Thursday, December 13, 2007

More on Paul of Tarsus (BBC, 1960)

Earlier this week I discussed a forgotten Bible film called Paul of Tarsus, which starred Patrick Troughton, and was broadcast by the BBC in 1960 in 10 episodes. I mentioned then that I had tracked down a book based on the series. My copy has now arrived and I can bring to light one or two other things about the series. First, the bibliographical details:

Joy Harington, Paul of Tarsus (Leicester: Brockhampton Press, 1961)

As far as I can tell, the author was also the writer of the screenplay, the producer and the director of the series (see previous post), though that is not made clear here. The book's inside flap is not as revealing as it might be, but here is what it says:
Joy Harington was inspired to create this life of St. Paul, which she herself calls 'a chapter in the history of man's search for God'. Paul of Tarsus traces the growth of Christianity from the upper room in Jerusalem, through the disciples' fearless witness for the risen Christ; Saul's sudden conversion on the road to Damascus; his establishment of the early churches in Asia and Greece; his shipwrecks and torments, until, as a prisoner in bonds, he reaches his heart's desire -- Rome.

This book is profusely illustrated with photographs, some coloured, many taken on location in the Mediterranean countries for the BBC Television production in the autumn of 1960.

Enthusiastically welcomed by church leaders everywhere.
So we discover that there was some location shooting, in the frustratingly vague term "Mediterranean countries"! And the date of first broadcast is confirmed as the autumn of 1960. The photographs, though, are the highlights of the book. One of the black and white pictures shows Eutychus asleep in the window. Another shows "Paul and Barnabas rejected from Iconium" in what is clearly an original location and not a film set. Indeed, Barnabas appears to be something of a co-star and appears in many of the pictures.

The text itself is not especially interesting except in giving an idea of how the series itself must have worked out. It is a retelling of the Acts narrative with insertions from Paul's letters, and other insertions from the imagination (e.g. Paul gets malaria in Troas, p. 129). In fact, it appears to be quite Acts heavy, e.g. the break from Barnabas is the Acts-based argument over John Mark (p. 129) rather than the Galatians-based argument about eating with Gentiles.

It looks like the book's ten chapters correspond to the series' ten episodes. The chapter titles are:
Part One - The Feast of Pentecost
Part Two - The Road to Damascus
Part Three - Simon Peter
Part Four - Herod the King
Part Five - From Saul to Paul
Part Six - To the Gentiles
Part Seven - Greece
Part Eight - Diana of the Ephesians
Part Nine - Jerusalem
Part Ten - To Rome
Since the two episodes that are listed by BFI are entitled To the Gentiles and The Feast of Pentecost, it looks like these chapter titles are indeed the episode titles.

The book ends with Paul in Rome, with Acts, and bits of 2 Timothy quoted:
At Paul's dictation Luke wrote many letters to cheer and strengthen them. One of these letters was to his 'beloved son' Timothy . . .

. . . . In his lodgings in Rome Paul stood, chained now by his wrist to a ring in the wall, looking out of the window at the great city of Rome with its statues and noble buildings. Luke sat on the ground near him, his pens and scrolls around him, ready if Paul should wish to send another letter of comfort and encouragement to one of the churches.

Only Luke was with him now . . . .
And that's how the book ends (with the ". . .").

We can find out a little more from a foreword by "the Rev. Canon Roy McKay, BBC Head of Religious Broadcasting":
I was privileged to be associated with Joy Harington in the early days when she was preparing for the writing of the scripts. I know how much time and thought she gave not only to the biblical record in The Acts and the Epistles but also to the social, political, and religious background of the age. the results of that careful study are apparent in the scripts she has written. Joy Harington has been faithful to the story in the Bible, and she has kept close to its spirit. One of the many good things she has done is the incorporation of passages from St Paul's Letters in their appropriate place in the story.

Those who watched this story on BBC Television will be glad to have it in book form. Those who did not see it, having read the book, will be waiting eagerly for the series to be repeated . . .
It is interesting to see not only that this foreword describes the book as "scripts", which suggests that the prose narrative is closely adapted from the scripts, but also that it speaks about repeats, which means that it cannot have been wiped, at least not in the early 60s, and so we can be hopeful that it survives somewhere (e.g. at the BFI, where I will plan a research visit one of these days!).

Joy Harington also has an interesting "Author's Note" at the beginning of this book, and it reveals something else of great interest, and that will be the subject of a separate blog post later.


Tony from Jersey said...

I noticed that the book is available second hand at

parker said...

My father Kenneth Mackintosh played Barnabas in this show. They were filming in Crete when I was born. He recalled that the cast and crew were invited onto Aristotle Onasis yacht which was mored nearby. I high time had by all acording to his account.