Alexandra Palace Television Society

Image of Alexandra Palace


"Just like that" - television from the past!!


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Languishing for the best part of 50 years, their existence unknown, were some of the finest examples of pre-war BBC Television. These films, now in the possession of the Alexandra Palace Television Society, will receive their first public showing since they were taken 64 years ago.

Their unveiling, (at the National Film Theatre, South Bank, London), is part of this year's Missing Believed Wiped event. This annual event has been a showcase for the showing of items previously thought to have been lost from television archives.

Until the discovery of these films it was only thought that 3 ½ minutes of actual pre-war television were known to exist. (This material was filmed direct from the television screen and can be viewed on the programme archive page). Examples of the type of programmes transmitted to the home audience do exist as part of the Television Demonstration Films. These films are not of the actual performance, but were recreated in a film studio. A film camera would have hindered the actual production of the television programme, and so it was decided to recreate the performance in a film studio after the actual transmission.

This is where the films of Desmond Campbell are so unique, they were shot while the actual programme was being rehearsed or transmitted. Campbell used a 16-mm cine camera, which, being small, enabled him to be present in the studio while the programme was being performed.

In total 20 minutes-worth of film exist, giving us a brief glimpse into the type of programmes available to the small, but growing, army of home viewers. From, variety to ballet, stand-up comedy to an Anti-Aircraft display, it is all to be seen here.

See Cyril Fletcher in Dick Whittington and his Cat, Greer Garson in How He Lied to her Husband, and Elizabeth Cowell, Jasmine Bligh and Leslie Mitchell (the three pre-war announcers). Post-war viewers were treated to such delights as Felix Mendelsshon and his Hawiian Serenaders, Les Ballets Negres (the first black ballet company), Peter Brough and Archie Andrews, and what is thought to be the first preserved television performance of Tommy Cooper.

These films have been made available through the generosity of Neil Campbell (son of the late Desmond Campbell).

This page is very much work in progress. The information here will be continuously updated as more research is undertaken and more of the performers and programmes featured are identified.

"Comic Cooper footage unearthered" Click here to view the news story as reported on BBC Online News.



Cyril Fletcher as the Emperor of Morocco in Dick Whittington and His Cat.

Transmitted on 27th December 1937


Greer Garson in How He Lied to Her Husband.

Transmitted 8th July 1937

Follow the links below to view the various sequences


The quality of these clips has been reduced for the internet




Transmission date

File Size 318 KB

45 seconds

"In the Garden"

Mr Middleton (television gardener) assisted by Elizabeth Cowell


RadiOlympia 1938

3rd September 1938

File Size 492 KB

55 seconds

Queue For A Song

Variety programme performed in the television studio at RadiOlympia.


Dougie Byng, Graham Payn, Joyce Winn, Queenie Leonard, Edward Cooper, Diana Chase, & Jackie Billings

Announcements by Elizabeth Cowell


3rd September 1938

File Size 336 KB

40 seconds

Cabaret Cruise

Join Commander Campbell aboard the SS Sunshine for another variety cruise.


Walsh & Barker, Steve Geray & Magda Kun, The Five Lai Founs and Dennis Van Thal's Orchestra


3rd September 1938

File Size 380 KB

55 seconds

Knife Throwing Denvers

Knife and rope act

File Size 496 KB

1 minute

RadiOlympia 1938

Jack Hylton & his Band


Bruce Trent, Peggy Dell, June Malo, The Henderson Twins, Freddie Schweitzer and Maureen Potter)


3rd September 1938

File Size 494 KB

60 seconds

Music Hall Cavalcade

Victorian Music Hall variety programme to celebrate the Coronation of King George VI


12th May 1937

9.05 - 9.50 pm

File Size 493 KB

1 minute

Believed to be Veterians of Variety

Including view from Control Room into Studio A


File Size 159 KB

20 seconds

Alexandra Park Bank Holiday Fair

Join all the fun of the fair!

29th March 1937

File Size 360 KB

40 seconds

Felix Mendelssohn & His Hawaiian Serenaders

Hawaiian celebration during the re-opening week of BBC Television


12th June 1946

File Size 692 KB

1 minute 36 seconds

Anti-Aircraft Display

How Britain was preparing to defend itself against war


18th April 1938

File Size 389 KB

45 seconds

Elizabeth Cowell and Jean 'Johnny' Bradnock, assistand head of Make-up & Wardrobe Department


File Size 77 KB

10 seconds

Greer Garson in the George Bernard Shaw play "How He Lied to Her Husband".


8th July 1937

File Size 1.61 MB

3 minutes 18 seconds

Gala Variety

Rehearsal and transmission


Tommy Cooper, Bill Fraser, Peter Brough & Archie Andrews, The Keynotes, The Mandos Sisters, the Three Regettis


23rd December 1950

File Size 438 KB 

50 seconds

Television's First Grand Pantomine: Dick Whittington and His Cat


Queenie Leonard, Cyril Fletcher, Brenda Perry, George Benson, Olive Del Mar, William Stephens, and Pamela Randall


27th December 1937

File Size 832 KB

1 minute 35 seconds

Les Ballets Negres


Featuring two ballets:

They Came & Market Day


24th June 1946

File Size 180 KB

20 seconds

Leslie Mitchell (the senior announcer) with D H Munro, Production's Manager

File Size 255 KB

35 seconds

Artists still to be identified

File Size 106 KB

10 seconds

Argentinita, the celebrated Spanish dancer


19th June 1937

File Size 101 KB

10 seconds

Jane Carr was a regular performer on the BBC 30-line television service






Frances Day

File Size 485 KB

45 seconds

Artists still to be identified


A selection of the publicity received following the showing of the Campbell films at the British Film Institute in December 2000 

North London Weekly Post, Issue 118 - 24th November 2000


Hampstead & Highgate Broadway Edition, 17th November 2000

For further details concerning the above films please contact APTS  




© A.P.T.S. 2000