The Troubled Air

1953 | United Kingdom

The Troubled Air was Irwin Shaw's novel chronicling the rise of McCarthyism in the USA and in particular the anti-Communist witch-hunt among radio-programme workers. 

Shaw was a victim of McCarthyism himself accused of being a Communist by The Red Channels, a pamphlet that published the names of 151 actors, writers, musicians and broadcast journalists purported to be Communists - who were trying to influence the entertainment industry by manipulation. 

Like many of those named, Shaw found himself blacklisted by Hollywood movie studio bosses and, in 1951, he left the United States for Europe where he lived for the next 25 years. 

The Troubled Air was Shaw's second novel, published in 1951. Whilst living in 'exile' Shaw wrote other bestselling books including Rich Man, Poor Man, which was later adapted into a highly successful miniseries for the ABC Network in America. 

The Troubled Air - BBC play 1953

The Troubled Air concerns Clement Archer, a director of a popular radio programme, who is told that he must release several actors as well as the composer from the show after the sponsors receive a listing of individuals who have reportedly been involved in Communist activities. When Archer tries to defend his colleagues he is perceived as a collaborator and a Communist sympathiser and eventually sacked, causing his pregnant wife to go into early labour and lose their baby. 

Broadcast as part of the BBC Sunday-Night Theatre series on 22 March 1953, The Troubled Air starred Patrick Barr as Clement Archer and Joyce Heron as his wife, Kitty (both pictured). One critic of the time described it as "one of the most gripping dramas to have reached television."

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

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