1958 – to Russia (and elsewhere) with love

1958 – TO RUSSIA (AND ELSEWHERE) WITH LOVE

The company has always maintained that its job is to provide good programmes in every sphere of television entertainment without specialising, and 1958 provided some excellent examples.

In January a major documentary reached the screens after months of planning and research. Called ‘U.S.S.R. Now’, it was a 60-minute feature on Russian life. The night after transmission, it was screened again for M.P.s in the Grand Committee Room at Westminster Hall.

In contrast, the company had been screening a trend-setting light entertainment show of music and dance called ‘Cool for Cats’. Its director, Joan Kemp-Welch, was pronounced the best director of light entertainment by the Guild of Television Producers and Directors. Drama came into the spotlight in September, when ‘Women in Love’, a series of four plays with leading European actresses, was screened. On the news magazine front, a ‘This Week’ feature on American tourists in Britain was declared the best foreign production by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Hollywood. Finally, 1958 saw ‘Macbeth’ produced especially for schools … ‘Twelfth Night’ (1959), ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ (1960), ‘Arms and the Man’ (1961), ‘Hamlet’ (1961), ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (1962), ‘Medea’ (1963) and ‘Playboy of the Western World’ (1964) were to follow.

The entertainment as well as the education of children was not neglected. Indeed they were combined. In this year, it was decided to give children’s programmes a magazine flavour and ‘Lucky Dip’ was created for the network. As the years passed, the format for the magazine programme has changed to the ‘Five O’Clock’ series. Also introduced in 1958 were specially written dramas for children.

In 1958, too, the company was consolidating its policy of helping others. In March, scholarships were set up for pupils of the Central School of Speech and Drama, while in June £5,000 was given to the Friends of the Tate Gallery. The scholarships and gifts to the arts and sciences have continued ever since.

In July the shareholders received their first reward for their courage in supporting what the chairman had previously described as either a wild gamble or an act of faith.

Harold Macmillan

Harold Macmillan visited the ‘This Week’ studios in 1958 to add his name to the long list of world figures who have appeared in the programme.

A scene from one of the six stories dealing with ‘Women in Love’ transmitted on Wednesday, September 24, 1958. George Sanders was the story-teller for this two-hour programme which marked the company’s third anniversary.

1963 – ‘The Lover’ scoops the pool

1963 – 'THE LOVER' SCOOPS THE POOL

This was the year when Harold Pinter’s ‘The Lover’ won more awards than any other television play. It had had a background of controversy when it was screened on March 28, but there was no controversy among the judges in September when they awarded it the Prix Italia for TV drama in Naples. Then came the deliberations of the Guild of Television Producers and Directors . . . best script of the year – Harold Pinter; best actress of the year – Vivien Merchant; best actor of the year – Alan Badel – all for ‘The Lover’. On top of that, Joan Kemp-Welch, who directed the production, won the award for the most outstanding creative work. In addition, Peter Morley and Cyril Bennet, joint producers of ‘This Week’ at that time, won the award for the best production of a factual series. There were plenty of other excitements in 1963. They began on January 9, with the play ‘Darkness at Noon’ about which one critic wrote: ‘I have seldom seen the talents of cast, camera work and thought working so well together on television to mix horror and compassion so vividly’. This was followed by ‘Black Nativity’ winning a special U.N.D.A. award at the Monte Carlo Festival. The citation said: ‘The ecstatic performance given by the artists was made possible by brilliant camera work, lighting and choreography’.

In June, the documentary ‘One Man’s Hunger’, made as a contribution to the World Freedom from Hunger campaign, was shown to delegates at the World Food Congress in Washington.

Then on August 9, a new type of programme crashed into life to bawl lustily from the start. ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ had arrived to give television debuts to such groups and singers as The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Donovan, Manfred Mann, Dusty Springfield (as a solo artist), Marianne Faithfull and Lulu.

Next an audience of no less than 250 million had a chance to hear British voices raised in a different way when Associated-Rediffusion’s cameras covered the England v. the Rest of the World soccer match at Wembley in October for the match was relayed to 23 European countries. Finally at the end of the year, Capt. T. M. Brownrigg retired as general manager and John McMillan took over.

Alan Badel and Vivien Merchant in a scene from Harold Pinter’s ‘The Lover’.

‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ continued the pioneering trend set by earlier programmes such as ‘Cool for Cats’. Most of this country’s, and indeed the world’s, leading pop groups and solo artists have appeared on it. Left – Freddie and the Dreamers; top – the Applejacks; bottom – The Rolling Stones.

1965 // FROM TRANSDIFFUSION