BFI TV consultant Dick Fiddy secured a film print of the Series 2 episode Sex Before Marriage, originally broadcast in 1967, from a private collector.
The existence of the print has been known for some years, but its previous owner had refused to allow the BBC or any other organisation access to it, according to television history and recovery specialists Kaleidoscope.
Written by Johnny Speight, the popular comedy series began as a Comedy Playhouse pilot in 1965 and then ran for three series. However, proving intensely controversial, the domestic sitcom was cancelled, before being revived in 1972, after which it accumulated a further four series on the BBC, an ITV sequel, Till Death…, and a further BBC revival in the 1980s as In Sickness & In Health.
Starring Warren Mitchell as the short-tempered, ill-mannered and bigoted central character Alf Garnett, two feature films were also produced, in 1969 and 1972.
Following the episode’s recovery to official archives, it is due to be screened at the BFI‘s annual Missing Believed Wiped event, this year taking place on Saturday 16th December at the organisation’s Southbank venue.
Last year, DVD distributors Network produced a meticulously curated complete box set of the landmark sitcom, including every episode then available, alongside audio recordings of every missing episode, including Sex Before Marriage.
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Highly popular – and more than a little controversial – Johnny Speight‘s classic sitcom satirised the less acceptable aspects of conservative working-class culture and the yawning generation gap, creating a sea change in television comedy that influenced just about every sitcom that followed. As relevant today as when first transmitted, Speight’s liberal attitude to comedy shone a light on some of the more unsavoury aspects of the national character to great effect.
Starring Warren Mitchell as highly opinionated, true-blue bigot Alf Garnett, Till Death Us Do Part sees him mouthing off on race, immigration, party politics and any other issues that take his fancy. His rantings meet fierce opposition in the form of his left-wing, Liverpudlian layabout son-in-law Mike, while liberal daughter Rita despairs and long-suffering wife Else occasionally wields a sharp put-down of her own.
Though all colour episodes exist, many early black and white episodes were wiped decades ago. The recent recovery of the episode Intolerance, alongside off-air audio recordings, allow this box set to include a complete run of the series from beginning to end.