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From the ’50s: Look Back in Anger (BBC and ITV, 1956)

My Screen Plays reading over the past few weeks has concentrated on theatre and television in the 1950s, and this post is the first of a planned series to explore aspects of the subject in that decade. In this piece I focus on television’s presentation in 1956 of John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger in the English Stage Company presentation at the Royal Court Theatre. Tony Richardson’s premiere production is widely seen as one of a small handful of defining productions for the post-war British theatre, but the story of television’s role in its success is still realtively unknown. Remarkably, before the end of 1956 the BBC had shown an extract of the production in a live outside broadcast and Granada had mounted a full studio production for the ITV network. Continue reading


Television World Theatre: The Life of Henry the Fifth (BBC, 1957)

I am intrigued that between 1957 and 1965 BBC Television screened twelve productions of Shakespeare’s History plays. In no other nine-year period has there been as many productions of these dramas. There were the major cycles of An Age of Kings (1960) and The Wars of the Roses (1965) and as a kind of curtain-raiser at the end of 1957 the BBC produced what it billed – in accordance with the title in the First Folio – as The Life of Henry the Fifth. (This play is more usually referred to as Henry V, as I shall in what follows.) This studio production by Peter Dews with John Neville as King Henry is the focus of this post. Continue reading

Arthur Miller on the small screen 4: A View from the Bridge

Arthur Miller’s (1915-2005) American tragedies have not only proved to be extremely popular on both British professional and amateur stages for more than half a century but they have also enjoyed a longstanding place at the heart of English literature curricula in schools. It is not surprising, therefore, to discover that at least twelve productions of his plays have been transmitted on British television networks over a forty-year period from 1957 to 1997. This last post in a series of four considers some of the resources I have immediately at hand on the two known productions of Miller’s A View from the Bridge: Joan Kemp-Welch’s 1966 production (Associated-Rediffusion for ITV) and the 1986 three-part BBC schools production by Geoff Wilson. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace