Golden Age of Television - Expert Interview
As a child in the 1960s and '70s, I loved to watch any kind of adventure series that involved bows and arrows, swords or six-shooters!
I also enjoyed reading about the shows in promotional magazines, comics and books of the day, which further spawned an early interest in the history upon which they were based.
The 1950s through to the early '70s was a vibrant time for both stage and screen, and my father – a Scottish-born entertainer – was in those days what they called a 'Concert Artiste' – a term that one never hears these days. He was probably at his busiest throughout that era, and he knew and worked with many stars of the time in theatre, TV and radio.
I can recall one particular occasion, when as a boy I accompanied him to some kind of large outdoor concert, and as we arrived, someone called out to him. I paid little attention until they began talking, and as I looked up, there stood John Le-Measurer and Bill Pertwee.
Now, as any child of the 1960s will tell you, everything stopped for Dad's Army in those days. These guys were Gods and I just stood there staring in awe. I recall the experience being almost surreal, and I suppose from that moment I began to find the stories of all the places he had worked, and more importantly, the characters he had worked with from that Golden Era, all the more appealing. I guess I have never lost that fascination.
How did you start the collection?
It all started as a bit of fun really. I think the archive was fairly modest until some years ago when through the course of my work in museums, I had cause to visit the Kubrik Archive in London.
It was a kind of epiphany for me, and really brought it home to me how ostensibly trivial items can gain such collective historical significance when thoughtfully organised with a primary focus, whether it be a particular era, genre, studio, actor, or – in the case of the Kubrik Archive – director.
The archive is primarily one of original printed ephemera, but also includes other types of promotional merchandise and a section dedicated to optical and screen entertainment in its earliest forms, stemming from an interest in the history of the moving image. Consequently I am fortunate in being able to say that any images supplied are first generation quality, being taken directly from the objects concerned.
What are your particular favourite items from the collection?
There are literally thousands of objects in storage here, and my favourites do tend to change. In terms of the swashbuckling shows, something as simple as the Buccaneers Painting Book is a lovely example of what the collection is all about. Exactly where it had been stored so conscientiously for half a century before surfacing I shall never know, but the artwork is stunning and I have never seen another, either before or since.
What was so special about the swashbuckling shows of the 1950s?
A definite benchmark in swashbucklers by which others would be judged, was set in 1938 with Errol Flynn's flamboyant and colourful performance in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Although I didn't experience the shows of the 1950s first time around, we had quite a mixture of old and new shows on TV in the 1960s and 1970s.
Some of the older ones were reruns of American shows from the '50s like Sergeant Bilko which was still popular, along with the plethora of 'Western' type shows which they had exported successfully.
Britain reciprocated with what it did best, by exporting lavish period adventure series loosely based upon European history, which of course our writers had the luxury of being able to take right back to medieval times! I think the general imagery just had the edge over the westerns too – all that shining armour, damsels in distress and medieval bling!
How will these golden shows be remembered and recorded for future generations?
It is difficult for today's generation to conceive what it must have been like having only two TV channels, which is all we had in Britain until 1964. This is no doubt why these shows are so fondly remembered by the generations that lived through what has since been affectionately deemed a Golden Era.
Fortunately, modern companies releasing archive television such as Network Distribution in the UK, are run by enthusiasts with a passion, respect and understanding for both the material they are releasing and for their target audience. They are doing a first rate job of restoring and remarketing these classics to a whole new audience via the latest optical mediums.
The material that I hold is all part of the same picture, and having provided additional tie-in material for books, magazines, documentaries, DVDs and Blu-ray releases of vintage television all over the world.
Read more about the Golden Age of Television in our in-depth article in the July issue of Scottish Memories.
The Paul Pert Screen Collection can be viewed at: www.paulpert.com