The date and program of the first interracial kiss on television is a much debated topic. In many parts of the world social stigma and legislation (such as anti-miscegenation laws) have hindered relations between people from different groups (races). The first kiss on television has been discussed in the context of this social stigma. As there is no agreement on what constitutes a race there is also no general agreement on when the first interracial kiss occurred and a number of claims exist.
Some states, such as the United States and the United Kingdom have questions related to ethnicity and race in their censuses (covered in the articles race and ethnicity in the United States census and classification of ethnicity in the United Kingdom). In both cases the census is based on self-definition. The available options differ substantially between the countries and have developed over time (i.e. two people might be considered to be of the same race in one census, but not in another).
US television edit
The Ed Sullivan Show (1958) edit
In The Ed Sullivan Show S12, E10 aired 16 November 1958, William Shatner, a Canadian of European Jewish ancestry, kisses France Nuyen, originally from France, of Asian ancestry. This was during a scene from the then current Broadway production of The World of Suzie Wong.
Sea Hunt (1959) edit
Adventures in Paradise (1960) edit
An episode of Adventures in Paradise titled "The Big Surf", broadcast in 1960, featured two scripted kisses: one between actress Pilar Seurat and actor Robert Sampson, and another with Seurat and Gardner McKay.
I Spy (1966) edit
Star Trek: "Mirror, Mirror" – Kirk and Marlena (1967) edit
Movin' with Nancy (1967) edit
Star Trek: "Plato's Stepchildren" – Kirk and Uhura (1968) edit
A 1968 episode of Star Trek, "Plato's Stepchildren", which first aired on November 22, 1968, is often referred to as the first interracial kiss on television. However, there had been earlier interracial kisses not only on television, but on Star Trek itself.
UK television edit
Unlike the situation in the United States, interracial kisses in UK films and television shows have attracted little comment.
The 1954 British-New Zealand film The Seekers featured an interracial kiss between a European (played by Jack Hawkins) and a Maori (played by Javanese-German Laya Raki). This film was later screened on television in the US (under the title Land of Fury) and the UK, but the original screening dates are unknown.
For a time, the first interracial kiss on British television was understood to have occurred during an episode of the British soap opera Emergency – Ward 10 in 1964. However, the 1955 BBC production of Othello featured several kisses between Gordon Heath and Rosemary Harris. Furthermore, in November 2015, a Granada Play of the Week, You in Your Small Corner, was uncovered which was broadcast in June 1962; that quickly led to the rediscovery of another play featuring the same young Jamaican actor, Lloyd Reckord, called Hot Summer Night, televised in Britain on 1 February 1959.
Hot Summer Night (1959) edit
Lloyd Reckord and Andrée Melly appeared in the ITV Armchair Theatre adaptation of Ted Willis's play Hot Summer Night, broadcast on 1 February 1959. British Film Institute panel moderator Samira Ahmed was able in 2015 to announce the rediscovery of this TV kiss. The play was later adapted as the 1961 feature film Flame in the Streets.
Probation Officer (1959) edit
The second episode of the ATV drama series Probation Officer, broadcast on the ITV network on 21 September 1959, also features an interracial kiss. This again features Lloyd Reckord, on this occasion with actress Felicity Young, in a storyline concerning an interracial relationship disapproved of by both sets of parents.
You in Your Small Corner (1962) edit
In June 1962, a live performance of the play You in Your Small Corner by Barry Reckord was broadcast on British television as part of the Granada Television series Play of the Week. The central theme of the play is a relationship between a young black intellectual and a white working-class girl. During the play, a kiss takes place between once more Lloyd Reckord and this time Elizabeth MacLennan, and what has been described as an "explicit post-coital scene".
You In Your Small Corner was rediscovered during preparations for a November 2015 British Film Institute panel discussion on "Race and Romance on TV" and was used in publicity for the event.
Emergency Ward 10 edit
One of the earliest interracial kisses on television occurred in a July 1964 episode of British soap opera Emergency Ward 10, during which characters Louise Mahler (portrayed by Joan Hooley) and Giles Farmer (portrayed by John White) kissed. The scene in which Mahler and Farmer kissed was originally scripted to occur in Mahler's bedroom, but was rewritten so as to occur outdoors, due to concerns it would otherwise be too risqué (the earlier Lloyd Reckord plays had both been shown well after the 9pm adult-content watershed). According to an issue of the Daily Express published after the episode aired, "not a viewer rang-up to complain". In a 2015 interview, conducted prior to the discovery of the You in Your Small Corner footage, Hooley noted that the historic importance of what had been known as the "first interracial kiss on television" had been inflated in popular memory:
A lot of people spoke about it more ten years later than they did at the time it was happening. So, it was much later that it occurred to me that I was part of history. I find it odd to have to admit that I was part of history because I don't see why there should be anything to do about it. I don't think there should have been all this fuss about it.
Netherlands television edit
Pension Hommeles (1959) edit
The comedy TV show Pension Hommeles (1957-1959) is considered as the first TV series on Dutch television. Broadcast on 5 January 1959, in the episode "Beeldromance", Afro-American actor Donald Jones sings a song, "Ik zou je het liefste in een doosje willen doen", to Dutch actress Roeki Aronds. After the song Jones kisses Aronds. At the time the kiss was not controversial and did not get much attention, but the song became a standard in Dutch music. Donald Jones, an actor, dancer and singer from New York, was one of the first black stars in Dutch show business.
- Tom Lisanti (25 April 2016). "William Shatner on Broadway, Before His Trek Through the Universe". New York Public Library. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
- Interracial Kiss: France Nuyen & Robert Culp ('I Spy' Episode 'The Tiger' – January 1, 1966).
- Star Trek Interracial Kiss – Barbara Luna and William Shatner.
- Brioux, Bill (2008). Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 47. ISBN 978-0275992477.
- Brown, Mark (20 November 2015). "TV archive discovers couple who beat Kirk and Uhura to first interracial kiss". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
- Bernardi, Daniel. "Star Trek in the 1960s: Liberal-Humanism and the Production of Race". DePauw University. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
- "Shattered TV Taboos: How Bea Arthur and Others Broke Barriers". TVGuide.com. April 27, 2009. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
- Nichelle Nichols, Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories, G.P. Putnam & Sons New York, 1994. pp.195–198
- Amanda Bidnall The West Indian Generation: Remaking British Culture in London, 1945–1965. "The first on-stage interracial kiss came in 1958 with the performance of Ted Willis's Hot Summer Night, and one year later that same kiss came to the small screen with the play's adaptation for ITV's Armchair Theatre."
- @DescantDeb. "An Interesting Take on Race and Romance at the 2015 BFI Love Season". The British Blacklist. Archived from the original on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
- "Hot Summer Night – First inter-racial kiss? (01/02/1959)" (video). YouTube. VintageBritishComedy. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
- Probation Officer (Television drama). Network Distributing. 21 September 1959. Event occurs at 32m22s. Network DVD number 7954374.
- Waltres, Guy (28 February 2015). "How much do you really know about Star Trek?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
- Citron, Lana (2011). A Compendium of Kisses: Facts, Quotes and Curiosities. Harlequin. pp. 188–189. ISBN 978-0373892426.
- Bourne, Steven (2005). Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television. Bloomsbury. pp. 173–174.
- Clip of Hot Summer Night kiss (1959)
- Clip of Sea Hunt kiss (1959)
- Clip of You in Your Small Corner kiss (1962)
- Clip of Emergency Ward 10 showing what was previously thought to be the first interracial kiss on television (1964)
- Nichelle Nichols on filming the first interracial kiss on American television (video interview)