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A Matter of Time
CBC-TV DRAMA-DOCUMENTARY FOR INTERTEL
DEPICTS CANCER DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
To countless thousands throughout the world involved in the continuous struggle to conquer cancer, time is a factor of paramount significance.
For the physician and researcher it’s a matter time before the intense, trans-national, multi-disciplinary attack on the dread disease results in precise knowledge about its causes and how best to cope with it.
For the cancer patient time also is important. The less time elapsed before diagnosis and treatment, the better the patient’s chances for effective, prolonged control. And during the period of diagnosis and treatment there are the agonizing hours spent waiting in hospital corridors and rooms: Waiting….drinking coffee…and more waiting.
Cancer is an international problem crossing all boundaries of sex, age, nationality and race. Intertel is an international organization dedicated to promoting better understanding among nations through television.
With this thought in mind the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation prepared a one-hour drama-documentary entitled A Matter of Time which graphically recounts the story of a young man and his fight for life against cancer.
A Matter of Time was produced by veteran CBC public affairs producer Vincent Tovell, for Intertel, with the co-operation of the staff of Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto and the Ontario Cancer Institute. Much of the program was filmed at Princess Margaret Hospital and the Institute and features actual members of staff. This hospital has become one of the world’s leading centres for cancer treatment and research since it opened in 1958; it has an international staff that regularly crosses the normal boundaries between branches of medicine, mathematics, physics, engineering and other sciences in an unceasing, collective war on mankind’s number two killer.
Three professional actors perform leading roles in the dramatized documentary. Vancouver-born, international star Lee Patterson portrays the central character, Ted Andersen. Patterson has appeared in more than 30 British films and 20 plays, starred in about 80 episodes of the popular U. S. television series Surfside Six, played opposite Geraldine Page on Broadway and starred in many CBC-TV dramas.
The other two principals are Canadian actresses Irena Mayeska as Andersen’s worried wife and Hilary Vernon as a fellow patient at Princess Margaret Hospital. There is no scripted dialogue. Producer-director Tovell presented the actors and hospital staff with the basic idea for each scene and they improvised their lines, adding to the authenticity of the drama. The story is by William Whitehead, author of many memorable CBC-TV productions including such significant Canadian series as The Nature of Things, and The True North.
Basically, the story is a fictitious but authentic account of a man suffering from Hodgkin’s Disease – a form of lymphatic cancer -typical of many cases on file at Princess Margaret. The telecast vividly illustrates the mixture of anxiety, hope, fear and physical and mental strain borne by Andersen and his wife from the time a lump on his shoulder is removed by a surgeon, through its analysis for possible malignancy, his referral to Princess Margaret Hospital, and the many and varied tests undergone there, climaxing in the final ‘conference’ before a panel of specialist-physicians…the confirmed diagnosis…and recommended treatment.
The second half of the film outlines the treatment – in this case radiotherapy of his chest, shoulders and neck – and its effect on Andersen and on his relationship with his wife and associates.
There is no narrator for A Matter of Time and the program contains no interviews. The straightforward presentation of the author’s scripted outline relies on the actors and the hospital staff – both through their actions, the extemporaneous dialogue, and a mosaic soundtrack comprising pertinent comments by the performers and various hospital workers.
The story is characteristically real. The sights and sounds on the film are authentic. The actual characters portrayed by Patterson and Misses Mayeska and Vernon are fictitious.