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

Standard and Poor

The Daily Express’s Cyril Aynsley was disappointed by Associated Broadcasting’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Not so much, it seems, by the programme itself as by the failure of the programme to live up to its “top-pressure publicity as a dazzling celebrity show.” The main variety acts were approved of: “Top artists were Gracie Fields, who gave a monologue and sang three songs, and Guy Mitchell, the American singer. Other acts were of a high standard.”

But, he writes, “This was good enough variety, but not good enough to match the build-up,” and “The intrusion of ‘Beat the Clock’ and the amount of time devoted to it knocked the programme off balance.”

Did the BBC’s do better? Not according to Robert Cannell who was giving his fullest attention to the play which theatrical manager Henry Sherek was allowing the BBC to preview before its West End début. This play was Mr Maypole and Cannell describes it as “a slim affair in which young Maypole, played by Robert Urquhart, is mixed up with a group of crooks and for his first job sent to rob the Sussex mansion of an eccentric.” “The plot,” he says, “creaks along to an improbable and not very funny ending.” Philip Stainton’s “ripe performance as the eccentric uncle” was the source of “a few chuckles”.

The Daily Mirror contains, perhaps not the first, but certainly an early example in this country of press advertising promoting the company’s television commercials. In this instance Stanley Matthews is plugging his Biro Rectracable ballpoint pen. With their slogan “right on the ball” it’s not too surprising that Biro have chosen to tie-in their TV commercials with football, and under a “Biro on TV” logo we are told that “Right before the Soccer results at 5.30 every Saturday Biro is on commercial TV.”

An un-named Daily Mirror Reporter writes about Free Speech, ITV’s answer to BBC’s In The News. The panel on the new programme consisted of former panellists from the old show – Sir Robert Boothby, Michael Foot, W. J. Brown and Alan Taylor. Taylor had revealed that he had met Donald Maclean in 1950 and it was clear then that not only had he sympathies with the aims of the Soviet Union but that he “was a dipsomaniac, but… not the only member of the Foreign Office who is that kind of thing.” The team were allowed fifteen minutes to discuss Burgess and Maclean before moving on to another subject. The reporter seems to have enjoyed the programme, with “all four members of the panel… talking at once” it was “one of the liveliest ‘argy-bargies’ [TV] has screened for months.”

Under the heading “Sport, Mild Crime, and Some Old Jokes” The Guardian’s Radio Correspondent (RC) notes a first for British Television: a play by the same writer on each of the channels in the same evening – though not (yet) at the same time. These matching pair were Berkely Mather’s “For Art’s Sake”, the third in his “six portraits in crime” in As I Was Saying… on the BBC and “Mid Level” in ITV’s TV Playhouse.

RC also took a dislike to Mr Maypole: “a dismal, muddled and unfunny piece of work” and “there was not a moment… when one would have resented it if the st had blown up.”

In contrast, the un-named reviewer in The Times (TR) found some good points although he found most to praise in Alan Bromly’s production and in the performances of some of the players, and not so much in the play itself. In particular, TR noted that there are “other comedies that are certainly no less funny, but which have rather more substance.” Nevertheless Philip Stainton “made an amusingly Blimpish figure”, Robert Urquhart “played the reluctant burglar rather as Mr Robert Eddison might have done” (is that a good thing or bad?) and “the gang itself was led with delightful inefficiency by Mr George Coulouris.”

The BBC broadcast was a preview of a play soon to begin a West End run, it will be interesting to see how it does.

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