Variety's Debt To Tireless Workers
By WILFRID ROOKE LEY.
Familiar features are dropping out one by one from the programmes. "Saturday Magazine" issued its "final edition" last week. Nothing could be more significant of the time of year. It marks the beginning of the season which it would be polite to call "summer," but which some of us in our more petulant moments are inclined to call "silly." Broadcasting from now till September will have the air of a long—a very long—vacation.
If there ever was a feature whose total eclipse would arouse a storm of protest from listeners all over the country it is "Saturday Magazine," with which Is in corporated "In Town To-night." The "final edition" of the former (final only for the present season, of course) included the hundredth production of the latter.
It was a real radio-occasion. Congratulations, first of all, to A. W. Hanson, who was able to get back from his convalescence in time for it. He produced the first "In Town To-night," and until his serious illness this year he has been in charge of it all along.
Listeners hardly realise what the work has entailed. Fresh material has had to be found every week. Each programme consists of five or six items involving as many speakers, or even groups of speakers. There have been over 600 items up to date. Mr. Hanson has brought well over a thousand men and women to the microphone.
Imparting The Flavour It is these men and women who have given "In Town To-night" its peculiar flavour. Was it Mr. Hanson who reflected upon the variety of ways in which people earn their living, and how odd and unlikely many of them are; was it his genius to realise how interesting it would be to get such people to talk? It cannot have been easy to hunt them down; nor to lure them to Broadcasting House; nor to coach them for the ordeal of the microphone; nor to piece them together into a programme that must be timed to a split second.
But Mr, Hanson has done all this; and the result has been a pageant of life as surprising, as arresting, and occasionally as wistful or comical, as • the world of Dickens. If one half of us is now better aware how the other half lives—and vastly entertained in the process of being shown how—our thanks are due to Mr. Hanson.
Eric Maschwitz And, of course, to Eric Maschwitz, the variety director. But then there is nothing good that comes out of the light entertainment side of broadcasting, but Mr. Maschwitz has had a hand in it. He, too, "closes down," as it were, this month; which is another sign that the B.B.C.'s long vacation has begun. He goes for a holiday—the first he has taken for years.
In the hope that he may escape from radio without entirely cutting himself off from civilisation, Mr. Maschwitz has chosen the heart of China. I cannot help feeling the hope is a forlorn one.
Mr. Maschwitz gave up the editorship of the Radio Times a year or two ago to take over the directorship of "Variety." A thankless task, if ever there was one; but luckily he is a man who doesn't seem to want thanks. He works—and indeed overworks—for the fun of the thing. His driving-power is an unflagging enthusiasm; and the right kind of inability to grow up. In his short term of office he has changed the face of his department.
Variety is probably the most shot-at of all the B.B.C.'s activities. Or used to be —before Mr. Maschwitz. Formerly it got all the kicks and none of the ha'pence. Now it is probably the department that attracts less bickering and a more widespread approval than any. All listeners will wish Mr. Maschwitz a happy time— even if he can't get away from wireless— on a holiday so long deferred and so well deserved.
" Cavalcade" "Cavalcade," by Noel Coward, is to be broadcast on June 24 and 25. This ambitious attempt is in the hands of Val Gielgud and Felix Felton; Mark Lubbock will be in charge of the music; and no fewer than five studios will be employed. Quite like the old days! As a play it reads so well that there is no reason it should not broadcast well. Anyhow, with two such producers it will have the best chance possible. In the lean time that is coming on such an event is to be