Television Play Review: Heart to Heart (1962)

by Malcolm Baird

The above play is of considerable historical value as it shows us what television was like 50 years ago. It was broadcast by the BBC on Dec. 6 1962 and it was recently released on DVD as part of the Terence Rattigan Collection.

In the opening sequence we see a "British Television Company" (BTV, not BBC!) studio which looks like a disorganised clutter of thick cables and heavy cameras, silently manipulated by men in shirtsleeves. The control room contains a battery of cathode ray tube monitors and the atmosphere is tense. The cameras are trained on a small raised platform with a couple of chairs upon which the interviewer and his subject face each other. The part of the interviewer, modelled on John Freeman in "Face to Face", is played by Kenneth More. He is not the cheery young chappie that we came to know in so many of his films, but a mature and intelligent man stressed by his job in front of an audience of 15 million. At the same time, he is trying to overcome a drinking problem. A breaking point is reached when the interviewer comes before the cameras with a dodgy cabinet minister who presents himself as a bluff man of the people -- played brilliantly by Sir Ralph Richardson.

This play takes us back fifty years to a technically "primitive" era of television, with its cumbersome cameras and flickery black and white pictures, watched by millions of viewers before audience fragmentation set in. But Terence Rattigan's theme is 100% up-to-date: the psychological pressures and the moral dilemmas of people who are overexposed to public view, whether in the media or in politics. The play is recommended viewing for today's troubled times.