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Director JOAN KEMP-WELCH

Joan Kemp-Welch
Born 1906 - Died 1999

One of the first women directors to work in television in the 1950s, Joan Kemp-Welch (born Glory Vincent Green, she took the name Joan and adopted her mother's maiden name, Kemp-Welch) enjoyed a remarkably versatile career in theatre, cinema, and television for a period of over 50 years.

Born in Wimbledon, London, on 23 September 1906, and educated at Roedean, she embarked on a career as an actress, making her professional debut in 1927 at the Gate Theatre, London, and became something of a fixture in the West End seasons, appearing in works by Ibsen, Arthur Wimperis, Arnold Ridley, and Bruno Frank.

Among her film appearances during the 1930s and 1940s were Sixty Glorious Years (d. Herbert Wilcox, 1938), The Citadel (US/UK, d. King Vidor, 1938), Goodbye Mr. Chips (US/UK, d. Sam Wood, 1939), "Pimpernel" Smith (d. Leslie Howard, 1941), and They Flew Alone (d. Wilcox, 1942).

Turning to stage direction at the beginning of the 1940s, she worked at the Buxton repertory theatre and then ran the Colchester rep for three years. In 1948, she took over the Wilson Barrett company in Scotland and went on to stage more than 250 plays. It was during this period that she met Peter Moffatt, then a young actor, who would become her second husband; he later became a successful television director (All Creatures Great and Small in the 1970s and 1980s; Doctor Who in the mid-1980s).

With the formation of Independent Television in 1955, and the setting up of the first ITV company, Associated Rediffusion, Kemp-Welch's television career as a director of distinction began. Among the first to realise the vast potential of teenage audiences, she devised for A-R the pop record-release showcase Cool for Cats (ITV, 1956-61), a fast-moving series crammed with snatches from new singles, novel dance routines, and guest spot interviews.

It was, however, for her outstanding work as a director of television plays that she was honoured. For the sparkling adaptation of Wilde's 'A Woman of No Importance' for Play of the Week (ITV, tx. 9/2/1960), Kemp-Welch delivered a crisply stylised production with plenty of pace, abetted by Athene Seyler's Lady Hunstanton, a performance of both tranquillity and edge. Her two Pinter plays, the enigmatic 'The Birthday Party' (Play of the Week; ITV, tx. 22/3/1960) and the sex fantasy The Lover (ITV, tx. 28/3/1963), were forceful constructions that kept the Pinter mystique churning provocatively. For the latter she was awarded the Prix Italia. Also in the same year she became the first woman to receive the Desmond Davis Award for creative work in television.

The ambitious Laudes Evangelii (ITV, tx. 31/3/1961), a compelling television version of LĂ©onide Massine's dance-and-mime story of the Crucifixion, and Electra (ITV, tx. 28/11/1962), a brave and thoughtful attempt to translate Sophocles into television terms with actors of the Greek Piraikon Theatre, were justly praised by the critics, but for the most part went unnoticed by the viewers.

Her large-scale presentation of A Midsummer Night's Dream (ITV, tx. 24/6/1964) for Rediffusion drew one of the biggest audiences up to that time for a television production of Shakespeare in Britain, largely for the appearance of Benny Hill as Bottom. Jill Bennett (as Helena), Patrick Allen (Theseus), Anna Massey (Titania) and Peter Wyngarde (Oberon) led the prestigious cast.

Popular British screen star of the 1940s, Margaret Lockwood, in her first major television role for some years, featured as a feisty English barrister (up against a hostile Scottish courtroom) in Kemp-Welch's single drama Justice is a Woman (ITV, tx. 4/9/1969). The powerful play, produced by Yorkshire Television, inspired the later Lockwood-starring legal drama series Justice (ITV, 1971-74). In 1973 she produced a series of remarkable short plays for Thames TV, Armchair 30 (ITV), that provided a much-needed opening for new writers (Howard Schuman, Jim Hawkins, James Andrew Hall) to showcase their craft.

For the classy Granada TV historic crime trials anthology Lady Killers (later Ladykillers; ITV, 1980-81), Kemp-Welch directed what would be her last two productions for television: the captivating story of 1850s poisoner 'Miss Madeleine Smith' (tx. 24/8/1980) and 'A Smile is Sometimes Worth a Million Dollars' (tx. 31/7/1981), concerning the 1922 prostitute murderer Ronald True. She died in London on 5 July 1999.

