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A season of TV’s Forgotten Dramas will be screened at London’s BFI Southbank (British Film Institute) this month thanks to academics from Royal Holloway, University of London who have been working to unearth hidden gems which have disappeared from our screens.
The season, entitled: ‘TV’S Forgotten Dramas : rediscovering British Television’s Neglected plays’ has been curated by Dr Lez Cooke and Dr Billy Smart from the Department of Media Arts at Royal Holloway and will run from Tuesday 3 February until Monday 23 February. It is a rare opportunity to see dramas which span a period of 60 years, many of which have not been screened since their original transmission.
One of the highlights is Anastasia (1953) which is one of the earliest surviving TV plays and was thought to have been destroyed when 20th Century Fox acquired the rights to make their 1956 film version, until Dr Lez Cooke discovered a copy in the BBC Film & Video Library.
Another play being featured is the television version of J B Priestley’s highly ambitious stage play, Johnson Over Jordan the existence of which is largely unknown even to most Priestley experts, despite featuring Ralph Richardson reprising the role of Johnson. It was first screened in 1965 on BBC 2 in the very early days of the channel, when viewers were required to buy a new television set to be able to receive the new channel. The original broadcast was also overshadowed by the funeral of Winston Churchill.
The screening is part of a wider AHRC-funded research project, entitled ‘The History of Forgotten Television Drama’, led by Professor John Hill and looks at productions which have been lost, either because they were mislaid, junked or were produced live and not recorded, as well as recordings which exist but have rarely been seen since their first transmission.
Dr Billy Smart, said: “We hope that our cinema audiences will enjoy the plays that they see, and that we accomplish further work in finding out about forgotten television dramas, exploring why they might be of interest or value (and why they came to be forgotten) and find further opportunities to bring them to a wider audience.”
Three of the dramas will be introduced by original cast members; Hannah Gordon whose first onscreen acting job was in Johnson Over Jordan, 50 years ago, Katy Manning who appeared in 1973’s The Golden Road - British TV’s first lesbian drama to be written by a woman and Alison Steadman who will talk about Early to Bed (1975), one of the first TV dramas she appeared in.
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