BACK in February 2011, news broke that 338 episodes of Dick Barton – Special Agent recorded in the late 1940s had been recovered from the National Film and Sound Archive in Australia.
These re-recordings, using the original BBC scripts and music cues, and starring Douglas Kelly as Barton, are the nearest Barton fans are likely to get to the original Light Programme serials.
They were found by freelance researcher and missing episode hunter Charles Norton back in 2009.
Wiped News recently caught up with Charles to find out more.
Q. HOW DID YOU COME TO FIND THE EPISODES?
I knew that Dick Barton had been broadcast in New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. I was doing some work on other BBC CD releases at the time and was already in contact with a number of archives in those countries. It became apparent very quickly that the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia had a lot of material on its shelves, and it all went from there.
The recordings were all made between 1948 and 1950(ish). They stopped making them at some point around October 1950. They were made “in association with the BBC”, but the actual recordings themselves were produced by a commercial outfit called “Frank Mason and Co. Ltd”.
Q. HOW DO THESE RE-RECORDINGS COMPARE WITH THE ORIGINALS (WELL, THE THREE EPISODES THAT REMAIN)?
Paperwork is very scarce. I do have some cast details, but these are not particularly specific – just a list of actors names. However, I do know that Dick Barton was played (in the re-recordings) by an actor called Douglas Kelly. The BBC Barton was originally Noel Johnson (1946 – 1949). In 1949, Duncan Carse took over playing Barton for the BBC. The BBC’s final series of Dick Barton (1950/51) starred Gordon Davies.
The remakes are almost exact clones of the originals. They used the same scripts and music. In fact, you have to listen very carefully to tell them apart. There’s actually only one episode (episode 100) where we have an original BBC recording and one of the remakes. If you compare the two, there is very little difference.
Q. WHAT STATE ARE THE RECORDINGS IN?
They’re coarse-groove acetate disc recordings and are generally very good, considering.
Q. TWO ADVENTURES HAVE BEEN RELEASED BY AUDIOGO*. ARE THERE PLANS FOR ANY MORE?
Hopefully, yes. However, it will depend on how well these first two sell
* Read more about the AudioGo releases here.