Tag Archives: Steve Birt

First TV appearance of Sir Ian McKellen found after 50 years

Screenshot from The Tomb of His AncestorsA LONG-LOST BBC drama starring a young Sir Ian McKellen in his first TV role has been found after nearly 50 years.

The veteran actor, currently filming The Hobbit in New Zealand, couldn’t look more different to his role as grey-bearded wizard Gandalf in the rediscovered gem.

He appears as a dark-haired and fresh-faced 25-year-old in the black-and-white period drama “The Tomb Of His Ancestors”, made by the BBC in 1964.

McKellen plays a character named Plowden in the 50-minute production (tx 09.08.64), based on a short story by Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling.

The programme, filmed as part of series “Kipling: The Indian Tales of Rudyard Kipling”, was no longer thought to exist – a victim of the BBC’s once-common policy of wiping or simply throwing away old recordings.

But a single print survived in a private collection belonging to a historical society in Illinois, America, and was bought by a consortium led by classic TV organisation Kaleidoscope.

Speaking for the consortium, also comprising missing episode enthusiasts Steve Birt and Tim Disney, Kaleidoscope’s Chris Perry described the McKellen drama as an “important find”.

He said: “The Tomb Of His Ancestors is a vintage piece of BBC drama set in the days of the British Raj and is especially important because of its connection to Sir Ian McKellen.

“For the first time in nearly 50 years we can once again watch the very first TV appearance by one of the UK’s greatest living actors.”

Broadcast between July and December 1964, Kipling featured performances from the likes of David Hemmings, Michael Bates, Alfred Burke, Barbara Murray, Keith Barron and Patrick Troughton.

The new discovery doubles the number of known surviving Kipling episodes from one to two, with 23 out of the original 25 still missing.

Also recovered by the consortium were two other previously believed-lost BBC programmes: a 1950s ballet production, Giselle, and a 1963 episode of the BBC series Suspense, starring Sylvia Simms and entitled “Miranda and a Salesman” (tx 19.08.63).

You can watch a clip from “The Tomb Of His Ancestors” below (uploaded to Tim Disney’s YouTube channel).

Read On: “Sir Ian McKellen’s precious television debut is rediscovered!” (story on Tim Disney’s website www.findaclip.co.uk).

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Filed under BBC, Finds, Kaleidoscope, Television

Lost Edition Of BBC Show Presenting Peter Nero Bought Off Ebay


A LOST TV showcase for the talents of American musician Peter Nero has been recovered after being bought off eBay.

Presenting Peter Nero (tx 20/9/66) was one of only three BBC shows made by the celebrated pianist and composer.

The 16mm film, believed to be a duplicate one generation down from the original reduction print, was bought for nearly £400 off online auction site eBay.

Arrangements are now being made for the 30-minute show to be loaned to the BBC so the corporation can make a digital transfer for its own archives.

Tim Disney of website findaclip.co.uk described the recovery as a “sweet experience”.

“This is the first time this programme has been seen in public in 44 years!” he added.

Tim, who earlier this year returned a lengthy clip from a lost episode of ’60s police drama No Hiding Place, was able to purchase the print with the financial backing of Steve Birt.

Birt donated the recording to the Tim Disney Archive (TDA) for safekeeping and telecine transfer, which was when the rarity of the show was confirmed.

“Not every film recording of sixties television is rare and at the TDA we have the resources to check the existing holdings of the BBC and ITV,” said Tim.

“On this occasion we knew that Peter Nero had made three appearances on BBC television. One programme was called ‘Peter Nero – In Person’ that was first screened in 1954 and repeated in 1965 and we knew that this already existed in the BBC archives.

“But he had also made two further programmes for the BBC called ‘Presenting Peter Nero’ that were screened in 1966 and 1967. The only way to identify this particular print was to buy it and take a closer look.”

The BBC Enterprises TR turned out to be one of the two missing editions of Presenting Peter Nero. The 30-minute show was broadcast only once, on Tuesday, September 20, 1966.

Tim said: “The print appears to be a dupe. It doesn’t look or sound like it’s any further away than one generation down from the original film recording in terms of picture quality or sound.”

According to Tim, Steve Birt has made “substantial contributions to the cause of recovering lost television” but has until now wished to remain anonymous.

He added: “He is a very modest man who has made substantial financial contributions to the cause of recovering lost television titles in the past.

“He would have been quite happy to remain anonymous, but I thought it was about time his contributions were recorded.”

READ ON: You can read Tim Disney’s original blog post about the find on his website. To see other rare clips in the TDA, visit www.youtube.com/user/findaclip. Peter Nero’s website is at www.peternero.com

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Filed under BBC, Finds, Music, Television, Video