architecture, even though I knew I was risking my future. I don't yet earn as much money as I used to, but I'm a much happier man." Now he is back in architecture, writing mostly at night. "But I've written another three plays and I think one of them, a comedy, is likely to be presented on ITV fairly soon," he added.
The parts of Tom and the foreman mean welcome changes in their usual roles for William Hartnell and Robert Shaw. "Tom is a thoroughly sympathetic, decent bloke," said Hartnell, "different from the hard military type. It looks as though I may be going back into uniform for my next part, but I've had a break from the Army lately (Hartnell had just given up his long-running role of CSM Percy Bullimore in The Army Game). I was a merchant seaman in Probation Officer a few weeks ago. It's been nice to show that I am not a chap who can play only sergeants." Robert Shaw made his name on ITV as the swashbuckling hero Dan Tempest in The Buccaneers series. He prefers the sympathetic parts, "But I've have played a few villains and enjoy the change." The wickedness of the foreman is enhanced through being played with a veneer of friendliness. Shaw recently achieved his ambition to be a successful writer. "I wrote a number of plays and even had one of them performed at the Arts Theatre. It got some good notices. But I don't consider any of my plays to be good," he said. "I tried a novel, 'The Hiding place', and it's made a good deal of money-a huge success here and it got enthusiastic notices in America."
Paul Farrell (Paddy) is a Dubliner who divides his time between Ireland and England. He started work as a civil servant, achieved his ambition to become an actor at the age of 24, since he has played in all the famous Irish theatres and appeared in many TV plays and films. Bryan Pringle (Larry) is the son of a Bolton vicar. He started his acting career at the age of 17 when he went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art "with the intention of winning a Gold Medal." And he did. Dudley Sutton, who is some 10 years older than the part he plays, is also a former student of the Academy. He has been seen in such TV programmes as Knight Errant and Shadow Squad. His ambition: "To write a good comedy series for television." A Place of My Own was a Television Playhouse presentation made by Granada as a TV Network Production. Directed by James Ormerod, it was broadcast at 9.35 pm on Friday 17 June 1960. (Original TV Times article. June 1960)
Kicking off a new season of ABC Armchair Theatre on 23rd July, 1966 was William Marchant's television adaptation of Noel Coward's short story Pretty Polly Barlow starring Lynn Redgrave as an ugly duckling who only later turns into a most possessing young swan. Redgrave shackled her natural charms to start off the play as a very plain girl indeed. This is when she sets off on a cruise as a much bullied companion to her rich and obnoxious aunt (Dandy Nichols). Her aunt's untimely death in Singapore, however, releases Polly, and with great presence of mind in the circumstances, she pockets her aunt's jewels and ready cash and starts to have the time of her life. With the help of Singaporean travel courier Amaz (Zia Mohyeddin), she begins the transformation by exchanging her spectacles for lenses. The result is spectacular - as confirmed by her immoral Uncle Bob (Donald Houston) who joins her for the funeral from his up-country plantation. The following year the story was transferred to the big screen (also titled A Matter of Innocence) starring Hayley Mills in the title role with Trevor Howard as the uncle. The story editor on the TV production was Terence Feely, Leonard White produced and the director was Bill Bain. This was an ABC Weekend Network Production.
The rich and attractive Lady Pruella writes to a marriage bureau for a husband and a most surprising candidate turns up... Comedy play centred round a three-times married titled woman with a history of drinking, Lady Pruella Baynton, played by Ann Todd, and Walter Adge, a veteran Able Seaman with a lower-deck vocabulary, played by Colin Blakey. A marriage bureau has brought them together, and the play opens with Walter's arrival at Lady Pruella's Gibraltar villa. There he meets the predictable hostility of the other residents of the villa - Lord Baynton, Pruella's eccentric last husband (played by Stephen Murray), Starkey, her current constant companion (Terence Alexander) and Pud, Baynton's 21-year old daughter by another marriage (Frances White). The play was written for Armchair Theatre by Alun Richards, who had a naval background. Ann Todd had made numerous appearances in TV plays but this was only her second appearance in two years. The other was the Love Story production Phyllis Hammond Died Here which was broadcast the previous October. Todd admitted that she would have liked to have done more television but was constantly busy travelling to make documentaries for her own production company. One reviewer remarked on Ready for the Glory; "this was first class entertainment, brisk, revealing dialogue, good situations, splendidly cast and sensitively acted." Ready for the Glory was produced by Leonard White, directed by Jonathan Alwyn. An ABC Television production. Broadcast on Saturday 8th January, 1966 between 10.05 and 11.05pm.
