Love Story (ATV/ ITV 1963-74) is probably the most popular and long-running British television drama programme to have subsequently suffered from total obscurity and neglect after its broadcast life. To my knowledge, none of the 128 plays made for the series have been subsequently released, repeated or screened since transmission, and no writing – either scholarly or popular – seems to have been published or posted about the plays (perhaps unsurprisingly, as no-one has seen them for over forty years).
Love Story was initially launched on ITV in March 1963 as a series of 15 plays, all with a loosely defined romantic theme. The programme’s first Script Editor, Lewis Greifter, intended to make dramas with a contemporary feel and, in order to achieve this, only commissioned writers under the age of 40. He explained the thinking behind this decision:
“I wanted them to say exactly what they felt about love in our time and not make any compromises. We aim for realism but, even so, the plays have turned out to be fairly optimistic and upbeat.
A good love story captures a true moment in a relationship between a man and a woman. It is just one aspect of a complicated truth, and is never dictated by superimposed values or wishful thinking.”
Audiences immediately responded positively to this approach, with 108 Love Story plays hitting the TV ratings Top 20 over the next 11 years. Remarkably, the most viewed Love Story drama of all came from the most distinguished European literary pedigree, with 8.4 million households (equivalent to 18.48m viewers) tuning in to watch a version of Marguerite Duras’ La Musica (starring Vanessa Redgrave) on 6 December 1965.
Miraculously, 124 out of the 128 Love Story plays survive, and we are very pleased to present two of them at BFI Southbank at 6.20 on Saturday September 29.
Bernice Rubens (1923-2004) is best remembered for winning the second Booker Prize for her novel The Elected Member in 1970. Her Love Story play Third Party (8 February 1972), was Rubens’ only script for television, although her black comedy Mr Wakefield’s Crusade was adapted into a memorable BBC Scotland serial in 1992. Andrea Newman (b. 1938) is one of British television drama’s most original and distinctive voices, best known for the serials that she adapted from her own novels (including Bouquet Of Barbed Wire (LWT/ ITV 1976) and its sequel Another Bouquet (LWT/ ITV 1977), Mackenzie (BBC 1980) and A Sense of Guilt (BBC 1990). Home for the Holidays (21 February 1973, only recently discovered in the archives) was her first full-length television play (the second, Seven Faces of Woman: Choice LWT/ ITV 1974, opened our season).
The two plays compliment each other, and demonstrate the range of tales that could be told in Love Story. Third Party (which may have been written much earlier than 1972) is a light and comical piece, which provides an enjoyable setting for lead actors John Neville, Angela Thorne and Anna Massey to sparkle. Home for the Holidays (featuring Denholm Elliot and teenage actress Tracy Hyde) is a more substantial work, examining the difficulties of friendship between generations with power and integrity.
Lancaster, Diana. ‘Fifteen faces of LOVE’, TV Times, 2 June 1963, p. 8.