Sunday, 6 August 2017

Shadow of the Swastika – 1939

Australian Newspaper advertisement for Shadow of the Swastika 1939

A.L.Lloyd wrote the script with historian Igor Vinogradoff

From The Life and Times of A.L.Lloyd – Dave Arthur pp. 101-102.

Despite this enthusiastic endorsement from Gielgud, Bert's enthusiasm and s in denouncing Hitler and the Nazi party didn't outweigh his communist affiliation, and his days at the BBC were numbered at least for the next few years. According to Picture Post editor, Tom Hopkinson at that time in the BBC you had to be reasonably anti-fascist, balanced with ‘a reasonable degree of anti-communism. 

Bert, who had never made any secret of his communism, failed to have his six-monthly contract renewed in 1940. There were obviously certain influential people within, and without the BBC who were not altogether unsympathetic to the fascist viewpoint: 

The communist journalist Claud Cockburn, in his mimeographed magazine The Week, had reported the high-level meetings of Nazi ambassador Ribbentrop with leading Tories. He also kept an eye on the 'Cliveden Set', as he dubbed the group of Nazi sympathisers who congregated at Lady Astor's house, Cliveden. 

Just four years earlier the BBC, under pressure from the Foreign Office, had been forced to cancel a series of educational programmes entitled The Citizen and his Government because Sir Oswald Mosley, founder and leader of the British Union of Fascists, had been invited as one of the listed speakers. 

The Government, if not the BBC, perceived Mosley as a constitutional threat, through the pamphlets and nationwide discussion groups that were planned to coincide with the series. Bert was certainly thrown in at the deep end when it came to radio scriptwriting. 

Between June 1939 and February 1940 he wrote eight scripts: National Service Roll Call 1 and 2, The Eel's Foot (with Maurice Brown), Aeatoroa, Eleven Thousand Whalermen, The Home Front, Children in Billets (with Stephen Potter), The Empire's Answer (with Laurence Gilliam), and Cockneys in the Crisis (with Gilliam and Olive Shapley). He translated two plays: La Cite des Voix and Les Aveugle; assisted with the translation of the Czech play Cavalry Patrol and he knocked off nine instalments of the Shadow of the Swastika. He was certainly earning his six pounds a week. 

Laurence Gilliam's judgement in employing Bert in the first place was amply justified. In January 1940, just before Bert's six-monthly contract came up for renewal for the third time, Gilliam wrote a glowing commendation to the Director of the Finance Department, recommending that Bert's be renewed at substantially increased figure, for a longer period than six months. He praised the quantity and quality of Bert's work: 

With the outbreak of the war his usefulness, already great, was considerably intensified and the series Shadow of the Swastika which has been officially endorsed as an outstanding programme of the war period, owes a very high degree of its success to his ability ... This rate of work at such a high standard, coupled with a very high degree of political tact displayed, makes this in my view a very remarkable achievement and one that fully deserves generous recognition from the Corporation.

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