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1940s, 1950s, 1960s, BBC, Billy Smart, Margaret Lockwood, Pygmalion, Radio Times, Radio Times covers, Television World Theatre

BBC drama productions on the cover of the Radio Times 1: Single plays, 1948-64

To help clarify my thinking about what sort of television drama gets remembered and forgotten in Britain, I’ve been looking at how the Radio Times publicised BBC drama over 1946-82, the period covered by the ‘Forgotten Television Drama in the UK’ project.

I’ve put together lists of all of the covers of the Radio Times that promoted original BBC drama productions during these years. As this information hasn’t previously been collated or put online before I’ll post these lists up here over the next six days, where a general readership of magazine collectors and fans of particular programmes may find them useful.

RT 08.02.48

The very first Radio Times cover devoted to a television drama production (pictured above), dates back to February 1948, promoting a new version of Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Sixty-eight years on, the way that the cover marks the programme has some continuity with the present day Radio Times. The cover tells the viewer that a famous film star (Margaret Lockwood, then at the height of her box-office power) will be appearing on BBC television, presenting her in a striking image that conveys both her beauty and the unusual role she will be interpreting. Where the image differs from the contemporary magazine is in its emphasis on the novelty of television performance, showing the star being fitted for her costume by Make-up and Wardrobe Supervisor ‘Johnnie’ Bradnock, not a process that had been required for radio performers.

We start with single plays up to 1964, when the creation of the landmark anthology series The Wednesday Play (BBC1, 1964-70) and the launch of BBC2 heralded a new phase of BBC drama. The majority of these covers are taken from adaptations of theatrical plays, meaning that although the individual productions might be unknown to us, many of the titles will still be familiar.

Radio Times covers 1948-64: Drama – single plays

08 Feb 1948 Pygmalion

22 Feb 1949 Macbeth/ The Linden Tree

06 Mar 1948 Macbeth

30 Mar 1952 Mourning Becomes Electra

04 Oct 1953 The Public Prosecutor

06 Dec 1953 Wuthering Heights

24 Jan 1954 Tovarich

21 Feb 1954 Sunday Night Theatre: Appointment with Venus

28 Feb 1954 Sunday Night Theatre: Such Men are Dangerous

05 Sep 1954 Isador Comes to Town

11 Dec 1955 Othello

13 May 1956 The Valiant

16 Sep 1956 Sunday Night Theatre: Mr Quinney Looks in

10 Feb 1957 Sunday Night Theatre: The Road to Rome

05 May 1957 Under Milk Wood

28 Jul 1957 Sunday Night Theatre: The Apple Cart

11 Aug 1957 Sunday Night Theatre: Plunder

01 Dec 1957 Sunday Night Theatre: The Stone Faces

26 Jan 1958 Television World Theatre: The Dark is Light Enough

09 Feb 1958 Television World Theatre: The Government Inspector

01 Jun 1958 Sunday Night Theatre: The Caine Mutiny Court Martial

30 Nov 1958 Till Time Shall End

11 Jan 1959 Trilby

22 Mar 1959 The Hill

12 Apr 1959 The Offshore Island

03 May 1959 Television World Theatre: Julius Caesar

28 Jun 1959 Television World Theatre: Mother Courage and her Children

03 Jul 1959 A Town has Turned to Dust

26 Jul 1959 Television World Theatre: School for Scandal

25 Oct 1959 Antigone

17 Jan 1960 Twentieth Century Theatre: Colombe

10 Apr 1960 The True Mistery of the Passion

22 May 1960 Twentieth Century Theatre: The Elder Statesman

14 Aug 1960 Chasing the Dragon

11 Sep 1960 Reluctant Heroes

18 Feb 1961 An Inspector Calls

03 Mar 1961 Rashomon

15 Apr 1961 Charley’s Aunt

13 May 1961 Time Remembered

10 Jun 1961 Adventure Story

17 Jun 1961 A Call on Kuprin

08 Jul 1961 That Lady

05 Aug 1961 Basinful of the Briny

20 Jan 1962 Ghosts

07 Apr 1962 The Cherry Orchard

28 Jul 1962 Sword of Vengeance

17 Nov 1962 The Aspern Papers

01 Dec 1962 Heart to Heart

02 Mar 1963 The Birth of a Private Man

16 Mar 1963 As You Like It

30 Mar 1963 The Big Donkey (Northern Ireland edition only)

21 Sep 1963 First Night: The Strain

08 Feb 1964 Festival: The Lady of the Camellias

15 Feb 1964 First Night: The Scapegoat

21 Mar 1964 Festival: Murder in the Cathedral

24 Oct 1964 The Wednesday Play: A Crack in the Ice

(Thanks to Simon Coward for his assistance in double-checking the lists)

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