The lost television of Fred O’Donovan

20th April 2017

I am delighted that this week the new issue of the Historical Journal of Film, Television and Radio has published my article Exploring the lost television and technique of producer Fred O’Donovan’. The article is developed from a 2015 conference organised by The History of Forgotten Television Drama research project, and the issue features a number of fascinating articles based on papers presented there. Frustratingly, online access to the full article is restricted to those who have institutional access to a subscription (although the issue Introduction is freely accessible), but here is the opening of my contribution. If you would like to know more, do get in touch — John Wyver.

In the history of British television drama few notable creative figures are as forgotten as the actor, film director and pioneer producer Fred O’Donovan. After a distinguished career at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, after directing Ireland’s first feature film, and after nearly two decades’ work on the London stage, O’Donovan joined BBC Television in early 1938. As one of the first directors of studio drama he earned a ‘Produced by’ credit on more than 60 broadcasts.

These included plays by the major Irish writers J.M. Synge, W.B. Yeats, Bernard Shaw and Sean O’Casey as well as dramas by Eugene O’Neill, Chekhov and Molière. Among the actors with whom he worked were Wendy Hiller, Angela Baddeley, James Mason and Alastair Sim. On his death in the summer of 1952 O’Donovan was 67, and past the BBC’s usual age of retirement, but he was still employed full-time by the Corporation. Indeed he had just returned from overseeing a French television adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca in Paris. read more »

live: The Winter’s Tale

19th April 2017

Cheek by Jowl are currently livestreaming their production of The Winter’s Tale from the Barbican. Below is a bunch of background links and now I am intending to live blog through the evening. The stream will have subtitles in English, French and Spanish, and a recording will be available online until 7 May. It will also be available on BBC iPlayer from 23 April for 30 days.

Read from the bottom up – and do please join in the conversation using the Comments box. read more »

links: Les Misérables, 1925

18th April 2017

On Sunday 23 April Barbican cinema presents a six-hour screening of a recently restored version of Henri Fescourt’s 1925 film Les Misérables from Victor Hugo’s novel. As the Barbican promises the new print has ‘all the riches of the various colour techniques employed by Fescourt in 1925 (tinting, toning, and mordanting).’ As if that weren’t enough, the legendary Neil Brand is at the piano with a full score. It’s an unmissable event, and tickets are still available. I’ll be there – and to get us all ready for it, here’s some reading prep.

Pordenone post no 5: Pamela Hutchinson reports from a 2015 screening of the restoration at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto:

… it is a faithful, and skilful, adaptation of an uncontainable novel. I was captivated by its visual elegance but also its well crafted story, which builds almost unbearable tension despite its bountiful events, characters and subplots… Neil Brand took on the Herculean task of accompanying the whole film. He played, and played, and played, such sensitive and sumptuous music, I could barely believe it was the work of one man and one piano alone. Matching the film’s scale and singularities note for note, Brand’s score was the triumph that the film deserves.

Playing Les Misérables: Neil Brand writes on the film and the score.

It is one of the great silent films and an unmissable experience for anybody interested in what the cinema, in its purest, pictorial form, can do.

DVDKlassik on the restored version [in French, but Google Translate does a decent job].

Les Misérables, 1925 – Henri Fescourt: Wonders in the Dark in 2013 on the shorter, unrestored version.

Les Misérables (European): Kinématoscope reprints Variety’s 1926 story about the premiere of the film.

Mordaunt Hall for The New York Times reviews a recut version of the film in 1927

• The Novel of the Century by David Bellos review – the story of Les Misérables: Ruth Scutt for the Guardian on David Bellos’ recent book about Hugo’s novel and its afterlives.

links: Czech cinema

17th April 2017

Until 23 April MoMA in New York is running a season of Czech cinema from 1927-43. It looks like a wonderful series of almost unknown films.

Ecstasy and irony: Czech cinema, 1927-43: the MoMA programme page, with notes about each of the films below.

• Ecstasy and irony: Czech cinema, 1927-43: David Hudson on the series for Fandor, including a trailer for Gustav Machatý’s From Saturday to Sunday, 1931.

