Tuesday, October 29, 2019

How Jackanory presented Over Sea, Under Stone in 1969

At the weekend Talking Pictures TV screened a documentary about the career of the film director Lindsay Anderson.

One of the people interviewed was David Wood, who had appeared in Anderson's most famous film If.... That's him in the still above with Malcolm McDowell.

This reminded me that I had mentioned David Wood when writing about my memories of watching a dramatisation of Susan Cooper's Over Sea, Under Stone in 1969 and my puzzlement as to the exact format it can have taken.

Well, David Wood - today celebrated as a writer of plays for children - has a website and welcomes contact from the public, so I wrote and asked him.

Today I received a friendly and helpful reply from him that explained everything.

David wrote:
In 1969, not long after the release of If…., Marilyn Fox contacted me from the BBC. She was directing a Jackanory week, and invited me to be the storyteller. The book was Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. Marilyn told me it was the first Jackanory to incorporate filmed scenes with actors. My job as narrator was to link the acting scenes.
He said he had been pleased to be asked, because:
Appearing on Jackanory had become a privilege, with well-known actors queueing up to do it.
And he said that doing Jackanory was quite nerve-wracking because he was on his own in the studio and it was his first experience of using autocue.

Finally, he quoted a letter he received from the producer afterwards which casts more light on the programme's format:
This kind of linking between film extracts is really extremely difficult to do well without the studio parts being a let down. In this case one was really held by your storytelling and was not forever wondering when the next bit of film was coming.
David also reminded me that, though they did not meet because of the format of the programme, Graham Crowden, who played Uncle Merry in Over Sea, Under Stone, had just been in If.... with him.

So if you want to know what happened, ask someone who was there.

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