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Bookshelf: Television Jubilee (1961) by Gordon Ross

Gordon Ross’s Television Jubilee: The Story of Twenty-Five Years of BBC Television (London: W. H. Allen, 1961) was published in the run-up to the quarter-century anniversary of the start of the BBC Television service from Alexandra Palace. Exactly fifty years on, the book is valuable both as an outline history of the first years and as a kind of self-portrait of the medium at that moment. Continue reading


An Age of Kings: ‘bad is the world’

I have been blogging my way through the US DVD release of An Age of Kings from 1960 and have finally reached the climax of Shakespeare’s Histories cycle. The concluding two episodes are dedicated to Richard III. This is the play that I also saw a fortnight or so ago at BFI Southbank in The Wars of the Roses three-play cycle produced four years later by the BBC and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Inevitably they make for a fascinating pairing. Continue reading

Played Upon a Stage: She Stoops to Conquer (A-R for ITV, 1960)

The BFI Southbank programme notes for tonight’s presentation of a 1960 schools production of Oliver Goldsmith’s 1773 comedy consisted mostly of paragraphs from about the original play. Since these notes invariably track down reviews for the most recondite productions, it was clear that the production on offer was both obscure and undocumented. The print was one of those recently turned up in the Library of Congress archive, and while at times the audio was echo-y and the pictures wobbly, the production proved to have a simple, winning charm. Continue reading

Bookshelf: Television in the Making (1956) by Paul Rotha

Published in 1956, Television in the Making is an invaluable collection of essays edited by Paul Rotha. The book’s twenty essays, to which Rotha provides a substantial introduction (itself a key text for understanding his own view of the medium), are reflections by practitioners on specific aspects of television production. There are contributions from many of the key figures of the time. Continue reading

An Age of Kings: ‘do I see three suns?’

We’re moving towards the close of the An Age of Kings cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays for television. I’ve been blogging about each of the plays in the compelling 1960 BBC series that in 2009 was released on DVD — although only in the States. Today we’ve reached Henry VI, Part Three, a play about ambition, insurrection, monarchy, ambition, loyalty and ambition. Continue reading

International Theatre: The Wild Duck (John Clements / Saville Theatre / A-R for ITV, 1957)

Having now seen eight out of the ten programmes from the BFI’s immensely welcome unLOCked screenings, I am happy to hail the 1957 ITV production of The Wild Duck as the most significant discovery of the season. The Wild Duck is a 35mm feature film of a theatre production shot on a sound stage at Shepperton Studios. In part as a consequence of such an unconventional production process, this ‘filmed play’ has an entirely distinctive visual style and a rare dramatic effectiveness. Continue reading

Memories are made of this

Monday was given over to Cine-Sisters, a richly interesting symposium about women working in the film and television industries. The event was organised by the Cinema and Television Research Centre at De Montfort University, Leicester and the School of Film and Television Studies, University of East Anglia. Continue reading

Bookshelf: Television: The Ephemeral Art (1970) by T. C. Worsley

T. C. Worsley’s Television: The Ephemeral Art belongs on the (very short) library shelf labelled ‘distinguished collections of television criticism’. It rounds up Worsley’s newspaper columns between 1964 and 1969 and as a consequence it is an unrivalled account of one person’s detailed responses to the supposed ‘golden age’ of the medium. Continue reading

An Age of Kings: ‘France will be lost ere long’

Back to the 1960 cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays, An Age of Kings. Today we reach Henry VI, Part Two which is one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, one of his least-performed and yet, with Jack Cade’s rebellion at its heart, potentially one of the most exciting. But instead of considering the whole work, I want to take just the opening scene and compare it with the opening of the same play in The BBC Television Shakespeare version broadcast some 23 years later.
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British television’s first play, 81 years ago today

On 14 July 1930, eight-one years ago to the day, John Logie Baird mounted an experimental broadcast of British television’s first drama. Working with the BBC he staged a half-hour production of Pirandello’s avant-garde drama The Man with a Flower in his Mouth. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace