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

Running and Running

The Labour MP, Fred Peart writes to the The Observer in response if not reply to Dingle Foot’s piece last week. Mr Peart says that he broadly agrees with Mr Foot but he takes issue with Mr Foot’s comments which suggests that a bias is given to unorthodox party men and what Peart describes as “[Foot’s] own fatuous comment inferring that ‘unorthodox’ politicians have fewer inhibitions.” “Why,” Peart continues, “should a M.P. or politician who is tagged ‘orthodox’ because he plays with a Parliamentary team and accepts majority decisions be at a greater disadvantage than his ‘unorthodox’ colleague when faced with an unfamiliar topic?”

The paper gives Mr Foot the opportunity of a reply. He writes, “As I endeavoured to make clear, the M.P. or politician who accepts majority decisions because he genuinely agrees with them is at no disadvantage. But there is another type of politician – common enough in all parties – who on every issue defends the party line merely becuase it is the party line and who is prepared either to subordinate his own opinions or to accept ready-made the opinions of his official leaders.” He concludes, “Politicians of this latter description are certainly at a disadvantage in any unscripted radio or television debates, or in any other reasonably intelligent discussion. They deserve to be.”

Alan Brien’s review column in the same paper concerns itself with the problems faced by television drama which, he points out, are different to those encountered by its antecedents, theatre and film.

One such issue is the result of the small size of the television screen. This is, he says, “either ignored – and the actors spread out across a stage which makes them the size of the boys in the back row of a school photograph. Or it is accepted as an unfortunate handicap – and the actors crowd on top of each other as though queueing on the steps of a fire escape.”

Brien finds that recently “there have been signs that some of the new producers have discovered that the eye of the camera should be the eye of a person not an audience.” He continues, “In Reginald Tate’s production of Michael Pertwee’s murky melodrama Night Was Our Friend, the camera showed an unexpected agility and a nightmare was effectively caught by the sight of sweaty faces and the sound of jungle drums. But otherwise the effect was that of a well-filmed stage play of the thirties.”

Unlike almost every other reviewer, Brien was taken with Wolf Mankowitz’s “Two Plays” or at least, with their direction. He says, “Each close-up made a dramatic point of its own. The movement of the camera swinging from face to face added something entirely new to the play without a word from the author or a change of expression from the actors. Fantasy melted into realism as naturally and refreshingly as ice into alcohol. And for an hour and a quarter, television had a sparkle and glow which made me realise how flat its drinks have usually been.”

On this small screen today, children get a near-hour-long drama – Herman Heyerman’s The Wise Cat which has been adapted from the Dutch by Selma Vaz Dias (who appears in it) and Gibson Cowan. The Cat himself is played by Wolfe Morris, Rex Tucker produces.

For grown-ups, Barney Colehan and Ronnie Taylor produce another Holiday Hotel with Jimmy Clitheroe, Charlie Cairoli and Paul, Ronnie Hilton and Patricia Bredin. There’s half-an-hour of international soccer in which the United Kingdom play Europe in Belfast, and tonight’s play is The Powder Magazine, a Norman Hudis play starring Roger Livesey as Jonathan Hythe the boss of a magazine group, and Pamela Alan as Helen Burnham, the newly-appointed editor of one of the group’s titles. Ronald Howard plays Miss Burnham’s suitor Michael Maxon, QC. Also employed by this magazine are fashion-writer Frances Croft (Noël Hood), reporter Janet Towne (Sylvia Syms) and another writer, T. Barrington Chamming (William Lucas) whose role in the proceedings is deliberately obscured by Norman Hudis’ own write-up in Radio Times. Alan Bromly who, with Hudis, adapted the play for television produces.

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