The Radio 3 Documentary

The Radio 3 Documentary

United Kingdom

Exploring different aspects of history, science, philosophy and the arts.


Sunday Feature: The Killers  

Adam Smith traces Ernest Hemingway’s brutal, brilliant short story - from its birth in gangster-era Chicago, through its Hollywood afterlife as a noir classic, to its strange status as Ronald Reagan’s last movie. Ernest Hemingway wrote his short story ‘The Killers’ in 1926. Two hitmen enter a small-town lunch-room. They have come to kill an ex-boxer who has double-crossed someone. The boxer is warned, but doesn’t run. Hemingway captures the American man at a moral crossroads. Should he follow the code of the boxing ring, where a man proves himself, and go down fighting? Or should he grab the easy money and throw in his lot with the gangsters? Hollywood loved it - and so Adam traces how a colourful cast of characters turned this short, sharp story into two very different movies. The first, in 1946, is a black-and-white noir classic. It was the brainchild of Mark Hellinger, a producer who was all too friendly with real-life gangsters like Bugsy Siegel. It made the names of its new stars, Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner. But its main screenwriter - Hemingway’s friend and fellow boxing fan John Huston - went unsung. The next, in 1964, was much gaudier. At the heart of this version is a truly bizarre scene. Ronald Reagan, his acting career on the slide, reluctantly agreed to play a violent crook who is pretending to be a legitimate businessman. And yet this hinted at the pasts of the producers of this movie. They too had long-time links with the gang world, stretching right back to Al Capone’s Chicago. It was meant for TV but was deemed too violent. Especially as it featured a scene queasily similar to the assassination of President Kennedy, which happened on the second day of shooting. And the sniper? Future President Ronald Reagan. And so finally Adam explores how this failing actor ended up playing a role that catches the delicate moral line between playing by the rules and doing whatever it takes to get rich. Just as he was about to launch his career as a political megastar.

Edinburgh 70: Nothing Short of a Miracle  

The Edinburgh Festival was founded 70 years ago in the aftermath of World War Two. 1947 was a year of shortages and rationing, and the idea of starting an arts festival in Scotland's capital city must have seemed highly ambitious. Yet with the support of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Rudolf Bing, the general manager of Glydenbourne Festival Opera, undertook the challenge. It was to prove an international success that has lasted 70 years. With contributions from those who attended the first festivals in the 1940s and music from early performances, Jim Naughtie reflects on the origins of what has become the world's greatest arts festival. Producer Mark Rickards.

Taking it All Back Home  

British singer and song-collector Sam Lee explores how archives around the world are looking to repatriate sound recordings and asks in what sense can a sound be 'taken back'.

Mongolia: Keeping in Steppe  

Anthropologist David Sneath has been visiting Mongolia for over twenty years. He reports on how new political freedom and ideas are transforming ancient cultures.

God Intoxicated Man - The Life and Times of Benedict Spinoza  

Michael Goldfarb tells the story of Dutch philosopher Benedict Spinoza, who asked Who is God? and what role should religion play in government.

Still Will  

Laura Barton explores the silences and intimacies of Shakespeare's theatrical craft

Sunday Feature: Vladimir Ashkenazy on Ansel Adams - the Print and the Performance  

Vladimir Ashkenazy travels to California to reveal how music inspired and informed the art of his friend, the acclaimed American photographer Ansel Adams.

Literary Pursuits: EM Forster's Maurice  

Forster's gay love story was a forbidden book, unpublished until his death.

