1950s 1960s ATV Directors Johnson Over Jordan Lionel Harris Producers

A Life Found in a Skip: Rediscovering Lionel Harris, TV Producer, Director and Actor

A Life Found in a Skip [1]

by Joel Finler

Virtually forgotten today, Lionel Harris was one of the leading producer/directors of live television drama in the 1950s when adaptations of the most successful West End plays became a staple fare of both the BBC and ITV. He joined the newly formed ITV in 1955 and for the next six years directed an average of 7 plays per year, about 40 in all. He introduced many of the best known British actors to the small screen including Dorothy Tutin, Pamela Brown, John Gielgud and Michael Redgrave. His many television productions in the middle and late 1950s included adaptations of Rebecca, Hedda Gabler, Graham Greene’s The Living Room, Noel Coward’s Private Lives and Shaw’s Man and Superman among others. And he continued on into the 1960s as an important producer and director, mainly at the BBC, where he was associated with a number of the early Dennis Potter dramas, including Where the Buffalo Roam (1966), A Message for Posterity (1967) and A Beast with Two Backs (1968).

I first became aware of and discovered Harris in 1988 when I rescued a large collection of his television scripts and other documents from a skip in Belsize Park Gardens just around the corner from my flat and cinema archive in Belsize Square. Quickly sorting through the material, I realised that these came from the flat of Lionel Harris who had lived at 18 Belsize Park. I put a note through the door regarding my find and received a letter from the landlord who explained that Harris had died in 1985 and his adopted son Marc had no interest in the material. He had cleared out the flat and dumped the contents in the skip where I had found them. Recognising their potential value, I carefully packaged the papers and put them aside, intending to investigate further and possibly write about my find at some future date. It was not until relatively recently, however, that I revived this project after arranging to donate the entire collection to the BFI National Archive (Special Collections) where they immediately recognised the unique value of the material.

I was initially intrigued by the fact that Harris appeared to be more or less forgotten today. You will not find his name in any of the standard reference books on the history of British television. A search on the IMDb, for example, reveals a selective list of his television productions especially from the mid-1960s up to the 1970s. But it is especially weak on the extremely interesting earlier years, 1955-60, which is the main subject of this essay. Furthermore, there is no mention at all of his work in the theatre which was closely related to his work in television. (He had first made his name in the theatre and easily made the transition to live television drama, often directing the same actors with whom he had first worked on the stage.) Throughout this period he continued alternating between theatre and television.

Most of the items which I rescued came from this earlier period when Harris was under exclusive contract to H.M. Tennent’s Globe Theatre Productions, linked to Associated TV (ATV).  Since very few of these productions survive, the scripts and studio ground plans, along with the other papers, represent a unique record of a large number of the live television dramas directed by Harris during these years. These were one and a half hour versions of some of the most successful West End plays of the time, specially shortened for television to fit into a prearranged time slot, but featuring many leading actors, often recreating for television a shortened version of their original stage performance. The impressive list of actors whom Harris directed in their live television debuts begins with Dorothy Tutin and Pamela Brown early in 1956, followed by Yvonne Arnaud, Sybil Thorndyke, Harry H. Corbett, Margaret Rutherford, Michael Hordern and Irene Worth, all during the following months. Then in 1959 it was the turn of John Gielgud and Michael Redgrave. This I learned from the documents, along with a complete list of Harris’s early television productions. A rare reference to Harris can be found in the 1960-61 British Film and Television Yearbook, which states that ‘After extensive experience in the West End theatre as actor and director, he entered TV in 1956 as a director of TV drama’ (p. 151). In fact, Harris entered TV as a director three years before this (see below).

Among the documents were various references to his earlier career. He had first made his name in the theatre after the war including seasons at the Bristol Old Vic and he had directed Hugh Griffith in King Lear at the Grand in Swansea as part of the South Wales Festival in 1949. Then there was a brief period when he appeared as a character actor, playing bit parts in a number of well-known British feature films during 1951-52 including The Tales of Hoffman (Powell & Pressburger, 1951), Secret People (Thorold Dickinson, 1951), Brandy for the Parson (John Eldridge, 1951), Ivanhoe (Richard Thorpe, 1952), Laxdale Hall (John Eldridge, 1952) and Lady in the Fog (Sam Newfield, 1952). Although he continued working in the theatre, in 1953 he was signed by the BBC to direct live television drama. Two of his early television productions starred Peter Cushing: a version of the Ben Travers farce Rookery Nook (BBC, 23 May 1953), which also featured David Kossoff and Beryl Bainbridge, and Portrait by Pekoe (BBC, 23/27 August 1953[2]) which Cushing recalled in his Memoirs as the BBC’s contribution to the German Exposition in Dusseldorf.[3] Harris directed at least eight plays for the BBC during 1953-54, the last of which was a production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors (BBC, 16/20 May 1954) which featured early television appearances by Joan Plowright and Patricia Routledge.