Most people are quite happy talking about life, but try to avoid living it. They need home and security so they can sit in comfort and talk about life-a roof over their mouths. Spicy comedy by Peter Draper starring Moira Redmond as Dany, an actress married to Robert, an accountant (Peter Barkworth). Dany is having an affair with Luke, a film director (played by Corin Redgrave of the talented Redgrave family). He is married to Jacqueline (Jennifer Hilary). The two men - strangers to each other - meet by chance and talk. Robert is fascinated to hear of Luke's love life and even envies him, not realising that it is Dany of whom Luke is talking about. At the same time, Dany and Jacqueline, also strangers, meet by chance... A Roof Over Our Mouths (The Game the Whole Family can play) was produced by Cecil Clarke and directed by Graham Evans. (Pictured above Redmond and Redgrave). Broadcast at 9.40pm (until 11.00pm) on Thursday 12th January 1967 on the ATV Network.
The end of a summer; pale sky; white sand; a small tent - enter small, immaculate, dapper Teddy singing "By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea!" Not the beginning of a musical but of Molly Kazan's comedy Rosemary. Teddy Varney (John Meillon) and his wife, Flo (Angela Douglas), do the rounds of American vaudeville theatres with their not-so-good song-and-dance act. From their conversation we gather they have decided to have some photos taken on the beach because, as Teddy says: "This'll be something new." (The time, 1910). A natural setting. Teddy and Flo have just had a daughter-Rosemary, whom we never see - and, as they talk on the beach they begin to argue about what to do with the baby while on tour. The Varneys are overheard by a young woman on the beach. When Teddy goes off to change into his stage clothes for the photos, Flo gets into conversation with the woman, Mrs Kittel (Maggie Fitzgibbon), a fighter for women's rights. She sides with Flo that they should take the baby on tour with them to Pittsburgh. While Flo changes, Teddy in turn talks to Mrs Kittel's German-born husband, Herman (George Murcell), who believes that women should be kept in their place. He agrees to take the photos, but Teddy is none too pleased when Herman starts ordering him about. And it is this interference that, in a curious way, settles the Varney's argument. Molly Kazan was an American dramatist and playwright who sadly passed away (aged 56), following a cerebral hemorrhage, in December of 1963 - just 10 months after the play was televised.
Angela Douglas, who gained her first on-screen credit in a 1958 episode of Dixon of Dock Green, apeared in numerous British TV shows, but is probably best remembered for her appearances in four Carry On films, namely Carry On Cowboy, Carry On Screaming, Follow That Camel and Carry On Up The Khyber. Australian actress and singer Maggie Fitzgibbon became a popular face on British television as Vivienne Cooper in the TV series The Newcomers which ran from 1965 to 1969. Like Fitzgibbon, John Meillon was an Australian character actor. He became known internationally as Walter Reilly in the two Crocodile Dundee films. George Murcell went on to develop a career playing snarling villains in both film and television, specialising in playing foreign characters, including Germans, Russians and South Americans. A number of these roles came from the stable of ITC, which created some of the best known adventure series of the 1960s and 1970s, including Danger Man, The Baron, The Saint, The Champions, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), The Persuaders!, and Jason King. Rosemary was shown on the ITV Network on Sunday 10 February 1963 (some regions may vary). It was shown as part of the Drama 63 strand and was an ATV Network Production.
