One of the truly invaluable online resources for film and television researchers is BFI Screenonline, an extensive collection of short essays and more about British media history. The ‘more’ includes film extracts and documents that are only accessible from a registered UK-based educational institution, but the essays on people, films and broader topics are freely available. New contributions are often grouped alongside BFI initiatives like BFI Southbank seasons, and just recently a clutch of pieces has gone up linked to the Library of Congress archive discoveries of ‘lost’ television drama.
The BFI’s senior curator of television Steve Bryant has written a general piece, Rediscovered TV drama, and below are links to related contributions about televised stage plays. Indicated by “[LOC]”, these are complemented by links to other essays on BFI Screenonline about stage plays adapted for the small screen.
Note also that the [LOC] entries include a discussion by Michael Brooke of the 1967 BBC Much Ado About Nothing with Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens, but because the Bard is not our primary focus here I have not included this below (or the many other, immensely useful contributions about Shakespeare on television by Michael to BFI Screenonline).
• ‘It is Midnight, Dr Schweitzer’, tx: 22 February 1953, BBC, written by Gilbert Cesbron, adapted and produced by: Rudolph Cartier, entry written by Oliver Wake.
• Sunday Night Theatre: The White Falcon, tx: 5 February 1956, BBC, written by Neilson Gattey and Jordan Lawrence, producer: Rudolph Cartier, entry written by Oliver Wake.
• Sunday Night Theatre: The Cold Light, tx: 29 July 1956, BBC, written by Carl Zuckmayer, adapted by Judith Kerr, produced by Rudolph Cartier, entry written by Oliver Wake.
• Armchair Theatre: Hot Summer Night, tx: 1 February 1959, ABC Television for ITV, written by: Ted Willis, director: Ted Kotcheff, entry written by Oliver Wake.
• [LOC] Twentieth Century Theatre: Colombe, tx: 17 January 1960, BBC, writer: Jean Anouilh, adapted by: Dennis Cannan, director and producer: Naomi Capon; entry written by Oliver Wake.
• [LOC] The Victorians: The Silver King, tx: July 12 1963, Granada Television for ITV, written by Gerald Savory after Henry Arthur Jones and Henry Herman, director: Herbert Wise, producer: Philip Mackie, entry written by Lez Cooke.
• [LOC] Blood and Thunder: The Changeling, tx: 4 January 1965, Granada Television for ITV, writer: Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, adapted by: Philip Mackie, director: Derek Bennett, producer: Philip Mackie; entry written by Lez Cooke.
• [LOC] Theatre 625: Doctor Knock, tx: 2 January 1966, BBC, translated by Harley Granville-Barker, director: Herbert Wise, producer: Cedric Messina, entry written by Lisa Kerrigan.
• Play of the Month: Lee Oswald – Assassin, tx: March 10 1966, written by Felix Lutzendorf, adapted by Rudolph Cartier, Reed de Rouen, director: Rudolph Cartier, producer: Peter Luke, entry written by Oliver Wake.
• Play for Today: The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil, tx: 6 June 1974, written by: John McGrath, directed by John Mackenzie, produced by Graeme Macdonald, entry written by Ewan Davidson.
• Play for Today: Abigail’s Party, tx: 1 November 1977, devised and directed by: Mike Leigh, producer: Margaret Matheson, entry written by Lucy Skipper.
• Play for Today: Comedians, tx: 25 October 1979, written by: Trevor Griffiths, directed and produced by Richard Eyre, entry written by John Williams.
Oliver Wake and John Williams are regular contributors to the website British Television Drama that also features essays about televised stage plays; a separate list of links to this valuable resource will appear in a future post.
Also, if you know of other essays on BFI Screenonline about televised stage plays, please let us know and I’ll add them to the list.
Image: Leonard Rossiter and John Le Mesurier in Doctor Knock, screened at BFI Southbank on 20 June 2011; courtesy BFI/BBC.