Still dividing his time between theatre and television, Harris was signed to direct a stellar cast in two Terence Rattigan plays on tour in Australia in the spring and summer of 1955. As recalled by Garry O’Connor in his biography of Sir Ralph Richardson, he and his wife, Meriel, along with Sybil Thorndike and her husband, Lewis Casson, played to packed houses in both The Sleeping Prince and Separate Tables (but no mention of the director, Harris).[4]

Back in England later that year he was one of the many producers, directors and technicians, including Alvin Rakoff, Desmond Davis and Julian Amyes, who left the BBC to join the newly formed ITV. It was the beginning of a new era in British television history. As recalled by BBC engineer Mike Savage:

There was a wholesale exodus of staff from the BBC to ITV. For example, from Lime Grove entire studio crews left. Everybody, together, the floor managers, the directors, the cameramen. It was for money. ITV was offering £1,000 a year and the BBC was paying £500-600.’[5]

This marked the beginning of Harris’s most productive years as a director of live television drama when the television channels relied especially on adaptations from the contemporary theatre as an easy and reliable option rather than commissioning new works. There were plays from a number of British and Irish writers including N.C. Hunter, J.B. Priestley, Noel Coward, Graham Greene and G.B. Shaw and a few works by such well-known foreign playwrights as Anouilh, Ibsen and Cocteau. If Harris had previously made his name as a dependable, if relatively minor, director in the theatre, he now developed a new reputation as a reliable and experienced producer/director for those many actors making their first venture into the relatively new and untested medium of live television drama in the mid-late 1950s.

Harris’s television dramas were mainly transmitted from the ATV studios at Wood Green in London within the ITV Play of the Week and Television Playhouse anthology series.[6] The material which I found in 1988 included the scripts for more than twenty ITV (and a few BBC) productions. Of special interest, most of these were heavily annotated working scripts or camera scripts which included detailed instructions on how each play was to be broadcast. For eight of the plays there were also studio ground plans which provided a precise layout of the different rooms and settings where the drama was meant to unfold and the required positions of the different television cameras. In addition, there were complete cast lists, call sheets and shooting schedules. Each production would typically include two weeks of rehearsals with the actors and a day or two of camera rehearsals followed by a live broadcast. However, the first two of Harris’s ITV productions were quite unusual in that they were recorded on film at ATV’s Highbury Studios where the HDF Company (High Definition Films Ltd.) was based. This relatively new High Definition Film system was a sophisticated, closed circuit telerecording system for photographing the play to produce a telerecording on 35mm film at a much higher line standard (700 lines) than the standard television of the mid-1950s (425 lines). (A short-lived technical system, it was soon abandoned as new methods of video-taping were introduced.)

Fortunately, a full set of documents relating to these two dramas, Frolic Wind (19 November 1955) and No Escape (21 January 1956), have survived, including  rehearsal and filming schedules, cast lists (complete with home addresses and phone numbers) and letters of instruction: ‘NB will artistes please bring along Insurance Cards on read through day, to ensure prompt release of cheques.’ There was also an elaborate props list and breakdown and, most interesting of all, the film shooting call sheets, annotated day by day, accompanied by continuity sheets which provide a detailed record of the actual filming. The planned schedule for both of these plays entailed two weeks of rehearsals at the Four Provinces Club at 13 Canonbury Lane, N.1 (near Islington Town Hall), then one week of filming at the Highbury Studios (98 Highbury New Park, N.5), followed by the television broadcast a week later.[7]

On Frolic Wind the opening credits read: Towers of London presents ROGER LIVESEY and HELEN HAYE with Joyce Carey, Irene Brown and Mary Kerridge in FROLIC WIND by Richard Pryce adapted by Howard Clewes, DIRECTED by LIONEL HARRIS. The end credits include a full list of the supporting cast: Gladys Root, David Peel, Jennifer Wright, Llewellyn Rees and Oliver Johnston, also the main technical credits: art director Frank White, editor Derek Parsons and assistant director Peter Crowhurst. Made by the HIGH-DEFINITION SYSTEM AT HIGHBURY STUDIOS, London, England. (But there is no mention of the fact that, according to the script, the play was based on the novel by Robert Oke.)

