Donald McWhinnie (16 October 1920 – 8 October 1987) was a BBC executive and later a radio, television, and stage director.

Educated at Rotherham Grammar School, McWhinnie worked for the BBC in administrative roles in the 1940s and 1950s and was drama Script Editor from 1951 to 1953. In the later 1950s, he became a radio director, and from the 1960s to the 1980s he was a director of television drama.[1]

McWhinnie, Frederick Bradnum, and Desmond Briscoe together established the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.[2] In 1959, McWhinnie directed a production of Embers, a radio play by Samuel Beckett. First broadcast on the BBC Third Programme on 24 June 1959, the play won the RAI prize at the Prix Italia awards later that year.[3][4] McWhinnie wrote about his approach to radio drama in The art of radio.[5]

In 1962, McWhinnie was nominated for a Tony Award for his screen version of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker.[1]

In 1965, he directed the first Broadway theatre production of the Bill Naughton comedy All in Good Time, which opened at the Royale Theatre, New York, on 18 February 1965 and closed on 27 March 1965. It starred Donald Wolfit, Marjorie Rhodes, and Richard Dysart.[6]

The inaugural episode of the BBC Television Shakespeare in December 1978 was announced to be Much Ado About Nothing, directed by McWhinnie and starring Penelope Keith and Michael York.[7] The episode was shot at a cost of £250,000, edited, and announced as the first of the series, but then was suddenly pulled from the schedule and replaced with Romeo and Juliet. No reasons were given by the BBC, although newspaper reports suggested the episode had been postponed for re-shoots, due to worries that an actor's "very heavy accent" would be a problem for US audiences.[8] However, there were no reshoots, the episode was abandoned and was later replaced by a new adaptation.[9] It appears that the BBC management regarded the production as a failure.[10]

In 1981, McWhinnie was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director for Translations.

Selected credits as directorEdit


  1. ^ a b Jerry Roberts, Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors, p. 382
  2. ^ John Tydeman, "Frederick Bradnum, Master dramatist whose prolific output sustained radio's great era" in The Guardian dated 22 February 2002
  3. ^ Prix Italia "PAST EDITIONS — WINNERS 1949 - 2007" Archived 3 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ D. Bair, Samuel Beckett: A Biography (London: Vintage, 1990), p. 588
  5. ^ Donald McWhinnie, The art of radio (London: Faber, 1959)
  6. ^ All in Good Time at (The Broadway League)
  7. ^ Shakespeare in Performance: Film – Much Ado about Nothing (1978, Donald McWhinnie) at Internet Shakespeare Editions archived 11 September 2014
  8. ^ Randy Sue Coburn, "Shakespeare Comes to the Colonies" in The Washington Star dated 25 January 1979
  9. ^ "BBC scrap £1/4m Much Ado" in The Daily Telegraph dated 29 March 1979, p. 15
  10. ^ Mark Lawson, The Hollow Crown: as good as TV Shakespeare can get? in The Guardian dated 29 June 2012, archived 11 September 2014