This is an archived website which has not been updated since 2002.
Some information may be inaccurate or out of date.
Back in the 1950s the Interludes on BBC television were short films used to fill up gaps in the programme, during intervals in plays (yes there were actual intervals then!), or as a standby in case of a studio breakdown. They mainly consisted of tranquil scenes, such as Ploughing, in which a horse-drawn plough would gradually work across a field, or a windmill, sails slowly turning. The interlude most fondly remembered is the Potters Wheel, in which a potter's hands (the potter was not shown) would make various vase-type objects on the wheel, but never actually finishing any. The films were accompanied on the soundtrack by peaceful music or natural sounds.
Three other programmes, not technically interludes, were also used to fill time on BBC television during the 1950s. They were two short items made by the BBC Film Unit, London to Brighton in Four Minutes and the BBC Suppressor Film. A longer programme, used as a last-minute substitute when the scheduled item was unavailable, was Journey Into The Weald of Kent, introduced by Sir John Betjeman. This film lasted longer and was made by the National Benzole petrol company; it was later also used as a trade test colour film.
The following list, unfortunately not complete, comes mainly from a handwritten sheet copied out by Arthur Dungate in the early 1950s augmented by information from the BBC. Inevitably there are gaps in this list; additions and corrections will be most welcome!
This list of BBC Television Interludes gives the title of the film, its length where known (films were seldom shown in full, however), where filmed (if known) and the accompanying music. It is assumed that most of these films were made by the BBC Film Unit.
ANGEL FISH (8m 45s). Shot at Regents Park Zoo.
BANKS OF STREAM (8m 45s). Shot on River Ouse, Olney, Bucks.
BONFIRE (6m 50s). Shot at Lighthorne, near Leamington Spa.
CHURCH, MILL & STREAM (9m 15s). Shot at Olney, Bucks.
Improvisation on the harp by Owen Mason
KAIETEUR FALL (7m 11s). Shot in British Guiana.
LOCH REFLECTION alias LOCH REFLECTIONS (7m 00s). Shot on Loch Tay by Monty Rednap.
MOONLIGHT SEASCAPE. Shot at Chesil Beach.
PALM BEACH (9m 07s). Shot on Jamaica.
POTTER'S WHEEL (5m 50s)
PLOUGHING (8m 05s). Tillingham (not Tilford), Essex.
RABBIT MUSICAL BOX
BIRDS (10m 00s). At Olney, Bucks.
Natural sounds & effects.
RIVER TAY (6m 55s). Filmed in Perthshire.
ROCK & SEAGULLS
(4m 00s). St Mary's Bay, Brixham, Devon.
ROUGH SEA ON
ROCKS (9m 30s). Shot at Pulpit Bay, off Portland Bill.
(11m 23s). Jamaica.
(10m 00s). Shot at Chesil Beach, off Portland Bill.
SPINNING WHEEL (6m 35s)
THE WHITE KITTEN. The kitten's name is Snowy and he was owned by a Mr Martin of Barnet, Herts.. Film edited by Bob Verrall, Supervising Film Editor.
or UP THE RIVER (9m 30s). Shot at Medmenham Abbey, Henley on Thames,
(6m 30s). Miss Thackwray, Royal School of Needlework.
Harpsichord Concerto (Bach) - - Irgard Lechner & Stuttgart Chamber Orch. (BBC 1903 1-2)
TREES. Shot in Epping Forest.
(9m 00s). Shot at St Benedict's School, Ealing.
Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels
WATER WHEEL (9m 02s). At Bucklebury, near Newbury, Berks..
WINDMILL (5m 30s). Shot at Packenham, Bury St Edmunds. Pastoral Montage (Gideon Fagan), - - Queens Hall Light Orch. (Chappell C324).
Compilation copyright by Arthur Dungate and Andrew Emmerson, with assistance from Tony Clayden.
SOURCES OF MUSIC TODAY
Prunella, The Young Ballerina, Muse in Mayfair and Downland are on a budget CD, Twilight Memories (ASV Living Era CD AJA 5419).
The Young Ballerina is also on Famous Themes Volume 1 (Grasmere CD GRCD10 and musicassette GRTC10).
Pastoral Montage and Rippling Waters are on Famous Themes Volume 3 (musicassette only, GRTC30) and on Archive - Life in the 1940s (Chappell CD CHAP 202).
Cloudland is on Chappell CD Archive - Vintage Recordings 1 (Chappell CD CHAP 203). The Paxton pieces are on the eight-CD set Atmosphere Archives (AACD1-8).
Grasmere recordings are available through the normal record trade or direct from Grasmere Music Ltd, 59 Marlpit Lane, Coulsdon, CR5 2HF. The other CDs mentioned are not available to the public but can be ordered, by members only, through the ROBERT FARNON SOCIETY, Stone Gables, Upton Lane, Seavington St. Michael, Ilminster, TA19 0PZ (send SAE to this address for membership details).
