Home > Adults' Programmes > Other > British Programmes
Programme output for adults during the 1950's, included the items below. If you have any information about these or any other programmes of the era, we would be very grateful to receive it. Just e-mail the address at the foot of this page and we will try to feature them on their own pages
'How Do You View?' (1951) - was the first-ever comedy series on British television and starred Terry Thomas with his famous waistcoats, mononcle and cigarette holder. Written by Sid Colin and Talbot Rothwell, the programme opened on Terry in close-up with a very broad smile saying the classic lines, "How do you view? Are you frightfully well? You ARE? Oh, good show!".
In the show Terry was supposed to be a man-about-town complete with butler, a very decrepit character named Moulton, played by Herbert C. Walton. Avril Angers was Rosie Lee, 'the girl with the tea', Janet Brown was Miss Hap, Terry's secretary and Janet's husband Peter Butterworth, played the chauffeur, Lockit. The running joke was that, although Terry had a chauffeur, he hadn't a car.
Later in the show there was another spot where Leslie Mitchell (of Movietone News fame) used to interview Terry playing some strange characters such as the Rank Organizations's gong-man, a broken-down boxer or a Beefeater. The show's musical spot was filled by guests such as Dickie Valentine, Lita Roza, Adelaide Hall and once or twice by Jimmy Young. Jimmy played the piano and was a pop-singer of hits like 'Unchained Melody' and 'Too Young'. The show was broadcast live.
An Evening's Diversion
In 1953, our new Elizabethan era brought with it a revived interest in Good Queen Bess, of Tudor times. So it was not surprising that the BBC allocated a whole day's viewing to that far-flung era, when they whisked us back in time, to the castles and kitchens, of Elizabeth I's reign.
Even the announcers, Malcolm, Peters and Hobley, were attired in Tudor costumes. Mary Malcolm read 'Ye News', which had been heralded by a dozen or so, appropriately costumed, village lasses, seen, clinging to floral garlands, and prancing around a decorated maypole, to the strains of the BBC TV Newsreel theme.
Pride of place, in one grand kitchen, was taken by the BBC's own television chef: Philip Harben, who - taking time off from his non-stick frying pan factory, in Ashton-Under-Lyne; and from his regular weekly TV cook's slot, on BBC - he donned cross-gartered tights, and knickerbockers, and talked us through the routine, that would have prevailed in a kitchen of Shakespeare's vintage.
He was assisted by another lovely, 'top drawer' lady: Jeanne Heale, who - at the time - had taken over from Joan Gilbert, to present a similar magazine programme, to Picture Page.
Visit another site for more information
The second half of the 50s established Armand and Michaela Denis' aquatic counterparts, Austrian naturalists and divers Hans and Lotte Hass. Their intrepid underwater films, such as 'Undersea World Of Adventure' were dubbed for English and German audiences, but they proved more popular in Britain.
Their first series in 1956 saw the photogenic aquanauts submerged beneath the Caribbean, The Aegean and the Red Sea. Then followed 'Undersea World of Adventure' in 1958 and later 'Adventure' (1959-60), which consisted of three series of documentaries in which Hans and Lotte and a team of scientists on board the marine research vessel Xarifa explored underwater life in the Indian Ocean.
Dr. Hans Hass was the director of the International Institute for Submarine Research.
An early example of the power of television drama, Kneale's adaptation of Orwell's classic parable of totalitarianism garnered both praise and approbation when transmitted, live, in December 1954. Questions were asked in Parliament about the suitability of such strong material for television, but the controversy was not enough to prevent it being broadcast a second time - again live - four days later. Even now, the torture sequences retain their power to shock and disturb, while the performances, particularly from Peter Cushing and Andre Morell, are striking.
Audio clip of the infamous Room 101 torture scene
British TV's First Lady of popular music during the late 50's, Alma Cogan was top of the bill of almost all the notable variety shows then running on TV (Max Bygraves Entertains, Saturday Spectacular, Val Parnell's Startime, Sunday Night at The London Palladium among others).