SAKI, THE IMPROPER STORIES OF H. H. MUNRO (1962)
Lester is a charming young man but an extremely timid one. Click Here for review
Patrick McGoohan and John Thaw star in this television adaptation of John Arden's intense, powerful play, initially screened in 1961 as a Granada Play of the Week and adapted by Arden himself. Set against a background of nineteenth-century imperialist conflict, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance is acknowledged as one of the most important works to explore the futility of ever-escalating revenge cycles and the dehumanisation of war. In a performance considered one of his finest, McGoohan brings typical intensity to the character of Musgrave, whose maniacal attempt to confront a horrified town with the realities of war lies at the heart of the play. Recently revived to huge acclaim in a new stage production, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance now has a timely release in DVD format - deservedly bringing this vital and compelling work to a wider audience. Serjeant Musgrave and his small band of men arrive in an impoverished northern coal town, ostensibly on a recruiting drive; it is also suspected that they have been dispatched to break up a strike. But Musgrave and his men are deserters, traumatised by atrocities witnessed in a nameless colonial conflict. They have brought with them the body of Billy Hicks, a soldier from the town who has been killed overseas. Musgrave is tormented by remorse over Hick's death, and the killing of five men in a reprisal by British forces. Now, insisting that his actions are sanctioned by the same divinely unimpeachable logic, he holds the snow-bound town hostage. Mirroring the calculated brutality of cyclical conflict, he orders the execution of 25 townsmen - five further deaths for each of the five. (Network DVD)
Seven self-contained plays by different writers - each featuring one of the sins categorised by the founders of the Christian Church as "deadly." Lists of the seven vary. But for the TV series the sins were avarice, envy, gluttony, lust, pride, sloth and wrath. Each play had a touch of suspense about it but viewers were left to speculate on the sins concerned as each play unfolded - only discovering if they made the right guess as the final credits rolled. Series producer Peter Willes told TV Times in 1966; "The treatment varies from comedy to drama and the plays make no pretension to being morality plays or parables. The object is to intrigue and entertain." Among the stars who appeared were Alan Dobie, Robin Bailey, Nigel Stock, Patrick Allen, Reginald Marsh and (at that time) pop singer Adam Faith. Contributing writers included Alun Falconer and Joe Orton (acclaimed for his Entertaining Mr. Sloane and Loot). Willes followed up the series a year later with the similarly titled Seven Deadly Virtues.
When 1966's Seven Deadly Sins proved popular with viewers, series producer Peter Willes decided to repeat the idea the following year. The series followed a similar format as the previous one with viewers deciding which virtue they were witnessing before the answer was revealed in the closing credits. The choice they had were justice, prudence, temperance, courage (standing in for fortitude in this series) as well as faith, hope and charity. Peter Willes told the TV Times article writer Sarah Snow; "Most people will agree that the so-called Seven Deadly Sins have changed their character over the centuries, and their words and meaning. Similarly, looking at the virtues, aren't these perhaps all a bit deadlier than they seem?" Writers included David Hopkins, Leo Lehman, Joe Orton, Bill MacIlwraith and Bill Naughton (author of the films Alfie and The Family Way). Actors included Donald Houston and Adrienne Corri (pictured in the first tale Any Number Can Play).
