Earlier this week, on Radio 4 Extra, radio and cinema aficionado Adam Roche presented the third episode of its series The Lives Of Harry Towers, where it was noted that in addition to his many other radio projects and productions Harry Alan Towers (aka Peter Welbeck) also produced many Radio Luxembourg programmes in the 1950s, including The Adventures of Dan Dare – which was a revelation to longtime fans who have been trying to document the show for many years.
“I have never heard of this chap before in connection with anything other than films and television,” longtime Dan Dare and Eagle feature writer Adrian Perkins tells downthetubes, who kindly let us know about the broadcast since we are documenting the making of the show.
Adrian has been writing articles on Dan Dare and Eagle since the 1960s for enthusiast magazines such as his own Astral Publications and Eagle Times. (he was on the Eagle Society committee from 1990 until 2017).
Back in the 1980s, Adrian launched a project to investigate Radio Luxembourg’s Dan Dare programme. To this end he and others interviewed Derek Faraday of Star Sound Studio and went to meet with Philip Cakebread of advertising agency J W Thompson, who financed the making of the Dan Dare show on behalf of Horlicks, to learn about the set up they had for their radio advertising programmes.
But Towers’ role in the project was never mentioned, and indeed, as a quick purchase confirms, in his own autobiography, Mr. Towers of London, he mentions the show just once – and then only in passing, as being his top contribution to young people’s programmes for Radio Luxembourg.
Harry Alan Towers, who died in 2009, is best remembered today as the notorious producer of over 100 cheaply made movies. However, the first 20 years of Harry’s career were spent in radio, where he created dozens of classic shows including The Lives Of Harry Lime, starring Orson Welles, and most of the episode is devoted to this production, although it also features a short clip from one of the few surviving Dan Dare adventures broadcast by Radio Luxembourg.
From his first successful attempts to get his programmes on air in the late 1930s through to his star-studded productions of the 1950s, The Lives Of Harry Towers tells the story of his radio career.
A pioneering figure in British radio, Harry travelled all over the globe and managed to secure the services of some of the biggest stars of the day to feature in his dramas. In addition to Orson Welles, The Lives Of Harry Towers features Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Celia Johnson, Stanley Holloway, Michael Redgrave, John Mills and more.
Much of the archive material in The Lives Of Harry Towers has never been broadcast in the UK before, and some has not been heard anywhere for around 70 years, including appearances from Noel Coward, Humphrey Bogart and John Huston.
Programmes included in the three-episode series include Secrets Of Scotland Yard – The Acid Bath Murder (1947); The Lives Of Harry Lime – Suzie’s Cue (1952); and Theatre Royal – The Overcoat (1953).
downthetubes has been trying to document the Dan Dare radio show on Radio Luxembourg for some time. Only a handful of episodes survive, most in poor condition, although we have had some tenuous leads on scripts reported to still be in existence. Indeed, the only detailed, contemporary record of the show known to exist are the Dan Dare Radio Luxembourg Comic Strips by Philip Harbottle.
Earlier this month, Tony Reese, son of actor Harold Reese, contacted downthetubes to inform us that notes in his father’s cash book indicated he was in more than 10 episodes of Dan Dare in 1952 and 1953, and that he was paid for his work by J Walter Thompson – although what role he played is a mystery.
His credits include BBC Sunday-Night Theatre (1950), Softly Softly (1966) and Van der Valk (1972). He was married to stage and radio actress Joan Ireland.
• The Lives Of Harry Towers is currently available to listen to on iPlayer (Registration required)
DAN DARE RADIO SHOW ITEMS ON DOWNTHETUBES
• “Dan Dare’s Holy Grail”
2008 report on the continued hunt for episodes of the Dan Dare radio show broadcast by Radio Luxembourg in the 1950s
• Dan Dare Radio Show – Missing Episode surfaces – June 2012
• Dan Dare on the Radio – A Thrilling Radio Serial – June 2013, item by Jeremy Briggs
With thanks to Adrian Perkins