'The Arthur Haynes Show' (1956-66)
This was a comedy favourite for ten years and brought fame and frustration to to one of Haynes's (left) favourite foils: Nicholas Parsons; Patricia Hayes, Graham Stark, and Dermott Kelly were also present. The comedy skits are fondly remembered. The two most popular routines consisted of Arthur Haynes's famous tramp ("Up to me neck in muck and bullets!"), manipulating Parsons's bewildered officialdom and Haynes's tramp philosophising on a park bench with colleague Dermott Kelly.
|'Before Your Very Eyes'
was a fortnightly comedy series starring Arthur Askey, aided and abetted by Dickie Henderson and Diana Decker (right).
In 1955 Arthur moved over to ITV and starred in a five part sitcom called 'Love and Kisses' and in 1956 transferred 'Before Your Very Eyes' to ITV.
'Sabrina' (Norma Sykes, left) started her TV career with Arthur Askey.
'Come Dancing' (Sept 29 1950) - was one of television's longest running programmes. It was originally conceived as a showcase for events from regional ballrooms, with professionals Syd Perkins and Edna Duffield offering instructions for viewers at home. It assumed the familiar dance contest format in 1953. The suits and dresses were a bit different then. The deviser of the programme was Mecca's Eric Morley. The comperes in the '50s were McDonald Hobley, Peter Dimmock, Sylvia Peters, Peter West, Brian Johnston and Peter Haigh.
'Picture Parade' was also co-presented by Peter Haigh with the actor Derek Bond and was a weekly review of the film world. The programme ran for many years and Haigh regularly interviewed visiting Hollywood stars, including Joan Crawford, Bob Hope, John Wayne, Tyrone Power and Anna Neagle.
|'The White Heather Club' (1957-68) - a traditional New Year's Eve party backdrop programme which highlighted the talents of Andy Stewart, Jimmy Logan, Jimmy Shand and his Band (right), Moira Anderson, Duncan Macrae and Roddy McMillan. Along with 'The Kilt is My Delight' (1957-63), both produced in Glasgow by Alan Rees. Click on the picture to hear The White Heather Jig.|
The beautiful 'Yana' (Pamela Guard) was a frequent visitor to television who had her own show, in which she sang her seductive, hit-song: 'Climb Up The Wall'.
|'The Eurovision Song Contest'
Carr and Teddy Johnson
whole 1959 show!
'Nick of The River' (1959) was a series about the Thames River Police.
'Nick' was ex-Detective Inspector D.H.C. Nixon who had written a
book about his 34 year career in the Metropolitan Police, of
which 20 years was spent in the Thames Police, and which became
the inspiration for the series. Incidents in the series were
fictional but the story of his career was authentic. The police
headquarters were at Wapping Police Station and his 'beat'
covered 38 miles of river from Teddington to Dartford Creek. He
organised the detection of crime for the whole of London's
riverside docks. Murder, theft, suicide, smuggling, drug
trafficking.... they all came his way.
Starring George Baker as Detective Inspector Nixon with Martin Wyldeck as 'Tiny' Wainwright and Lane Meddick as Sgt. Flowers. (left to right in picture)
'Face to Face' - The programme of the incisive and controversial interview brought internationally famous figures to the BBC television screen. Tight close-ups were the hallmark of this programme. They were considered daring at the time, with the cameras cutting both forehead and chin as they went in to show the subject, warts and all. Directed by Hugh Burnett, John Freeman set a standard in the art of interviewing in depth which has yet to be surpassed.
Picture right- John
Freeman interviews Augustus John, the doyen of British
|'Holiday Town Parade' - This was a touring variety
show that stopped off at the major seaside resorts in the
UK, and was hosted by MacDonald Hobley. The opening
sequence was unforgettable. Clad in full evening dress,
our man wore a full sized marching bass drum on his chest
which he proceeded to thump as he pronounced - "Make
a date, don't be late, with Holiday Town Parade!".
One of the programme's features was a weekly body
building slot named the Adonis Competition, in which the
chief judge was former Mr. Universe, Arnold Dyson.
More information here
'Top Town' - A localised travelling talent show which originated on radio and then moved over to television. The producer was Barney Colehan.
