Armchair Theatre

The 1959-60 season of Armchair Theatre, the only ITV [drama anthology] programme presented every week by the same company, was a notable success with audiences. Thirty-two of the thirty-seven plays featured in TAM’s Top Ten ratings, one gained the highest viewing figure to date for an ITV play and another became the only play ever to achieve first place in the Top Ten

Producer Sydney Newman’s determined work among authors also resulted in a record proportion of new writing; eighteen of the plays were specially commissioned for the programme, among them the first original work for TV by Angus Wilson, Alun Owen and Harold Pinter. Of the remainder, all but seven were by British writers, and several were adaptations made for ABC

The season opened with The Scent of Fear, specially written by Ted Willis and directed by John Moxey, one of ABC’s ablest and most experienced directors, whose cigar is seen left in consultation with Sydney Newman

George Varjas

Accent on age

Although in ABC Television’s activities the accent has always been on youth, the elderly are not forgotten, and three Armchair Theatre playwrights last season reminded viewers that the root of the problem of dealing with the aged usually lies in ourselves

John Timbers

Alun Owen’s second play, After the Funeral, directed by William Kotcheff, centred round a fine old Welshman, Charles Carson and his grandson, Hugh David left, who wanted the old man to provide a genuine Welsh background for his home

Stanley Mann’s Fifth Floor People, directed by John Moxey, showed an old couple, Elizabeth Begley and J. G. Devlin, whose miserable existence in a dingy attic hung like a cloud over the future of their young neighbour downstairs, Billie Whitelaw

Bedford Studios

One of the most important playwrights of 1960 has been Clive Exton, whose first play under an ABC contract was Where I Live.

William Kotcheff directed this moving story of a housewife, Ruth Dunning, whose jealousy of her brother and sister-in-law, Lloyd Lamble and Madge Ryan, led her to destroy her own self-respect when she forced them to take their turn at housing her old father, Paul Curran

Local politics

Still in a provincial setting, Armchair Theatre presented Girl in the Market Square, a strong story by ABC contract writers Malcolm Hulke and Eric Paice.

John Moxey gave the direction an authentic flavour of regional vitality, helped by the designs of Peter Mullins and a rousing performance by Leo MacKern as the watch committee chairman and newspaper proprietor who ran over a girl driving home from a civic dinner and tried to cover up for the sake of his family and employees.

Rupert Davies Played the police chief and Andrew Ray the son who unmasked his father

 

John Timbers

Two views of the military man

John Timbers

Another old-guard soldier, but this time of a more human kind, was created by Clive Exton in his comedy Some Talk of Alexander.

Harry Andrews had waited eight years to find a TV play to his liking before making his ITV debut as the former Guards nco who readjusts himself to civiliian life in the greengrocer’s shop kept by Ingeborg Wells and her son James Culliford.

Alan Cooke, who has a gifted hand with comedy, directed the play.

A very different Clive Exton story about a military man was Hold My Hand, Soldier, illustrated right with a scene from each of its deeply moving acts. Victor Maddern, Gordon Jackson and Ronald Fraser were the only three players in this modern parable of a private soldier’s journey to Calvary, presented by Armchair Theatre on Easter Sunday.

John Moxey did some of his finest work as a director of this play, while James Goddard, a new name among ABC’s young designers, created the sets for both Exton productions

Mark Hamilton
1960 // TRANSDIFFUSION BROADCASTING SYSTEM