Balladeer’s Blog’s year by year look at the forgotten N.E.T. Playhouse continues with the program’s 1968 offerings. For the opening look at the 1966 episodes click HERE.
AUTO STOP (January 5th) – Henry (David Hemmings) is told by Federika, the older woman he is pursuing, that he needs to gain more experience in the world before she’ll entertain the thought of a romance with him. Henry takes her seriously and roams around Europe, loving and leaving women his own age, encountering a Neo-Nazi and attending a La Dolce Vita party in Rome. N.E.T. Playhouse paired this 75-minute film with the 8-minute cartoon short Tamer of Wild Horses from Yugoslavia’s Zagred Animation.
HOME (January 19th) – A 90-minute musical about the threat of overpopulation set among a honeycomb of rooms in which citizens of the future must spend their lives due to the dictates of the government. They live in these small chambers, own nothing and are forbidden to travel. Written by Megan Terry, noted for her 1966 anti-war musical Viet Rock. Edward Winter, Joel Fabiani, Dennis Patrick, Roger Davis, Irene Dailey, Louise Latham and others starred.
A PASSAGE TO INDIA (January 26th) – Long before the theatrical film came this teleplay that was first broadcast on the BBC’s Play of the Month in November, 1965. The cast of this 90-minute adaptation of the E.M. Forster novel included Sybil Thorndike, Virginia McKenna, Cyril Cusack and Zia Mohyeddin. Drama involving life and race relations in 1920s India under the Raj.
THE LADY WITH THE DOG (February 2nd) – This was a 75-minute 1960 movie from the Soviet Union but set in 19th Century Russia. Adapted from a short story by Anton Chekhov, The Lady with the Dog was the story of banker Dimitri Gurov and upper-class wife Anna Sergeyovna. Both are in loveless marriages and pursue an affair with each other. English subtitles.
UNMAN, WITTERING AND ZIGO (February 9th) – A dark comedy performed in a partial improvisational format. At the Chantry School, sinister students threaten to kill their new teacher John Ebony (Peter Blythe), like they claim to have killed Ebony’s predecessor. Written by Giles Cooper. 75 minutes.
CHARLEY’S AUNT (February 16th) – A one-hour version of the 1892 Brandon Thomas stage comedy. Two friends at Oxford convince a fellow student to impersonate the aunt of one of the friends. This romantic comedy was the longest-running stage comedy in England and then America in 1893. Adaptations of Charley’s Aunt continue to this very day.
THE 39th WITNESS (February 23rd) – Fictionalized version of the murder of Kitty Genovese on March 13th, 1964. This was written by Sol Stember and starred Alan North, James R. Sweeney and others. The production ran for just 1 hour.
THE YOUNG ELIZABETH (March 1st) – Adaptation of the play by Jeannette Dowling and Francis Letton, dealing with the years following the death of Henry VIII, the rise of Bloody Mary and, finally, Elizabeth I’s succession to the throne. Valerie Gearson starred as Elizabeth, Katharine Blake as Mary and Scott Forbes as Thomas Seymour. 1 hr 41 min.
OLIVE LATIMER’S HUSBAND (March 8th) – Barbara Jefford and Sebastian Shaw were among the stars of this adaptation of the 1910 play by Rudolph Besier. The story involves a beautiful widow, Olive Latimer, who becomes the chief suspect in the murder of her late husband. 80 minutes.
JULIUS MONK’S PLAZA 9 (March 15th) – An hour-long performance of the Plaza Hotel’s Plaza 9 comedy troupe. The players lampoon social and political issues and figures of the time. The sketches targeted the pending election, singles bars, hippies, bicycling, the New York newspapers, the subway system and the cottage industry that was forming over books about the Kennedy Family & the Kennedy assassination. Figures targeted included Richard Nixon, California Governor Ronald Reagan, Charles de Gaulle and Robert F. Kennedy. Liz Sheridan was among the stars.
DEFECTION! THE CASE OF COLONEL PETROV (March 22nd) – Adaptation of Donald Bull’s play about the great Australian Cold War case involving Aussie intelligence turning the disillusioned Colonel Vladimir Petrov. The colonel was part of the Soviet spy apparatus in Canberra, where he was recruited to work against the U.S.S.R. as a prelude to defecting. Lee Montague, Nigel Stock and Madge Ryan starred. 1 hr and 45 min.