'The Good Old Days' - began in July 1953 from the City Varieties Theatre, Leeds, and Leonard Sachs was to become the celebrated chairman of a show that lasted for thirty years and featured 2000 artists. The assembled throng not only wore period clothes like the artists; they were encouraged to join in the songs too. All the money for their outfits, false beards, stick-on moustaches and side-whiskers came out of their own pocket, although some were known to cheat by only wearing costume from the waist up since only their top halves were visible on television. The other splendidly individual feature about "The Good Old Days" was the performance of Leonard Sachs. No act ever had a bigger build-up as he reeled off a list of sesquipedalian provincialisms (long words) with the audience reaching a crescendo of oohs and aahs as Sachs sounded increasingly constipated. Finally, as the atmosphere reached fever pitch, he would activate his gavel, shriek, "Your own, Your very own..." and often introduce an act that nobody had ever heard of. Each show would close with an exuberant exaltation from the Chairman to the audience to join in the chorus from 'The Old Bull and Bush' featuring the whole cast, "but chiefly yourselves". The programme was produced by Barney Colehan who also produced 'Have a Go' on the radio
'Monitor' - On Sunday, February 2 1958, another Grace Wyndham Goldie programme went on the air (see 'Tonight' also). It was called Monitor and it marked a further step up the ladder of fame for Huw Wheldon. This programme finally broke the resistance of the hard core of intellectuals who tended at that time to equate watching television with paying on arcade machines. Huw Wheldon showed the work, and in skilful interviews, revealed the inspiration of a wide range of artists, musicians, sculptors, poets and people of the theatre. A film school in its own right, it gave many directors such as John Schlesinger and Ken Russell a chance to hone their talents.
'Kaleidoscope' (1946-53) - began as a fortnightly magazine programme (every other Friday), presenting such viewer interest material as Iris Brooke describing antique treasures in 'Collector's Corner'; 'Word Play', a game of charades, played by members of J. Arthur Rank's Company of Youth (aspiring young film stars); Leslie Welch, 'The Memory Man'; and the comedy 'Watch that Faux Pas' with Max Kester as the Lecturer. 'Be Your Own Detective', a short thriller by Mileson Horton testing the viewers' powers of observation, started in 1947 with a theme along similar lines to 'Telecrime'. 'Puzzle Corner' was a slot in Kaleidoscope presented by Ronnie Waldman (right). Viewers in a pre-announced town would be invited to display a copy of the Radio Times in their front room window, if they wished to be considered for the programme. A house and family being chosen by the advance production team, the live programme would consist of a quiz, conducted by Ronnie Waldman by telephone, with the answers from the participants being heard. The programmes were introduced by MacDonald Hobley; edited and produced by John Irwin.
with Percy Thrower who regularly nailed his onions to batons of wood in case they fell over during transmission.
Eileen Fowler's broadcasting career began on the wireless in 1954. In 1956 she established the Keep Fit Association. Before long she was on televison, surrounded by a gaggle of girls whose healthy, shining faces, and whose exhibition of the initials "EF" on their chests, proclaimed their devotion to the correct ideals. In 1961 the BBC suddenly dispensed with Eileen Fowler's services; still irrepressible, however, she published Stay Young Forever. There were also long-playing records to enable her devotees to persist with her exercises. By the early Seventies she was back on television with a new "dance-disco" fitness programme.
British TV's first wildlife series in 1955. The very first program gave viewers a glimpse of the nocturnal world of the fox. Presented by naturalist Peter Scott, the series firmly established the BBC's filmmakers as innovators of wildlife TV. Eventually axed in 1969.
'Men in Battle' (1956) Introduced by General Sir Brian Horrocks (right) and produced by Huw Wheldon.
The Adventures of Brigadier Wellington-Bull (1959) - Starred Alexander Gauge with Valerie Singleton and Donald Hewlett.
John Slater (left), television's well known story-teller, invited you to join him at Johnny's Place (1955)
The Lost Planet (1954) Scifi drama serial based on Angus MacVicar's books. A group of travellers journey to the lost planet of Hesikos in an atomic spaceship. Starred John Stuart as Dr Lachlan McKinnon, Geoffrey Lumsden as Lars Bergman, John Springett as Spike Stranahan, Mary Law as Janet Campbell, Joan Allen as Madge Smith and Peter Kerr as Jeremy Torant. (6 x 30 minute episodes). Also The Return to the Lost Planet (1954-55).
