Watching William Templeton's 'The Silent Village' one could assume that the writer took his inspiration from the mystery of the Mary Celeste, the American merchant brigantine discovered adrift and deserted in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872.
The play, set in a Swiss mountain village, opens when seven tourists arrive and gather in a deserted inn. The dinner lies half-prepared in the kitchen. Cards lie on a bridge table. A tap is running aimlessly, overflowing the bath, and yet there is no one there. Down at the local village hall all has been prepared for the night's dance. But it too is deserted. Lights are burning, fires are lit in the grates, instruments are waiting to be played, but there is not a living soul in sight. Where is everyone? What has happened?
A chance announcement on a radio eventually provides the answer. The village is threatened by an avalanche. While the tourists have been out on the slopes during the day, the villagers have been evacuated. No message has reached them and now they are trapped.
Interwoven into the plot of impending disaster hanging over the marooned people, are intimate stories of personal drama, deceit, and betrayal. Linda (Joyce Redman) has run away from her marital home to be with her lover, Nigel (Andrew Cruikshank), only to be caught at the inn by her husband (Anthony Ireland). Linda is not the only one who has been unfaithful. Songwriter Van Kane (Hugh Williams) believes that his adulterous wife is destined to belong to him because he happens to draw a particular card from a pack. A pretty West End starlet, Celia (Audrey Hepburn) is trying desperately to prove to her invalid husband (Jack Watling) that she really loves him and does not wish to remain with him merely out of a sense of duty. And finally, Tommy (Peter Bull), is a promising young boxer who has been training for a championship fight.
Just when it appears the drama has reached its conclusion a relief plane arrives to rescue the travellers. However, the pilot only has room for three people. The others will have to wait for a second plane although it may not reach them before the avalanche does. The group decide to draw lots from a pack of cards to decide their fate.
Renowned Scottish playwright and screenwriter William Templeton wrote 'The Silent Village' especially for television. It was produced by Dallas Bower, a prominent British director and producer active during the early days of television and, at that time, a senior producer at the BBC. Sadly, many of Bower's works have been partially or completely lost to time. This is especially true of 'The Silent Village' which was broadcast live on Sunday 5 August 1951 with a second performance on Thursday.
According to a preview article appearing in 'Television Weekly', Bower chose many competent artistes for his cast. But it cautions "Only 21-year-old Audrey Hepburn is comparatively inexperienced in drama work. But she comes with a fine reputation in the film world where she is today one of the most sought after of young actresses.”
Published on November 19th, 2020. Written by Marc Saul for Television Heaven.