DR. KNOCK (March 29th) – This was a 90-minute version of the French comedy written by Jules Romains in 1923. A physician who gets suckered into buying a failing medical practice in rural France turns conman to make a fortune. He convinces everyone who comes to see him that they are ill in some way, resulting in the town’s hotel being turned into a thriving hospital among other Marx Brothersesque situations.
EVERYMAN (April 12th) – Adaptation of the 15th Century Morality Play about a man who is about to be claimed by Death. Everyman seeks out a companion to accompany him on this final journey but all his friends – who are really personifications of assorted concepts – refuse or make excuses. Only his Good Deeds in life will follow him into the Afterlife. A 22-minute short film titled Young Filmmakers padded the 75-minute Everyman out to 97 minutes.
1984 (April 19th) – Originally aired on the British series Theatre 625 in November 1965, this was a 2 hour and 15 minute version of George Orwell’s famous look at a dystopian future. David Buck starred as Winston Smith, supported by John Garrie, Jane Merrow, Joseph O’Connor and others.
THE CHANGELING (April 26th) – Doctor Who‘s Patrick Troughton was among the cast of this 90-minute production which first aired on the British program Play of the Week. Adapted from the 1623 play, the story involves the beautiful and cruel Beatrice-Joanna of Spain and her various crimes and killings that she carries out in league with her lustful lackey De Flores.
TRUMPETS OF THE LORD (May 10th) – Black-cast stage musical adapted from the book God’s Trombones, written by African-American icon James Weldon Johnson. People of color in the deep south strive together for social change, empowered by their shared religious faith. The songs range from spirituals to original pieces. The cast features James Earl Jones, Jane White and others. Numbers include We Shall Not Be Moved, Prayer is the Key, Amen and We Shall Overcome. 81 minutes, followed by the 9-minute short film Sonny, about Sonny Greer, Duke Ellington’s drummer.
ROSMERSHOLM (May 17th) – This was a 1 hour and 45 minute production of Ibsen’s tragedy of the same name from 1886. The story involves Beata, the widow of a man named Rosmer, and the efforts of her and her friend Rebecca to deal with the social and political changes of the time period.
THE WALLS OF JERICHO (May 31st) – A production of Alfred Sutro’s 1904 play about the complacency and shallowness of Edwardian High Society. Australian sheeper “Fighting Jack” Frobisher has become wealthy enough to come to London and buy his way into High Society, plus marry a snooty woman, Alethea. A clash of cultures and values ensues. Barrie Ingham, Diana Fairfax and others starred in this 72-minute production.
THIRTEEN AGAINST FATE (June 14th-August 30th) – For 13 straight weeks, N.E.T. Playhouse aired a 1 hour episode of this British anthology series based on stories by Georges Simenon. The episodes were: The Lodger, Trapped, The Traveller, The Widower, The Judge, The Schoolmaster, The Witness, The Friends, The Survivors, The Son, The Murderer, The Suspect and The Consul.
ACROSS THE RIVER (October 4th) – Depressing feature film from 1965 about a homeless man who ekes out a modest existence for himself. One day he takes in a little girl whom he saves from a molester and soon finds himself having to steal to supply this daughter figure with her needs. Tragedy results. 90 minutes.
THE MAYFLY AND THE FROG (October 11th) – A 75-minute film starring John Gielgud and Felicity Kendall. Gielgud plays millionaire Gabriel Quantara, whose chauffeured limousine accidentally damages the headlight on May’s (Kendall’s) motor scooter. The willful young woman breaks into the millionaire’s mansion to demand that he replace her headlight. Quantara is charmed by the pluckiness of this young lady and has her stay the night. The pair are attracted to each other but wisely recognize that such a romance would never work.
