A programme is born…

A programme is born…

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.

Leading man and leading lady rehearse their great scene (below).

She then retires to a quiet corner to concentrate on her lines (left).

‘This is how it should be done’, suggests the Producer…

…and this is how they did it on the night.

Hampers from the theatrical costumiers must be checked by the wardrobe mistresses and if necessary, alterations made to the costumes.

Swords and daggers must be ordered from the ‘prop room’.

In the studio the sets grow steadily from confusion into some semblance of order. The lighting engineer tries out his ideas.

High up on the gantry an electrician watches for instructions on how his lamps are to be placed and where they are to shine.

The Carpenter assembles the bed.

The scene painter puts the finishing touches to the sets. ‘Stock stuff’ is used wherever available. A wall that once did for a London Underground Station looks out of place as backing for a Shakespearean play…

…but from the font, on the night, it looks completely ‘in period’.

Rehearsal. The Cameraman, the Producer and Othello discuss an awkward camera angle.

Othello grew his own beard.

…but the make-up deparment darkened his beard and hair, and stained his skin to turn him into the dusky Moor.

While the viewer turns to his Radio Times

…Cassio assumes doublet and hose…

…the call-boy knocks, and… 

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!’

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