The Lost BBC: In Town Tonight

Over the summer season we’re repeating this sequence recalling BBC radio programmes from the 30s, 40s and 50s, when the company was once a much-loved establishment broadcasting subject matter the listeners sought after to listen to. This article was once first revealed on March 2, 2019.

STARTING in 1933, best 11 years after the BBC went at the air as 2LO, In Town Tonight may well be described because the prototype BBC chat display. The 30-minute programme went out on Saturday evenings and comprised interviews with personalities, stars and another way attention-grabbing folks arriving in London over the week.

The theme track was once Knightsbridge from Eric Coates’s London Suite, written previous that yr, overlaid with sound results together with a flower supplier in Piccadilly Circus (who featured on a suite of cigarette playing cards in regards to the programme).

In Town Tonight – BBC Home Service – Opening Credits for the radio programme – YouTube

The opening announcement declared: ‘Once more we stop the mighty roar of London’s site visitors and, from the nice crowds, we convey you one of the most attention-grabbing individuals who have come via land, sea and air to be In Town Tonight.’ But I wonder whether this may have been the unique line – in 1933 air trip was once very odd. Maybe they modified it later. At the tip of the programme the announcer would order: ‘Carry on, London!’

Coates (1886-1957) additionally wrote Calling All Workers, which become the signature track for the BBC radio programme Music While You Work, By the Sleepy Lagoon (1930) which introduces Desert Island Discs to this present day, and a part of his Three Elizabeths suite presented BBC TV’s Forsyte Saga. 

Halcyon Days From ‘The Three Elizabeths’ Suite (From “The Forsyte Saga”) – YouTube

According to Coates’s biographer Geoffrey Self, Knightsbridge was once selected for In Town Tonight on the ultimate minute, it sounds as if with out even telling the composer. Coates’s spouse Phyl heard it going out and known as to her husband, who was once in his learn about: ‘They’re taking part in one thing of yours at the radio; I will be able to’t assume what it’s.’ He listened a second and mentioned ‘No, neither can I.’ Half an hour later she known as him once more. ‘Dear, they’re taking part in this factor once more; it will have to be a signature track or one thing.’ He emerged once more and mentioned: ‘Yes, well I don’t think it’s going to do it any hurt!’

The track was once an enormous hit with the listeners. The BBC won 30,000 letters in six weeks requesting the main points, and it needed to print answer slips to deal with the call for. Eric Coates was once became a star.

The first presenter of In Town Tonight was once Eric Maschwitz (1901-1969). His title is probably not acquainted now however he was once an actual power in twentieth century mild leisure.

Sometimes the usage of the pen title Holt Marvell, he wrote the screenplays of a number of a hit motion pictures within the Nineteen Thirties and Nineteen Forties. He co-wrote the 1939 adaptation of Goodbye, Mr Chips, and shared an Oscar nomination together with his co-writers R C Sherriff and Claudine West. The movie’s main guy, Robert Donat, beat Clark Gable, James Stewart, Laurence Oliver and Mickey Rooney to win the Best Actor Oscar.

In the Nineteen Forties Maschwitz wrote the lyrics of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (track via Manning Sherwin), carried out right here via Nat King Cole, and These Foolish Things (track via Jack Strachey), with the immortal strains

A tinkling piano within the subsequent condominium
Those stumbling phrases that advised you what my center supposed

This provides me a possibility to characteristic one in all my favorite singers, Sam Cooke, recorded in 1962.

After a various occupation, together with warfare carrier within the Intelligence Corps, Maschwitz rejoined the BBC as head of tv mild leisure in 1958, when he mentioned: ‘I don’t assume the BBC is a cultural organisation. We’ve were given to thrill the folk. The activity of a person placing on a display is to get an target market.’ (I needed to learn this two times to make sure that this was once a BBC guy speaking.)

In 1962, as assistant to the BBC’s Controller of Programmes, he asked concepts for a science fiction drama sequence. The outcome was once Doctor Who, which began the following yr.

A next presenter of In Town Tonight was once John Ellison. I will be able to in finding out little or no about him, which is unexpected as he was once a family title for a few years. He introduced the radio display Pick of the Week from its inception in 1959 till his demise in 1974. He was once additionally a question-master at the BBC’s Top of the Form. Here is the signature track, known as Marching Strings.

When the display was once killed off in 1986 the manufacturer, Graham Frost, was once reported to have mentioned that the aggressive nature of the display jarred with trendy instructional philosophy, and promised a brand new non-competitive colleges quiz the place there could be no proper or incorrect solutions. This quote is in every single place the web however I can’t in finding the supply of it – regardless that this time it unquestionably seems like a BBC guy speaking. (The new quiz display by no means materialised.)

In Town Tonight lived as much as its billing, with many famous person names showing on it. Here is an interview with Errol Flynn and this is Rita Hayworth.

There have been much less well known visitors, for instance Una Duval, who was once imprisoned in 1909 all through the marketing campaign for girls’s votes. In this 1955 dialogue with interviewer John Ellison, Mrs Duval is presented to photographer Arthur Barrett, who took an image of suffragettes Emmeline Pankhurst, her daughter Christabel and Mrs Flora Drummond in Bow Street court docket whilst the Justice of the Peace was once passing sentence of 3 months in prison. You can see it right here.

In this 1952 excerpt John Ellison interviewed air-to-air photographers Cyril Peckham and Russell Adams (what a super matter for a radio programme).

In the Nineteen Forties an outdoor broadcast phase was once added, and this was once run from 1948 to 1952 via Brian Johnston beneath the title Let’s Go Somewhere. Here he visits a fireplace station. (Click at the tab at the proper labelled In Town Tonight).

The fireplace station is now the Chiltern Firehouse eating place.

Among Johnston’s many different stunts was once mendacity between the rails as an categorical educate hurtled over him, bareback driving in a circus, piloting a mild airplane, driving on a Big Dipper, making a song Underneath the Arches are living with Bud Flanagan, being sawn in part via magician Robert Harbin and broadcasting are living from the coalface of Snowdown colliery in Kent.

From April 1954, the display was once broadcast concurrently on radio and tv. Here is a complete programme from 1955, that includes Tito Gobbi and Alastair Sim, and right here is a 1955 interview with former SS officer Heinz Linge, who was once Hitler’s non-public attendant.

After a few years, all through which period ITV was once introduced, viewing figures have been down so the display reverted to radio just for some other 4 years.

In 1960 the 1,000th radio version was once broadcast, with visitors together with Errol Flynn, Doris Day, Gary Cooper and Jane Russell, who had all made common appearances through the years. The hosts via this time have been Nan Winton, who become the primary lady to learn the BBC TV information in June 1960 (the Evening Standard commented: ‘Miss Winton usually hides herself behind a desk. Pity. She has a 36-25-37in figure’) regardless that she lasted just a few months sooner than BBC target market analysis concluded that audience idea a girl studying the scoop was once ‘not acceptable’, and Tony Bilbow, later a presenter of BBC TV’s Late Night Line-Up.

A couple of weeks later In Town Tonight was once moved to lunchtime and renamed In Town Today. It survived 5 extra years sooner than succumbing to the inevitable awl, and the mighty roar of London’s site visitors carried on.

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