A pearl trader and a priest-both fighting for the use of the same hall-one for a casino, the other for a church. Rose becomes the unwilling pawn in this battle between sacred and profane in a small Australian town. A lively comedy set in a remote corner of Australia rounded off Armchair Theatre's summer season in 1962. Bruce Stewart, a New Zealander who wrote and acted for many years in Australia before coming to Britain in 1956, chose Wangaree, a dusty, down-at-heel town in the North-West, as the scene for his play The Sin Shifter. Wangaree, once a prominent pearling centre, has run out of oysters. Its population, a hotch-potch of white Australians, Japanese and natives, has dwindled. But the town hall still stands. And Stewart's gusty story tells of the struggle for its possession between a pearl fisherman and a Roman Catholic priest. The pearler, Manny Barnes (Patrick Wymark), wants to convert the hall into a gambling den. But Father Brady (James Maxwell), a newcomer to the town, has secured it on a seven-year lease and set up a church there. It looks as if Manny's hopes of making the hall into a casino, with girls and over-proof whisky, are doomed. Unless, that is, he can outwit and discredit the priest, which, with the help of his girlfriend Rose (Lisa Peake), he promptly sets out to do. For Patrick Wymark, who up until that time, had built his reputation primarily on Shakespearian comic roles, the Australian part was as good as a holiday. "I've never had such a good change," he told the TV Times back in 1962. Of his role as the priest, James Maxwell said: "He's human and not very good at his job. But he is devoted to it." The cast also included Harry Towb, Gordon Sterne, John Tate, Bettina Dickson, Key Wayne, Ruth Porcher, Denise Barker. Alan Cooke directed and the producer was Sydney Newman. Broadcast on Sunday 16th September 1962 at 935pm and lasted 60 minutes.
One of the earliest examples of sci-fi drama to be screened by BBC television, this one-hour adaptation of H.G. Wells' masterpiece of Science Fiction literature was originally broadcast as far back as 1949. Dramatised by Robert Barr who also had to act as script editor, producer and director, the programme was transmitted live from Studio A at Alexander Palace from 8.30pm to 9.30pm on 25th January. The story opens in the living room of a late Victorian House where a young man (Russell Napier) is entertaining some dinner guests when talk gets around to time travel. The young man informs his friends that he has invented a machine capable of crossing the boundaries of time, and when they become sceptical he takes them through to his laboratory to see the machine he has built. His friends leave unconvinced and on their departure the young man, left alone in the house, activates the device. The room lightens and darkens and the hands of a clock on the wall move forward so quickly that they eventually become nothing but a blur. Eventually the man stops the machine and finds himself in front of a strange monument. The dials on the Time Machine indicate that the year is 802,701 AD. After a number of misadventures in which the time traveller encounters a female by the name of Weena (Mary Donn), her people (called the Eloi) and the Morlocks, he finally sets off again in the machine, travelling even further forward in time until he witnesses an eclipse by another planet, blocking out the sun and signalling the end of the world. The traveller puts his machine into reverse and returns to his laboratory, not sure if what he witnessed was real or a dream. As he fills his pipe he puts his hand in his pocket for a match and pulls out a flower given to him by the girl. He says softly, "Weena..." and the picture fades.
Barr's adaptation was more faithful to the original novel (written in 1895) than George Pal's 1960 movie featuring Rod Taylor in the lead role. Unlike Pal, though, Barr would was without latter day techniques in special effects and it was down to designer Barry Learoyd to make the most of the limited resources that were available and use them to their absolute limits. The traveller's thoughts, which were required in several scenes, were actually recorded onto a 78rpm disc and one of the first uses of 'back projection' was brought into effect. It must have been a daunting undertaking for Barr, but as he most perceptively said in an earlier interview, "faint heart never made good television." Rehearsals took place prior to transmission at 31 Beaumont Mews from January 11th to 22nd, and when the live broadcast finally went out it was received by the viewing public as both 'too weird and impossible to enjoy it' or 'a marvellous technological achievement in escapism.' Reaction was good enough for a revised production to be transmitted at 9.15pm on Monday 21st February 1949. Unfortunately, apart from a few photographs, the original script and an article in the 'Radio Times,' (TV shows were not preserved in any great number until the 1950's), nothing else remains of this historic adaptation of Wells' novel.
