Let me start with Savoy Hill and the organisation of the Dramatic Department. The 'new and larger studio' at 2LO had been completed in the autumn of 1924. The total nationally of seventeen originations shows that Jeffrey had begun commissioning new play scripts from his appointment in 1924 and this lead-in was now resulting in broadcasts (5.1.1-2). It is impossible to know how much control and proactive management he exercised over the regional Stations, and presumably a local playwright such as John Overton (Kathleen Baker) in Birmingham was under the patronage of the dramatic director there, William Macready. The first broadcast simultaneously on both 2LO and the new High Power Daventry was on 3 February 1925 7.45-9.50 and it exemplifies the new investment in drama and a new confidence.
R.E. Jeffrey directed this triple bill. First was a new origination, 'Christopher Columbus' (Richard Hughes), described as 'an episode in the voyage of the Santa Maria'. No script survives and it is not mentioned in Graves's biography, which researched the Hughes Archive. The second item was another origination, 'Check-mate' (P.L. Kim), 'a modern cave-man comedy', again no script surviving. Kim has no listing in either Firkins or Wearing, and remains a mystery. Finally, there was a relay of excerpts from Acts II and III of 'Love's Prisoner' from the Adelphi Theatre.
There were additions to the Dramatic Department: George Grossmith (February 1925 to 1926), Donald Calthrop (October 1925 to January 1926) and Howard Rose (July 1925). Val Gielgud explains, though I disagree with some minor details:
In October 1925 Donald Calthrop, with the authority of his reputation as stage producer and first-rate character actor, was appointed " in order to strengthen the dramatic side of broadcasting and to bring in new ideas," just as at a later stage the singular if amiable figure of George Grossmith was to hover in the background as "unofficial adviser" to the department. The latter was, quite simply, ineffective. And I fancy that the combination of Jeffrey and Calthrop can hardly have been either fortunate or happy. It is merely on record that Calthrop left the Corporation in January 1926.
Meanwhile, with the addition to the staff of Howard Rose in July 1925, there appeared on the radio-dramatic scene the man who was to share with Jeffrey so many of the burdens of the real pioneering job, and in due course over the many years of his B.B.C. service to have the satisfaction of seeing in great measure accomplished what he had done so much to initiate.
(Gielgud, 1957, 21)
I will first discuss George Grossmith (1874-1935). His appointment was earlier than Gielgud states. It was announced in February 1925 in 'The Radio Times', which gave his job title as 'Advisory Director of Programmes' ('The Radio Times' 20 February 1925 p 388). Grossmith's main task was to develop new negotiations with the 'Entertainment Industry' over the boycott, as at the beginning of the year, this danger seriously increased. Provincial theatre managers threatened to cancel contracts for play on tour if excerpts from them had already been relayed ('The Radio Times' 2 January 1925 p 52).
Liaison work was partly successful, whether through Grossmith or not, because an agreement was announced in June between the B.B.C. and the entertainment industry ('The Times' Saturday 6 June 1925 p 8). The theatre managers' ban was to cease, or so it was hoped. A negotiating committee was set up and the B.B.C. could broadcast up to twenty-six excerpts a year, though not of plays which were to tour the provinces in the next twelve months. The Postmaster-General was able to announce the agreement in the House of Commons, and hope that organisers of concerts would 'fall into line' ('The Times' 10 June 1925 p 8). However, the dispute rumbled on till 1928 (1.9). Playwrights immediately complained that they had not been consulted ('The Times' 20 June 1925 p 9).
The article in 'The Radio Times' announcing Grossmith's appointment also said:
He has, in fact, been acting as an unofficial advisor to the B.B.C. since the beginning of the year. His official position has not been defined. He has always made a point of identifying himself with new movements in entertainment, such as revue and cabaret of both of which he was a pioneer sponsor in London. And now he has taken up the latest development in entertainment.
('The Radio Times' 20 February 1925 p 388)
Grossmith was to advise on 'on all matters of programme development, and will specialize on the lighter and more popular side'. Also, he 'may do a certain amount of microphone work himself'.
Grossmith's involvement with the B.B.C. went back to the beginning of 1923 when he was quoted in 'The Times', urging theatre managements to welcome relays:
Mr. George Grossmith said he saw no reason that managers and producers should hesitate to allow their entertainments to be broadcast, if they were approached and offered satisfactory terms. He did not agree that thousands of potential theatre patrons would be satisfied merely to hear portions of a musical play on wireless receiving sets.
