Armchair Theatre – Ian Hendry, Kenneth More + (1965)

Picture: ABC Armchair Theatre actors and actresses pictured together in 1965 when they attended a special reception at the Cheshire Cheese, London to mark the beginning of the tenth season of the series. (left to right) Ian Hendry, Ruby Dee, Caroline Mortimer, Pauline Yates, Kenneth More, Tessa Wyatt, Dick Gregory and Tony Robins.

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Ian’s participation in the Armchair Theatre productions was as a direct result of his involvement in The Avengers, where he starred as Dr. David Keel in the first season.  As part of that contract, Ian and his agents negotiated with ABC Television to include two episodes of Armchair Theatre.  One of the plays included Afternoon Of A Nymph (1962), where he met his future wife-to-be, Janet Munro (full contract can be seen here )

Armchair Theatre – Background

Armchair Theatre is a British television drama anthology series of single plays that ran on the ITV network from 1956 to 1974. It was originally produced by Associated British Corporation, and later by Thames Television from mid-1968. Armchair Theatre filled a Sunday-evening slot on ITV, Britain’s only commercial network at the time, in which contemporary dramas would be the most common form, though this was not be immediately apparent.

It was launched by Howard Thomas, head of ABC at the time, who argued that “television drama is not so far removed from television journalism, and the plays which will grip the audience are those that face up to the new issues of the day as well as to the problems as old as civilisation.” The original producer of the series was Dennis Vance, who was in charge for the series’ first two years, and the early years drew heavily on North American sources including the first play, The Outsider, a medical drama adapted from a stage play by Dorothy Brandon, which was transmitted live on 8 July 1956 from ABC’s northern studios in Didsbury, Manchester. Reportedly Vance had a preference for classical adaptations, though some of these — such as a version of The Emperor Jones (30 March 1958 by the American dramatist Eugene O’Neill — were not conservative choices. Vance was succeeded by Sydney Newman, who was ABC’s Head of Drama from April 1958. The perils of live transmission caught up with the production team on 28 November 1958, early in Newman’s tenure. While Underground was being broadcast a key actor suddenly collapsed and died. Such nightmare situations could be handled more easily when Armchair Theatre was able to benefit from prerecording on videotape after production of the series moved from Manchester to the Teddington Studios near London in the summer of 1959.

Migrating from his native Canada to take up his responsibilities with ABC, Sydney Newman objected to the basis of British television drama at the time he arrived: “The only legitimate theatre was of the ‘anyone for tennis’ variety, which, on the whole, presented a condescending view of working-class people. Television dramas were usually adaptations of stage plays, and invariably about upper classes. I said ‘Damn the upper-classes -they don’t even own televisions!'” He converted Armchair Theatre into a vehicle for the generation of “Angry Young Men” that was emerging after John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger (1956) had become a great success, although older writers such as Ted Willis were not excluded. His 1958 stage play Hot Summer Night (1 February 1959) was adapted to shift its focus from an unhappy marriage of parents in the play onto their daughter’s mixed relationship with a Jamaican man and the potential problems their possible marriage might face. It was one of the earliest British television plays to have “race” as a theme.

Extract: Armchair Theatre – Wikipedia

One of Ian’s early film appearances was in Sink The Bismarck (1960), which starred Kenneth More in the lead, in which he had a small part as a naval officer (see 19 minutes, 47 seconds onwards)

Best wishes

Neil Hendry
Editor, Official Website of Ian Hendry

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Further Reading

A detailed account of the life and work of Ian Hendry in the new biography:

Read:  ‘Send in the Clowns – The Yo Yo Life Of Ian Hendry’ by Gabriel Hershman

Send In The Clowns - The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry

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