A surviving set of identical letters to the cast are all dated 15 September 1955. For example, the one addressed to Roger Livesey Esq., at 16 Dorset Square, N.W.1 reads:

Dear Mr Livesey, Mr Harris has asked me to forward to you list of rehearsal and shooting dates of “Frolic Wind” which I am enclosing herewith, together with a map of instructions for reaching Highbury Studios and the Rehearsal rooms. Yours sincerely, Secretary to Lionel Harris.

On this production there was also a detailed list of make-up and hairdressing requirements which refers, appropriately enough, to the age of the characters too. Thus, Helen Haye (aged 85), Irene Brown (75) and Joyce Carey (70) all require wigs, while Jennifer Wright as Miss Jewell ‘shows signs of wearing rouge from scene no. 4 onwards.’ As for the men, a beard will be provided for Roger Livesey, a moustache for Llewellyn Rees and ‘front piece hair’ for David Peel. The list of ‘Rehearsal Props’ includes a pack of playing cards, umbrella, a thick bundle of magazines, packed as for posting, a tea trolley, cigarette box and a copy of The Times.

Each of the set of call sheets gives the exact time and date for filming, supplied by assistant director Peter Crowhurst, to all the cast and crew – very similar to those provided for the shooting of feature films. A typical example, no. 4, is dated 11 October 1955, Highbury Studios, unit call: 8:30 am when the stand-ins for all eight main actors were required to be present. The various members of the cast were also required to report for makeup, some as early as 7:30 am depending on how elaborate a make-up job was required. ‘Refreshment breaks, i.e., canteen trolley on set at 10 am and 4 pm.’ The three main sets in use represent the drawing room interior at night, the terrace exterior at night and garden exterior (day). Rehearsals took place from 19 September to 3 October 1955 and filming was meant to take place on 4-7 October, but the call sheets and continuity reports confirm that the actual shooting was extended from the 6th to the 14th with the TV Playhouse broadcast scheduled for 9-10 pm on Saturday, 19 November 1955.[8]

This production was soon followed by a second drama, No Escape by Rhys Davies, at the same studio with most of the same crew and director. As with Frolic Wind, the production schedule included two weeks of rehearsals (15-28 November) and one week of filming (29 November-2 December), with the broadcast set for 21 January 1956. Surviving documents include a complete cast list and various internal documents and memos, also a full props list including one bread knife ‘really blood-thirsty’, one identical with trick blade, one car to match stock shots, also wind machine required and special lighting effect (memo from Bernard Hanson, assistant director). A similar memo from stage manager Christopher Morahan refers to the need for ‘rehearsal props – to be delivered to the 4 Provinces Club as soon as possible on Tuesday 15 November.’ (The 26-year old Morahan was just starting out as a floor manager at ATV and would first make his name on Emergency – Ward 10 in 1957 before going on to become a leading director of television and film.) A memorandum from Cecil Clarke to Lionel Harris dated 28 November 1955 reads:

When you draft your billing please remember these points. Valerie Taylor has ‘star’ billing and Miriam Karlin and Joyce Carey feature billing. Opening titles should be Towers of London Presents Valerie Taylor in No Escape by Rhys Davies with Joyce Carey and Miriam Karlin, directed by Lionel Harris, Made by the HIGH DEFINITION SYSTEM at Highbury Studios, London England.

For Miriam Karlin this was the first of a number of television dramas she did with Harris. She was probably cast in the television version of No Escape as she had previously played the same role on tour in 1954 and was already an experienced television actress. In her autobiography, Some Sort of a Life, she provides a rare description of Lionel Harris whom she regarded as a real friend: ‘very short, totally rotund and always talking about some new diet.’[9] Recalling her early television years, she also provides an amusing description of her experience of doing live television from the actor’s point of view:

Television was like doing theatre on camera […] They only had one camera live at a time and you knew exactly when they were coming to a close-up because they would come trundling towards you with their red light on, then they’d switch to the other camera. For 3 or 4 weeks we had intensive rehearsal so we knew exactly where your marks were on the floor.[10]

Similarly, a young Dorothy Tutin made her television debut with Harris in a version of Graham Greene’s The Living Room (ATV, 23 April 1956) in the same role which had given a big boost to her career three years earlier in 1953. In fact, one writer even singled out this television drama as an interesting example of the very real benefits of seeing it on television:

