Saturday, 16 March 2013

South: Broadcasting It

It involves a dashing Polish army lieutenant exiled in the US deep south as civil war approaches and the question of who he really loves: the plantation owner's angry niece, Miss Regina, or the tall, blond, rugged officer who arrives suddenly – a handsome man called Eric MacClure.
The television play is heady, emotional stuff tackling issues of race as well as sexuality and that it was broadcast by ITV on a winter's night 54 years ago is nothing short of remarkable. The BFI now believes the newly rediscovered production is the earliest known gay TV drama.
South, adapted by Gerald Savory from an original play by Julian Green and screened on 24 November 1959, "is a milestone" in gay cultural history, said the BFI curator Simon McCallum.
He added that its leading man, Peter Wyngarde, deserved particular praise. "I think you have to give Wyngarde a massive pat on the back in terms of the bravery in taking this role. There were quite bad reactions from some of the press."
They included this breezily offensive review from the Daily Sketch's critic: "I do NOT see anything attractive in the agonies and ecstasies of a pervert, especially in close-up in my living room. This is not prudishness. There are some indecencies in life that are best left covered up."

From The Guardian Film.
Quite a find - this doesn't even get a mention in Keith Howes' otherwise peerless Broadcasting It: An Encyclopaedia Of Homosexuality On Film, Radio And TV In The UK 1923-1993. 
This is being screened at the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival tonight and tomorrow.
South will be available to watch for nowt from next month at the BFI's mediatheques in Glasgow, Newcastle, Wrexham, Cambridge, Derby and London.

PS I hear the documentary, I Am Divine, is very good. 

PPS Thing on the similarly ground-breaking 1963 fillum, The Servant, in The Independent today.

Update: A letter to the Guardian in praise of the author Julian (Julien) Green. 

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