THE SOLDIER’S TALE (October 18th) – Igor Stravinsky’s 1918 piece that combined ballet with two speaking roles. The story involves a soldier (Brian Phelan) during the reign of Czar Nicholas I. He sells his soul to the Devil (Robert Helpmann) in exchange for wealth, then later regrets his decision, so he wins back his soul in a card game with the Devil. The former soldier marries a beautiful princess (Svetlana Beriosava), but the unforgiving Devil shows up to bring ruin to the man. 1 hour long and accompanied by the 7-minute Polish cartoon The Uniform, to flesh out the run time to 67 minutes.
WOMEN BEWARE WOMEN (November 1st) – A 76-minute adaptation of Thomas Middleton’s play from around 1612-1620. Using Italian aristocrats in Florence as substitutes for his real targets – British aristocrats in London – Middleton presented a pack of scheming women that would have made even Euripides say “Dude, lighten up on the women.” Though a serious play, a modern audience (well, at least me) can’t help but laugh at all the romantic and murderous intrigues that play out, ultimately leaving just one cast member alive. It’s like Blackadder II played straight. Diana Rigg led the cast.
THE SEAGULL (November 8th) – This production of the classic Anton Chekhov play first aired on the BBC program Theatre 625 in March, 1966. Pamela Brown, Robert Stephens and Sydney Tafler starred. The parathespian drama presents the interactions among a mid-talent but high-profile writer, a young ingenue, a fading older actress and her son, who aspires to be a Deep Playwright. 90 minutes.
THEATER AMERICA – NEW THEATER FOR NOW (November 15th) – The Los Angeles Center Theater Group perform a selection of short pieces written by experimental authors. The works enacted are Lanford Wilson’s The Golden Fleece, Chuck by Jack Larson, Camera Obscura by Robert Patrick and Thoughts on the Instant on Greeting a Friend on the Street by Jean-Claude van Itallie & Sharon Thie. 90 minutes.
DEVI (November 22nd) – An airing of the 1960 Indian movie that was, for many Americans, their introduction to the films of that country. This landmark work was directed by Satyajit Ray based on the short story by Prabhat Kmar Mukherjee. Doyamoyee (the flawlessly beautiful Sharmila Tagore), a 17-year-old girl in 19th Century India, comes to be worshipped as the incarnation of a goddess and is ultimately driven mad by the adoration and expectations of her new devotees. 93 minutes.
A CELEBRATION FOR WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN (December 6th) – James Broderick starred in this 75-minute version of the Geoffrey Bush play about Bryan. The story follows him on his rise as a populist figure to his three failed presidential campaigns, his frustrating tenure as Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of State, and his humbling during the Scopes Monkey Trial. Accompanied by 2 shorts – Button, Button – which ran for 13 minutes, and the 2-minute cartoon Color Music, to pad the running time to an hour and a half.
A CRACK IN THE ICE (December 13th) – Eighty-five-minute adaptation of the story The Sentry by Russian writer Nikolai Leskov. In 1860s Russia, a soldier on guard duty sees a peasant fall through the ice while walking across the frozen Neva River. He leaves his post to save the peasant’s life even though the unforgiving military attitudes under the Czars mean he could be shot for desertion. Ultimately, the soldier gets 200 birch lashes as punishment while an upper-class officer takes credit for the rescue and gets a medal. James Maxwell, Michael Hordern and Richard Hurndall were among the cast members.
THE MADRAS HOUSE (December 27th) – This production is based on the 1916 play by Great Britain’s Harley Granville-Barker. Set in 1910, it concerns the interfamily dramas of the Huxtables and the Madrases over the impending sale of their Bond Street fashion firm called Madras House. Amid changing roles for women and the class anxiety caused by the sale of Madras House to “dreaded” American money, soap opera antics ensue. 70 minutes.
I’LL BE COVERING THE 1969 EPISODES OF N.E.T. PLAYHOUSE SOON.
FOR MORE FORGOTTEN TELEVISION CLICK HERE.
4 responses to “FORGOTTEN TELEVISION: 1968 EPISODES OF N.E.T. PLAYHOUSE”
Love this timeline. Impressive body of work.
Thank you! I agree, they managed to show better programming than most cable television channels would go on to provide.
There are some gems in that list, and a few that should probably stay forgotten!
Ha! Yeah, quite a range in this bunch.