I stand corrected! Alas, thanks to the recent 70th anniversary celebrations of Desert Island Discs
, I've since discovered that those very oldest editions of the programme were, like much of the BBC's radio output of the time, scripted in advance, meaning that the source of the Michael Powell interview that I cited was it fact taken from its script rather than from a surviving recording.
However, it does turn out that the earliest surviving edition of the programme has been confirmed as dating from 1951. Indeed, this is not even quite so much lost as perhaps it seems, as there were only 65 episodes of the programme broadcast prior to that year, since the show was on hiatus for a full five years quite early on, and missed out a good deal of time on top of that. This does, unfortunately, mean that we have lost Stewart Granger's 1945 appearance, and ones with Deborah Kerr, Valerie Hobson, Michael Redgrave, Lady Eleanor Smith [author of The Man In Grey
], Leslie Howard, Arthur Askey, Ivor Novello, Pat Kirkwood and Dame Celia Johnson.
One of the earliest surviving editions of the programme is indeed that of a certain castaway of 25th April 1951
- as you can hear yourself, as tantalisingly excerpted on this evening's Archive On 4
programme, Castaway: 70 Years Of Desert Island Discs
. Yes, it's Margaret Lockwood
herself, appearing from 13:59 to 14:44 (with an introduction from 13:47) and explaining in unmistakably mellifluous tones just why she was so fond of that Eton Boating Song
which she picked on both of her appearances.
And, furthermore, another batch of podcast episodes has now appeared, taking us back to the beginning of 1986, more than twenty-five years ago, through the complete tenure of Michael Parkinson - meaning that practically every episode apart from those hosted by Roy Plomley himself is now online. This newest set of about a hundred includes one I've been long awaiting: that of Sir Michael Hordern
, who - incidentally, made one of his very first appearances in the film A Girl In A Million
, and appeared on Desert Island Discs
on 15th February 1987. Also available now are:
, 15th March 1987
and Kenneth Williams
, 26th July 1987.
So is it perhaps only a short matter of time more until we start arriving at those 1981 appearances of Stewart Granger and James Mason (not to mention Lord Bernard Miles, Donald Sinden and Diana Dors en route)...?!