|"Life with the Lyons" was a popular domestic sitcom featuring the real-life family group of Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels with their children Barbara and Richard. Barbara's catch phrase was "I'll die. I'll just die". They first appeared in a fortnightly series of shows (following their success on BBC radio with "Hi, Gang!" and "Life with the Lyons") for BBC TV, before moving over to ITV in 1957. Scottish actress Molly Weir, who had been with them on their BBC TV show, also appeared in the later Associated Rediffusion series as their housekeeper, Aggie. Their nosey neighbour was called Florrie and their pet dog was called "Skeeter".|
'The Dickie Henderson Show' - was one of those somewhat forgotten "curios of television", based on the deeds of a sophisticated, if often hard-pressed, song-and-dance man plus his wife (played in the series by June Laverick), scriptwriter and accompanist (Lionel Murton) plus various guests. Also 'The Dickie Henderson Half-Hour' in which he starred with Anthea Askey playing his wife (1959).
'Bransby Williams' - an elderly, rather threatening, seated figure (left) who used to do Sunday evening short readings from Charles Dickens and also Alexander Pope's poetry and prose straight to camera. Character changes were signalled by changing the camera's angle and his turning to face it.
'The Third Man' (1959-60)
Michael Rennie starred as Harry Lime, a wealth businessman-adventurer who globetrotted from one international intrigue to another on behalf of the underdog. He was assisted by his personal secretary Bradford Webster (played by Jonathan Harris). (Anglo-American series)
'African Patrol' (1958) Policing the East African territory of Kenya was the theme and setting for this action-adventure series. John Bentley (pictured right) played Patrol-Inspector Paul Derek, a safari sheriff and was later to appear in "Crossroads". (39 episodes)
African Patrol opening theme
'The New Adventures of Martin Kane, Private Eye' (aka Martin Kane, Private
Investigator) (1957-58) Starred William Gargan as Kane with Brian
Reece as Superintendent Page. A Towers of London Production for
ABC TV, produced by Harry Alan Towers. (39x30-minute episodes)
Link for more information about Martin Kane
'Man From Interpol' (1959-60) starred Richard Wyler as
Interpol Agent Anthony Smith with John Longdon as Superintendent
The supporting cast included John Serret as the French Police Chief and Peter Allenby as Ricardi of the Italian Carabineri.
The series was based on cases of an Interpol Agent assigned to Scotland Yard.
In the U.S. some episodes of "Man From Interpol" were shown on
NBC's "Detectives Diary" series (circa 1961).
|'Colonel March of Scotland Yard' (1956-7) The series was based on the Carter Dickson collection of short stories, The Department of Queer Complaints, published in 1940. It starred Boris Karloff as the urbane, eye-patched sleuth who worked for D-3 and whose mystery-solving ranged from the unnatural to the supernatural. On other occasions, supposedly impossible crimes landed on his desk (including a murder in a sealed compression chamber where no-one could have reached the victim). March even confronted The Abominable Snowman in one episode. However he always found the solution. Ewan Roberts and Richard Wattis supported. (26 episodes).|
'Spycatcher' was based on the published wartime experiences of Allied counter-espionage wizard Lt.-Col. Oreste Pinto. The theme of the series was that with the German occupation of Europe there was a steady flow of refugees into Britain, all of whom had to be screened by Col. Pinto and his team of interrogators to prevent the infiltration of enemy spies. Bernard Archard played Pinto as the relentless spycatcher who, generally through a bit of verbal psychological warfare, usually got his man; in one particular episode forcing a confession out of a spy by the simple means of using Hitler's portrait as a dartboard!
Stories from the files of America's Office of Strategic Services (the wartime predecessor of the CIA) were the basis for this Second World War cloak-and-dagger adventure. The Anglo-American series, based at the National Studios at Elstree under producer Jules Buck, featured Ron Randell as OSS agent Major Frank Hawthorne who undertook clandestine missions into occupied Europe for purposes of sabotage, rescue, contact, and information. Filmed in moody, night-time black and white (several episodes were directed by ace film noir maker Robert Siodmak), in England and France, each of the stories dramatized apparently had a basis in actual Second World War history; executive producer on the programme was Colonel William Eliscu, one-time aide to real-life OSS Chief General 'Wild Bill' Donoran. Lionel Murton was Hawthorne's Chief back at headquarters and Robert Gallico played their assistant, Sgt. O'Brien. In all 26 × half-hour episodes were produced.
