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Face to Face (TV series): Wikis

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Face To Face was a 35 episode BBC television series broadcast between 1959 and 1962, created and produced by Hugh Burnett. The insightful and often probing style of the interviewer, former politician John Freeman, distinguished it from other programmes of its genre at the time.

Contents

Distinctive format

Freeman's face was almost never shown. Apart from the back of his head, the cameras were concentrated on the subject, sometimes concentrating on a nervously smoked cigarette or a close-up of a face. The theme music was an excerpt from the overture to Berlioz' opera Les Francs-juges. The titles for each episode featured caricatures of that week's subject drawn by Feliks Topolski. Some episodes departed from an interview conducted at the BBC's Lime Grove Studios: the edition with Carl Gustav Jung was conducted at his home in Switzerland and Compton Mackenzie was in bed for his.

The programme's best-remembered guests are Tony Hancock and Gilbert Harding, both of whom seemed disturbed by the questioning, but both of whom later endorsed Freeman's interview style. Harding wept as he recalled his relationship with his mother, and the programme with Hancock is considered to have been a contributing factor in his ultimate self-destruction because it is assumed to have enhanced his inclination to be self-critical. On one occasion an interviewee attempted rather underhand tactics to succeed in enduring his ordeal. The novelist Evelyn Waugh wrote to a mutual friend of Freeman and himself, the Labour politician Tom Driberg, asking for information to disarm his interlocutor during the proceedings.

Revival

Revived in 1989 with Jeremy Isaacs as its host, the questioner attempted to mimic the style of his predecessor with a similar interview technique. However, most of this later series' subjects were more familiar with the medium than the earlier guests, so it was quite difficult to catch them off guard. Some of these interviews were featured as part of the arts series The Late Show. Running until 1998, the revival actually had a longer overall run than the original.

Reshowing of episodes

Episodes of the original Face to Face were shown frequently on BBC Knowledge and still turn up occasionally on BBC Four, especially during seasons such as The Lost Decade in October 2005. 29 of the original 35 episodes have been repeated, the exceptions being; Nubar Gulbenkian, Roy Welensky, Stirling Moss, General Von Senger, Victor Gollancz and Danny Blanchflower. The soundtrack of the interview with Stirling Moss was issued on the 'B' side of an LP which also featured the soundtrack of the interview with Hancock. The BBC issued the original series in a Region 2 DVD boxset in September 2009, complete apart from the interview with Albert Finney.

Of all the interviewees, only Adam Faith appeared in both series.

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List of Subjects

Original Series (1959-1962)

Revival (1989-1998 - Incomplete list)

Further reading

  • A book of the same name was published in 1964 with the portraits by Felix Topolski. (Jonathan Cape, London, 1964; Stein & Day, New York, 1965.)
  • A further anthology appeared in 1989 and was published by BBC Books. Introduced by Joan Bakewell, and tied in with a (terrestrial) screening of selected episodes, it includes transcripts of the programmes with Bertrand Russell, Henry Moore, Stirling Moss, Gilbert Harding, Adam Faith and Albert Finney; the Hancock interview was excluded.

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