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Re: He never said that...

Posted: Sat Jun 13, 2020 10:15 pm
by stearn
The Avengers was made into a stage play in 1971 with Simon Oates as Steed. I knew it would eventually come back to me, but I was stuck on it being a comedy. This pre-date both Dad's Army and The Carry On franchise, but not the B&WMS, but is a definite created for TV series that had a stage version rather than a long tradition stage show that was turned into a TV show, etc. As ever, it took a bath to stop thinking get in the way!

And here is the Rose d'Or for the B&WMS from 1961

Image

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Sun Jun 14, 2020 1:54 am
by Simon Coward
stearn wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 5:27 pm
Brock, I wasn't disputing the stage was based on, and cashed in on the name of, the TV series, but Minstrel shows had been around for some considerable time so my point was they were not anything new. Python was a TV show first, then a stage show afterwards, so I was trying to think of others in a same vein.
As far as I can tell from The Stage, which doesn't mention them before their television debut, the television Black and White Minstrels performed on television first and took the show on the stage later. Of course, other people had done minstrel shows on the stage before them, but other people had done sketch shows on stage before Python. Unless the argument is that the TV B&WMs were re-using the material that previous stage-based minstrel shows had performed - and if they were, no-one's mentioned it here - I don't see the issue.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Sun Jun 14, 2020 9:10 am
by stearn
It wasn't an issue. I was merely observing that minstrels went back ages, in the same way that The Good Old Days was a hark back to music hall. It is, in all probability, the first TV show to transfer back to the stage and cash in on popularity, but a much easier transfer than something that was created solely for television, such as Python.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Sun Jun 14, 2020 7:23 pm
by Mark
"The Army Game", had a summer season in Blackpool 1959, earliest one I can think of.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Sun Jun 14, 2020 8:24 pm
by stearn
Excellent. I think that tops the lot. Googling, I'm pretty sure I have the theatre programme lurking somewhere, but I was amused to see that there was a stage version of Sykes with Eric, Hattie and Derek Guyler from 1977. Mike and Bernie Winters were in Big Night out in Aug 66, obviously cashing in on the TV show name.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:39 pm
by Brock
[duplicate removed]

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:50 pm
by Brock
Simon Coward wrote:
Sun Jun 14, 2020 1:54 am
stearn wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 5:27 pm
Brock, I wasn't disputing the stage was based on, and cashed in on the name of, the TV series, but Minstrel shows had been around for some considerable time so my point was they were not anything new. Python was a TV show first, then a stage show afterwards, so I was trying to think of others in a same vein.
As far as I can tell from The Stage, which doesn't mention them before their television debut, the television Black and White Minstrels performed on television first and took the show on the stage later.
There's no doubt about this whatsoever. The show started as a one-off BBC show called The 1957 Television Minstrels. The Black and White Minstrel Show started in June 1958. I believe the touring version started in 1960 at the Bristol Hippodrome (though I haven't confirmed it). The version at the Victoria Palace started in 1962, based on the BBC show. It got huge audiences and I think it broke box-office records.
Of course, other people had done minstrel shows on the stage before then
But had they? I'm aware that they were a popular form of entertainment in the US once, but I've not seen any suggestions that they were popular in the UK before The Black and White Minstrel Show came along. In fact I've gained the impression that they were dying out in the US when George Mitchell started his show in the UK. Perhaps UK audiences were attracted to them because they were new - it seems very odd that the BBC would have introduced such an overtly racist form of entertainment in 1958 otherwise.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Mon Jun 15, 2020 6:22 pm
by stearn
Harry Pepper and his Gay White Coons, was on TV when it first launched in 1936. The TV Supplements are available on my website www.radiotimesarchive.com or via the BBC (who host the same material, that I digitised and supplied), but Genome has some search results for them. I can't remember if there are any photos, but I, possibly wrongly, assumed, that this was a common thing in the 30s. PG Wodehouse certainly had Bertie Wooster join a travelling Minstrel troop in one story, but I can't remember which (Christ, my memory is turning to sludge during this pandemic) but Hugh Laurie turned up with burnt cork on his face in his and Fry's excellent portrayals. I am sure I have read about minstrel shows in music hall books I have as well. Whether a whole show would have been worked around them or they were just another turn on a mixed bill, and what their names might have been, is another matter. I am sure some digging in The Stage will turn up something (and may also confirm the dates for the Bristol tour of B&WMS).

You are right about the tide turning in the US - Amos and Andy were created by white actors who played the pair on the radio, but the TV series was cast with black actors as a straight transfer was not going to work for TV.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Mon Jun 15, 2020 7:48 pm
by Brock
Mark wrote:
Sun Jun 14, 2020 7:23 pm
"The Army Game", had a summer season in Blackpool 1959, earliest one I can think of.
Beats the Black and White Minstrel Show, so I take my hat off to you!