Graham Greene’s The Living Room is another play in which, by means of close-ups, the television cameras were able to reveal more than one saw in the play when it was performed in the theatre. Because it is a play of thought and argument it is particularly well suited to television. In the close-ups the cameras seem to penetrate into the very minds of the characters; so much so that one had the feeling that what they were photographing was not the faces of the characters but their innermost thoughts.[11]

Three months later Miss Tutin was again directed by Harris in a television version of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (ATV, 16 July 1956) co-starring Patrick Barr, again transmitted from the ATV Television Theatre in the Wood Green Studios in North London. And later that year it was the turn of Dame Sybil Thorndike to recreate her lead role in N.C. Hunter’s Waters of the Moon (ATV, 14 November 1956) joined by her husband Lewis Casson.

In fact, Rebecca was the first of the scripts that I found which were accompanied by the original studio ground plans, especially revealing of the way in which the drama was organised for the live transmission. The elaborately detailed camera scripts included instructions regarding the use of three or four different cameras, all carefully co-ordinated within each scene – typically making use of one for long shots, a second for medium shots and a third moving in for close-ups at various points. The matching ground plans show how the series of sets have been designed within the single large studio space to represent the different rooms, alcoves or outdoor terraces where each drama is meant to be taking place. Brief filmed inserts or commercial breaks between scenes would then allow the actors to move from one set to another or even make quick costume changes during the live broadcast.

Clearly, Harris was regarded at the time as one of the most reliable and sympathetic of directors for those actors making their debut on television. During the 1957-59 years, the list of those first directed by him included Harry H. Corbett, Michael Hordern, Brian Bedford, Irene Worth and Margaret Rutherford who starred in the television version of Anouilh’s Time Remembered early in 1957, two years after she had toured in a production of this same play. (In 1957 there was even a short-lived increase in the number of Harris-directed TV adaptations from foreign sources – Cocteau, Balzac, Ibsen and Anouilh.) It also happens, perhaps fortuitously, that a large number of the surviving scripts come from these years. But most interesting of all was the first appearance of Sir John Gielgud in a live television drama directed by Harris early in 1959, followed soon after by Sir Michael Redgrave. As Gielgud stated at the time: ‘When Sir Laurence successfully broke the ice, I thought I’d better have a try’.[12] (Olivier had starred in a television version of Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman in 1958 which he himself regarded as relatively unsuccessful in spite of its large viewing figures and put him off television for years. Directed by Christopher Morahan for ATV, it was well received at the time.)[13]  In a letter to Paul Anstee just a few weeks before rehearsals were due to begin (dated 8 February 1959) Gielgud refers to the original cast of the play by N.C. Hunter in which he had starred to much acclaim in 1953:

Gladys Cooper is to play Sybil’s part in Day by the Sea, and possibly Maggie Leighton for Irene’s. I suggested it because I want to do something I really know for my first go at TV. Anything new would make me far too nervous, and I didn’t want to appear in a costume part.[14]

In fact, Harris had often made a special effort to contact the original writers of the television dramas. Graham Greene, for example, had provided a few suggestions of small cuts to the script of The Living Room. But the most interesting surviving material concerns the adaptation of A Day by the Sea (ATV, 31 March 1959), namely two hand-written letters to Harris from Hunter’s home address in Pantlludh, Machynlleth in Wales, possibly dated 26 February 1959.[15] He was obviously quite interested in the forthcoming television version of his play and made a number of useful suggestions:

Dear Harris, I have just reread the play straight through. It looks to me as if, in general, it would be best to compress the ‘crowd’ scenes and concentrate on the monologues, and I expect this is what you have in mind. For instance, I think the scenes that Gielgud has with Gregson, Caldwell, Laura, Frances should preferably be more or less intact. On the other hand, I think the picnic scene could be heavily cut, done pictorially, with the minimum of dialogue – in any case, T.V. is not kind to crowded scenes of this sort […] When you have time to do a draft, I should be very grateful if you could send it along. I have one or two ideas, but wont [sic] worry you with these until I know what you have in mind. I’m very glad you are doing this production for me, and wish you all success with it. Yours sincerely, Norman Hunter.

Although the exact dates of the two surviving letters are not clear, it is apparent that Hunter has given a lot of thought to the reworking of his play and even rewritten a number of scenes with the special requirements of television in mind, as mentioned in the second letter, which also suggests that Harris and probably an assistant had even travelled to Wales to discuss the project with Hunter:

Dear Lionel, I hope you found the new opening satisfactory. I have rewritten the Julian-Francis scene in Act III, but am not yet pleased with it and mean to try again. You shall have it as soon as I feel its [sic] the best I can do. I haven’t written any other ending to Act I as I am still uncertain about it – about the idea of changing it. See what happens with what you have, and apply to me again if its [sic] simply not workable. I expect to be in London during anyway part of the rehearsal. I hope you weren’t both too exhausted. Yours, Norman.