Life in the Royal Flying Corps seems pleasant enough to young Bill St. Aubyn as he basks in the French sun. But when an important offensive is mounted, he is suddenly faced with the grim reality of war. France, September 1918. Still British blood spills pitifully, pointlessly into the mud of battle. This is the setting for Tunnel Trench, the third in the series of four plays about the first world war called For King and Country. In the play dramatic critic and writer Hubert Griffith -who died in 1953, aged 56- pulls no punches. His play opens on the eve of a battle - a big British push with a German Tunnel Trench as one of its first objectives. We see three aspects of the battle. The Royal Flying Corps squadron is having a fairly clean war. In the words of an observer, Bill St. Aubyn (Robert Morris), they are "drugged with the fun and excitement of it." St. Aubyn's younger brother, Ronny (Nicholas Pennell) is an infantry private in the same action. But his war is grime, vermin and barbed wire, mud, dugouts and duckboards. Fighting the war on yet another level, we see the General Staff Officers, with Major Digby (David Burke) in liaison with the flying boys. Starting with the R.F.C. briefing, with St. Aubyn and his pilot, Lieut. Smith (Michael Bangerter), detailed for the first patrol - the play follows the attack, spanning the first day's action. Also among the cast were Michael Robbins (On The Buses) and Frank Thornton (Are You Being Served?). The play was directed by Derek Bennett and produced by Gerald Savory. Here is an excerpt from The Telegraph critique: 'The sincerity of the play has clearly infected the Granada people. It was handsomely mounted and tautly directed; the honesty of Robert Morris's and Michael Bangerter's playing carried off the dated sentimentality of the relationship between the central characters.' See links and picture icons below for an interview with Michal Bangerter and some unique pictures from this production. Other plays in the For King and Country short series: Part One-Out There Part Two-The Barricade Part Four-The Enemy
Peter Wildeblood's adaptation of Laurence Housman's Victoria Regina was broadcast in 1964 as four individual plays and starred Patricia Routledge who portrayed four ages of the monarch. Unlike other TV portrayals of Britain's kings and queens up to that time Victoria Regina was not a stuffy and glorious tribute but the story of a self-willed, obstinate and imperious woman. Housman's 1934 play, a collection of more than 30 short plays, was banned from public performance in the UK as being too disrespectful. And when, eventually, the Lord Chamberlain granted a licence it was at the request of Edward VIII. By that time it had played 517 performances in New York with Helen Hayes as the Queen. In London the first public stage production was at the Lyric Theatre in Shaftsbury Avenue on 21 June 1937 - the 100th anniversary of Victoria's ascension. Speaking to TV Times in 1964 Peter Wildeblood drew attention to the differences between that stage production and this television presentation. "When the television production was first mooted I discovered that the stage version leaves out all the part that is the most fascinating-Housman's somewhat satirical view of Victoria. Now that we are using twice the material seen in the theatre, I think what we have is fresh, sometimes funny and, at the same time, occasionally very moving."
35-year old Patricia Routledge had already made a name for herself with West End stage work in revues and musicals. Cast alongside her as Prince Albert was English speaking German actor Joachim Hansen who was flown in from Munich for the role. Also seen were Max Adrian as Disraeli and Geoffrey Dunn as the Archbishop of Canterbury. The episodes chosen by Wildeblood marked the milestones in Victoria's career, starting when she came to the throne at the age of 18 in 1837, covering her choice of Prince Albert as consort, his death of typhoid in 1861, and ending at her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Wildeblood's selection from Houseman's material showed this extraordinarily complex, emotional and forceful woman, with all her prejudices and her unconstitutional behaviour.
(Adapted from original TV Times (1964) article by Sarah Snow).
THE WAR OF DARKIE PILBEAM (1968)
Because of war-time rationing Britain, from 1939-1945, was a spiv's paradise, with rich pickings to be made from under the counter deals in "little luxuries", like eggs and bacon and silk stockings. The War of Darkie Pilbeam, a trilogy of plays set in the North of England during the Second World War, is about such a spiv. Darkie Pilbeam (played by Trevor Bannister) is a black marketeer with outsized suit, enormous ties and a fedora hat. The series was written by Tony Warren, the creator of Coronation Street.
