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Ten remarkable guests from John Freeman's Face to Face

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick 22:13, Saturday, 19 February 2011

1. Tony Hancock

Tony Hancock with John Freeman on Face to Face.

Tony Hancock opened tonight's Archive on 4 about Face to Face, the hugely influential interview programme that ran on BBC television from 1959 to 1962. In the programme, produced by Chris Ledgard, Sue MacGregor interviews producer and creator of the programme Hugh Burnett. We learn about its presenter John Freeman - who didn't want to participate in this programme - and the many remarkable people who appeared in the Face to Face chair.

According to Wikipedia, Freeman interviewed 35 guests during the first series of Face to Face (the programme was later revived - between 1989 and 1998), only two of whom were women - Edith Sitwell and Simone Signoret. These photographs of Face to Face guests, taken during production by unnamed staff photographers, come from the BBC's picture library. The captions are just as they appear in the archive.

Listen to the programme on the Radio 4 web site and watch BBC Two's heartbreaking profile of Hancock on the iPlayer.

2. Gilbert Harding

Gilbert Harding with John Freeman on Face To Face on 18th Sept 1960.

Gilbert Harding appeared in Face To Face on 18th Sept 1960

3. Martin Luther King

Dr Martin Luther King with Face to Face producer Hugh Burnett on Sunday, 29th October 1961.

Dr Martin Luther King, Minister of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, talks with producer Hugh Burnett in artist Feliks Topolski's home before taking part in BBC TV's 'Face To Face' programme on Sunday, 29th October 1961. The Negro leader in the struggle for civil rights in the Southern States of America flew to London for this special live transmisson of 'Face To Face'.

4. Edith Sitwell

Dame Edith Sitwell was interviewed on her life, her ideals and ambitions by John Freeman on Face to Face on 6th May 1959.

On May 6th 1959 the distinguished author and poet Dame Edith Sitwell was interviewed on her life, her ideals and ambitions by John Freeman

5. Stirling Moss

Stirling Moss on Face To Face with John Freeman on 12th June 1960.

Stirling Moss. World famous racing driver appeared on Face To Face with John Freeman on 12th June 1960

6. Cecil Beaton

Cecil Beaton with Felix Topolski and Hugh Burnett. Cecil talks to John Freeman in the Face To Face programme on the 18th Feb 1962.

Cecil Beaton with Felix Topolski and Hugh Burnett on 18th February 1962

7. Bertrand Russell

John Freeman, Bertrand Russell and Hugh Burnett, 4th March 1959.

John Freeman, Bertrand Russell and Hugh Burnett, 4th March 1959. The last survivor of a dead epoch - this is how the distinguished philosopher describes himself. Now is his eighty-seventh year, he has used his long life to challenge the accepted ideas and conventional attitudes of the day. Lord Russell discusses with john Freeman his appearance, his achievements and his unfulfilled ambitions

8. Carl Jung

Professor Carl Gustav Jung and John Freeman in Jung's home in Zurich in 1959

Professor Carl Gustav Jung and John Freeman in Jung's home in Zurich in 1959

9. Henry Moore

Henry Moore being interviewed by John Freeman in 'Face To Face', transmitted Sunday 21st February 1960.

Picture shows Henry Moore being interviewed by John Freeman in 'Face To Face' (for transmission Sunday 21st February 1960). The programme moved out of its usual setting in the studio. For the first time in the series the interview was recorded by television cameras in the subject's home; in this case, Mr. Moore's studio at Much Hadham in Hertfordshire. An interview with Henry Moore is something of a rarity, for he says 'It is a mistake for the sculptor to speak or write very often about his job. It releases tensions needed for his work'.

10. John Reith

John Freeman and Lord John Reith recording 'Face To Face' for transmission Sunday, October 30th 1960 at 9.45pm.

The subject of 'Face To Face' on Sunday, October 30th 1960 at 9.45pm is John Reith - first Lord Reith of Stonehaven - the man who inspired the pattern of broadcasting not only in Britain but in all the other countries which took the BBC as a model when setting up their own broadcasting systems. He was Director-General when the BBC started the world's first regular television service in 1936, but this will be the first time he has taken part in a television programme.

Steve Bowbrick is editor of the Radio 4 blog

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This was very good, but I would have liked Jung to reveal the details of Freud's dreams!

  • Comment number 2.

    I enjoyed it enormously and whilst I was only three or four when ‘Face to Face’was broadcast, still recall my mother saying – referring to Gilbert Harding – ‘poor Gilbert …….and he was so fond of his mother.’

    The programme failed to explain, though, why Face to Face worked so well on TV. Thinking about the late Prof. Anthony Clare and ‘In the Psychiatrist’s Chair’, this worked better on radio than TV and I wonder if this would have applied to ‘Face to Face’? But oh dear, the smell of smoke whilst listening almost made me sick.

    R4 seems to have lost its way when considering programmes with any emotional content. DID allows the guests to wear their hearts on their sleeves……..but they never do and clearly lay down their t’s &c’s for appearance well in advance. No room either for a resurrection of a programme such as: ‘So you think you’ve got problems’.

    Conversely, the World Service is producing some excellent broadcasts in this area. Outlook’s recent interview with Jeff pearce (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/programmes/2011/02/110216_outlook_illiterate_millionaire.shtml ) was a fine piece of radio. ‘The Interview’ is also a programme of Bristol 411 quality and I cannot believe this is getting the chop. I’m considering starting a ‘save Annette Mackenzie’ campaign……..even if she did sound very southern when I heard her interviewed on ‘Over to You’ :)

  • Comment number 3.

    This was very good. Hancock's voice was chilling. Surprised to hear that they remained friends...

  • Comment number 4.

    I disagree with #2. One of the failings of many programmes nowadays is that we are being told what to think. I agree it might have been interesting to have suggestions from several people about why it was a success, but a single view would have been unuseful.

    I suspect that such a programme will never happen again as we are now too aware of self-image and let the rest of the world see only the parts that we want them to see. It was ever thus, but now it is to a level that blocks the possibility of startling revelations. Ironically, I suspect that the only times you see a true person is on The Jeremy Kyle Show. A sad end to a great ambition to find the truth behind intersting and influential people.

  • Comment number 5.

    Replying to Boilerbill (message 4)

    "One of the failings of many programmes nowadays is that we are being told what to think."

    The Moral Maze? Full credit to Lord Bragg for supporting the listener during his recent debate with Prof. Patricia Hudson. I bet I wasn't the only listener to embark on a review of the Industrial Revolution.

 

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