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Harington, Joy (1914-1991)

Producer, Director, Writer, Actor

Main image of Harington, Joy (1914-1991)

A distinguished producer of early children's television programmes, Joy Harington had started as an actress (her first professional appearance had been in 1933) and had appeared in various repertory companies. In 1938 she travelled to the US and continued touring on stage before going to Hollywood to work at Paramount Studios as a script editor and dialogue director.

During her Hollywood stint she also appeared in 13 films (often uncredited), including the MGM productions of Gaslight (d. George Cukor, 1944) and National Velvet (d. Clarence Brown, 1945). (Some information sources for this period give her name as Joy Harrington.)

Back in London after the war, Harington joined the BBC as a stage manager when the television service re-opened in 1946. She became producer of BBC Children's Television in 1950 and for the next ten years excelled in productions of children's classics such as Treasure Island (BBC, 1951), Kidnapped (BBC, 1952; restaged 1956), Jo's Boys (BBC, 1959) and Heidi (BBC, 1959).

One of her more light-hearted projects during this period was in bringing the Frank Richards stories of Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School (BBC, 1952-61) to television. These prankish schoolboy yarns - a kind of early sitcom for children - were broadcast live and were the first TV episodes to be presented with matinee and evening performances on the same day. Contemporary critics were at first wary of a television translation that was based on 40-year-old stories (Richards had started writing the Bunter stories in 1908) intended for readers in a less sophisticated time. But with the venerable Richards himself providing many of the scripts, the series soon became a confirmed favourite with junior school-aged children.

But perhaps what is considered her most notable work for television was the eight-part Sunday serial Jesus of Nazareth (BBC, 1956) for which she received the 1956 award of the Guild of Television Producers and Directors (now BAFTA), the first to be presented for a children's serial. A live studio production with exteriors filmed on location in Galilee and Jerusalem, it was a courageous undertaking. At that time, censorship regulations prohibited the portrayal of Christ by an actor in public performances. However, the Central Religious Council approved the project and Tom Fleming was cast as Jesus Christ. The serial was an outstanding success. Harington followed with a similar ten-part series, Paul of Tarsus (BBC, 1960), for which the exteriors were filmed mainly in Crete.

Until her retirement from the BBC in 1970, Harington worked for religious programmes, schools and further education. She returned to acting in the late 1970s and appeared regularly in the Sykes series (BBC, 1960-65; 1971-79) as well as the occasional Are You Being Served? (BBC, 1973-83) episode and in the fourth Quatermass (ITV, 1979) serial.

Tise Vahimagi

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School (1952-61)Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School (1952-61)

Children's comedy series about the perpetually greedy fat schoolboy

Thumbnail image of Moon Stallion, The (1978)Moon Stallion, The (1978)

Children's fantasy drama about unwise delvings into Arthurian legend

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