23 September 1906, Wimbledon, London, England, UK more

Date of Death: 5 July 1999, England, UK more

Doomwatch Filmography

The Human Time Bomb (1971) TV episode
The Iron Doctor (1971) TV episode

Other Filmography

Director

1. "Lady Killers" (1980) TV series (unknown episodes)

     ... aka "Ladykillers" (UK: new title)



  2. "Crown Court" (1 episode, 1978)

         - A Hunting We Will Go (1978) TV episode

 

3. Romeo and Juliet (1976) (TV)

 

4. "Armchair Theatre" (4 episodes, 1966-1973)

     ... aka "Armpit Theatre" (UK: informal title)

         - Russian Roulette (1973) TV episode

         - Little Red Riding Hood (1973) TV episode

         - The Long Nightmare (1966) TV episode

         - The Toy Soldiers (1966) TV episode

 

5. "Upstairs, Downstairs" (3 episodes, 1971-1972)

         - Magic Casements (1972) TV episode

         - A Suitable Marriage (1971) TV episode

         - The Path of Duty (1971) TV episode

 

6. "The Shadow of the Tower" (1972) TV mini-series (unknown episodes)

 

7. "Brett" (2 episodes, 1971)

         - A Whole New World (1971) TV episode

         - Fit to Print (1971) TV episode

 

8. "The Ten Commandments" (1 episode, 1971)

         - An Object of Affection (1971) TV episode

  

10. "Menace" (1 episode, 1970)

         - The Straight and the Narrow (1970) TV episode



11. "ITV Playhouse" (4 episodes, 1967-1969)

         - Remember the Germans (1969) TV episode

         - End of Story (1969) TV episode

         - The Bonegrinder (1968) TV episode

         - Lady Windermere's Fan (1967) TV episode



12. "The Sex Game" (1968) TV series (unknown episodes)



13. "Haunted" (1 episode, 1968)

         - Through a Glass Darkly (1968) TV episode



14. "ITV Play of the Week" (14 episodes, 1959-1966)

     ... aka "Play of the Week" (UK: short title)

         - View from the Bridge (1966) TV episode

         - The Misunderstanding (1965) TV episode

         - A Choice of Coward #4: Design for Living (1964) TV episode

         - A Choice of Coward #3: The Vortex (1964) TV episode

         - A Choice of Coward #2: Blithe Spirit (1964) TV episode

           (9 more)



15. "Mystery and Imagination" (1 episode, 1966)

         - The Open Door (1966) TV episode



16. "Blackmail" (1 episode, 1965)

         - Cobb (1965) TV episode



17. The Lover (1963) (TV)



18. "ITV Television Playhouse" (9 episodes, 1956-1963)

         - The Ordeal of Dr. Shannon (1963) TV episode

         - The Jokers (1962) TV episode

         - God and Tony Lockwood (1961) TV episode

         - The Collection (1961) TV episode

         - The Problem of Girl Friends (1960) TV episode

           (4 more)



19. "The DuPont Show of the Week" (1 episode, 1962)

         - The Ordeal of Dr. Shannon (1962) TV episode



20. God and Tony Lockwood (1962) (TV)



21. Women in Love (1958) (TV)



22. "Are Husbands Really Necessary?" (1955) TV series



Producer:

 

1. "Armchair Theatre" (producer) (11 episodes, 1973-1974)

     ... aka "Armpit Theatre" (UK: informal title)

         - Amy, Wonderful Amy (1974) TV episode (producer)

         - That Sinking Feeling (1973) TV episode (producer)

         - Russian Roulette (1973) TV episode (producer)

         - The Golden Road (1973) TV episode (producer)

         - Verite (1973) TV episode (producer)

           (6 more)

 

2. "Armchair 30" (producer) (3 episodes, 1973)

         - Ross Evan's Story (1973) TV episode (producer)

         - Jesse James Story (1973) TV episode (producer)

         - Simon Fenton's Story (1973) TV episode (producer)



3. "The Sex Game" (1968) TV series (producer) (unknown episodes)

 

4. "ITV Playhouse" (producer) (1 episode, 1968)

         - The Bonegrinder (1968) TV episode (producer)

 

5. "ITV Play of the Week" (producer) (3 episodes, 1964)

     ... aka "Play of the Week" (UK: short title)

         - A Choice of Coward #3: The Vortex (1964) TV episode (producer)

         - A Choice of Coward #2: Blithe Spirit (1964) TV episode (producer)

         - A Choice of Coward #1: Present Laughter (1964) TV episode (producer)



Actress:



1. Rhythm Serenade (1943)

 

2. Talk About Jacqueline (1942) (uncredited)

 

3. They Flew Alone (1942) .... Mrs. Johnson

     ... aka Wings and the Woman (USA)

 

4. Hard Steel (1942) .... Janet Mortimer

     ... aka What Shall It Profit

 

5. Jeannie (1941) .... Jeannie's sister

     ... aka Girl in Distress

 

6. 'Pimpernel' Smith (1941) .... Teacher

     ... aka Mister V (USA: reissue title)

     ... aka The Fighting Pimpernel

 

7. Busman's Honeymoon (1940) .... Aggie Twitterton

     ... aka Haunted Honeymoon (USA)