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Mon Jun 15, 2020 9:10 pm
by Simon Coward
Brock wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:50 pm
But had they?
Yes.

Various troupes even called themselves Black and White Minstrels. Plenty of seaside towns seem to have had troupes associated with them. There are a number of listings in the late 1800s, though actual reviews are harder to find.

I found this in The Stage, 4 March 1954, in reference to seaside entertainers from the late nineties and early years of the century:
I wonder if there are many who remember the old Hastings "Black and White Minstrels" with their alfresco pitch on the beach near the clock tower memorial. They gave three shows a day, blacking up for the morning and afternoon sessions... and cleaning off for the evening performance... in top hats and evening dress."

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Mon Jun 15, 2020 9:51 pm
by stearn
Image

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:02 pm
by stearn
http://www.sarnold.co.uk/mc/B&WMStour60.jpg

The above is from The Stage 11 Aug 1960 and is a collection of press cuttings - it is a link rather than a displayed image as it is a full page and rather large. The centre one is dated 29 April 1960 and is from the Bristol Evening World. So that confirms the 1960 tour.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 7:42 am
by Brock
Simon Coward wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 9:10 pm
Brock wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:50 pm
But had they?
Yes.

Various troupes even called themselves Black and White Minstrels. Plenty of seaside towns seem to have had troupes associated with them. There are a number of listings in the late 1800s, though actual reviews are harder to find.
Oh thanks - I wasn't aware of that at all. I'll look into it.
I found this in The Stage, 4 March 1954, in reference to seaside entertainers from the late nineties and early years of the century:
I wonder if there are many who remember the old Hastings "Black and White Minstrels" with their alfresco pitch on the beach near the clock tower memorial. They gave three shows a day, blacking up for the morning and afternoon sessions... and cleaning off for the evening performance... in top hats and evening dress."
That would suggest that they'd pretty much died out by the 50s, though - which gives some weight to my suggestion that audiences tuned into the TV show, and came to the subsequent stage show, because it was seen as a novelty. Most of them wouldn't have remembered those old shows from the turn of the century.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 7:43 am
by Brock
stearn wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:02 pm
http://www.sarnold.co.uk/mc/B&WMStour60.jpg

The above is from The Stage 11 Aug 1960 and is a collection of press cuttings - it is a link rather than a displayed image as it is a full page and rather large. The centre one is dated 29 April 1960 and is from the Bristol Evening World. So that confirms the 1960 tour.
Your link doesn't work for me, sorry.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 7:47 am
by brigham
From what I remember, George Mitchell, or more likely the BBC, had some control over the title.
Non-franchise versions had names like 'The Kentucky Minstrel Show', which is the one I remember from the Winter Gardens, Morecambe.
I can't find any evidence for Band Waggon appearing on Television prior to the Stage version, although Arthur Askey certainly had, more than once.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 7:57 am
by Brock
brigham wrote:
Tue Jun 16, 2020 7:47 am
I can't find any evidence for Band Waggon appearing on Television prior to the Stage version, although Arthur Askey certainly had, more than once.
Just to clarify: I didn't mean to suggest that Band Waggon had appeared on television. I mentioned it in response to a separate point about radio shows transferring to the stage. (I don't know if it was the first, but it's a plausible candidate.)

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 8:04 am
by stearn
Link corrected

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 8:27 am
by Brock
[When I started this thread I had absolutely no idea of the direction it would take! Fascinating.]
stearn wrote:
Tue Jun 16, 2020 8:04 am
Link corrected
Thanks for that. What utterly glowing reviews for something that is now one of the most vilified forms of entertainment ever!

On the precise topic we were discussing, though, I note the following:

"Stage presentations from TV shows are now becoming a regular part of variety..." - The Scotsman, May 17th 1960

That suggests that they were rather commoner around that time than has been suggested so far?

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 8:29 am
by stearn
There are references to 'Black and White Minstrels' in the period between the war and the late 50s when the TV series started. This one from the Liverpool Echo (22 Dec 55) is reminiscing about Christmas concerts:

The affair began with a concert in the billiard hall. where there was a stage. Among many artists I remember the Black and White Minstrels la mixed party) and the once famous Kentucky Darkies, under their interlocutor. Mr. Kent. with whose sons. John and Gilbert, I used to go to school.

Another from the 50s (March 51) is a 40 years ago piece and refers to: The Gramophone Black and White Minstrels gave a concert at the Co-operative Hull Yiewsley

And another from March 51 reports the return to the Beach Enclosure this season of the popular Swanee Minstrels. ... The Minstrels are sure of cordial welcome when they return. They give most enjoyable show and last season it was often said that there was finer bob’s worth in Hastings.