('The Times' 10 January 1923 p 8)
This study can only make some reference to variety programming, and the contribution of George Grossmith there cannot be investigated. He has no credits for acting in radio drama. His only other appearance was an article of his in 'The Radio Times', 'Broadcasting smiles!'. He regretted the lack of radio comedians and preferred relays of theatre variety, because of audience involvement:
It might be thought that a small audience in the broadcast studio would help a comedian. But this has been tried and not found of great assistance.
('The Radio Times' 21 August 1925 p. 361)
Grossmith continued as Programme Adviser through the changes of 1926 and attended the Programme Board occasionally (Briggs, 1961, 391-2). He was best known as a theatre manager, but was also a singer and actor, and Wearing gives him 154 credits from 1920 to 1929. This is a remarkable amount of work, mostly management. His father had been a famous member of the D'Oyly Carte company, whose part in the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas was recently celebrated in Mike Leigh's film, 'Topsy-Turvy'.
The son started out as George Grossmith 'Junior', and he was 'a pioneer of revue and understood topicality spiced with wit' (MacQueen-Pope, 1947, 67), 'the guiding light' to Edwardian young men (105). Although 'a very clever man indeed, his stage art was nevertheless limited' to two types (ib.). In 1923, as an example of his further career, he co-wrote a musical, 'The Beauty Prize' with P.G. Woodhouse (214 performances at the Winter Garden) and in 1925 he was starring in the musical 'No, No, Nanette' (665 performances at the Palace). Gielgud describes Grossmith as 'ineffective' in the quote above, and he must have had good reason to know (again via Howard Rose and via Reith?), although Grossmith died in 1935. Gielgud avoids mention of the boycott in his history, as has already been noted.
The second arrival was Donald Calthrop (1888-1940) and he worked as a part-time B.B.C. producer from October 1925 to January 1925 (Briggs, 1961, 282 and Gielgud, 1957, 21). This Calthrop-R.E. Jeffrey combination 'can hardly have been either fortunate or happy' said Gielgud. Calthrop (1888-1940) had a varied career as actor, presenter, producer, management and singer (Parker, 1939, 385-6). He was the nephew of the famous Victorian melodrama playwright, Dion Boucicault.
He made his first appearance on the stage at the Comedy Theatre on 18 December 1906. In March 1920, he entered management for the first time, at the Haymarket, producing 'The Young Person in Pink', in which he appeared as Lord Stevanage. Then he entered into management of the Comedy Theatre from September 1920, with 'The Crossing'. In November 1920 he produced 'Will You Kiss Me?' in which he played Alexander Y. Hedges. And then was management at the Queen's Theatre, August 1921, producing a musical play, 'My Nieces'. In January 1922, he assumed the management of the Aldwych Theatre, and appeared as Philip Berkeley in 'Money Doesn't Matter'. He started his film career in 1919. (He appeared in two early British Hitchcock films: 'Elstree Calling' 1930 and 'Murder!' 1930.)
Wearing gives Calthrop thirty-two credits for 1920-6. He was in a long-running revue as performer and producer, 'Yoicks!', at the Kingsway from 11 June 1924 to 14 January 1925 (266 performances), but has no more London stage credits for the rest of 1925.
'The Radio Times' of 6 November 1925 described Calthrop, in a short publicity piece, as 'one of the most enterprising of our younger actor-managers'. He had 'made such a name for himself at 'Yoicks' at the Kingsway Theatre' (292). Also, his favourite role was Eugene Marchbanks in 'Candida' (Bernard Shaw). (Calthrop was now 37 and Marchbanks was 'a strange, shy youth of eighteen' (Shaw, 1949, 130), so the reference must be to a favourite role performed in the past.)
Calthrop has only seven broadcasting credits up to 1928. The first was on 30 September 1925 London 10.30-11 and 'The Radio Times' billing is 'Donald Calthrop the well-known light comedy actor as Himself'. Presumably Calthrop performed monologue pieces with a linking commentary about his career. No other actors are listed. So both the half-hour on radio and 'The Radio Times' publicity was to mark his arrival as part-time B.B.C. producer in that October.