Czech please: Nick Pinkerton contributes a detailed essay about the series to Artforum – great read.

Tonka of the Gallows: for Film Comment, Farran Smith Nehme writes about one of the featured films, directed by Gustav Machatý in 1929.

Image: from Gustav Machatý’s Extase (Ecstasy), 1932, 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 83 minutes.

links: Homeland finale

16th April 2017

After that final episode, if you’re anything like me, you need to read about it, so here are links to Stateside reaction.

• Homeland finale – showrunner Alex Gansa talks Season 6, Carrie’s future and planning the end game: from Variety’s Cynthia Littleton, just ahead of the final episode.

This season of Homeland was written in something like real time: for The New York Times Judith Warner talks with Gansa.

• Homeland, Season 6, Episode 12: in the finale, Carrie deals with death and betrayal: … and here Judith Warner responds to the final episode.

• Surprise! The twists in the Homeland season 6 finale pay off: Max Cea for Salon.

• Homeland finale recap – another lesson learned: Brian Tallerico for Vulture.

Homeland finds a fitting end to its worst season ever: Joshua Alston for The A.V. Club:

The grossest thing about this finale to me is how it returns Homeland to the neo-conservative fantasy it’s always threatening to become.

The trouble with Homeland’s political realism: Sophie Gilbert for The Atlantic is also unimpressed with series 6.

Sunday links

16th April 2017

I have been wrestling with how best to contribute regularly to this blog while I am much preoccupied with a number of productions and several more extended pieces of writing. Sunday links columns like this have been the only ones that I have managed to post recently, at least until the last couple of days. Now I am going to try a variant through the week, contributing each day one or more groups of – as it were – linked links. There will be times when I’ll feel I can write something a little more substantial, but for the present I want to try to find a rhythm that involves one or two short posts each day. And Sundays links will become perhaps be even more of a miscellany than it has been in the past. Meanwhile, enjoy Easter Sunday with these…

Somerdale to Skarbimierz: James Meek for London Review of Books on Cadbury’s, globalisation and the disconnect between economics and culture – if you read any of my recommendations this week, make it this one even if (or rather, because) it runs to more than 13,000 words.

Great Repeal Bill – anatomy of a Brexit power-grab: at Politico, Ian Dunt becomes an ever more essential read.

• The Duke Lacrosse scandal and the birth of the alt-right: fascinating piece by Reeves Wiederman for New York magazine about White House adviser Stephen Miller.

Lessons from Hitler’s rise: Christopher R. Browning for New York Review of Books on Volker Ullrich’s 2013 book Hitler: Ascent 1889–1939:

To begin I would stipulate emphatically that Trump is not Hitler and the American Republic in the early twenty-first century is not Weimar. There are many stark differences between both the men and the historical conditions in which they ascended to power. Nonetheless there are sufficient areas of similarity in some regards to make the book chilling and insightful reading about not just the past but also the present.

read more »

links: American women artists

15th April 2017

Three current shows in the States, each featuring American women artists, that I really really wish I could see.

• A groundbreaking show to confront the gender bias in art: ‘Women of Abstract Expressionism’: Christopher Knight for L.A. Times reviews the show that is currently at Palm Springs Art Museum (until 28 May); an installation view is above, photographed for L.A. Times.

Kara Walker, Karon Davis and the black female artists retelling US history: Matt Stromberg reports for the Guardian on ‘Power’, a major commercial gallery show at Spruth Magers, Los Angeles, of work by African American women from the 19th century to now (until 10 June).

• At MoMA, women at play in the fields of abstraction: for The New York Times, Holland Cotter writes on ‘Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction’ at MoMA (until 13 August), and here’s a video discussion at the opening featuring MoMA director Glenn Lowry and curators Starr Figura and Sarah Hermanson Meister:

links: Hamlet

15th April 2017

Today is the last day of the run at the Almeida of Robert Icke’s staging of Hamlet with Andrew Scott as the Prince. The production transfers to the Harold Pinter Theatre, 9 June – 2 September. These are three essential responses to the production.

