The Big Picture (TV series)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Introduction to the first episode of The Big Picture

The Big Picture is an American documentary television program which aired from 1951 to 1964. The series consisted of documentary films produced by the United States Army Signal Corps Army Pictorial Service.


The series was conceived by David Burkey, a former television producer who served with the Signal Corps in the Korean War. He saw it as a way to use film footage accumulated by the Army Pictorial services, packaged in a way that would be attractive to commercial television. The first series of 13 episodes was broadcast on CBS in late 1951, with each episode about an aspect of the Korean War. It had positive reception from audiences and the Army decided to expanded the scope as a publicity tool. Army information units from around the world suggested topics with the Signal Corps filming all the segments. Topics varied and included military history, contemporary weaponry, training exercises, cooperation with allied forces, and Army sporting activities.[1]

The half-hour weekly program was filmed on the Astoria stages, now Kaufman Astoria Studios, which is a historic movie studio located in the Astoria section of the New York City borough of Queens. The host was Army Master Sergeant Stuart Queen (1919–1981), a World War II veteran and Korean War combat broadcaster.[2][3] Though Queen is referred to as both a host and narrator, he essentially introduced and linked segments that were narrated by others. Narrators for filmed segments included Audie Murphy, Lorne Greene, Robert Mitchum, Alexander Scourby, Walter Cronkite, Raymond Massey, and Ronald Reagan. In the 1950s, the series was shot on 35mm black-and-white negative, but by the 1960s it was using 16mm color negative.

It was eventually aired on 366 television stations on the CBS, ABC and DuMont networks and ran for 828 episodes. It continued to air in syndication until 1971.[4]

On DVD[edit]

As an official work of the United States government, The Big Picture was never eligible for copyright and has always been in the public domain, thus allowing it to be distributed far and wide without restriction. The National Archives and Records Administration has made individual episodes of The Big Picture available via Amazon and the Internet Archive, where they can be downloaded for free.[5] Episode DVDs can also be copied for free by visitors to NARA's College Park, Maryland, facility. Many complete episodes and clips have been posted on YouTube.


  1. ^ Alex McNeil (1996). Total Television: The Comprehensive Guide to Programming from 1948 to the Present. Penguin. p. 77. ISBN 0140249168. 
  2. ^ "Funeral held for Queen, narrator of TV series". Retrieved 2012-08-09. 
  3. ^ "Culpeper National Cemetery". Retrieved 2012-08-09. 
  4. ^ Nancy Bernhard (2003). U.S. Television News and Cold War Propaganda, 1947-1960. Cambridge University Press. p. 142-143. ISBN 052154324X. 
  5. ^ Episodes via FedFlix at

External links[edit]