People who talk wistfully of the "golden age of British television drama" are often accused of viewing the past through the rosy lens of nostalgia. But a clear-eyed examination of the era proves that such slots as the BBC's The Wednesday Play (1964-70) and Play for Today (1970-84) were unsurpassed as breeding grounds for talented directors such as John Mackenzie, who has died after a stroke aged 83. Like most of his contemporaries who gained their experience by working in television – Philip Saville, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Ken Loach, Mike Newell, Michael Apted and Mike Leigh – Mackenzie went on to make feature films, notably his superb London-based gangster picture, The Long Good Friday (1980).
The television background trained Mackenzie to work quickly on taut and realistic narratives, within a tight budget and on schedule. One of his first jobs was as