Posts Tagged ‘“Kraft Television Theatre”’

TV’s First Anthology Drama Turns 65: Happy Anniversary, Kraft Television Theatre!

Monday, May 7th, 2012

It was the first of the Golden Age, classic anthology dramas. Kraft Television Theatre was born out of Television Theatre, the 1946 monthly showcase of plays courtesy of WNBT, NBC’s New York station. Once the monthly program proved a success, NBC found a regular sponsor for the show and officially launched television’s first live weekly, hour-long dramatic series, Kraft Television Theatre on May 7, 1947.

The program was so successful on Wednesday evenings that a Thursday installment was added for a two-year run on ABC. Between the NBC and ABC versions, there were a total of 650 shows produced – the series missed only three live telecasts in its eleven year run, due to coverage of political conventions.

Fred Coe directed several of the early episodes, and went on to produce several Golden Age favorites including Playhouse 90 and Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse. Sidney Lumet directed 1958’s two-part production of “All the King’s Men:”

E.G. Marshall starred in several productions, including a memorable 1950 “Macbeth” and Jack Klugman not only acted in the series, but also wrote 1958’s “Code of the Corner:”

Noteworthy writers tapped for the series included Truman Capote, Rod Serling (who penned 1955’s “Patterns” starring Ed Begley, Sr.) JP Miller, and Horton Foote, whose play “Only the Heart” was performed on Kraft Television Theatre in 1948:

Part of the magic, and the difficulty of the productions stemmed from the fact that they were live. The blocking and staging had to be precise, and if someone flubbed a line or missed a cue, there were no retakes. Makeup artist Dick Smith recalls the challenges of aging a character on live television, specifically, Nancy Marchand’s “Queen Elizabeth” in the 1951 production “Of Famous Memory:”

Kraft loved the show because cheese sales skyrocketed – a 1947 study by ad agency J. Walter Thompson showed that McLaren’s Imperial Cheese, which was advertised solely on Kraft Television Theatre, was regularly selling out at grocery stores. RCA (parent company of NBC) loved the show because quality programming was a draw for people to buy television sets, which RCA manufactured.

Kraft Television Theatre finally came to the end of its eleven-year-run in 1958, as serialized dramas and sitcoms with continuing storylines became the fashion. The show was briefly reconfigured as Kraft Mystery Theatre in April 1958 and went off the air for good five months later in September. Though the program was not shot on film, kinescopes remain of several of the most lauded productions, including “Patterns,” and the Titanic tale, “A Night to Remember.”

- by Adrienne Faillace

Happy 90th Birthday, Jack Klugman!

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Jack Klugman celebrates his 90th birthday today! Klugman has made over 400 television appearances — in comedies, dramas, and even in a game show (well, sort of – remember the “Password”episode of The Odd Couple?) He’s played a blacklisted actor, a medical examiner, and perhaps most famously, sportswriter “Oscar Madison” opposite Tony Randall’s “Felix Unger” in the 1970’s sitcom The Odd Couple. One roommate was a neat-freak, one was sloppy and sarcastic: Klugman played the messy one.

Born April 27, 1922 in South Philadelphia, Klugman got his start in acting in the drama department of the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon). Klugman soon moved to New York to pursue theater, securing roles in several off-Broadway plays and getting his big break in the 1948 Broadway production of “Mr. Roberts.” From there, Klugman began dabbling in the new medium of television, making appearances in the early 1950s on Actors Studio, (where he was directed by Yul Brynner), and on anthology dramas Studio One, Playhouse 90, and the 1955 Producers’ Showcase production of “The Petrified Forest,” opposite Bogey and Bacall. Klugman also wrote several scripts for Kraft Television Theatre in the late 1950s:

Klugman wasn’t restricted to theater and television, though. He appeared as “Juror #5″ in the 1957 film Twelve Angry Men, and continued to do theater, television, and film projects throughout his career. He was back on-stage in 1959’s “Gypsy” with Ethel Merman, and on TV again in the 1960s for four appearances on Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. In 1964, Klugman had a memorable role in “The Blacklist” episode of The Defenders, for which he won an Emmy:

Also in 1964, Klugman starred as the superintendent of a movie studio in his first sitcom, the short-lived Harris Against the World. Then in 1966, Klugman made his first appearance in Neil Simon’s stage play, “The Odd Couple:”

Garry Marshall was looking to make a television series of the play, which Klugman agreed to do after some initial resistance. He resumed his stage role of “Oscar Madison” for the sitcom, which ran from 1970-75:

CBS’ Fred Silverman tried to sell Klugman on a few other series after The Odd Couple ended, but it wasn’t until the chance to play muckraking medical examiner Quincy, M.E. came along in 1976 that Klugman agreed to helm another TV show. Quincy lasted eight seasons, through 1983:

Klugman appeared in the 1987 film I’m Not Rappaport with Ossie Davis and Walter Matthau, but was suffering from throat cancer and soon underwent surgery to remove his right vocal cord. His voice was quieted to just above a whisper, and Klugman worked hard to train his remaining cord to pick up the slack. He returned to acting at the urging of friend Tony Randall for a one-time stage performance of “The Odd Couple” in New York in 1991. The production was a huge success, leading to Klugman and Randall teaming up for productions of “Three Men On a Horse,” and “Sunshine Boys” on Broadway throughout the 1990s.