8. The Citadel (1938) (uncredited) .... Nurse assisting At Childbirth
9. School for Husbands (1937) .... Maid
10. London Melody (1937) .... Maid
     ... aka Girl in the Street (USA)
11. The Avenging Hand (1937)
12. The Girl in the Taxi (1937) .... Suzanne Dupont
13. All In (1936)
14. Once a Thief (1935) .... Alice
15. The Veteran of Waterloo (1933) .... Norah Brewster


Obituary: Joan Kemp-Welch
by Actress Sally Nesbit from The Independent

Friday, 30 July 1999
Joan Kemp-Welch Director

Doomwatch - The Iron Doctor

AS ACTRESS, director and producer, Joan Kemp-Welch worked in every branch of the entertainment industry, from 1927 onwards. She once said: "I never gave up until I found out for myself that a thing just couldn't be done, and, sometimes without realising it, I even achieved the so-called impossible."

She was born Glory Vincent Green in Wimbledon, south-west London, in 1906. Her mother (my grandmother), being of a biblical bent, named her other girls Mercy, Charity and Joy. At school at Roedean she found "Glory" a liability and, as something of a tomboy, was nicknamed Jo, after the character in Louisa M. Alcott's book Little Women; she spelt it "Joe" - spelling was never her strong suit. However, after receiving replies to her letters to would-be theatre employers saying that they had enough leading men, this became Joan. Kemp-Welch was her mother's maiden name.

After her parents divorced, money was short, so she had to leave school. She did a course at the Froebel Institute and a spell as matron at a private school. But the theatre was where her passions lay and in 1926 she made her debut at the "Q" Theatre, Kew Green, in a career that was to span 70 years. For the next 12 years she played a multitude of parts in both theatre and films, once being strangled in the first act of Silent Witness, then leaping into a cab to have her throat cut in the last act of Traffic.

In 1939 she decided she wanted to direct. She approached the theatrical impresario Harry Hanson, whose response was "We have enough trouble in the theatre without women producers", but with the Second World War came a shortage of male directors and he took her on.

This was the start of 10 years of theatre production, at Colchester, then with the Wilson Barratt company, where she directed some 250 plays in four years, followed by spells in various theatres in the provinces and the West End, and a tour of India. A favourite memory of hers was in her production of Little Women, where for realism she decided to have real rabbits nibbling on a grassy bank. On the first night, excited by the lights, the rabbits scampered about in a wild frenzy, leaping off the rocks and copulating all over the place, to the huge delight of the audience and the horror of the cast.

During this period she met Peter Moffatt, a young actor some years her junior, who, after 12 years of his persistent persuasion, became her husband and her happiness. He also became a successful television director.

It was in 1955, with the setting up of Associated-Rediffusion, that Joan Kemp-Welch's television career began. Those were the days of live television, when mistakes stood; there were no retakes, no cutting, and precious few females in the control room. Her output was prodigious and incredibly varied - drama, documentaries, Light Entertainment and musicals, from Pinter to the Dickie Valentine show, Coward to the coverage of the wedding of Princess Alexandra.

She continued to work in television for the next 28 years where she collected the highest awards that the industry can bestow, including a TV Oscar in 1958 for Cool for Cats, a forerunner to Top of the Pops, and the Prix Italia in 1963 for a startlingly sensual production of Harold Pinter's play The Lover - who could forget the rasp of black-stockinged legs rubbing together? In the same year, Joan Kemp-Welch was also the first woman to receive the Desmond Davis Award for creative work in television. Her major productions included Laudes Evangelii, Leonide Massine's ballet of the life of Christ, a Greek Electra and A Midsummer Night's Dream, with Benny Hill as Bottom.

She was no intellectual, rarely ever read, except for the plays she was to produce and the poems of Robert Frost. Her talents lay in a great visual sense combined with a dedication to detail. She instinctively knew what was right and though she often drove actors and crew mad, changing her mind after weeks of rehearsal, she adored them and understood as only a fellow actor can their problems and insecurities, so they inevitably ended up adoring her.

In the 1970s she returned to the theatre both in Britain and abroad. She directed Romeo and Juliet and On the Razzle for the National Theatre of Western Australia, and Shades of Brown in New York and Cincinnati, and worked in Vienna, Frankfurt, South Africa and Germany.

She consistently lied about her age, to the extent of falsifying her passport by 10 years. "Darling, no one would employ me if they knew how old I was!" Her last production was Lettice and Lovage in Washington when she was 87.

As a little girl, I remember her as a wildly glamorous, larger-than-life lady whom I adored, full of fun and laughter, nurturing my first faltering steps into the theatre; and that impression never changed. She remained almost to the end wonderfully voluptuous and vibrant, delighted with life. Her home was always filled with friends from all over the world aged 18 to 80. She was a woman who always took what she did seriously, but never herself.

Glory Vincent Green (Joan Kemp-Welch), actress, theatre director and television producer: born London 23 September 1906; married 1936 Ben H. Wright (marriage dissolved), 1959 Peter Moffatt; died London 5 July 1999.

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