It is not clear how much of Hunter’s new material was actually used in the television version. Although he was referred to on screen as the author of the original play, the television adaptation was credited to Lionel Harris!

Following in the footsteps of Gielgud, Sir Michael Redgrave also chose to make his debut with a play by N.C. Hunter to be directed by Lionel Harris later in 1959. As he later recalled in his autobiography, In My Mind’s Eye:

It was in the autumn of 1957 […] a script arrived from Binkie Beaumont, a new play by N.C. Hunter […] To my surprise Hunter sat down and rewrote the play in the shape of my suggestions. In its new form, A Touch of the Sun [ATV, 26 May 1959] appealed to me.[16]

The play opened at the Saville Theatre early in 1958 with his daughter Vanessa making her West End debut and just over one year later he was ready to do the television version at the Wood Green Studios with Harris. It must have been one of the quickest ever examples of a new play being done for television and Redgrave obviously benefitted from the fact that his role was still so fresh in his mind.

As an indication of the low esteem for television work on the part of actors and writers, neither Redgrave in his autobiography, nor the biographers of Gielgud and Richardson mention their work for television. Even Miriam Karlin only refers to Harris as the director of the one stage play they did together, a production of Shaw’s Misalliance in 1956, without mentioning that he had also directed her in three live television dramas at around the same time.

In fact, the last of the early ITV scripts which I found was entitled The Jason Group (ATV, 3 January 1961) by Nicholas Palmer. It marked the television debut of Gwen Ffrancon-Davies and appears to mark the end of this phase in Harris’s career. During the following years he continued directing and producing, both for ITV and the BBC. For example, he directed two surviving episodes of the Sergeant Cork series for ATV in 1963 and even directed three short features for the Edgar Wallace Mysteries series at the Merton Park Studios in 1962-63. The script for one of these films, The Double (1963), starring Basil Henson and Jeanette Sterke, is held in the BFI National Archive.[17]

During recent years, of course, there has been a major revival of interest in the development of early television drama, as reflected, for example, in a number of programmes presented at BFI Southbank in London, including a few of the small number of Harris-directed productions which survive from the 1960s. In 1964 Harris directed four episodes for a series called The Hidden Truth (Rediffusion, July-October 1964), but only one appears to have been preserved complete – One for the Road (17 September 1964). Long thought ‘missing believed wiped’ it was screened by the BFI in April 2015 as part of a season titled ‘Forensic TV: From Crime Scene to Courtroom’.

After Harris rejoined the BBC later in 1964 he would continue working as a director and especially as a producer for the next four years. Perhaps the highlight of his return to the BBC occurred in 1965 when he directed Sir Ralph Richardson in Johnson Over Jordan (4 February 1965) for BBC 2’s Thursday Theatre. Again, a rare rediscovered example of his work, it was screened by the BFI in February 2015 in a season devoted to ‘Forgotten Dramas: Rediscovering British Television’s Neglected Plays’. As perhaps the best surviving example of a Richardson stage performance, the play by J.B. Priestley, written for Sir Ralph and first performed by him in 1939, revolves around an elderly businessman who must ‘relive and reflect upon his existence as he passes into the afterlife’. Whereas the 36-year-old actor had to act and be made-up to look many years older than his true age in the original production, now, 26 years later, he fitted the role perfectly. He had actually turned to television during a relatively thin period for new stage roles in the mid-1960s, but as the programme notes put it: ‘Ralph Richardson reprises one of his greatest stage successes in this little-known TV revival.’[18] The play had originally been planned by Priestley and producer/director Basil Dean as something of an experiment:

a modern morality in which the outstanding events in a man’s life flit through the middle years of temptation, thence to unsullied youth – a life history in reverse order as it were – I realized that it would afford some opportunities for the display of Ralph’s gifts.[19]

Snapshot-2018-10-19 at 03_34_44 PM-1284049478
Ralph Richardson in Johnson Over Jordan (1965)

During the following years, 1966-68, Harris was the producer on more than twenty dramas for the BBC’s Wednesday Play, including two of the earliest television scripts written by Dennis Potter: Where the Buffalo Roam (2 November 1966), which survives, and Message for Posterity (3 May 1967) which doesn’t. And in 1968 Harris himself directed Potter’s A Beast with Two Backs (20 November 1968), partly recorded on film in the Forest of Dean and included in the BFI’s Potter retrospective season in 2015.

