REVIEW: Esso World Theatre – The Way of the World

  • Broadcast: January 13th, 1959

Character: Mirabelle



⇐  PETER with Anna Massey and, (background), Sir Ralph Richardson

The Esso World Theatre was a showcase of what was considered to be the best of British theatre, which was premiered on WOR-TV (Channel 9) in the United States on Tuesday, January 13th, 1959.

The Standard Oil Company (Esso) – much the most artistically adventurous of all the sponsors, were given the opportunity to offer some of London’s top players a chance to illustrate what was colourfully described by the Washington Post as: “The Puritan and Cavalier’ threads running through British culture.”

With Sir Ralph Richardson acting as a guide through the ages, and a company consisting on none other than PETER WYNGARDE, Anna Massey, Angela Baddeley, and Paul Rogers, the excursion through the pages of British literature proved, it seemed, to be an “unreserved joy”, as the New York Times described it; “A feast for the viewer hungering for exiting words spoken with the precision and eloquence that are the traditions of the British stage.”

ITC fans will doubtless be familiar with director Cyril Frankel, who was personally chosen by Producer, Bert Lawrence, to take charge of the project, and in doing so, succeeded in avoiding even the slightest trace of hackneyed staging, and displaying an enthralling diversity of visual concepts which ranged from readings on a park bench, to comedy in an empty room, to an off-screen rendition of Shakespeare – illustrated by a camera scanning the interior walls of Westminster Abbey.

In order to present a suitable opening, Angela Baddeley kicked-off the proceedings by reading an in presentation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘The Wife of Bath Tale’, which was filmed in a field of wild horses. ‘Paradise Lost’ brought together Sir Ralph Richardson and Anna Massey, followed by excerpts from Robert Herrick, John Bunyon and John Dunne.

But the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly a scene from ‘The Way of the World’, which was performed by PETER in the role or Mirabelle, with Anna Massey as Millamant.

Bringing the hour to a close was a contemporary example of the theme of ‘Puritan versus the Cavalier ‘. From a bench in London’s Hyde Park, PETER WYNGARDE and Paul Rodgers recited an extract from ‘One Warm Sunday’, taken from ‘Portrait Of And Artist As a Young Dog’, by Dylan Thomas.


 “The hilarious subtlety of the humour and the high style of the occasion were perfectly realised in the superb playing achieved under the inspired guidance of Cyril Frankel. Mr PETER WYNGARDE was completely captivating in the brilliance of his characterisation.” The New York Times – January 14th, 1959.


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society:


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