Of course, this just shows that the generic name 'Black and White Minstrels' was in use, but actual minstrel shows went by all sorts of names, and this makes pinning down performances trickier. Unfortunately many are called Nigger Minstrels, and I have a gut feeling that was what Wodehouse used to describe the travelling troupe in whichever story it was I referred to before.

The Drogheda Argus and Leinster Journal were noting thanks were given to the Greenmount and Boyne Minstrel Troupe in Sept 56, and the Littlehampton Gazette had 'one of the best turnouts' they'd had for their Minstrels march in the same month.

I'd suggest that this means that form of entertainment was still visible right up to the formation of the B&WMS for television, although I am sure that the popularity was on the wane like variety in general, with venues closing and tastes changing. The box in the corner was nothing new, but Sep 55 was the game changer with the start of ITV and would hasten the decline of variety.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 8:31 am
by stearn
Brock wrote:
Tue Jun 16, 2020 8:27 am

"Stage presentations from TV shows are now becoming a regular part of variety..." - The Scotsman, May 17th 1960

That suggests that they were rather commoner around that time than has been suggested so far?
I saw that and wondered what they were referring to. If I get time I might go through The Scotsman.
[edit: I can't, as the digitised version stops in 1950!]

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 9:49 am
by Simon Coward
Brock wrote:
Tue Jun 16, 2020 7:57 am
brigham wrote:
Tue Jun 16, 2020 7:47 am
I can't find any evidence for Band Waggon appearing on Television prior to the Stage version, although Arthur Askey certainly had, more than once.
Just to clarify: I didn't mean to suggest that Band Waggon had appeared on television. I mentioned it in response to a separate point about radio shows transferring to the stage. (I don't know if it was the first, but it's a plausible candidate.)
It certainly is. Hughie Green's Opportunity Knocks ran on stage in the 1940s after (or perhaps during) its relatively brief run on the Light Programme - obviously that post-dates the stage version of Band Waggon.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 10:49 am
by Brock
stearn wrote:
Tue Jun 16, 2020 8:29 am
And another from March 51 reports the return to the Beach Enclosure this season of the popular Swanee Minstrels. ... The Minstrels are sure of cordial welcome when they return. They give most enjoyable show and last season it was often said that there was finer bob’s worth in Hastings.
It looks to me as though they were very much an anachronism, if this extract is anything to go by:

"By 1870 most resorts had a blackface minstrel troupe... There were Christy Minstrels at Rhyl from 1868 to the 1890s, and at Southport even earlier, from 1860... The minstrels at Blackpool performed in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" for years, until coastal erosion made it fall into the sea in the late 1890s. ...

The blackface minstrels retained popularity, especially at the less refined resorts, until the end of the century, and some, such as Uncle Mack's Minstrels, led by J.H. Summerson, at Broadstairs continued every year from 1895 till 1938, performing on the beach three shows a day and usually including Summerson's signature song, 'By the Side of the Zuyder Zee'. And Harry Orchid's Swanee Minstrels could still be seen at Hastings in 1951."

An Illustrated History of British Theatre and Performance: Volume Two by Robert Leach

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 1:15 pm
by stearn
Perhaps. It is interesting to note the reference to 1951 and Hastings as I am sure they found the same entry via the British Newspaper Archive. Whilst there was some controversy about Uncle Mack's Minstrels use of the jetty at Broadstairs (as they had done for many years) in 1937, when the chair's casting vote decreed them to go, there is no mention why. It was overturned when an alternative site was offered close-by - I suspect it was more about rent/payment than blackface.

There are numerous mentions of Minstrel Troupes in the newspapers in 1957, including one in The Stage about a change of face from black to white two years ago not keeping the crowds away. Obviously times were a-changing, but I don't think the genre was as dead as you think before George Mitchell revived it for television.

In the context of an overall decline in variety (Roy Hudd said it was dead by 1960, with many venues gone, and Rock'n'Roll partly to blame), I don't think they particularly stand out among the casualties. If anything, Summer Season was still thriving as it was the one time people were away from home (and the TV) and would be looking for entertainment and something a bit different or special. Summer seasons and holiday camps were the last refuge for many variety performers.

As for less refined resorts, I wonder how much or that is actually true. What constitutes less refined? In my mind, the phrase is suggesting places like Blackpool, that pit of vulgarity that the hoards from the North descended upon when they got a week off from t'mill, but is that me drawing on crude stereotypes or the author, but just not being explicit? Douglas, Hastings, Littlehampton? I wouldn't have said they were less well refined and, I suspect, in the 50s and 60s would have actually been considered quite genteel.

The bottom line with this is that whatever decline the genre, and variety in general, was experiencing as the 50s progressed, once the genre was picked up for television, its popularity was secure enough to warrant a transfer back to its roots on the stage and cash in. Not just one show, either, but at least two. The beast that was killing variety was able to give it back some life. My point with all this talk about the B&WMS has been that, yes it was an early transfer from TV to stage, but it was still on the stage in various guises at the time, it was the exposure on TV that gave George Mitchell the edge in promoting a stage show rather than it being some revival of a long, lost act.