Hamlet, Almeida – Islington: Andrew Haydon at Postcards from the Gods:

This is simply, a very sad story about some people in Denmark. Where this production draws its metaphysical extra dimension from is from a rather dizzying feeling of this living act of theatre connecting you tangentially with 400 years of culture, and the fact of just how good it is.

• Hamlet (Shakespeare; dir. Robert Icke) Almeida, London; Mar. 2017: Holger Syme at Dispositio:

Andrew Scott’s performance is extraordinary, but I have seen extraordinary Hamlet’s before; what makes this one so truly remarkable is its ensemble work, the consistency of approach and commitment and attention across the entire cast and the aesthetics of acting and design. And that doesn’t come out of the blue, it can’t happen overnight. It requires growth over time, it requires the building of a shared vocabulary and a shared set of experiences, a familiarity with other performers’ instincts and habits, boundaries and freedoms.

Propwatch: the watches in Hamlet:

There’s lots to say about the genius line-readings and surprising additions. But I just want to think about the watches for a bit.

links: Eduardo Paolozzi

14th April 2017

Long ago, back in 1971, I went one Sunday afternoon to what was then The Tate Gallery to see the exhibition of work by Eduardo Paolozzi. It was one of the very first contemporary art shows that I had ever been to – I was 16 – and I was thrilled and excited to discover that an artist could fill the central Duveen galleries with toy robots and pages torn from comics and shiny geometric blobs. That day remains a special memory, and flashes of it came back as I visited Eduardo Paolozzi at the Whitechapel Gallery this morning. The show is somewhat austere, but full of fascinating things, especially from the late ’40s and early ’50s, and is accompanied by an excellent catalogue.

For more:

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi: Frank Whitford’s 2005 Guardian obituary.

• How Eduardo Paolozzi channelled the chaos of modern life: Simon Martin reviews the Whitechapel show for The Art Newspaper.

• Where to find Eduardo Paolozzi’s sculptures in London: an illustrated guide by Tabish Khan for Londonist.

• On BFIPlayer you can watch (for free) Lorenza Mazzetti’s 1956 film Together, an eccentric, poetic fiction with Paolozzi and the painter Michael Andrews wandering the streets of East London.

• New Brutalist Image 1949–55: ‘atlas to a new world’ or, ‘trying to look at things today’: a richly interesting academic paper by Victoria Walsh and Claire Zimmerman published in the excellent British Art Studies; the authors focus on the exhibition Parallel of Life and Art held at the ICA, London, in 1953, for which Paolozzi was one of the collaborators.


I have been wrestling with how best to contribute regularly to this blog while I am much preoccupied with a number of productions and several more extended pieces of writing. The Sunday links columns have been the only ones that I have managed to post in recent weeks, and now I am going to try a variant of those, spreading them through the week and contributing each day a group of – as it were – linked links. There will be times when I’ll feel I can write something a little more substantial, but for the present I want to try to find a rhythm that involves a short post each day which builds over a week to something more substantial.

Image: Eduardo Paolozzi, Wittgenstein in New York (from the series As is When), 1965 (detail) Courtesy Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: GMA 4366 K © Trustees of the Paolozzi Foundation

Sunday links

19th March 2017

As usual (or given recent experience, on occasions), a list of links to articles and videos that have engaged me over the past week. Many thanks to those who alerted me to a number of them.

Senses of Cinema 82: terrific new issue of the online journal, including a clutch of critical ‘love letters’ to films made in 1967.

• Game Theory – Paul W.S. Anderson and the filmic board game: at, Chris DeFalco is immensely interesting on the links between video game spaces and movies made by the director of, among others, Event Horizon, 1997 and The Three Musketeers, 2012.

• The Rerun: film theorists and video essayists par excellence  and   make their first music video, for Melbourne indie rock group undergroundLOVERS.

Has the video essay arrived?: Peter Monaghan’s valuable overview of the audio-visual film essay, with lots of additional links, for Moving Image Archive News.

read more »