The Philco Television Playhouse

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The Philco Television Playhouse
Coefred.jpg
Fred Coe, producer of The Philco Television Playhouse
Genre Anthology drama
Directed by Fred Coe
Vincent J. Donehue
Gordon Duff
Herbert Hirschman
Delbert Mann
Robert Mulligan
Arthur Penn
Ira Skutch
Composer(s) Morris Mamorsky
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 7
Production
Producer(s) Fred Coe
Gordon Duff
Ira Skutch
Running time 46–50 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel NBC
Picture format Black-and-white
Audio format Monaural
Original run October 3, 1948 (1948-10-03) – October 2, 1955 (1955-10-02)
Chronology
Related shows Goodyear Television Playhouse
The Alcoa Hour

The Philco Television Playhouse is an American anthology series that was broadcast live on NBC from 1948 to 1955. Produced by Fred Coe, the series was sponsored by Philco. It was one of the most respected dramatic shows of the Golden Age of Television, winning a 1954 Peabody Award and receiving eight Emmy nominations between 1951 and 1956.

Overview[edit]

The first season featured adaptations of popular Broadway plays and musicals. The first episode was Dinner at Eight by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. The second season consisted mostly of adaptations of popular novels from the Book of the Month Club. During later seasons, both original stories and adaptations were used. The title of the show was briefly changed to Repertory Theatre and Arena Theatre during part of the first season, but then reverted to The Philco Television Playhouse.

The series launched the television writing careers of Robert Alan Aurthur, Paddy Chayefsky, Sumner Locke Elliott, Horton Foote, Tad Mosel, William Templeton, Arnold Schulman, and Gore Vidal. Its most famous drama was Chayefsky's Marty (May 24, 1953), which starred Rod Steiger and was later made into a movie that won an Academy Award for Ernest Borgnine.

Among the many performers on the Philco Television Playhouse were Dennis Cross, Lillian Gish, Janet De Gore, Melvyn Douglas, Grace Kelly, Jack Klugman, Cloris Leachman, Walter Matthau, Steve McQueen, Paul Muni, ZaSu Pitts, Eva Marie Saint, Everett Sloane, Kim Stanley, Eli Wallach and Joanne Woodward. Many of these actors were making their first television appearance; one was Jose Ferrer, who recreated his stage performance in a one-hour television condensation of Cyrano de Bergerac a full year before the 1950 film version, for which Ferrer won an Oscar, was released. Another was Paul Muni, who starred in the 1948 presentation Counsellor-at Law.

Beginning in 1951, Philco shared sponsorship of the program with Goodyear, with the title alternating between Philco Television Playhouse and Goodyear Television Playhouse to reflect that week's sponsor. In 1955, the show was retitled The Alcoa Hour. The three series were essentially the same, with the only real difference being the name of the sponsor.

When Peggy Mann's first novel, A Room in Paris, was published by Doubleday in 1955, it was immediately adapted for The Philco Television Playhouse. In the months after the August 7, 1955 live telecast with John Cassavetes, Popular Library released their paperback edition with cover illustration by Mitchell Hooks.

In the sixth season, Cathleen Nesbitt and Maureen Stapleton starred in Chayefsky's The Mother (April 4, 1954). This is one of the rare teleplays from television's Golden Age to be restaged on TV decades later, a Great Performances production on October 24, 1994, with Anne Bancroft and Joan Cusack.

The seventh season began September 19, 1954 with E. G. Marshall and Eva Marie Saint in Chayefsky's Middle of the Night, a play which moved to Broadway 15 months later and was filmed by Columbia Pictures in 1959.

On August 7, 1955, John Cassavetes played an American artist expatriate in A Room in Paris. This adaptation of Peggy Mann's novel (her first novel for adults) was published March 3, 1955 by Doubleday, followed by Popular Library's paperback edition.

The final Philco production, on October 2, 1955, was Robert Alan Aurthur's A Man Is Ten Feet Tall, co-starring Don Murray and Sidney Poitier, which was adapted and expanded into the 1957 MGM feature film, Edge of the City, with Poitier recreating his original role and John Cassavetes in Murray's part.

U.S. television ratings[edit]

Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of The Philco Television Playhouse on NBC.

Season TV season Ranking Viewers (in millions)
3rd 1950–1951 #3 4.620
4th 1951–1952 #12 6.181
5th 1952–1953 #17 7.609
6th 1953–1954 #19 8.450
7th 1954–1955 #

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Result Award Category Recipient
1954 Winner Peabody Award
1951 Nominated Emmy Award Best Dramatic Show
1952 Nominated Emmy Award Best Dramatic Show
1953 Nominated Emmy Award Best Dramatic Show
1954 Nominated Emmy Award Best Dramatic Show
1955 Nominated Emmy Award Best Written Dramatic Material Paddy Chayefsky
Nominated Emmy Award Best Dramatic Show
Nominated Emmy Award Best Actress in a Single Performance Eva Marie Saint (For episode "Middle of the Night")
1956 Nominated Emmy Award Best Original Teleplay Writing Robert Alan Aurthur (For episode "A Man Is Ten Feet Tall")

In popular culture[edit]

In 2006, the NBC series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip referenced The Philco Television Playhouse as The Philco Comedy Hour, a comedy show that aired on the fictional NBS network. Eli Wallach made a guest appearance on Studio 60, playing a former show writer who was blacklisted in the 1950s.

External links[edit]