Café Continental

1947 | United Kingdom

Café Continental was the first televised variety show in the UK appearing on the BBC Television Service from 1947 and continuing to 1953. 

Broadcast live from the BBC's studios at Alexandra Palace, North London, the programme opened with Al Burnett as Master of Cermonies welcoming the television audience to the café telling them that "your table has been reserved by the Maitre d'hotel" (played by Claude Frederick). Devised and produced by Henry Caldwell who utilised a variety format he had developed for ENSA in the Middle East, Café Continental was broadcast on Saturday evenings at 8pm. Lasting for forty-five minutes, the episodes attracted many famous singers and dancers of the day: Josephine Baker, famous star of the Folies Bergeres, appeared in a special edition with her husband, bandleader Jo Bouillon, broadcast on 26 June 1948 and the Italian comedy singing quartet, Quartetto Cetra, three men and a girl, who in their own country dubbed all the tracks for Walt Disney cartoon films, appeared three days later. 

Many stars of the London theatre also appeared in the series but alas, it appears that only three shows from 1950 exist in the BFI archives. 

Published on December 2nd, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.