As each episode opened the theme tune played and a voiceover was heard as the figure of a parachutist fell from a plane:
is an agent of the OSS, en-route to a mission behind
'War in the Air' (1954) - A classic BBC documentary series from the 1950s chronicling the air war in World War Two. In its time, it was regarded as the definitive analysis and for twenty years it was part of the required viewing for all new RAF recruits.
'The Sky at Night' (1957)
Introduced by Patrick Moore. Began 6 months before Sputnik was launched. With his terse diction and generally windswept appearance Moore has explored, charted, explained and analysed the great astronomical events of the past half century for the benefit of the late-night TV viewer.
The Sky at Night Theme
from Pelleas and Melisande Op 42 1st Movement At the Castle Gate by Sibelius
'Shadow Squad' (1957-59)
Vic Steele (Rex Garner) had resigned from the Flying Squad, tired
of the rules and regulations which hampered his work. He set up
his own agency, assisted by Londoner Ginger Smart (George Moon),
and named it Shadow Squad. Often calling on the help of their
cleaner, Mrs. Moggs (Kathleen Boutall), the pair investigated all
manner of intriguing crimes. After 26 episodes, Steele was
mysteriously written out and the agency was handed over to
another ex-cop, Don Carter (Peter Williams). Steele was sent off
on a mission to Australia, never to return.
It was the Carter/Smart combination that made this twice weekly show a success, although a spin-off entitled Skyport (see below), featuring Ginger as an airport security man, failed to 'take-off' and lasted only a year.
Presented half-hour dramas set against the background of large airport. George Moon (right) starred as an airport security man supported by Lisa Gastoni, Gerald Harper and Barry Foster. 52 episodes.
'The Trollenberg Terror' was a Saturday evening serial shown in 1956 and featured Ronan O'Casey.
|'Nathaniel Titlark' (1956)
The first TV sitcom role for the great stage and film actor Bernard Miles (left). It was based on an earthy country character whom he created, Nathaniel Titlark, described as 'a rare combination of poet, peasant, poacher, bird-watcher and connoisseur of fine beer'.
The episodes were set in a village in the Chiltern Hills (north-west of London), allowing Miles ample scope to exercise a country dialect.
Bernard Miles - Nathaniel Titlark
Megs Jenkins - Jessie Titlark (series 1)
Maureen Pryor - Jessie Titlark (series 2)
|'Your Life In Their Hands' (1958)
The BBC took the revolutionary step of transporting their cameras into a real operating-theatre to witness surgeons at work. The series ran for six years and was made with the full co-operation of the staff in the hospitals that were visited and the vast majority of doctors supported the programme, saying it provided a valuable service in dispelling fears about surgery. However, The British Medical Association strongly attacked the programme and, in an article in the British Medical Journal, it accused the BBC of 'pandering to the morbid' and called the first programme, which showed six polio patients being kept alive by artificial breathing pumps, 'deplorable'. It was concerned that the series would increase people's worries about their own health. The BMA concluded: 'We hope that in its search for realism, the BBC will not find itself telecasting a death on the table. But even if it is not provided with this sensation, the viewing public should be in for a real blood-curdling treat'.
(Thank goodness it was only in monochrome then!)
The Four Just Men (1959-60), inspired by characters in Edgar Wallace's 1905 novel and produced by Sapphire Films Ltd for ITC, starred Jack Hawkins as Ben Manfred MP based in London, Dan Dailey as Tim Collier, a journalist based in Paris, Richard Conte as Jeff Ryder, a lawyer in New York, and Vittorio de Sica as Ricco Poccari, a prominent hotel owner in Rome.
Also appearing on a semi-regular basis were Honor Blackman in the Dailey episodes, June Thorburn in the Conte episodes, Lisa Gastoni in the de Sica episodes, and Andrew Keir in the Hawkins episodes.
The first episode (Battle of the Bridge) involved all the stars, showing how they were re-united by their former WW2 commander to band together to right injustice wherever they found it. The following episodes allowed each of the Just Men to star in their own stories, although there were uncredited cameo appearances. For example, Dan Dailey appears in the Jack Hawkins episode Village of Shame.
No case was too big or too small for the Four Just Men to handle, ranging from juvenile problems to international crime and political intrigue.
were 39 black-and-white episodes, using locations in
Britain, France and Italy.
Top of Page
If you have any comments or further information of interest, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org