Friday, 21 October 2016

Virginia McKenna’s Born Free

Recollections of an amazing african adventure

Written by Ben Felsenburg

How the heart soars just at the memory of it. Premiered 50 years ago, Born Free treated cinema-goers to the entrancing story of Elsa the lioness, who was raised as an Ben-Felsenburg-colour-176orphaned cub by Joy and George Adamson until the day came when they released her back into the wild. Now the formidable star of the film looks back to the incredible events behind the camera in Virginia McKenna’s Born Free (Channel 4, Sunday, 8pm).

For McKenna these are only the fondest recollections of the year she and her husband and co-star, Bill Travers, spent in Africa with their three children, of whom the eldest, Will, joins her to revisit the locations he first saw as a wide-eyed five-year-old. Others might have blanched at the dangers, but McKenna clearly relished the experience of working daily with the big cats whose jaws and claws could so easily have torn her apart. Yes, there were experts on hand, but if you were there you might have been rattled to learn that treating the lions with skippers sardines was apparently the way to keep them under control.

As for lyricist Don Black’s immortal title song, it nearly didn’t make the final cut until a reluctant producer, Carl Foreman, was forced to relent. Then it went on to win the best song Oscar. Cue this immortal concession from Foreman: ‘Don, i have to admit it does grow on you.’


QI BBC2, Fri, 10pm
Stephen Fry is gone, but in his place Sandi Toksvig drips effortless wit, taking over as presenter of the eccentric and informative comedy quiz.

Martin Hughes- Games, Michaela Strachan and Chris Packham keep a careful eye on the seasonal changes in the British countryside.

BEN FOGIE: New Lives In The Wild Channel 5, Tues, 9pm
Fogle returns for a new series, beginning with a daunting stay in the hardy climes of the Pacific Northwest with a British adventuress.

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