1959 – ballet, opera and crime


The company’s confidence in the future (despite having Pilkington round the corner) was demonstrated in May, 1959, when Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, then chairman of the ITA, laid the foundation stone of Studio 5 at Wembley. This million pound project was to give Associated-Rediffusion the largest studio built for television in the world.

The company’s willingness to try new things was further demonstrated during the year. In March, there was ‘Tyranny – the Years of Adolf Hitler’, a documentary which pioneered new techniques. From May 29 to June 14, the company screened an hour’s programmes over the Portuguese television network each night during a British Trade Fair in Portugal. In August, ‘London Morning’, a new musical by Noel Coward, was presented by London’s Festival Ballet. In September, there were new schools programmes for sixth forms and primary schools. On October 7, there was ‘Gala’, featuring Alicia Markova, Jose Iturbi, Maria Callas, Sir Malcolm Sargent and Tito Gobi. Then in December came Benjamin Britten’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’, the first full-length opera on ITV.

The year 1959 has also been described as a vintage year for series programmes. From other companies there was ‘Probation Officer’, ‘Four Just Men’, ‘Rawhide’, ‘Johnny Staccato’ and ‘The Deputy’. From Associated-Rediffusion, on September 16, Scotland Yard had a powerful addition to its ranks. Lockhart set out to prove that for murderers, thieves and gangsters, there was ‘No Hiding Place’.

The Turn of the Screw

‘The Turn of the Screw’, Christmas, 1959. Left to right: Janette Miller as Flora, Tom Bevan as Miles, Judith Pierce as the housekeeper and Jennifer Vyvyan as the governess.

1960 – the world and studio 5 opened up


At the 10th anniversary banquet of ITV, September, 1965, the Prime Minister, Mr Harold Wilson, pointed out that in 1939 a British Prime Minister had referred to Czechoslovakia as ‘that far away country of which we know nothing’ but that television now meant familiarity with the problems of Vietnam, Kashmir and Dominica. Back in 1960, Associated-Rediffusion had recognised this fact when the company had originated the idea of Intertel – an International Television Federation – to promote wider understanding of world problems. In November that year, broadcasting organisations in America, Canada and Australia – the major English-speaking countries of the world – united with Associated-Rediffusion to make and exchange documentaries with this aim in mind.

But entertainment and drama programmes generally require studios and in June the company’s directors and technicians were given the best equipped (and largest) studio in the world when the 14,000 sq. ft Studio 5 was opened at Wembley.

Before this, on March 22, British viewers were treated to something new in the way of television drama. It was called ‘The Birthday Party’ and its author was Harold Pinter. On July 21, they saw more of Pinter with ‘Night School’.

In September, ‘Rawhide’ was topping the ratings and ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ was captivating an average of 4,231.000 homes for Associated-Rediffusion.

In November, the high standard of the company’s sets for television productions was recognised by the Guild of Television Producers and Directors nominating Fredric Pusey the best television designer of the year.

In December, 1960, managing director Paul Adorian became the first Briton to be made a Fellow of the Institute of Radio Engineers of the United States. Also in that month chairman John Spencer Wills opened an extension of the Rose Bruford Training College of Speech and Drama. On the programme side at the end of the year, there was the Western ‘Wagon Train’ attracting floods of fan mail, the drama series ‘Somerset Maugham Hour’ attracting the country’s leading actors and actresses and the documentary ‘The Two Faces of Japan’ attracting ‘rave’ reviews.

‘Wagon Train’

‘The Birthday Party’