From the Ashes  

Allan Little looks at arts festivals started in the aftermath of World War Two

Canada 150: Geeking Glenn Gould  

James Rhodes is a massive Glenn Gould Geek: throughout his childhood he listened to Gould's recordings, had posters of him on his bedroom walls, and in the years since, those recordings have helped James through some of his darkest times. Gould is globally famous today not just for his astounding recordings as a pianist but also his many idiosyncrasies - humming throughout his performances, abandoning the concert stage in his early thirties, bundling himself up in winter coats and hats in the middle of summer, and soaking his arms and hands in warm water are just a few. He was an obsessive hypochondriac who monitored his physical health relentlessly and took an alarming amount of prescription medication. In recent years theories have abounded about his mental health, and whether or not he was on the autism spectrum. But beyond all this Gould was at heart a futuristic visionary - as early as the 1950s he saw the potential for technology to both serve and liberate the artist and audience. A prolific writer and broadcaster he expounded on ideas around listeners curating their own audio experience and editing their own versions of performances. He foresaw a time when artistic careers could be pursued entirely through electronic media, which in turn would have significant effects on human psychology and behaviour: so much so that product designers at Apple have recently been exploring Gould's ethos as a source of inspiration for future technology. For BBC Radio 3, James travels to Toronto, the city Gould called home, seeking out the real Glenn, the visionary who left us not just a rich legacy of recordings, but one of colourful ideas too. He tracks down his very closest acquaintances and finds them not just open and honest but fiercely loyal to Glenn and still deeply moved by their memories 35 years after his untimely death. And as Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary year, James also meets up with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the country's colonial past, diverse present and promising future: a future which may well produce the next Glenn Gould... Producer, Ruth Thomson With thanks to Denis Blais CANADA 150: a week of programmes from across Canada, marking the 150th anniversary of the founding of the nation and exploring the range and diversity of Canadian music and arts.

Sunday Feature: Grid (Brook Lapping Productions)  

Nothing more than the repeated intersection of horizontal and vertical lines, this feature explores the grid as the great hidden idea behind modernism, art, music and urban design.

Sunday Feature: Frost-Heron  

Art historian Michael Bird is in St Ives to explore the bond between two ground-breaking abstract artists. Terry Frost was a light bulb salesman whose family ridiculed his ambitions to become an artist. Patrick Heron was a well-connected aesthete whose parents nurtured his talent from childhood. Despite their differences, the two men formed an unlikely and lifelong friendship, pioneering brilliant use of colour and space to become two of the most important abstract artists of their generation. Through archive interviews, including some broadcast for the first time, Michael Bird revises their ground-breaking contribution to modern art. Booker Prize winner A S Byatt describes why she choose Heron to paint her portrait. She also reveals that both men enjoyed watching Marilyn Monroe films together! Bird also meets Sir Alan Bowness, former director of the Tate, who owns paintings by both artists. For Terry Frost, painting was about feeling, sensuality and movement. For Heron, the canvas was a space to explore radical technical and intellectual challenges. But success was short-lived as their pioneering work was soon eclipsed by the American Abstract Expressionists. The parochial St Ives tag became a "dirty word" among Londoncentric art critics. Sales of Frost's work dried up while Heron rattled against the "cultural chauvinism" of the American "propaganda machine". But both men continued to work, discover and innovate right up their deaths, within three years of each other. As Tate St Ives prepares to open a new wing dedicated to the St Ives school, and plans for a major Heron exhibition are under way, Michael Bird asks why we should still be looking at Heron and Frost. Producer: Karen Pirie Reader: Jonathan Keeble. With thanks to: Tate Archive, British Library Artists' Lives, Susanna Heron, Katharine Heron, Terry Frost Archive. A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio.

Sunday Feature: The Bloomsbury Lighthouse  

Tracing the activities of four unlikely wartime propagandists, Graham Greene, George Orwell, A L Lloyd and Laurie Lee, through the corridors of Bloomsbury skyscraper Senate House.

Sunday Feature: The Dvorak Statement  

Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani travels to the USA to discover the past and present of African American classical music.

Sunday Feature: Monteverdi's Women  

Catherine Fletcher explores Monterverdi's pioneering use of female roles and performers

Breaking Free - Martin Luther's Revolution. Reformation 500  

Germany's celebrating 500 years since the Reformation - but what does it mean today? Chris Bowlby visits Wittenberg - where Martin Luther started it all in 1517. He discovers how the Reformation transformed life in many different ways, and helped make Germany a nation of singers and book-lovers. But amidst all the culture and kitsch Germany's also grappling with a darker legacy - Luther's anti-Semitism and exploitation by dictators and populists. Producer, Chris Bowlby Editor, Penny Murphy Part of Radio 3's Breaking Free series of programmes exploring Martin Luther's Revolution.

A Square Dance in Heaven  

The Rev Lucy Winkett goes on the trail of Martin Luther's musical reformation.

v. is for Tony  

To mark Tony Harrison's 80th birthday, Paul Farley presents a profile.

Sunday Feature: I Know an Island  

Jon Gower visits the island of Skokholm off the coast of south west Wales, and uncovers the work of the pioneering naturalist RM Lockley, whose work inspired 'Watership Down'

The Radio 3 Documentary: Hitting the High Notes  

Why did hundreds of jazz musicians turn to heroin in the post-war period?

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