A Personal Foreword
In the first place, why a picture-book? Simply because pictures are the raw material of television. They are television. And merely to write about television and then add a few pictures as an afterthought is the wrong way round.
Accordingly, what the compilers of this booklet have done is to choose 120 pictures from the earliest studio beginnings down to the present day (with a glimpse of the future of things in the new Lime Grove studios and the White City permanent centre) and then add a few lines of comment in explanation. That is the right way.
In the result, television picture book really shows you what television is like. That is important because some of you who find yourselves with this book in your screen may never have seen television at all. And if you are one of these, I recommend you to turn to pages 45-47 to see what television looks like on the screen. You can come back later to the photographs of national events, sporting occasions and studio productions that go to make up the programmes.
There is one thing that this Picture Book cannot do, and that is to show you the pictures in action. Only a television receiver can do that. And already the Alexandra Palace and Sutton Coldfield transmitters have brought television within the range of 17,000,000 viewers.
But the story does not end there. By 1954, television will be available to more than eighty per cent of the population of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. And by then television will have become so much a part of the national life that there will be no need for explanatory forewords like this one.
NORMAN COLLINS, Controller bbc Television
Photographs by hugh tosh and roynan raikes, BBC staff photographers, Picture Post Library, British Insulated Callender Cables, Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd. Screen Tele-snaps by john cura. Script by david clayton.
Here is the twenty-year-old story of BBC television told in pictures.
It is a story of small beginnings, many changes, great progress. It starts at No. 16 Portland Place, London, W.1, and then moves up to a hill in North London. It continues in the roominess of Lime Grove at Shepherds Bush. Someday, soon, White City will be Television City serving the whole nation.
Among the beginners in television drama was gladys young who was to become, during and after the war, the Great Lady of Radio. The boy holding the disc for ‘fading-in’ the artist is george inns, now a variety producer in sound broadcasting.
(Left) Miss Young in a 1950 production of Corinth House, a play by Pamela Hansford Johnson. Her reappearance before the cameras in a long and exacting part was generally acclaimed.
Experiment – expansion – more experiment…
In 1934 at 16 Portland Place, the props were makeshift, and the Easter-egg shaped microphone was always within view.
Lighting, makeup, scenery, camera positions, each presented problems to be overcome.
(Right) In 1950 at Lime Grove, Studio D. 5,400 square feet of floor space. Room to move. Room for more experiment…
Song, dance and laughter
To the television screens of the early 30’s came the favourite entertainers of the day, measuring their talents in a strange new world.
(Above) sandy powell and company brought the End of the Pier with them to Portland Place.
Now there is a two-way traffic between the West End and the Television Studios. Fame today may first come from appearances before bbc cameras. These in turn have gone out, wherever possible, to the theatres themselves.
(Left) Camera and crew soar high above the heads of a youthful audience whilst cecil landeau‘s Christmas Party is performed at the Cambridge Theatre in January 1950.
Two decades of dress
Between 1932 (above) and 1950 (below) fashions have changed. So, and just as spectacularly, has the way in which they have been shown to viewers. Then the mannequin pirouetted in and out of ubiquitous apparatus to the tinkle of a piano. Now the setting is sophisticated, and the camera moves forward to pick out the detail of the dress worn by the famous post-war model, Barbara, which is made from a fabric unknown to the early ’30’s – rayon.
Television marches on…
In November 1936, Television moved up to Alexandra Palace and became a Service. From the bigger (but still cramped) studios the cameras recorded the opening ceremony by Major the rt. hon. george clement tryon, His Majesty’s Postmaster-General.
Installed in its new home, Television also went out and about to bring great national events into the homes of the people…
(Left) The Royal Coach bearing Their Majesties, passes the television cameras at Apsley Gate on the Coronation Route.
A Prime Minister came home. An anxious nation waited. Television was there.
On 16 September 1938, when Mr. neville chamberlain returned from Germany after his talks with Hitler, the cameras went to Heston Airport. A little less than a year later Television went off the air and remained so for the duration. It had a different job to do.
Television at war
At home the screens were dark.
No television comics, dance bands, cabaret, pageantry; no trips to the zoo…
Instead, the cathode tubes in aircraft, at sea, under the sea, and on land, gave out visual signals and squeaking ‘blip-blips’ to guide fighters and pinpoint the enemy.
(Left) Radar masts.
(Below) Radar screen in an aircraft.
