The world of British television off and on the screen, as it was sixty years ago.

No Joking Matter

Clifford Davis writes in the Daily Mirror about the Guild of TV Producers and Directors’ annual award ceremony which took place at the Savoy Hotel last night. He appears to be surprised that the Guild’s awards showed them to be in a “serious frame of mind”.

What does he mean? Basically, that TV Personality of the Year was Dr Glyn Daniel of Animal, Vegetable, Mineral? and not someone like Eamonn Andrews, Gilbert Harding or Wilfred Pickles. Of course there was no opportunity for any ITV programmes to win an award this year, that will have to wait until 1956, but Davis suggests that Val Parnell and Lew Grade, both of whom attended the banquet at which the presentations were made, “must have been disturbed to find the Guild again ignoring the more popular personalities on the BBC network.” Other winners were Virginia McKenna and Peter Cushing as Best Actress and Best Actor for Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Winston Smith in 1984 respectively. The documentary The Unloved won for Best Production and Best Script while Bruce Angrave won Best Design for his work on the J. B. Priestley series You Know What People Are. Davis notes, “There was nothing for popular entertainers, singers or comedians. The whole of television’s popular programmes never had a look-in.”

John Jewkes, Professor of Economic Organization at Merton College, Oxford, has different concerns, and writes to the editor of The Times on the subject of television advertising stating, “It is far from clear why advertising on commercial television should be considered anomalous in the present economic crisis. A new medium of advertising does not necessarily increase total advertising, it may merely change its form. Nor is there any simple connexion between the scale of advertising and inflationary pressure. Inflation is easier either by an increase in production or a decrease in consumption.”

He continues, “Advertising may take the form of stressing the virtues of saving (I have seen some very effective television advertising by the banks of the United States to just this end.)” and concludes, “if the scale of advertising is to be controlled then the correct way to do this would be not by banning new advertising media but by placing limits upon all forms of advertising, including, of course, newspaper advertising.”

The Times’ reviewer found the framing device employed by George R. Foa in his presentation of Verdi’s La Traviata to be “not offensive” and the ending “particularly praiseworthy” but his treatment of the opera itself “was rather more debatable.” Cyril Aynsley in the Daily Express felt that “despite excellent singing” we had “all the old faults of TV opera: close-ups of artists failing to register suitable emotions, cameras failing to give the necessary breadth, artificial groupings, and no clarity of story.”

The Guardian’s Radio Critic (RC) has eyes and ears elsewhere, and today RC is considering the BBC’s afternoon viewing. RC notes that (unlike ITV) the BBC has resisted the temptation to use the additional broadcasting hours to expand into the morning but instead “its afternoon broadcasts now run continuously from three to six o’clock”. Of those three hours, the first “is now regularly for women” and “the third hour for children” but “the hour from 4pm to 5pm, which is controlled by Cecil Madden, is of general interest, and presents one of the few ‘spots’ in BBC television in which material may have as wide a range as there are things to see and year about.” RC continues, “Yesterday this hour included a short story, one of the excellent Services films on the work of the Royal Corps of Signals, and a demonstration of sculpture by Vasco Lazzolo, whose businesslike way of getting on with the job and teaching only by example is a lesson to other artists who take on this strange new function of working beneath the public eye.”

The inquiry into the quality of boys’ shoes presented in Mainly for Women “was conducted by Lady Barnett, whose common sense and competence seemed more usefully employed here than in the old What’s My Line? One was glad to see that the two mothers who questioned the two footwear representatives were fairly pertinacious and would not take any soft answers about poor quality.”

Jack Warner’s sisters Elsie and Doris Waters entertained Ruby Miller and other guests in Come to Tea which “started off more than a little nervously… but it warmed up” and “Ruby Miller made a wonderful impression; her beautiful speaking voice, her personality and humour, lifted her part in the programme to a different level of ease and control.”

Also praiseworthy, according to RC, is Picture Book’s Patricia Driscoll, who “must surely be the ideal storyteller. But it is not only in story telling; it is in the art of actually speaking from the screen to children without condescension of portentousness that she is so remarkable.”

Lastly, the Deputy Director General of the ITA, Mr Bernard Sendall, was in the midlands for a press conference about the new commercial television midlands service, according to The Times. Mr Sendall did not announce a specific opening date, but said, “we are aiming at a February date – it might be a little earlier, or a little later.” Test signals are already being broadcast from the Lichfield transmitter.

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