BERNARD BRADEN recalled that the most important influence on his fledgling acting career in Vancouver in the early 1940s was Andrew Allen, the Scottish- born 'father of Canadian radio drama', writes Frank Gray. Seconded to Canadian Broadcasting Corp's radio station in Vancouver from Toronto, Allen squeezed writing, acting, singing and technical talent out of the locals, including Braden and Barbara Kelly, whom he brought together in an adaptation of the York and Chester Mystery Plays.
The group's success prompted the CBC to bring the crew back to Toronto where there were more opportunities for live acting in amateur theatre, 'and where we gained the experience but not the money.'
Braden considered moving to New York in time for the advent of television, but, on a visit, became aware of the humiliations experienced by a talented but out-of-work fellow actor. 'The New York rat-race decided us on Britain, which we said we would try out for a year,' he said. On that New York visit, he saw the 500th performance of Streetcar Named Desire, starring Jessica Tandy and Marlon Brando.
'An important contact was Lawrence Gilliam, head of BBC Features. He got us both auditions at the BBC. For Barbara, this led to an interview with Leslie Mitchell for a programme called Picture Page. Her controversial comments on commercial broadcasting in Canada versus non- commercial in Britain - complete with mention of many brand names, a real taboo in those days - caused a stir and led to a call from a man named Roy Rich, who cast her in The Male Animal.'
This coincided with Braden's own break in gaining an audition before Tennessee Williams and Irene Mayer Selznick, who were casting for the London version of Streetcar, directed by Laurence Olivier, and starring Vivien Leigh. Braden starred opposite Vivien Leigh for 18 months. Her beauty, despite layers of make-up to make her look older, sustained his attention for the long run, before he and Kelly moved off into radio and television sitcoms for the 1950s and then he to investigate consumer affairs programmes in the 1960s and 1970s, and she to a triumph on What's My Line?
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