I also managed to rescue a few of Harris’s professional papers from the skip including various letters and contracts which were useful in tracing his progress during the 1960s. His return to the BBC, for example, is seen in various contracts and correspondence which relate to his engagement to direct two episodes of Kipling (The Indian Tales of Rudyard Kipling) in 1964. A later letter refers to the end of his contract with the BBC in February 1969, followed immediately by a last set of contracts from LWT (London Weekend Television) to direct two episodes of The Gold Robbers (June-August 1969). (The scripts of these two episodes are also held in the BFI National Archive.)

Here the television material in the collection ends, although Harris continued directing the occasional television episode for ITV in the 1970s. Other later correspondence from his agent refers to various feature film projects which never materialised. The Heroes, for example was based on an Australian book published in 1960 about the exploits of a special unit of the Australian forces in World War Two. Another project that he attempted to develop and produce with the backing of British Lion was The Story of Burke and Wills from a screenplay by Terence Rattigan.

In conclusion, it is hoped that this essay contributes in some small way toward a greater appreciation of the great range and importance of live drama broadcast on British television in the mid-late 1950s and the role played by Lionel Harris, in particular. There is still, obviously, much work to be done in this field. It would be interesting, for example, to examine the surviving television scripts in detail to understand better the process by which the original plays were adapted (i.e. reduced in length) to fit into the required television format.


[1] ‘A Life Found in a Skip’ was the title of a book review which appeared in the Sunday Times in May 2016 referring to A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip by Alexander Masters.

[2] Sunday evening plays were usually repeated the following Thursday in a second live production.

[3] Peter Cushing, The Complete Memoirs, Cambridge: Signum Books, 2013, p. 281.

[4] Garry O’Connor, Ralph Richardson: An Actor’s Life, Coronet, 1983, p. 229.

[5] Quoted in Jason Jacobs, The Intimate Screen: Early British Television Drama, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 158.

[6] Kaleidoscope lists 28 plays directed by Lionel Harris for Play of the Week from 1956-63 and 11 plays for Television Playhouse from 1957-64, The Kaleidoscope BBC Television Drama Research Guide 1936-2011, first digital edition, ed. Simon Coward, Richard Down and Chris Perry, Dudley, 2011.

[7] The original telerecordings of Frolic Wind and No Escape both survive in the ITV Archive as 35mm negatives.

[8] This ATV TV Playhouse series was broadcast in London on Saturday evenings from September 1955 to February 1956 and was different to the Television Playhouse anthology series which began in May 1956 and was broadcast during the week, usually on Thursday evenings.

[9] Miriam Karlin, Some Sort of a Life, London: Oberon Books, 2007, p.70.

[10] Ibid., pp. 40-41.

[11] Norman Marshall, quoted in The Intimate Screen, op cit., p. 122.

[12] Jonathan Croall, John Gielgud: Matinee Idol to Movie Star, London: Methuen, 2011, p. 447.

[13] ‘It was an occasion and lived up to by Olivier in a fine, intelligent performance.’ Halliwell’s Television Companion, London: Grafton Books, 3rd ed., 1986.

[14] Gielgud’s Letters, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2004, p. 225.

[15] The hand-written date is partly illegible.

[16] Michael Redgrave, In My Mind’s Eye: An Autobiography, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1983, p. 218.

[17] The Edgar Wallace Mysteries are available on DVD from Network:

[18] BFI programme booklet, ‘Forgotten Dramas: Rediscovering British Television’s Neglected Plays’, February 2015, p. 40.

[19] Basil Dean, quoted in Garry O’Connor, Ralph Richardson: An Actor’s Life, p.118.


I am grateful for the help I received in preparing this essay from technical expert Grant Lobban, Chris Perry at Kaleidoscope, Neil Hornick, Barbara Garvin and June Standing (Cunningham).

Joel W. Finler, film historian, writer, lecturer, film critic and archivist. Born 1938 in the Bronx, NYC, lived in London since 1959. Film critic for various underground papers in the 1960s including IT, Friends, Ink and first film critic for Time Out in London (1969-70). Books include Stroheim (1967), The Movie Directors Story (1985), The Hollywood Story (1988, 1992, 2003), Alfred Hitchcock: The Hollywood Years (1992), Hollywood Movie Stills (1995, 2012, 2014) and Silent Cinema (1998).

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