Warren based his character on a real-life spiv he'd seen in a shrapnel blasted box office in Manchester during the War, as he explained to readers of the TV Times back in 1968. "In my blitz-ridden childhood, the area leading down to the Manchester docks was locally dubbed the Barbary Coast. For me it was a place of dark and wicked drama. It consisted of two theatres, a market, a sometimes fairground, and the knowledge that this was where the spivs conducted strict cash black market deals in shop doorways. I first saw Darkie Pilbeam pinning an undersized lady into an extra-outsize coat. His suit had shoulders reminiscent of sandbags. His fedora hat was pristine white, and all I can remember the lady wearing was something drab and a scared expression-which was understandable for the enterprise was taking place in the remains of the box office of a bombed out cinema." Christine Hargreaves (Marie Pilbeam), John Barrett (Toddy Bartholomew) and Lynne Carol (Mrs Cloth)A Granada film crew travelled across the North of England filming at various locations. Residents of Albert Square in Manchester saw their familiar surroundings sandbagged and adorned with cars of the period but a number of people were left confused as Blackpool Promenade had its railings covered with barbed wire as sentries gazed out to sea. "I had to reassure a quaking lady that it was not the real thing" Warren told TV Times. "I don't think she believed me for, as she fled, her quivering finger was pointing in the direction of a sad trail of evacuees." Even Warren found the scenes of the children being led along moving. "To see them, luggage labels around their necks left me slightly shaken. Our director, Richard Everett, had reproduced scenes which I had witnessed in my childhood."
The War of Darkie Pilbeam showed how the fires of Britain's 1939-45 Home Front were kept burning by the women of Britain. And in particular on how the Pilbeam family were affected. The three dramas were set at different times of the War with each episode title indicating which - the first episode was Phase 1 - September 1939, followed by Phase II - June 1942 set at the height of the war. Phase III - August 1945 met up with the family as the War was over and looked at the effects it had on the Pilbeam family. Some emerged triumphantly whilst others only with bitterness. For Darkie, it signalled the end of a golden era which would never occur again. Also appearing in the series (although not together) were Julie Goodyear and Roy Barraclough who, some years later, were to team up as husband and wife (Bet and Alec Gilroy) in Tony Warren's Coronation Street. Lynne Carol, who played Mrs Cloth, had been in Corrie for almost 4 years from the very start as Martha Longhurst. (Adapted from original TV Times articles.)
THE WAR GAME (1965)
One of the most controversial films ever made for television and banned from British screens for almost twenty years. CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW
Now regarded as a shining light of British television's golden age, The Wednesday Play is often held up as the perfect example of the impact that television had on a generation of viewers, and just how much that impact has diminished in more recent years. The series was created at the behest of Sydney Newman (see TV Greats), the head of BBC Drama, in an attempt to save the one-off play from extinction on the BBC's premier channel in the light of poor ratings and a 1964 BBC Audience Research Department survey, which reported that the corporation's stock was at its lowest for eight years, due in no small part to 'the relative unpopularity of the plays'. Newman had already scored outstanding success on ATV with Armchair Theatre and changed the face of the televised drama in the UK. "At the time, I found this country to be somewhat class-ridden." Newman recalled in an interview. "The only legitimate theatre was of the 'anyone for tennis' variety, which, on the whole, presented a condescending view of working-class people." In September 1963 Newman had launched First Night, a series of new plays written especially for television. Alun Owen's 'The Strain' and Simon Raven's 'The Scapegoat' were among the notable dramas produced. Then in spring 1964, Newman, who had been in the process of restructuring the BBC's drama department, appointed Scots director James MacTaggart as producer of the new BBC-1 play slot. MacTaggart's previous work on earlier experimental play strands, Storyboard (1961) and Teletale (1963) had impressed Newman greatly, and he was the type of person that the drama chief would put his trust in.
