It Is Midnight, Dr. Schweitzer

1953 | United Kingdom

The earliest complete surviving BBC television play of the 1950s, It Is Midnight, Dr. Schweitzer stars André Morell as Dr. Albert Schweitzer who is running a small hospital in French Equatorial Africa on the eve of the First World War. 

The imminent outbreak of hostilities and the threatened closure of the hospital sparks unrest amongst the natives. Schweitzer receives a sick child at the hospital, rescued from tribesmen who were preparing to kill her as a devil. Amidst the threat of war there is time for romance and on the same night Commandant Lieuvin (Tom Fleming - pictured), the district's military commander, arrives to see Sister Marie (Greta Gynt - pictured), Schweitzers chief nurse, and proposes marriage. But as war is declared, Leblanc, the civilian governor arrives with orders that Schweitzer, as a German citizen, must be arrested. 

The War has changed everything and as Lieuvin and Marie's relationship falls apart Schweitzer is led away by Leblanc.   

It Is Midnight, Dr. Schweitzer

It Is Midnight, Dr. Schweitzer was written by French novelist Gilbert Cesbron and adapted for television by Rudolph Cartier, a ground-breaking producer of television who was always looking to push the technical limits of the medium to their limit. In this live production Cartier made full use of pre-filmed inserts, normally only used in dramas of the day as establishing shots-but here for dramatic effect and atmosphere expanding the narrative into the jungle around the main hospital to give the play life beyond the confines of the television studio. 

Broadcast on Sunday 22 February 1953, the play over-ran by twenty minutes and cuts had to be made for the 'second performance' the following Thursday. It is the second of these two showings that survives in the archives.   

Published on April 5th, 2020. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.

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