Julia Child 'Edits' Videotape

It's brown like chocolate, the great chef helpfully explains.
AP

This article is the fifth in a series featuring clips from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, which is working to digitize television and radio pieces so that they may be preserved for years to come. For more about the project, see our introduction to the series, where you'll also find a handy list of all the series' pieces so far.


It wouldn't be much of a surprise to learn that the American Archive of Public Broadcasting is focused on digitizing thousands of hours of television footage that had been, well, broadcast to the nation.

But one of the archive's most endearing clips is a little piece of film that was never broadcast at all.

It's a little video, just more than a minute long, that was filmed and produced for WGBH's 1964 Christmas party, a spoof meant only for the eyes of the station's staff. In it, WGBH producer Russell Morash asks chef Julia Child, "Exactly what is videotape?"

Her answer involves chocolate, tape, and a cleaver, just as you would hope.

According to WGBH archives manager Keith Luf, the skit was a send-up of the station's program Science Reporter, which ran from 1957 to 1967. WGBH producer Russell Morash plays the show's host, John Glick, and Julia Child plays herself, winningly. It's proof, Luf says, that even WGBH—normally associated with Harvard University, Boston College, Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Museum of Fine Arts, and other serious Boston cultural institutions—"did have a sense of humor, albeit on the inside. "

Luf adds that even though the video was made for a one-time staff-only event, it still displays the production values that were typical of the station at the time. "It was well-rehearsed, lit properly, the camerawork was sound," Luf wrote to me. "In other words, they put real time into making the skit....  All this knowing that the reel would probably only be seen once or possibly twice ever (like most all programming)."

"Ultimately," says Luf, "I feel it speaks to the passion the production staff had for the mission of educational television and the pride they put into all their work, even something as goofy as a spoof reel for a holiday party."

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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