Producers' Showcase

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Producers' Showcase
Producers Showcase Title.jpg
Genre Anthology
Directed by Kirk Browning
Vincent J. Donehue
Clark Jones
Anatole Litvak
Delbert Mann
Arthur Penn
Alex Segal
Composer(s) Sammy Cahn and
Jimmy Van Heusen
Moose Charlap
Harry Sosnik
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 37
Production
Executive producer(s) Fred Coe
Alvin Cooperman
Producer(s) John Bloch
Fred Coe
Alvin Cooperman
Sol Hurok
Edwin Lester
Anatole Litvak
Fred Rickey
Alex Segal
Henry Solomon
Herbert Sussan
Robert Whitehead
Running time 90 mins.
Production company(s) Showcase Productions
Broadcast
Original channel NBC
Picture format Compatible color
Audio format Monaural
Original run October 18, 1954 (1954-10-18) – May 27, 1957 (1957-05-27)
External links
Website

Producers' Showcase is an American anthology television series that was telecast live during the 1950s in compatible color by NBC. With top talent, the 90-minute episodes, covering a wide variety of genres, aired under the title every fourth Monday at 8 p.m. ET for three seasons, beginning October 18, 1954. The final episode, the last of 37, was broadcast May 27, 1957.

Showcase Productions, Inc., packaged and produced the series, which received seven Emmy Awards, including the 1956 award for Best Dramatic Series.

Production[edit]

Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart and Henry Fonda rehearsing The Petrified Forest (1955)
William Holden in Dateline II (1955)
Katharine Cornell in The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1956)
Louis Armstrong in The Lord Don't Play Favorites (1956)
John Neville and Claire Bloom in Romeo and Juliet (1957)
Mickey Rooney in Mr. Broadway (1957)

In 1953, stage producer Leland Hayward had the idea to create a 90-minute TV series, a series of color spectaculars to be broadcast monthly on NBC. Hayward was represented by Saul Jaffe of the Madison Avenue law firm Jaffe & Jaffe; Henry Jaffe, the firm's senior partner, was national counsel for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, an organization he helped found. When illness forced Hayward to withdraw from the project, NBC partnered with Showcase Productions, an independent production company created by Henry and Saul Jaffe to produce the series. Producers' Showcase went on the air October 18, 1954.

The ambitious series presented a total of 37 live color programs, which included original musicals or plays, re-staging of Broadway productions, great concert artists, and tribute programs. Producers' Showcase presented the first international show with live remote locations (Wide Wide World), and the first full-length Broadway production on color television (Peter Pan).

"Producers' Showcase has undoubtedly been a tremendous prestige presentation by the network with elaborate and worthy cultural productions," The New York Times wrote in 1957, the series' final year.[1]

Producers' Showcase received seven Emmy Awards, including the 1956 award for Best Dramatic Series.[2]

Premiere episode[edit]

Director Otto Preminger was invited to produce and direct Tonight at 8:30, a trio of one-act plays by Noël Coward, for the series premiere. Red Peppers, Still Life and Shadow Play were three of ten plays comprising a cycle the playwright had written to be performed on stage over the course of three evenings, and it was under this umbrella title they would be presented on Producers' Showcase. The cast would include Ginger Rogers, Trevor Howard, Gig Young, Ilka Chase and Gloria Vanderbilt. Preminger had no experience in television, but he welcomed the opportunity to work in the medium.[3]

From the beginning, it was obvious the director was in trouble. He believed a television production was no different from a film and lit the sets and placed the cameras accordingly. He failed to understand that during the actual live broadcast he would be working with a monitor, pushing buttons to signal which camera should be operating. Rogers in particular was nervous about her performance, and Preminger spent a considerable amount of time with her, but basically ignored the rest of the cast. Supporting player Larkin Ford later recalled he felt Preminger had no sense of Coward's work or how it should be played.[3]

As the production entered its third week of rehearsals, there still had not been a complete run-through. Three days prior to the broadcast, executive producer Fred Coe decided to take action. He privately fired Preminger and then simply told the cast and crew, "Mr. Preminger will not be with us. I will be with you through the presentation." Although they felt sorry a man of Preminger's stature had been dismissed for incompetence, they were relieved he was gone. When the show aired, Preminger introduced each act in a filmed segment, and he received sole credit as producer and director. It proved to be his first and last television venture.[3]

