Thirty girls with TV secrets 

8 December 2016

They are the Studio Secretaries


From The Television Annual for 1955, published in 1954 by Odhams Press

Thirty girl secretaries at the Lime Grove TV studios zealously keep to themselves top secrets of the stars.

Every night when they leave their typewriters to go home, they are in honour bound not to talk about facts which have come their way during the day’s work as secretaries to TV producers.

In addition to shorthand and typing, the TV producer’s secretary has to assist him in handling, casting and rehearsing plays and variety shows. This brings the secretary in close contact with the stars in the shows.

When a play is being cast, the producer’s secretary will ring up film and stage stars, or their agents, to see if they can take a part the producer wants to offer them. Discussions about fees may follow, and as the secretary notes down what is said, she knows the facts she is hearing must remain for ever confidential.

The whole costing of a TV production — the price paid for costumes, scenery, music, script — will be collated for the producer by his secretary. It is a strict rule of the BBC that none of these costs shall be divulged to anybody outside the studios.

A secretary at Lime Grove stands by to record rehearsal decisions taken by producer Bill Ward, who is discussing a script with Gilbert Harding.

A secretary at Lime Grove stands by to record rehearsal decisions taken by producer Bill Ward, who is discussing a script with Gilbert Harding.

When it comes to rehearsal time, for a fortnight or three weeks before the TV play reaches the screen the producer’s secretary will mingle with the cast, day in, day out. She will check their attendance at rehearsal. She sees that they are properly fitted in the TV wardrobe. The bigger the star, the more attentive she will be — seeing that he or she has everything needed, from a morning cup of coffee to cigarettes or a hair slide.

She will lunch with the stars in the TV canteen, sharing easily in their conversation, hearing many secrets of show business, always remaining tactful and discreet.

Temperamental stars display their temperaments in front of the TV secretary. But whatever their behaviour, she will not be found talking about it afterwards.

Indeed, many of the stars are friends of these TV girls, as a result of working with them. They know they owe the producer’s hard-working secretary a great deal. When they are rattled, she soothes; when they are pleased with themselves, she congratulates them; when they forget things, she reminds them.

When exterior scenes have to be filmed for a TV play out of doors, the producer’s secretary goes on location with the stars. And she will see that they get their meals and, if necessary, a room at a near-by hotel.

These highly confidential secretaries are given their TV jobs after serving in other BBC offices. Frequently they are good-looking girls, with a smart dress sense. This helps them to get on with the stars they work with.

On their seven to eight pounds a week they often live a leisure life in keeping with their jobs — going to the latest plays, the ballet, riding in the Park, and taking holidays abroad. But, wherever they go, they keep their star secrets.

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