Tag Archives: Sean Connery

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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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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Kaleidoscope Raiders of the Lost Archives list 2009 – 2010

CLASSIC TV organisation Kaleidoscope has revealed its annual Raiders of the Lost Archives list for 2009 – 2010, detailing all the missing material located in the last 12 months by the group along with the BBC, ITV, BFI and missing episode hunters.

Particularly notable on this year’s list is the Library of Congress finds, where over 60 long-lost British dramas dating beween the late fifties and early seventies were discovered sitting in an American archive. The assortment of plays and adaptations boast a who’s who of acting talent including Sean Connery, David McCallum, Charles Gray, Susannah York, Patrick Macnee, William Gaunt, Norman Rossington, Ron Moody, Derek Jacobi, Maggie Smith, Ronald Pickup, Nerys Hughes, Patricia Routledge, David Hemmings, Kevin Stoney, Hywel Bennett, Thora Hird, John Gielgud, Michael Gambon, Hugh Paddick, Robert Hardy, Peggy Ashcroft, Leonard Rossiter, John Le Mesurier, Patrick Stewart, Brian Rawlinson, Michael Gough, Bernard Horsfall, Michael Hordern, Patrick Troughton, Jeremy Brett, Patrick Wymark, Bernard Cribbins, Betty Marsden, Edward De Souza, Patsy Rowlands, Gerald Flood, Donald Wolfit, Philip Madoc, Geoffrey Bayldon, Frank Finlay, Henry McGee,  Jane Asher and Graham Crowden.

Also on the list are classic comedy shows starring Benny Hill, Dick Emery, Frankie Howerd, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, the Monty Python team, The Goodies, Marty Feldman, Bob Monkhouse, Denis Goodwin, Ronnie Barker, Willie Rushton, Frank Muir, Denis Norden, Alan Bennett and Hattie Jacques; serial dramas such as No Hiding Place and The Troubleshooters; light entertainment including The Rolf Harris Show; music from The Hollies, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Showaddywaddy, The Arrows and Guys n Dolls; and children’s programmes by animator Oliver Postgate and the Smallfilms studio, including Ivor the Engine.

Last but not least, the list reveals some good progress in the BSB recoveries campaign of Ian Greaves, including episodes of The Happening, I Love Keith Allen and Up Yer News.

Speaking about the impressive list, Kaleidoscope’s Chris Perry said: “It’s been a great year for recoveries all round and goes to show there’s still more out there to find.”

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‘Lost’ BBC Sean Connery Drama Was Never Missing

PR CONNERY? Critics have been quick to pounce on claims a TV adaptation of Anna Karenina starring former James Bond Sean Connery was ever missing.

HOW CAN you find something that isn’t lost? That’s the question classic TV fans are asking following the announcement that a missing BBC Sean Connery drama has been ‘found’.

Claims that a 1961 adaptation of Anna Karenina starring the former 007 has been ‘rediscovered’ in the BBC archives have drawn the ire of TV professionals, collectors and enthusiasts alike since the ‘news’ was announced, on August 18.

Both the BBC and The Telegraph have run with the story which, it is argued, is a “non-story” and “cynical PR stunt” devised to promote the forthcoming DVD release through Simply Home Entertainment.

Critics have pointed out that the b & w period drama, directed by famed television director Rudolph Cartier, has been “known” to be safely held within the BBC since first broadcast on November 3, 1961.

They cite the fact that a Region 1 DVD release of the ‘supposedly lost’ programme was released in America by BBC Video in April 2008, two whole years before Anna Karenina’s ‘rediscovery’.

They also say that clips from the drama were screened during a 1990 edition of BBC 2’s The Late Show featuring a retrospective on Cartier, who died in 1994, aged 90. The feature was later repeated on July 1, 1994, under the title Rudolph Cartier: A Television Pioneer.

Three years later, in 1997, further clips from the drama apparently appeared in an edition of the BBC’s Before They Were Famous.

Posting on Gallifrey Base, Doctor Who Restoration Team member and BBC employee Steve Roberts said of the ‘find’: “Wow, what an AMAZING find! Well, it would be if it hadn’t be(sic) safely secured and completely catalogued in the archive since the day it was made!”

Chris Perry, spokesperson for TV research organisation Kaleidoscope shared the sentiment, writing on forum The Mausoleum Club: “It was never lost. The story is complete rubbish.”

TV enthusiasts have been quick to find holes in the Karenina discovery story, with BBC commercial executive Nick Lee coming under particular fire.

His comments that he “just found this in the archive” and that “perhaps it wasn’t on the radar” have been noted for their “ambiguity” and “misrepresentation”, especially with counterclaims that the tape has been logged on the BBC’s filing system for “years”.

A sentence within the Telegraph article has also been for highlighted for underlining the “hazy” nature of the story:

The BBC is rather hazy on the details of why this classic adaptation was forgotten for half a century and was thought no longer to exist.

So is the “long-lost” Anna Karenina recovery true or false? PR spin, error or hard fact?

Let the evidence speak for itself…

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