Mary Martin as Peter Pan

Peter Pan[edit]

One of the most memorable productions of the first season was telecast on March 7, 1955. Peter Pan, a recreation of the 1954 Broadway musical with all its original cast members, including Mary Martin as Peter Pan and Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook, was so highly acclaimed by critics and well received by viewers, drawing the largest ratings for a single television program up to that time, that the program was restaged live with nearly the same cast in January 1956. A 1960 NBC revival of the production, first broadcast as a Christmas season special, was videotaped and later released on home video. By the time the 1960 version was made, the children had outgrown their roles and had to be replaced, but nearly all of the adult cast remained the same as that of the two earlier productions.

This production also marked the first time that any version of Peter Pan had been performed on television.

Wide Wide World[edit]

Producers' Showcase served as the springboard for the live documentary series Wide Wide World. Conceived by network head Pat Weaver and hosted by Dave Garroway, the show was introduced on Showcase on June 27, 1955. The premiere episode, featuring entertainment from the United States, Canada and Mexico, was the first international North American telecast in the history of the medium. It received a regular Sunday afternoon time slot the following October.

Notable appearances[edit]

Additional productions[edit]

Episodes[edit]

The following 37 episodes comprise the Producers' Showcase library.[5]

# Date Title Director Selected Cast
1 Oct. 18, 1954 Tonight at 8:30 Otto Preminger Ginger Rogers, Martyn Green, Trevor Howard
2 Nov. 15, 1954 State of the Union Arthur Penn Joseph Cotten, Margaret Sullavan
3 Dec. 13, 1954 Dateline Alan Handley John Daly (host)
4 Jan. 7, 1955 Call to Freedom Alexander Scourby (narrator), Martha Mödl
5 Jan. 10, 1955 Yellow Jack Delbert Mann Broderick Crawford as Walter Reed
6 Feb. 7, 1955 The Women Vincent J. Donehue Ruth Hussey, Shelley Winters
7 March 7, 1955 Peter Pan Clark Jones Mary Martin, Cyril Ritchard
8 April 4, 1955 Reunion in Vienna Vincent J. Donehue Greer Garson, Brian Aherne
9 April 4, 1955 The King and Mrs. Candle Arthur Penn Cyril Ritchard, Joan Greenwood
10 May 2, 1955 Darkness at Noon Delbert Mann Lee J. Cobb
11 May 30, 1955 The Petrified Forest Delbert Mann Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall
12 June 27, 1955 Wide Wide World Dick Schneider Dave Garroway (host)
13 July 25, 1955 The Fourposter Clark Jones Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy
14 Sept. 11, 1955 The Skin of Our Teeth Vincent J. Donehue Mary Martin, Helen Hayes
15 Sept. 19, 1955 Our Town Delbert Mann Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Frank Sinatra
16 Oct. 17, 1955 Cyrano de Bergerac Kirk Browning José Ferrer, Claire Bloom
17 Nov. 15, 1955 Dateline II Alan Handley John Wayne, Peggy Lee
18 Dec. 14, 1955 The Sleeping Beauty Clark Jones Margot Fonteyn, Michael Somes
19 Jan. 3, 1956 Peter Pan Clark Jones Mary Martin, Cyril Ritchard
20 Jan. 30, 1956 Festival of Music Kirk Browning Charles Laughton (host)
21 Feb. 28, 1956 Bloomer Girl Alex Segal Barbara Cook, Keith Andes
22 March 5, 1956 Caesar and Cleopatra Kirk Browning Cedric Hardwicke, Claire Bloom
23 April 2, 1956 The Barretts of Wimpole Street Vincent J. Donehue Katharine Cornell, Anthony Quayle
24 April 30, 1956 Dodsworth Alex Segal Fredric March, Claire Trevor
25 June 25, 1956 Happy Birthday Alex Segal Betty Field, Barry Nelson
26 July 23, 1956 Rosalinda Bob Banner Cyril Ritchard, Jean Fenn
27 Sept. 17, 1956 The Lord Don't Play Favorites Clark Jones Louis Armstrong, Buster Keaton
28 Oct. 15, 1956 The Letter William Wyler Siobhán McKenna, John Mills
29 Nov. 12, 1956 Jack and the Beanstalk Clark Jones Billy Gilbert, Joel Grey
30 Dec. 10, 1956 Festival of Music II Kirk Browning José Ferrer (host)
31 Feb. 3, 1957 Ruggles of Red Gap Clark Jones Garry Moore (host), Michael Redgrave
32 Feb. 4, 1957 Mayerling Anatole Litvak Audrey Hepburn, Mel Ferrer
33 March 4, 1957 Romeo and Juliet Clark Jones Claire Bloom, John Neville
34 April 1, 1957 The Great Sebastians Franklin J. Schaffner Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne
35 April 29, 1957 Cinderella Clark Jones Margot Fonteyn, Michael Somes
36 May 11, 1957 Mr. Broadway Sidney Lumet Mickey Rooney as George M. Cohan
37 May 27, 1957 Festival of Magic Charles S. Dubin Ernie Kovacs (host)

