This Is Your Life: The Show that can never be fully rehearsed...
TV Mirror
17 December 1955
TV Mirror: This Is Your Life article
related pages...

Producing Life

the producers who steered the programme's success

Eamonn Andrews

a brief biography

Ralph Edwards

the man who created it all

Birth of Life

the genesis of the programme

These Were Your Lives

a review of the first series

The Big Red Book

the programme's icon

Venues and Sets

the studio look and locations

Eamonn Andrews

Yvonne Bailey

Stanley Matthews

Ted Ray

When TV Mirror readers were asked for their opinions on the programme This Is Your Life, it was noticed that very few of them made the charge, often heard in its early days, that the whole thing was a fake; that the 'victim' knew in advance that he was to be the star.

But the "security measures" at Lime Grove go on. Jacko (T Leslie Jackson, producer of the programme) has moved out of "Producer's Row," that long corridor in TV Centre where Ronnie Waldman's team have their offices.

And Jacko, who has a nice sense of humour, has a false nameplate on the door announcing a whole string of fictitious agencies.

That's fun. But there's no phoney cloak-and-dagger mystery story stuff about the way the production team goes to work.

You know the set-up... that the name of the next subject is chosen from over ninety possibles; that contact is made with those closely connected with his life to see whether they will "play ball"; not only to appear in the programme but not to whisper a word of it to their friends.

Eamonn Andrews will never forget that first programme which was to be compered by Ralph Edwards with Stanley Matthews as the subject. A London morning paper revealed the facts. Eamonn, as future chair of the show, was there at the emergency conference.

"I had a most awful feeling," Eamonn told me, "because I was writing a column for another newspaper and had to be excused for half an hour to go to Fleet Street. What I didn't know was that as I was explaining why I had to dash away, Ralph Edwards was standing behind me, pointing at me and winking at Jacko – meaning, 'Let's have HIM.'"

TV Mirror: This Is Your Life article

The moment that began it all. Ralph Edwards, who devised the programme and introduced the first one in this country, informs Eamonn Andrews: "This is YOUR life." From being the first 'victim' Eamonn compered the subsequent shows and (below) presents Ted Ray with the book of his 'life'

TV Mirror: This Is Your Life article

As a rule the subject of the show is not even allowed into the studio at Shepherd's Bush until the programme goes on the air. There is a rehearsal with all the friends and relatives playing their parts but one of Jacko's researchers playing the role of the chosen personality.

At the end of This Is Your Life the subject is handed the Book Of His Life. This is, in fact, the script of the show, written by Gale Pedrick.

His problem is what to leave out. The research man gives him enough material to last for an hour's programme as a rule, but Life runs only half an hour.

It is a curious job of writing. Pedrick himself does not meet the people in the programme until the rehearsal. So he has to imagine what they look like and how they talk from the information given him by the research team.

Nobody knows his part in the script by heart. The typed words are a guide for facts and most of the participants put it into their own way of speaking.

In our recent Postcard Competition, This Is Your Life, the Editor has awarded £3 prizes to the following:

Mrs P Prendergast, 27/29 Abercorn Place, NW8: "I have seen the American This Is Your Life – much better than the BBC pattern. You need unselfconscious people who don't give a damn what they say, and there are very few of these in this country. The BBC has trained everyone to be mealy-mouthed 'middle-of-the-roaders,' and the performance lacks zing as a result."

H Blankley, 52 Edwards Lane, Sherwood, Nottingham: "Choosing Eamonn Andrews for the first victim and then letting him present the others to follow him was a stroke of genius. Admitted he has all the material prepared for him, but to put it over and make the subjects re-live their life story is what he does, so ensuring, in my estimation, a really successful programme."

Mrs Mabel Mills, 14 West View, Horden, Co. Durham: "In choosing someone to star in This Is Your Life, I feel that the unknown heroes and heroines make the best subjects. For instance, the life of Yvonne Bailey was more interesting than that of Ted Ray. Most well-known characters have already told their life stories. Natural curiosity makes us more interested in the unknown."


TV Mirror: This Is Your Life article

JACKO'S LITTLE JOKE: They pulled his leg so much about the secrecy that he introduced a few gags himself. On the door of his room, the name of a fictitious firm. More hush-hush. The desk tab announces his name as "Harkness J Brubaker." The book of names must be read "only in a dark room"