Newman's brief was for a series of plays that would be relevant to the lives of a mainstream popular audience, using the talents of fresh new writers to television. The first Wednesday Play premiered on 28th October 1964 with 'A Crack in the Ice' by Nikolai Leskov, shortly after which MacTaggart appointed as his story editor a young writer and actor who he had worked with on Teletale: Roger Smith. It was the first script commissioned for MacTaggart and Smith in January 1965 that set the tone for what would follow. Written by a convicted murderer (James O'Connor), 'A Tap on the Shoulder' was representative of the series as a whole as it broke the convention of TV plays as the audience had been used to seeing them. Where these plays were different was in their presentation as documentaries rather than straight dramas. Directors like Ken Loach, Jack Gold and others extended the scope of these productions by taking the drama out into the streets, away from the traditional studio artificiality, and thereby presenting the audience with a much starker realism that at times made them question if what they were watching was fact or fiction. Among the presentations were first time outings for authors such as Dennis Potter, John Hopkins, David Mercer, Jeremy Sandford, David Rudkin, Jim Allen, Tony Parker, Nell Dunn, and Colin Welland. The result was a series that had even greater impact than Armchair Theatre, with some Wednesday Play presentations going down in television history as some of the very best examples of the genre. Among these were Dennis Potter's 'Stand Up, Nigel Barton' and 'Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton' (1965), taking a wry look at politics; 'Up the Junction' (1965), Nell Dunn's vivid observation of working-class life in a south London community; 'Cathy Come Home' (1966), Jeremy Sandford's disturbing story about the inadequacy of the welfare system in Britain; 'The Lump' by Jim Allen (1967) about a bricklayer by trade, revolutionary by vocation and David Mercer's moving study of a schizophrenic young woman, 'In Two Minds' (1967). The plays courted controversy from the outset and became the target for 'Clean-Up TV' campaigner Mary Whitehouse, a move that simply boosted publicity and ratings as audience figures rose from one to eight million.
The Wednesday Play continued until the end of the decade producing a succession of memorable and sometimes shocking dramas. Interviewed years later, Sydney Newman attributed its success to James MacTaggart. "'The Wednesday Play' was the most popular single play series after 'Armchair Theatre.'" He said. "But what people forget is that it took me two bad years before it became a success. I simply changed the title of the series every year. Every time I had that single play slot on the BBC I gave the producers the same terms I followed on 'Armchair Theatre:' to dramatise the turning points in England today in the most dynamic way possible; murder, mysteries, comedies - every genre of drama possible to illuminate the country. The first year the guy botched it up to such an extent that those above wanted to kill the single play. The second year I gave it to someone else and he too messed it up and I had to fight like hell to keep it on the air. It wasn't until I found the right guy - Jimmy MacTaggart - that it was called 'The Wednesday Play' and it took off because we had the right dynamic and the other producers didn't. It was his show. I described what I wanted and he interpreted it his own way and did a great job. The producer is the spark-plug - if the show's no good get rid of the producer or tell the producer to change the show." But by the end of the decade it seems that the audience was growing tired of the stark realism depicted in these plays and accordingly viewing figures began to drop off. Newman's successor as Head of Drama, Shaun Sutton, attempted to save the series by shifting its emphasis and renaming it Play for Today. It was a wise move. Play for Today turned out to be, for the next fourteen years, another hugely successful series for the BBC, cementing its reputation for single dramas of the highest quality.
How many marriages are dying of boredom? How many couples are dragging out a dreary, meaningless existence because they have long ceased to care for each other - and haven't the initiative to do anything positive about saving their marriages? And in any case, what can be done about it?
These are the questions posed colourfully, succinctly, and often amusingly by Rhys Adrian's play The Weekenders, which stars Jennifer Wilson, Bryan Pringle and James Bolam (who is making his first ITV appearance since leaving drama school two years previous). The play is set in a seaside caravan camp, which is visited with monotonous regularity by the same married couples every weekend of the summer. Barbara Lott and Victor Platt as Anne and Jack Harrison, and Jennifer Wilson and Bryan Pringle as April and Frank, are two couples who have been meeting there regularly for years.
