The First Television Drama Broadcast In Britain

From Television, by R.W. Burns.
Still photo of the first drama ever broadcast on television in Britain, July 1930. The title of the play is, "The Man With The Flower In His Mouth," by Luigi Pirandello (1923).

August 16, 2008

The first play broadcast on television in the UK was the short play, The Man With The Flower In His Mouth. It was written by Luigi Pirandello in 1923. It was broadcast in July 1930 and was essentially an experiment since there were very few television receivers to receive it. One of the receivers was at 10 Downing Street.

The TV cameras and receivers used mechanical scanners called Nipkow disks. This particular play, because of its brevity and ultra simple set, was ideal for the experiment.

We are extremely fortunate that a film record of the mechanically scanned reenactment of the drama made in 1967 has survived and can be viewed on YouTube. The curved scan lines identify the equipment as being a Nipkow disk and their vertical orientation tells us that the equipment was a Baird "Televisor." A rough estimate of the scan lines tells us that Baird was using a 30 hole disk, which was a very early version of his equipment. At its highest point of development, which occurred around 1937, he was using 240 hole disks.

Curiously, a comparison of the drawing used as the background for the play as shown in the still photo and in the film recording of the disk-scanned image shows a left-right reversal.

Still photo.
Screen shot.

The Man With The Flower In His Mouth, by Luigi Pirandello (1923).

If clicking the above link doesn't work, clicking this Direct link will open a new window from the YouTube website. If all else fails, try pasting the following URL into your browser's address line:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJoYskwKxsM

OTTO