Category Archives: Drama

Recording of Sean Connery’s first lead TV role discovered after more than 50 years

requiemforheavyweightSean Connery’s first-ever on-screen performance has been rediscovered more than 50 years after its first and only TV broadcast.

The “priceless” recording of ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight’, a one-off BBC drama, was found gathering dust in a London attic.

Aired in 1957, it saw a young Connery in the lead role of washed-up boxer Malcolm “Mountain” McClintock and introduced the nation to the actor’s trademark Scottish brogue.

Like all TV shows in the 1950s, the 75-minute programme was not officially recorded but broadcast live from a studio.

But director Alvin Rakoff recognised Connery’s talent and “thought it prudent, for posterity’s sake” to capture an audio recording of the show for his own private collection.

It was stowed under old blankets in his loft for safekeeping but was “soon forgotten” as his burgeoning Hollywood career took off.

The Emmy Award-winning director, now 87, finally dug out the vintage reel-to-reel tape on Monday after inadvertently reminding himself of its existence during a media interview – about Connery’s accent – last week.

Until now, no-one – including Connery, now 83, – knew that a copy existed.

Canadian-born Rakoff, whose movies have featured cinematic icons like Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasence, Peter Sellers, Kenneth More and Alan Bates, said: “It was my habit in those days to take audio recordings of some of my better work. It was the only way of capturing it given that everything went out live.

“Sean was tall and strikingly handsome – he was an obvious star in the making – so I decided to take a copy for posterity, should my inkling come true. An international legion of 007 fans will be pleased it did.”

Requiem for a Heavyweight was originally a teleplay that was later adapted for British and American TV. It was also made into a feature film starring Quinn, Jackie Gleason and Mickey Rooney.

The British version was screened on March 31 1957 in the BBC’s Sunday Night Theatre anthology, and starred Warren Mitchell and Michael Caine.

Connery, who went on to play James Bond five years later, was cast as the lead.

But the BBC only began recording programmes in the ’60s. Until then, all shows were live. It means thousands of programmes, including Requiem for a Heavyweight, will never be seen again.

Luckily Rakoff, who launched Connery’s career with earlier walk-on parts, set-up a line feed and captured the show as audio.

He remembered the reels’ existence after discussing Connery’s accent in an interview, and “dug them out” after nearly six decades “gathering grime”.

Rakoff, who moved to the UK from Canada to work for the BBC, has just completed his latest work, ‘The Seven Einsteins’ – a novel set for big-screen adaptation.

He said: “It is remarkable that the tapes survived, unharmed, for so long. It’s also remarkable that I remembered them – they could easily have been left in the attic for another 60 years.”

Although no actual footage of Requiem for a Heavyweight exists, experts say the recording is a “major coup” for the British TV and film industry.

Chris Perry of The Kaleidoscope Archive, the classic TV and film organisation which has taken the reels for digitisation, said: “It goes without saying that this audio, featuring Sean Connery’s first on-screen lead performance, is priceless.

“It’s a snapshot of a golden era of television when programmes were broadcast live to an expectant nation.”

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Kaleidoscope uncovers lost BBC drama in RNLI vault

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CLASSIC TV organisation Kaleidoscope has uncovered a 1950s BBC maritime drama long thought lost at sea.

Broadcast in 1959, Medico — a documentary drama about emergency medical services for ships at sea — was thought not to have been recorded.

But following enquiries with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), which had lent one of its lifeboats for use in the programme, Kaleidoscope discovered the complete play in the charity’s vaults.

Chris Perry of Kaleidoscope describes the recovery of Medico as a “remarkable discovery”.

He said: “It all started on the Kaleidoscope Facebook page a few weeks ago.

“Regular readers of our Facebook page will remember Elaine Trethowan enquiring about a lost film featuring her father and the RNLI Penlee Lifeboat.

“Eventually James Cellan Jones remembered it was a play/drama called Medico and made by the BBC in 1959.

“Not surprisingly, a 1959 BBC play was not recorded according to the BBC Archives so I began to hunt for the film inserts, hoping they may survive.

“The hunt drew an initial blank but undeterred I approached the RNLI to check their vaults. They also said it was missing, but there were some cans from the 1950s that featured the Penlee Lifeboat.

“I asked them to check the cans. It was the complete BBC play Medico, which the BBC maintain was never recorded!”

Medico, described as an exciting drama-doc about the maritime emergency medical services provided by the Post Office, was broadcast by the BBC on January 7, 1959.

Starring Welsh character actor Meredith Edwards, and featuring TV and film director James Cellan Jones among the production team, the programme won writer Robert Barr the Prix Italia for live documentary.

Kaleidoscope now have a transfer of the play and plan to screen it for the first time in over 50 years at its Missing Believed Wiped in the Heart of the Midlands event in Stourbridge, West Midlands, on Saturday, April 5.

Tickets are priced £20 and are available now at www.kaleidoscopepublishing.co.uk

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UnLOCked: The Library of Congress Discoveries at the BFI

Theatre 625: World of George Orwell - 1984

SELECTED highlights from the treasure-trove of early British TV dramas unearthed at the Library of Congress are to be screened by the BFI.

Over 100 hours of lost British TV dramas were discovered in the archives of The Library of Congress (LOC) last year, in what was hailed as the “most important” retrieval of material since the search for such footage began.

Now, the British Film Institute (BFI), which orchestrated the recovery of the shows from America, has announced that it set to screen a number of the recovered gems during a two-month season dedicated to the finds.

UnLOCked: The Library of Congress Discoveries runs across June and July at BFI Southbank, with the first month dedicated to 20th century dramas and the second focused on pre-20th century.

Screenings scheduled for June are as follows: Theatre 625: “World of George Orwell – 1984”, Theatre 625: “Dr Knock” (starring Leonard Rossiter), Twentieth Century Theatre: “Colombe” (starring Sean Connery), Play of the Week: “The Typewriter” (starring Jeremy Brett), and Twentieth Century Theatre: The Insect Play.

Dick Fiddy of the BFI says the forthcoming season demonstrates the institute’s determination to provide access to the finds.

He said: “When such material is found, there are concerns expressed in some quarters that the footage will just disappear into various archives,
never to see the light of day, partly because of the perceived reluctance on the part of broadcasters and product releasers to exploit vintage black-and-white material.

“Indeed, many similar titles to those found in the LOC have survived intact but remain unseen and unreleased on archive shelves.

“However, the BFI – which has mounted numerous
seasons over the years to exploit such materials and encouraged various regional venues to do the same – was determined to provide access to these finds.

“Accordingly, June sees the launch of a two-month season of highlights from the collection, which will then be followed by regular screenings of further titles through various stranded programming.”

READ ON:

Lost Sean Connery TV footage found in US – BBC News (September 14, 2010)

Footage of British stars unearthed in lost archive in America – The Telegraph (September 14, 2010).

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