THERE is one man in British literary history whose writing stands head and shoulders above all others when it comes to capturing the atmosphere of a traditional open-fire Christmas and the excitement of the festive season, and that is of course Charles John Huffam Dickens.
His classic novel A Christmas Carol, written in 1843, takes the plaudits as one of the most memorable Christmas stories of all time, and together with most of Dickens’s other novels, it has been reproduced in various formats for theatre, film, radio, opera, and television, and it’s memories of Dickens on TV that this particular story is focussed on. Alan Keeling, our resident Bugle TV guru, has been digging deep into his archives and has come across an anthology TV series called Tales from Dickens, which was broadcast across the Black Country and the wider West Midlands way back in 1958. Alan writes: “Hollywood actor Fredric March came to England in the late ‘50s to host the television series Tales from Dickens.
Each half-hour programme was produced in black and white and ran for just half an hour, but such was the standard of acting performances that it soon became a firm favourite with viewers.
Adaptations A run of 39 separate programmes were originally planned and filmed and produced at Associated British Studios, Elstree, by Towers of London Productions (Harry Allan Towers), with the cooperation of the Dickensian Society. The series was in fact adaptations of extracts from Dickens’ novels, such as Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, and a somewhat condensed version of A Christmas Carol starring Basil Rathbone as Scrooge.
“Other guest stars who appeared in the series included William Mervyn, Matita Hunt, William Russell, Anton Rodgers, Toke Townley, June Laverick, James Donald, Donald Wolfit, Harry Fowler, Richard Briers, Robert Morley, Irene Handl, and Jack Watling. The host of the series, Fredric March, would appear at the beginning of each programme in the library of a house that once belonged to Charles Dickens.
He began by removing a book from the shelf and then started to read from it the opening chapter for the action that followed.
“There is a rumour in TV circles that the complete series was actually filmed in colour, but this has never been verified. Tales from Dickens was shown more or less in most ITV regions, but screened on Sunday afternoons by ABC, and was last repeated on terrestrial television between 1966 and 1968.”