Calthrop began in Savoy Hill as the busiest week in 2LO drama to date was near. His own directing debut was on the Sunday of this unprecedented week, with co-director R.E. Jeffrey, in the large-scale adaptation of 'Hassan' (James Elroy Flecker) 8 November 1925 London 3.30-5.30. There was a cast of twenty-four and specially composed music. Drama on Sunday was unexampled due to Reith's opinions about the secularising of Sunday (Briggs, 1961, 273). There must have been a special dispensation for this 'Hassan' (discussed further in 5.7). Rehearsals and management must have necessitated two directors.
Two days later, Calthrop also co-directed with Jeffrey the 'Trial Scene' from Dickens' The Pickwick Papers, performed by amateur members of the Dickens Fellowship - Sir Edward Marshall K.C., Sir Henry Dickens K.C. and Mr. Pett Ridge (10 November 1925 London 8.30-9.35). The following day, Armistice Day, he acted the role of Philip in Reginald Berkeley's 'The White Chateau' (11 November 1925 2LO London 8.30-9.30), with R.E. Jeffrey directing. (Gielgud says it was Howard Rose.)
After this, Calthrop's one other credit as a wireless director was for Bernard Shaw's short 'Passion, Poison and Petrefaction' (13 January 1926 London 9.25-10). No actors are listed for this. He had three other acting credits up to 1928. He played The Fool in 'A Fool and His Money' (Laurence Housman) 17 October 1927 Cardiff 7.55-8.10) and Joe Skinner, known as 'Skinny' in 'Pride' or 'Beginners Please' (7 September 1928 London and Daventry 10.15-10.45). 'The Radio Times' noted:
the author [who is anonymous] had seen the performance of Donald Calthrop in the character of an old stage hand and determined that his play should be performed with Donald Calthrop in the chief part.
And lastly there was the role of Bertie in 'Nea-R Georgian' or 'Quasi-Queen Anne' (Gordon McConnel), 1 November 1928 2LO London and Daventry 7.45-9 (mixed). He contributed one article to 'The Radio Times', 'A Slap for Cinderella' (23 September 1927 p 500) on 'the vexed question: "Has Broadcasting affected the Theatre?"'. Cinderella was the theatre here, beset by broadcasting, the movies and the phonograph. The message was that Cinderella was not to sit moping.
So what of Gielgud noting that Donald Calthrop was appointed in October 1925 '"in order to strengthen the dramatic side of broadcasting and to bring in new ideas"'. That 'the combination of Jeffrey and Calthrop can hardly have been either fortunate or happy'? And that he left in January 1926 presumably after his production of 'Passion, Poison and Petrefaction' (13 January 1926). The added information I have cited gives no reason to doubt all this. Calthrop only has three directing credits in 'The Radio Times'. The quote about Calthrop's job remit is not sourced by Gielgud and the wording looks like an official memo.
The third arrival as mentioned above in 5.2.2 was Howard Rose. Some of his early career has been explored in 3.2. He was on the B.B.C. staff from 1925 to 1949. He had previously been a theatre actor and director, and Wearing lists 19 credits for him in London stage productions 1920-6. Significant fellow cast members and management who were to become wireless actors include Milton Rosmer, Ernest Milton, Basil Gill, Henry Oscar, Henry Ainley, Robert Atkins, Russell Thorndike, Acton Bond, Felix Aylmer, Horace Sequeira, Helena Millais, Sybil Thorndike, Edith Evans, Mary O'Farrell, etc. The full list of his acting credits is available. So Rose brought considerable experience to Savoy Hill.
I have doubted the facts as stated in Gielgud, 1957, 17 ff. Here they are quickly and the main discussion is in 2.1.19 and 3.2, but necessarily dispersed through this work. That Rose was an actor in the first wireless drama experiment (on 2 September 1922). That before he joined the B.B.C. staff, he directed 'Westward Ho!'(7 April 1925 London S.B. to all stations 7.30-9.15). And that from July to December 1925, he was 'responsible for no fewer than seventy plays broadcast'. He also directed 'The White Chateau' (11 November 1925 2LO London 8.30-9.30). I have already cited 'The Radio Times' listings and I prefer the information there that R.E. Jeffrey was the director of both 'Westward Ho!' and 'The White Chateau'. I will look further at the importance of 'Westward Ho!' in 5.7.
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