Klugman has continued to act in small roles here and there, most recently as “Sam” in the 2010 horror film Camera Obscura. He’s a proven success in film, television, and theater, and his perseverance in resurrecting his voice after surgery is about as inspirational as it gets. Happy 90th birthday, Jack! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Jack Klugman’s full Archive interview.

- by Adrienne Faillace

Director Paul Bogart Dies at 92

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

The Archive of American Television is sad to report that director Paul Bogart passed away on Sunday, April 15th of age-related causes. He was 92. Bogart started his career in live television in New York, directing episodes of Kraft Television Theatre, and Armstrong Circle Theatre. From there he went on to direct films and several TV dramas and comedies. He directed over 20 episodes of The Defenders and more than 100 of All in the Family, winning one of his many Emmys for “Edith’s 50th Birthday,” in which Edith Bunker fends off a would-be-rapist.

Here are some selections from Bogart’s three-and-a-half-hour interview:

On being hired as an NBC Floor Manager:

They now call it stage manager. At the time it was floor manager, but they want a little more dignity now so it’s a stage manger. You herded the cast around. You made sure they were there, like a stage manager. You relay instructions from the director over a headset to them if you were on the air, if not you spoke to them over the studio address system, and you cued them went to start, and timed them – you had to figure out hand signals. I had no idea. I made them up … Everybody was making up his job at the time. The directors were making up their time, there were people that had some experience in radio or some minor experience on Broadway, but television was a mystery to everybody. I never learned how a television camera works, and I never want to. And I never learned how a film camera works. I’m not interested in the mechanics of the job. I just want to know what I can do.

On his process for learning how to direct:

Do. I just did it. I used to watch other people’s work; I did it to enjoy it. I’m a great audience, I’d just sit there. I’ll believe anything you tell me, if you tell it right.

On working with writers:

I work with writers always – if they were there – sometimes they would grab the money and run to Bermuda or something. But if the writer was around, I would meet with them and we’d talk about the script, we’d have script sessions … Some of them hated me because if I didn’t like the work, I would direct it away from me, from the way it was written … if it called for heavy emotion, tears, weeping and wailing, and the situation didn’t warrant it, I couldn’t ask an actor to do that. I’d say, “this is not that serious,” so we would adopt a different way to deal with it, and some writers didn’t like that. I think one or two of them wanted to kill me.

On how videotape changed directing:

As soon as you could start making mistakes everything changed. At first you would videotape the whole show straight through as a live show. Then they would play the tape on the air. Then you would have a dress rehearsal, you’d have an air show, you want to combine them … they wouldn’t let you do anything but black to black. When they figured out mechanical systems where you edited electronically by assembly, adding shot after shot instead of literally cutting the tape, you didn’t have to cut anymore, you just had to shoot us. Then the world opened up.

On his favorite episode of The Defenders that he directed:

I used to beg them to do a comedy, cause I was so tired of serious stuff, so I did a comedy called “The 700 Year Old Gang” which was about an old Jewish man who makes wine in his basement and gives it to his friends. Jack Gilford played that and then is I think sued by the government. That became a two parter. That was two hours. That won Emmys.

On returning to directing for television after directing films:

I don’t love television more than films; I never got to same material in films that I got in television. In films, somebody else would get the good scripts before they came to me, and I knew I wasn’t getting top material. Also, I made some mistakes, I turned down things I shouldn’t have done, and missed a couple. We all make mistakes. I made some loo-loos.

On directing the All in the Family episode “Edith’s 50th Birthday:”

On working in front of a live audience on All in the Family:

It’s elevating. It really sparks up the material. Everybody responds to an audience, everybody. Later on when we dropped the audience for the last few shows, I forget how many, I think Carroll just didn’t want to put up with the tension of the performance. Anyway, it just was insane because that audience told you when you went wrong, they taught you what you didn’t do right, they taught you what was good. They made the most of what you didn’t expect they were going to like at all. So you learn a lot. I miss them.

On advice to aspiring directors:

I think an aspiring director should read a lot, expose himself to music, art … because later on he’s going to draw on that knowledge. I draw on everything I ever knew about – painting, music, any kind of art. I use it all the time. I think that’s what a director needs, a good liberal arts education. Instead they learn how to load a camera.

Watch Paul Bogart’s full Archive interview here.

Read his obituary in the Los Angeles Times.