Pedantry, perhaps, but I do see a clear distinction between this and a show created solely for television where a stage show is later spawned, especially if it is based solely on material written for that show - Python, Dad's Army, Sykes, Avengers. I can't find the programme for The Army Game (so perhaps I have misremembered having it, especially as the Dad's Army poster and album cover is not too dissimilar in style and colour and I certainly had that) so I don't know how the show was structured.

For me, the interesting thing from my latest digging about is the show at Douglas had changed to whiteface in 1955, without any seemingly detrimental effect, and presumably due to some concerns other than the availability of burnt cork, yet blackface was adopted for the TV series. Could the series have resonated with TV audiences without the blackface? Would it have run for as long, and would it have gone back to the stage because of the TV show popularity? Or would it have just been another song and dance show that fizzled out?

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 1:37 pm
by Brock
stearn wrote:
Tue Jun 16, 2020 1:15 pm
For me, the interesting thing from my latest digging about is the show at Douglas had changed to whiteface in 1955, without any seemingly detrimental effect, and presumably due to some concerns other than the availability of burnt cork, yet blackface was adopted for the TV series. Could the series have resonated with TV audiences without the blackface? Would it have run for as long, and would it have gone back to the stage because of the TV show popularity? Or would it have just been another song and dance show that fizzled out?
It was tried for one series on BBC2 in 1969, under the title Music, Music, Music.

What's interesting from that billing is that the series was clearly intended as a one-off:

"But they aren't throwing those tins of dark make-up away. They will need them again next autumn when the new series of Minstrel shows begins."

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 1:55 pm
by stearn
I was aware of that - the show and the fact it was a one off - but by then they'd been on air for 10 years and it was nearly 15 years since the troupe at Douglas had switched over. There must have been something in the audience research that suggested it wouldn't have a(n immediate) future if they dropped the blackface. Now, I wonder if that exists at Caversham.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 3:59 pm
by JezR
The question comes to my mind whether they put on blackface for the radio shows on the Light Programme and Radio 2. I guess they might if there was an audience.

There wasn't any in the George Mitchell Glee Club in 1958, from what pictures I have seen of it.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 4:53 pm
by stearn
Interestingly, having looked at RT now, it appears that they did take the blackface off before the Music, Music, Music series but wore masks (wearing masks won't catch on!). Although there are detailed breakdowns of what was going to appear in each show, there is no mention of masks in the September or Christmas 68 editions.

The article accompanying Music, Music, Music, says that Tony Mercer was leaving the troupe at the end of the Summer season at Scarborough, so it was the last series he recorded. It also mentions a wider musical scope and less comedy, so I wonder if, whilst not setting it up to fail, tweaking too much meant it was never going to be as popular.

I do have a screengrab (from where, I don't know). Perhaps this was being ironic, but he is singing White Christmas!

Image

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 9:45 pm
by Mark
stearn wrote:
Sun Jun 14, 2020 8:24 pm
Excellent. I think that tops the lot. Googling, I'm pretty sure I have the theatre programme lurking somewhere, but I was amused to see that there was a stage version of Sykes with Eric, Hattie and Derek Guyler from 1977. Mike and Bernie Winters were in Big Night out in Aug 66, obviously cashing in on the TV show name.
Some more good examples there!

I suppose "The Curse Of The Daleks" in 65 counts, even without the TV series characters, there was also "Seven Keys to Doomsday" in 74.

A "Fenn St Gang" play in 73, also "Are You Being Served" in 76 and "Get Some In" 1977.

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 9:47 pm
by Mark
Brock wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 7:48 pm
Mark wrote:
Sun Jun 14, 2020 7:23 pm
"The Army Game", had a summer season in Blackpool 1959, earliest one I can think of.
Beats the Black and White Minstrel Show, so I take my hat off to you!
Very close though!

Re: He never said that...

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 9:51 pm
by Mark
stearn wrote:
Tue Jun 16, 2020 4:53 pm
Interestingly, having looked at RT now, it appears that they did take the blackface off before the Music, Music, Music series but wore masks (wearing masks won't catch on!). Although there are detailed breakdowns of what was going to appear in each show, there is no mention of masks in the September or Christmas 68 editions.

The article accompanying Music, Music, Music, says that Tony Mercer was leaving the troupe at the end of the Summer season at Scarborough, so it was the last series he recorded. It also mentions a wider musical scope and less comedy, so I wonder if, whilst not setting it up to fail, tweaking too much meant it was never going to be as popular.
"Masquerade", was quite a good show, pity it didn't take on.

I'm sure it was repeated (quite) a few years ago, BBC Four possibly?