Sunday, December 30, 2012

Prunella Scales and David Hemmings in The Lord of the Rings

Many of us have given over several years of our lives to watching Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. And older readers may remember the 1978 cartoon (was it any good? - I never saw it) or BBC Radio 4's distinguished dramatisation of 1981.

What I didn't know until the other evening is that the trilogy was first dramatised by BBC Radio as early as 1955 - apparently Tolkien himself was not keen on the production.

The Tolkien Gateway has a page about this adaptation and gives much of the cast list. It includes some reliable BBC names of the period - Valentine Dyall, Norman Shelley - but also a couple of surprises.

Ioreth ("a woman of Gondor") was played by the future Sybil Fawlty - Prunella Scales. By then Scales was 23 and had already appeared in several films.

Bergil (the young son of Bergond of Gondor) was played by David Hemmings. Hemmings had already become well known as the original Miles in Benjamin Britten's opera The Turn of the Screw, but had appeared in only one film by 1955, when he would have been aged 14. He was later to become one of the iconic figures of 1960s cinema.

Wikipedia suggests that no tapes of the 1955 production survive.


Jennie Rigg said...

The 78 cartoon is utterly awful. I watched it the other day because some cruel person got James it for Christmas on BluRay. Terrible rotoscoping (to the point where it looks like live-action-through-a-filter in many places). Bizarre characterisations, particularly of Gollum. Gandalf seems to portray everything through the medium of interpretive dance. Even his hat overacts. And Boromir has come dressed as a comedy viking.

The only performance worth the candle is Annette Crosbie who is bloodt awesome as Galadriel. But then Annette Crosie is always bloody awesome IMHO.

Needless to say its very awfulness made it extremely entertaining if you're in the right mood.

Jonathan Calder said...

Thanks for the information, Jennie.

Jennie Rigg said...

And to you. Might have to look up the earlier radio version - I have the CDs of the one from my childhood.