1960s TV Dickens serials – and a petition

Just a short Dickens-related posting tonight! Earlier this year I went to a special day at the BFI in London where there were a number of panel discussions about Dickens on TV and the chance to see a lot of rare clips. One of the most interesting discussions was about various black-and-white adaptations of Dickens’ novels shown in the 1960s – a couple of the people involved in making them were there and shared their memories of the productions. It sounds as if some of them treated the stories much more fully than more recent versions have done. Also, because they were shown live, there were sometimes dashes to ensure that actors got from one side of a scene to another in time for their cue.

Sadly, some of these serials have been partly lost, including a  12-part 1966 version of David Copperfield with Ian McKellen as David – nine episodes out of the 12 no longer exist. It’s such a shame that the BBC didn’t take greater care of these treasures at the time. However, it was mentioned that some of the surviving series might be repeated on TV in the future.

Now I’ve also been contacted by Peter Watson, the organiser of a petition to try to get one of these serials, the 1962 Oliver Twist, released on DVD. This 13-episode series had a great cast, including Peter Vaughan as Bill Sikes, as well as Bruce Prochnik and Willoughby Goddard, who later starred in the original Broadway production of Oliver! as Oliver and Mr Bumble, Melvyn Hayes as the Artful Dodger, Max Adrian as Fagin and Carmel McSharry as Nancy. I would love the chance to see it, so I have signed the petition. Here is a link for anyone who would like to get more information or sign the petition.  I’ll let you know if I have any further news on this!



Scores for silent movies discovered

Sorry not to have updated for a while – I’ve been busy and then was away on holiday. However, this is just a note to say that I was interested to hear a report about how Birmingham Central Library has discovered what could be the UK’s largest collection of silent movie scores, including a unique Charlie Chaplin theme tune.  The library’s Youtube channel also has two videos showing Ben Dawson, a pianist from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, playing some of the music discovered in the collection and talking about the pieces.

The BBC did a short report about this which mentioned that the scores may be used to help create music for nine silent Hitchcock films being restored by the BFI. A couple of brief snippets of unnamed films from the BFI archives (I don’t think they are the Hitchcocks) are set to music here and I think there may be a glimpse of John Barrymore in the first one, although to be honest I’m not sure if it is him or not – he is wearing a wig and doesn’t stand in profile. If anyone can answer this one either way, I’d be interested to know.