The start of ITV in London and the Midlands
When Bet Your Life ended in October, 1952, Maurice Chevalier took over at the London Hippodrome for a season. What a delightful man he is; such wit and charm!
Now my gamble in understudying Billie Worth in Call Me Madam was paying off. I took her role – Sally Adams, American ambassador to the European State of Lichenburg – in the touring version.
For the second time in three years I was in Glasgow for Christmas. We stayed there six weeks, then toured the country. Gradually working our way south. I particularly remember Birmingham, which had always meant so much to me.
We played to poor houses [hardy any patrons] – and I knew why. It was mid-1953, television was in its stride. TV aerials sprang up like mushrooms. A vast new entertainment had gripped the British public. It was new and novel. It was cheap.
It was then I decided to break into television. Convinced that this was the new medium, I decided to visit America to find out about it all. I studied at New York University where my tutor, Cledge Roberts, was a Birmingham man.
Luckily, I was able to appear in several programmes – an invaluable experience. They were all unscripted shows and seemed so natural in their presentation. I decided that, if I got the opportunity, I wanted to work in shows completely ‘off the cuff’.
After a year in America, I came home. Shortly afterwards Indepdentend Television was introduced and I joined ATV as Head of Women’s Programmes. After a few shows in London, I moved to Birmingham. I was back in my favourite city, the home of so many wonderful memories.
Since those early days of ATV, I’ve made hundreds of thousands of friends through television, not only in Birmingham but throughout the Midlands. From October 1955 I was part of the advance team [for ATV] which included Stephen Wade and Pauline Tyler, Pauline has since left the organisation to get married, but Stephen is one of our top producers. We toured the Midlands meeting as many people as we could, to get ideas, suggestions and material for programmes.
Our headquaters were at the Theatre Royal, No2 dressing room. It was a tight squeeze, but we managed to deal with everyone. We had to move out in early December 1955 to make room for pantomime artists – it was the last panto at the theatre, for demolition began the following year.
Within a few months, I became about the busiest woman in television. Not that I didn’t enjoy it; I did. But any thoughts I might have had about television being a far less exciting medium than the stage were soon dispelled.
My first assignment [For the Midlands] was an advertising magazine called Fancy That? Later it was changed to About Homes and Gardens, and I stayed with it for several months. Today my good friend Beryl Mason handles the programme.
From the TV World ATV magazine, January 13th, 1958.