The Cameras took up the task of presenting history in the making
The Royal Wedding, 1947. Princess Elizabeth’s coach on the way to Westminster Abbey. Viewers also saw the scenes outside Buckingham Palace, including the Royal Party on the balcony, and the evening’s news-reel portrayed the ceremony in the Abbey itself.
(Top) princess elizabeth and the duke of edinburgh visit Alexandra Palace. The cast of Hulbert’s Follies is presented.
Television goes abroad
(Right) On tour with the King’s Party in South Africa in 1947, a T.V. film cameraman visits a native village to collect material for the home screens.
Ballet finds new patterns
Familiar favourites adapted to Television’s special needs; many thousands of new ballet-lovers won; world-famous choreographers creating original themes.
This is the tale of the five years 1946-1950.
(Right) nijinsky, the Master, visits Alexandra Palace a few days before his death to see his famous pupil Serge Lifar at a dress rehearsal.
(Below) Salome. One of the first first [sic] special ballets, which Celia Franca devised and danced.
The Children come first
The first programme to come from the new television studios at Lime Grove in the summer of 1950 was a Children’s Hour. This was a sign that for the children nothing but the best that Television can offer will do.
the announcer – Jennifer Gay, who is 14, introduces the Children’s Programme.
the clown – The famous Keele entertains the children at Christmas.
the film star – John Mills brings his own children to the Studio.
the radio uncle – The beloved Derek McCulloch (Uncle Mac), reads to children from the Dominions gathered in the Studio.
Film in Television
(Above) Sir stafford cripps is interviewed by the B B C Television Newsreel camera. A commentator (right) records a sequence for London Town. Sound is added to this and similar items in Television’s own theatre at Alexandra Palace. Behind him, in the glass-enclosed ‘mixing room’, the engineers regulate the sound and add music and effects.
The Olympic Games at Wembley, 1949.
High above the great arena, the cameras swing from end to end of the spectacular processions, focus on the finishing tapes, and bring the athletes to talk about themselves in close-up.
(Below) maureen gardener interviewed just after she and Mrs. Blankers-Koen of Holland had broken the 80 metres hurdles record.
General Election Night: February 23 1950
Long after midnight, Television was still there recording the drama as the crowd, packed in Trafalgar Square, greeted the results flashed to them from a screen above. Back in the studio, experts analysed the results, telling viewers who won, who lost, when and where.
Seen on the Screen
gracie fields and duggie wakefield in Lucky Dip
bobby howes in Paging You
vera lynn in Starlight
arthur askey in Variety
bowyer and ravel in Variety
lois green in Mirth and Melody
claude hulbert in Paging You
cecily courtneidge and jack hulbert in Under the Counter
jocelyn loy in Come to the Party
jean kent in Rooftop Rendezvous
jack train in Rooftop Rendezvous
vicki autier in Starlight
As if the viewer was within splashing distance of the oars. The Oxford and Cambridge boat race on the Television screen. These pictures, together with those above and below, were photographed directly from a television screen.
Into the foyer of Covent Garden Opera House on the occasion of the visit of a Royal Party including president and mme. auriol of France…
and (below) an informal glimpse of h.m. the king.
An idea is born and discussed. A date is fixed, transmission time allotted.
At the weekly General Programme Conference held at Alexandra Palace every aspect of a production – time, costs, space, studio details – are arranged many weeks ahead.
Here the heads of departments plan all the ramifications of OTHELLO, under the chairmanship of Mr. cecil mcgivern (facing camera, centre), head of television programmes.
The complete cast meet for a first general reading. The producer is in the centre, with his leading man on his right, and models of the sets in front of him.
The Producer, his assistant, the Studio Manager, the Lighting Engineer, and other production staff use these scale models to work out detail in the early stages.
Rehearsal. The Cameraman, the Producer and Othello discuss an awkward camera angle.
…OTHELLO is on the air.
Cassio greets Emilia and Iago replies…
‘Sir, would she give you so much of her lips,
As of her tongue she oft bestows on me,
You’ld have enough…’
Desdemona pleads with the Duke to let her accompany Othello to Cyprus.
…’That I did love the Moor to live with him,
My downright violence and scorn of fortunes
May trumpet to the world: my heart’s subdu’d
Even to the very quality of my lord…’
The Final Scene: ‘…O lady, speak again!
Sweet Desdemona, O sweet mistress, speak!’