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British television’s first play, 81 years ago today

The Man with a Flower in his Mouth, 1930 (photos from Adventure in Vision, 1950)

The Man with a Flower in his Mouth, 1930 (photos from Adventure in Vision, 1950)

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. On the Illuminations blog I have written a lengthy post about the production, with many additional links and even video of a reconstruction. To the left is a remarkable page of photographs from that day taken from John Swift’s 1950 book Adventure in Vision (and which I included in my post about Swift’s book here).

I included quotes from Swift’s book in that earlier post, but here are some further extracts about this pioneering production:

It is amusing to recall that an attempt was made, in July, 1930, to televise a short play — Pirandello’s The Man with a Flower in his Mouth — chosen for its suitability in view of the limited resources at the producer’s disposal. Lance Sieveking’s services were recruited as producer, Sydney A. Moseley entered into the spirit of the experiment as assistant, and the cast of three were Gladys Young, Earle Gray and Lionel Millard. Val Gielgud was to have taken part but fell ill at the last moment. The distinguished artist, C. R. W. Nevinson, was persuaded to paint four canvases to be used as ‘settings,’ and an improvised ‘theatre’ was built…

The Man with a Flower in his Mouth could still be only an essentially ‘radio’ version accompanied by what might be termed ‘establishing’ pictures. It was impressionistic rather than realistic. Nevertheless, it was the first step towards television’s maturity as an art medium.

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Discussion

One thought on “British television’s first play, 81 years ago today

  1. Amazing.

    The actors look so over-dramatic. The actress in the top-right photo looks as if she’s about to be tied to the railroad tracks.

    Posted by Helene Giansante | 14 July 2011, 9:42 pm

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