London to Brighton in Four Minutes, made by the BBC Film Unit in 1952, was a favourite of many viewers during the 1950s. In those days one never knew when it would be screened, but it often popped up when there was an unscheduled gap between programmes. Luckily, it has been repeated on BBC-TV several times recently. Apparently the journey on the Brighton Belle was filmed at 2 frames per second (fps). Thus at the normal projection speed of 24fps a speed of 60 mph becomes 720 mph. Some people say there were two versions of this film ÿ can anyone confirm and explain? That is ignoring the subsequent remakes of this classic film.
Incidentally, this film set the pace for several others in the same genre. First came London to Brighton at 900 MPH, which was a colour film sold on the 8mm format by Mountain Films. I guess this was made during the 1960s. British Transport Films made Let's Go to Birmingham (Paddington-Birmingham in five minutes) and more recently Inter City 1250 (Kings Cross-Peterborough at 1250 mph!). Also in recent times, the BBC remade London to Brighton but showed only sections of it, interleaved with the original, classic version.
The BBC Suppressor Film, also made in the early 1950s by the BBC on behalf of the trade association BREMA, illustrated how fitting a suppressor to a car's ignition system eliminated the interference menace on television screens.
Tony Clayden has been studying the film and has identified virtually every location used in the film. They are all in north-west London, presumably for the convenience of a film unit based at Alexandra Palace (or is there some other reason?), and few have changed much in the last forty-something years. Of course, it helps if you grew up in the area, as Tony did.
As a point of interest, Belvedere Court has been fully refurbished and Tony spotted a large newspaper advertisement for the these luxury dwellings in December. The art deco or moderne block was built in 1938 and was designed by the distinguished European architect Ernst Freud, son of Sigmund Freud and father of Clement Freud. Isnt that amazing or what?
Tony has also discovered the identity of the electrical shop at 1-3 Edgwarebury Lane. Its now a dry cleaners shop but in those days it was Norwest Services Ltd (telephone STOnegrove 6655).
Arthur Dungate also remembers the film and mentions it on his website at http://www.bbctv-ap.freeserve.co.uk/demfilm2.htm. He has also posted screen shots at http://www.bbctv-ap.freeserve.co.uk/demfilm.htm. According to Arthur, the car that explodes outside the viewers home belonged to the cameraman, Brian Johnston (his old car, needless to say). The music, by the way, is a library track called Apple Honey.
The full script of the film, narrated by Macdonald Hobley, runs as follows:
Narrator: Have you ever thought what would happen if your set showed you pictures of the road outside your home? You would see some of the passing vehicles clearly enough - a Post Office van, or a service vehicle, or a railway lorry. Or the car of some thoughtful private motorist, for interference supressors have been fitted to all their engines.
But you wouldn't be able to see this car properly, because it spoils your picture as it passes, and not only your picture. As this man drives along he leaves a trail of interference at least as bad as this on all the television screens on his route.
Yet a few minutes at a garage or a radio dealers will stop this nuisance for good...
Shop assistant: Morning Sir, can I help you?
Customer: I want a suppressor for my car.
Assistant: What type of distributor has your car got sir?
Customer: I'm not sure.
Assistant: Well if it's this type, you need this suppressor, you just fit it into the distributor head like this, and you fit the end of the main high tension lead in like that.
Customer (unhelpfully): I don't think my distributor's like that one, it's like the other one.
Assistant: Oh well, in that case you want this other sort of suppressor. That fits into the high tension lead itself. I'll have it fixed for you if you'd like to wait a moment, it won't take very long.
Customer: Thank you, it's just outside.
Assistant picks up internal phone: Er Mr Lloyd, could you bring through a cut-lead suppressor please and fit it to a customer's car? Thank you.
Assistant [to customer]: Thank you. Thank you very much sir, the electrician will be coming through that way.
Customer: Thank you, good day.
Narrator: One of these suppressors should be fitted to the main ignition lead as near to the distributor as possible, and if you're in any doubt, an attendant will fit it for you. On some engines suppressors have to be fitted to the plug leads. But for most cars a simple suppressor like this one, or the screw-in type, will do the job. It can be done from about two or three shillings, and it's permanent.
If every motorist did this, literally millions of television viewers would get better reception. suppressors lengthen the life of the plugs, without detracting from the engine performance, and even helps starting in very cold weather. All new cars are now fitted with suppressors at the factory, for ignition suppression is highly important in a country widely served by television.
But what about your car? Does it mark your thoughtless progress across the screens of your neighbours' sets?
[Irate viewer hurls something at his TV screen, and the old car outside blows up....]
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