NBC Matinee Theater
Zsa Zsa Gabor as Madame Brillon in The Last Voyage, 1957.
|Directed by||John Drew Barrymore
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||650|
|Executive producer(s)||George Lowther|
|Running time||45–48 minutes|
|Original run||October 31, 1955– June 27, 1958|
Matinee Theater is an American anthology series that aired on NBC during the Golden Age of Television, from 1955 to 1958. The series, which ran daily in the afternoon, was frequently live. It was produced by Albert McCleery, Darrell Ross, George Cahan and Frank Price with executive producer George Lowther. McCleery had previously produced the live series Cameo Theatre which introduced to television the concept of theater-in-the-round, TV plays staged with minimal sets.
Jim Buckley of the Pewter Plough Playhouse (Cambria, California) recalled:
When Al McCleery got back to the States, he originated a most ambitious theatrical TV series for NBC called Matinee Theater: to televise five different stage plays per week live, airing around noon in order to promote color TV (which had just been developed) to the American housewife as she labored over her ironing. Al was the producer. He hired five directors and five art directors. Richard Bennett, one of our first early presidents of the Pewter Plough Corporation, was one of the directors and I was one of the art directors and, as soon as we were through televising one play, we had lunch and then met to plan next week’s show. That was over 50 years ago, and I’m trying to think; I believe the TV art director is (or was) his own set decorator (selecting furnishings and hand props)—yes, of course! It had to be, since one of McCleery’s chief claims to favor with the producers was his elimination of the setting per se and simply decorating the scene with a minimum of props. It took a bit of ingenuity.
One noteworthy episode is "Dracula", which first aired on 6 January 1956, and was repeated on 23 November 1956. This was based on Bram Stoker's book, making it a remake of the 1931 movie Dracula. It was adapted by Robert Esson and directed by Lamont Johnson. Shown in color, the episode had John Carradine as Dracula and Lisa Daniels as Lucy Weston. This was the first time "Dracula" had been presented on television and the first time it had been done in color. The host was John Conte. No copies of it are known to exist.
|1955||Nominated||Emmy Award||Best Contributing to Daytime Programming|
|1957||Won||Golden Globe Award||Best TV Show||Tied with The Mickey Mouse Club, Cheyenne, Playhouse 90, and This Is Your Life|