Youth in television drama 

13 June 2017

Lovely ERICA ROGERS, a fine young actress, who did well in ATV’s play “The Betrayers”

From the ATV Television Show Book published in 1963

Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Michael Redgrave, and Sir John Gielgud are names synonymous with all that is great in the world of the theatre. Their contributions to Britain’s theatrical and cinematic arts are well known. Only rarely do they appear on television. But each of these three great acting knights has appeared in plays for ATV during the past few years — Olivier in Ibsen’s “John Gabriel Borkman” in 1958, Redgrave in “Return to the Regiment”, and Gielgud in “The Rehearsal”. Both these latter plays were seen this year. Yet their appearances are a rarity.

All three are steeped in the tradition of the theatre. They love the atmosphere of the theatre and want the feel of the response of a live audience. These things are not to be found in television drama. In films it is different. Every scene is broken down and shot in short sequences. The actor does not have time to miss the presence of an audience; but in the television studio the cold, unblinking eye of the camera is present throughout.

But if television misses for the most part the great names of the theatre, it scores with its ability to project new, fresh and vital young artistes. The advent of television opened the door for many talented young actors and actresses who, because they belong to an overcrowded profession, had been waiting for a chance to prove themselves. Television has proved to be the platform from which they could exhibit their talents.

JULIET MILLS, the eldest of John Mills’ acting daughters, played a young mother whose marriage had broken up in “The Morning After”. ROBIN PHILLIPS was the sympathetic young man attracted to her

ATV’s own drama department and the casting office of H. M. Tennent Globe Productions, who produce plays for ATV in the “Television Playhouse” and “Play of the Week” series, have both been quick to exploit this wealth of new-found talent.

Of all the younger artistes making careers for themselves in television drama, perhaps Juliet Mills is the name best known to the majority of viewers. Juliet, of course, is the eldest of John Mills’ acting daughters (young Hayley being the other successful one). In ATV’s play “The Morning After” Juliet played a young mother whose marriage had broken up. Robin Phillips, another newcomer, had the sympathetic role of the young man attracted to her.

One of the finest of the younger school of actresses to emerge in television drama is undoubtedly Susan Maryott. She gave fine, sensitive portrayals of lonely, unhappy women in two ATV plays — “A Lily in Little India” and “All Good Children”. In the former, Donal Donelly played the gormless waster of a boy whom she befriends. Michael Bryant gave a rugged performance as her brother in “All Good Children”.

Francesca Annis, an attractive 17-year-old, is an actress who is constantly working in films and television plays. Her more recent plays for ATV include “A Free Weekend” and “54-Minute Affair”. In the latter play she appeared with Ian Hendry, another actor who found stardom through television.

The list of young artistes who have made their mark in television over the past year or so is too lengthy to mention in full here. Enough to recall just a handful who gave excellent performances: Angela Douglas and John Meillon, the young married variety artistes in the play “Rosemary”; Michael Cain [sic] as the bashful boy who found a girlfriend through a marriage bureau in “Luck of the Draw”; Joe Melia for his dramatic performance as the soldier who hated war in “The Enemy”; and Lyn Ashley and Erica Rogers, who acted so well, as well as looking so lovely, in their respective roles in “A Perfect Woman” and “The Betrayers”.

MICHAEL CAIN was the bashful young man who found a girl-friend – ANN LYNN – through a marriage agency in “Luck of the Draw”

Television has an enormous appetite for material of all kinds. ATV alone produces hours of television drama every month. This may be a strain on the resources of the script-writers, but there is no doubting that it offers tremendous opportunities to the actor. And ATV has been swift to give youth its chance — to help the cream of the younger generation of artistes find their feet in this exciting medium — who knows, even to putting their foot on the first step of the ladder to stardom.

CLIVE MORTON and that fine actress SUSAN MARYOTT gave moving performances in “All Good Children”

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