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GBS on Independent Television, 1966-83

George Bernard Shaw with his assistant Blanche Patch, 1945; © Time Inc.

George Bernard Shaw with his assistant Blanche Patch, 1945; © Time Inc.

On the heels of my first post listing plays by George Bernard Shaw on ITV in the years 1955-62, here is a list of commercial television productions by the author in the years after 1962. They include three short adaptations for schools and also a single production for Channel 4, but overall the relative paucity of Shaw plays on ITV since the mid-1960s is striking when compared with his presence in the schedules in ITV’s first decade.

• Conflct: Saint Joan (ATV for ITV) transmitted 3 October 1966.

Written by George Bernard Shaw, adapted for a 23-minute slot for schools audiences; directed by George More O’Ferrall, produced by Donald Carter. With Janet Suzman (Joan), Willoughby Goddard (Robert De Beaudricourt), Mervyn Johns (Steward), Richard Burrell (Bertrand De Poulengey), Barry Foster (Dunois).

 Conflict: Candida (ATV for ITV), transmitted 20 February 1967. 

Written by George Bernard Shaw, adapted for a 23-minute slot for schools audiences; directed by George More O’Ferrall, produced by Donald Carter. With Barbara Murray (Candida), André Morrell (Morell), Michael Farnsworth (Marchbanks).

Conflict: Man And Superman (ATV for ITV) transmitted 5 May 1967.

Written by George Bernard Shaw, adapted for a 23-minute slot for schools audiences; directed by George More O’Ferrall, produced by Donald Carter. With John Carson (Jack Tanner), Rachel Kempson (Mrs Whitefield), Rowena Cooper (Ann Whitefield), Edward Fox (Octavius).

• Major Barbara (A-R for ITV), transmitted 18 October 1966.

Written by George Bernard Shaw; adapted by Ronald Gow; executive producer Peter Willes; directed by John Frankau. With Eileen Atkins (Barbara), Julia Foster (Jenny Hill), Ronald Fraser (Bill Walker), Moira Lister (Lady Britomart), Daniel Massey (Adolphus), Douglas Wilmer (Andrew Undershaft).

 Sunday Night Theatre: Arms And The Man (Anglia for ITV), transmitted 4 April 1971.

Adapted by John Clements and John Jacobs; based on a play by George Bernard Shaw; produced by John Clements and John Jacobs; directed by John Clements and John Jacobs. With Laurence Harvey (Major Sergius Saranoff), John Standing (Captain Bluntschli), Anna Calder-Marshall (Raina Petkoff), Pauline Jameson (Catherine Petkoff). An archive copy exists.

Leonard Buckley reviewed the production for The Times: ‘This production… is substantially the one that was presented last summer at the Chichester Festival Theatre. As such it is an absorbing lesson in the differences between the stage and the box. This is essentially a theatrical production. Seen in preview it left me in no doubt about that. The cast play to the gallery rather than the living room. Drama, to be sure, must be larger than life, but this production almost bursts out of the set.

‘Altogether this is a production for quarrels and delight. In particular it prompts so many reflections on the nature of television drama that even those viewers who are addicted to colour will scarcely notice that because of the recent roubles it was recorded in black and white.’ (‘Arms and the Man’, 3 April 1971, p. 21)

• Caesar and Cleopatra (Southern Television / Norton Simon Clarion / Talent Associates for ITV) transmitted 4 January 1977.

Written by George Bernard Shaw; music by Michael Lewis; designed by Eileen Diss; executive producer Lewis Rudd; associate producer Margaret Matheson; produced by David Susskind and Duane Bogie; directed by James Cellan Jones. With Alec Guinness (Caesar), Genevieve Bujold (Cleopatra), Margaret Courtenay (Ftatateeta), Jolyon Bates (Ptolemy Dionysus), Noel Willman (Pothinus), David Steuart (Theodotus). An archive copy exists.

• ITV Playhouse: Village Wooing (Yorkshire for ITV) transmitted 17 April 1979.

Written by Bernard Shaw; produced and directed by David Cunliffe. With Richard Briers (‘A’), Judi Dench (‘Z’). An archive copy exists.

In The Listener Peter Buckman wrote: ‘Village Wooing (Yorkshire) was Bernard Shaw also in sunny mood. Written in 1933, the play consists of three conversations between a self-opinionated literary man (here played by Richard Briers in a Bohemian beard) and a village spinster who conquers him through a display of feline logic before offering him her physical charms. Judi Dench brought to the part all the energy and intelligence at her command, and with David Cunliffe’s direction, what might have been a long-winded duologue became a delightful comedy about whose resolution I was anxious to the last moment.’ (‘Men at work’, 26 April 1979, p. 598)

• Arms and the Man (Argent Television for Channel 4) transmitted 16 January 1983. Written by George Bernard Shaw; directed by Philip Casson; produced by Michael and Peter Freeman. An archive copy exists.

Peter Davalle previewed the production for The Times: ‘Arms and the Man, a recording of last year’s production at the Lyric Theatre in London, is done in a way in which the RSC production of Nicholas Nickleby ought to have been tackled when transferred to the small screen: that is, in front of an audience. We get curtain rise, curtain fall and curtain call. Laughter from the auditorium is not outlawed, as it was with Nickleby, but given full rein, and the warmth coming over the footlights has a benefical effect on the performers in this delightful Shaw trifle.’ (‘Weekend choice’, 15 January 1983, p. 9)

In addition to these productions, Shaw’s book Love Among the Artists was adapted by Stuart Latham for Granada as a drama series in the summer of 1980. John Stride, Geraldine James and Judy Campbell featured in the regular cast. The play Dear Liar  written by Jerome Kilty and produced by Julian Amyes as a Granada production on 16 January 1983 explored the relationship between Shaw (played by Roy Dotrice) and Mrs Patrick Campbell (Peggy Ashcroft).

‘Shaw’ also appeared briefly (played by Dermot Crowley) in Victorian Scandals: The Fruits Of Philosophy written by David A. Yallop and transmitted on 8 October 1976. More remarkably, perhaps, Patrick McGoohan played GBS in The Best of Friends (London Films / Limehouse for Channel 4), transmitted on 28 December 1991. Hugh Whitemore wrote the script from a book by Dame Felicitas Corrigan.



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