Reception[edit]

Producers' Showcase averaged a 36.5 percent audience share.[6] Sixty-five million viewers watched the first presentation of Peter Pan,[7] garnering a 68.3 audience share that made it the highest-rated episode in the series. The restaged Peter Pan earned a 54.9 share; and The Petrified Forest earned a 50.6 share.[6] The series had this level of success even though its last third aired opposite I Love Lucy, the highest or second-highest rated series on television during the three seasons Producers' Showcase was broadcast.

Awards[edit]

Presenters' Showcase received the following awards and nominations from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.[8]

Primetime Emmy Awards
Year Category Recipient Outcome
1956 Best Actress – Single Role Mary Martin, Peter Pan Won
Best Art Direction – Live Series Otis Riggs Won
Best Dramatic Series Producers' Showcase Won
Best Musical Contribution Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, "Love and Marriage" (song), Our Town Won
Best Producer – Live Series Fred Coe Won
Best Single Program of the Year Peter Pan Won
Best Actor – Single Performance José Ferrer, Cyrano de Bergerac Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Cyril Ritchard, Peter Pan Nominated
Best Actress – Single Role Eva Marie Saint, Our Town Nominated
Best Actress – Single Role Jessica Tandy, The Fourposter Nominated
Best Choreographer Jerome Robbins, Peter Pan Nominated
Best Director – Live Series Clark Jones, Peter Pan Nominated
Best Director – Live Series Delbert Mann, Our Town Nominated
Best Musical Contribution Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, Our Town Nominated
Best Musical Contribution Nelson Riddle, Our Town Nominated
Best Single Program of the Year The Sleeping Beauty Nominated
Best Television Adaptation David Shaw, Our Town Nominated
1957 Best Single Performance by an Actress Claire Trevor, Dodsworth Won
Best Live Camera Work Producers' Showcase Nominated
Best Single Performance by an Actor Fredric March, Dodsworth Nominated

DVD releases[edit]

Video Artists International [1] has formed joint ventures with Showcase Productions, Inc. for the release of a number of Producers' Showcase programs, as well as Showcase programs from other "Golden Age of Television" series, complete with their commercial announcements, on DVD: Festival of Music (#4244), Festival of Music II (#4245), The Sleeping Beauty (#4295) and Cinderella (#4296). Although these episodes were broadcast live and in color, the kinescope process by which they were preserved is black-and-white.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shepard, Richard F., "The Jaffes — Versatile TV Team"; The New York Times, February 3, 1957. Overview, Showcase Productions, Inc.; archived 2012-06-07 from the original at the Internet Archive. Retrieved 2013-06-14.
  2. ^ Awards, Producers' Showcase; Internet Movie Database; retrieved October 16, 2011
  3. ^ a b c Hirsch, Foster, Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 2007. ISBN 978-0-375-41373-5, pp. 227-229
  4. ^ Weiner, Ed; Editors of TV Guide (1992). The TV Guide TV Book: 40 Years of the All-Time Greatest Television Facts, Fads, Hits, and History. New York: Harper Collins. p. 118. ISBN 0-06-096914-8. 
  5. ^ Producers' Showcase library, Showcase Productions, Inc.; archived 2012-06-07 from the original at the Internet Archive. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  6. ^ a b Production value, Showcase Productions, Inc.; archived 2012-06-07 from the original at the Internet Archive. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  7. ^ Shales, Tom, "The Timeless Magic of 'Peter Pan'"; The Washington Post, March 16, 1989
  8. ^ Official Primetime Emmy Awards Search; accessed October 17, 2011

External links[edit]