Their routine never varies. Kitchen chores for the women, while the men fetch the water and take a nap. A game of cards for the men and Bingo at the clubhouse for their wives. "For entertainment they cling to the old familiar things," said author Adrian. The emotional lives of both couples have also fallen into the same dull routine. They contrast sadly with the young lovers played by Keith Maidwell and Primula Pyne, who are obviously absorbed with each other. As Barbara Lott put it: "All four are horribly true to life. Everyone will recognise couples they know. Probably they didn't expect to fall into the habit of never smiling, or never saying a kind word to each other, and always being slightly aggrieved-but somehow it has happened." Said Jennifer Wilson: "After seven years of marriage, sheer boredom pushes April into having a drink with Johnny (James Bolam), one of the camp employees who has deliberately set out to pick her up. And one knows so well that April and Frank are typical of thousands who have forgotten why they ever married."
Angela (June Whitfield), whose husband is abroad, wakes to find she has been sharing a bed with a strange man. The lady's embarrassment is not eased when she discovers her bed-mate dead. Her first thought is to dial 999, but with the wild illogic that afflicts the mind in moments of crisis (at least in comic plays), she persuades herself that the police can be kept out of this. Her mother (Mona Washbourne), the genial Pete (popular musician Joe Brown) from Happy Housewives Cleaning Service, and fussy Mrs. Katapodis (Claire Davenport) conspire to dispose of the body. This was Charles Laurence's first play and also a new venture for Joe Brown, who was making his first drama appearance. The play was broadcast under the Armchair Theatre strand on 20 January 1969 at 8.30pm.
Roger Woodley is a shy and sensitive 18-year old schoolboy interested in poetry and literature, as well as games. He proves an easy target for his housemaster, Mr Simmons, who takes every opportunity to sneer at "our young poet." Among his friends, the other house-prefects, his shyness is respected. But when Mrs Simmons, the housemaster's young wife, becomes interested in his poetry, and even in him, he finds himself in a scandalous situation that could jeopardize his entire future. On 20 March 1960 Young Woodley was presented as part of BBC TV's Twentieth Century Theatre series. Jeremy Spenser played the title role of Young Woodley, John van Druten's first major success, and a play that made a tremendous impact on theatregoers of the 1920s. William Devlin played the housemaster, Mr Simmons, and Jane Wenham, Laura, his wife. Roger's father, Mr Woodley, was played by Arnold Bell. The schoolboys: Cope, Vining and Milner, were played by boy actors well-known to viewers at that time, Brendan Collins, Pearson Dodd and Michael Tennant. Ainger was played by Michael Bangerter, who was making his first television appearance; the part was offered to him as a result of a BBC TV audition. Michael Bangerter appeared in repertory at Horsham before going to R.A.D.A. The parlour maid was played by Anne Hudson.
Young Woodley was written in 1925 on train journeys between Rhyl and Aberystwyth when its twenty-four-year-old author was teaching law. Due to its controversial subject matter, about the bored wife of a school headmaster who falls in love with one of his pupils, Young Woodley was turned down by the Lord Chamberlain. The Theatres Act 1843 had given the Lord Chamberlain the statutory authority to prohibit the performance of plays where he was of the opinion that "it is fitting for the preservation of good manners, decorum or of the public peace so to do", and theatre owners could be prosecuted for staging a play (or part of a play) that had not received prior approval. As a result of this decision, Young Woodley had to travel far for its first production, finally being staged in New York in 1926. It was a major success in the United States and as a result, Van Druten moved there to work. The play was later produced at the Arts Theatre Club in London's Soho district, in February 1928, and following that, the Lord Chamberlain withdrew his objection. It was produced the following month at the Savoy Theatre, where it ran for over 400 performances, making a star of its lead Frank Lawton. In 1930 the play was adapted into a film by British International Pictures (although it did not receive critical approval). It was directed by Thomas Bentley with Lawton reprising his stage role. Stephen Harrison's BBC TV production was set in the year 1928, and this time round the play was well received by the press, and on the BBC's Third Programme (today's Radio 3). (Laurence Marcus and Michael Bangerter)