January 30, 2001 Library of Congress and the National Gallery of Art Celebrate American Television in the 1950s
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Public Contact: Michael Mashon (202) 707-5698
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"TV Before Video: Television Preservation at the Library of Congress," a series of eight screenings celebrating American television in the 1950s, opens Saturday, February 10 at the National Gallery of Art East Building and continues on weekends through March 31. The series will survey a variety of programming genres from the NBC Collection preserved by the Library's Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.
In 1986, NBC donated more than18,000 16mm reels of programming to the Library of Congress. The vast majority of these are kinescopes represented as separate picture and sound track negatives. The Library's Motion Picture Conservation Center in Dayton, Ohio, has made composite prints of hundreds of titles in the NBC Collection -- including many specifically for this program -- thus ensuring their preservation. This series, which shows many of these new prints to the public for the first time, salutes the Library's efforts to conserve America's rich television heritage, a history that predates video technology.
The 1950s were the key decade in bringing television to America. As the decade began, about one home in eight had a set. Ten years later, the figure was seven of eight. During the 1950s America changed from a land of radio listeners to one of television viewers.
NBC -- along with CBS -- refined the types of television we could watch. There was "high art," including live drama and opera. Indeed, General David Sarnoff, NBC's founder, insisted Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony appear weekly. But the "peacock" network -- named for its efforts pioneering color TV -- also filled the airwaves with comedy and pop music. Legends such as Groucho Marx and Sid Caesar redefined a new age of comedy, while Dinah Shore and Kate Smith represented pop music's biggest stars. When these genres were combined -- as with the variety show -- we got to see and hear newcomers in "The Original Amateur Hour" and the top talents of the day in "The Steve Allen Show." Early TV also redefined journalism with the "Home" show, "Meet the Press," and "Wide, Wide, World," a precursor of "60 Minutes."
And TV developed genres that have become staples of today's programming. Long before Jerry Springer, "Queen for a Day" played upon the pathos of middle class America. "This Is Your Life" visually presented the lives of both the famous and infamous. "American Forum" exposed Senator Joseph McCarthy directly to the public, and thus led to his downfall. Our culture and society have never been the same since, and surely television must be listed as one of the determinant facets of the second half of the 20th century.
The Library of Congress's Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division provides public access to the most comprehensive collection of American and foreign-produced film and television in the world. Through the American Television and Radio Archive Act of 1976 and the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, the Library has a congressional mandate to preserve the cultural record of American film and broadcast history, as well as lead the development of the country's moving image preservation policies. The Library also supports two moving-image preservation laboratories: the Audio Visual Preservation Laboratory in Washington and the Motion Picture Conservation Center (MPCC) in Dayton, Ohio. Since 1970 the MPCC has preserved more than 15,000 feature films, television programs and short subjects, making the Library the largest publicly funded motion picture preservation institution in the United States.
All programs are in the National Gallery of Art East Building Auditorium, Fourth St. at Constitution Ave. N.W. Film programs are free of charge, but seating is on a limited first-come, first-served basis. Programs are subject to change; for the latest information call (202) 842-6799. Program schedule follows.
Saturday, February 10, 12:00 p.m.
Kraft Television Theatre: The Fortune Hunter (February 21, 1950; 60 minutes). Cast: Jack Lemmon, Margot Moser
Robert Montgomery Presents Your Lucky Strike Theater: Victoria Regina (January 15, 1951; 60 minutes). Cast: Helen Hayes, Kent Smith, Robert Harris
The Big Story: The James Dean Big Story (January 4, 1957; 30 minutes). Cast: James Dean, John Kerr, Wendy Drew. This program aired one year after Dean's death and features a new introduction to a September 11, 1953, episode starring Dean.
Saturday, February 17, 12:00 p.m.
NBC Opera Theatre: The Magic Flute (January 15, 1956; 120 minutes). Cast: Leontyne Price, William Lewis, John Reardon
Sunday, February 18, 12:00 p.m.
NBC Symphony: Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (April 3, 1948; 75 minutes). Arturo Toscanini conducts
Saturday, February 24, 12:00 p.m.
The Jimmy Durante Show (February 11, 1956; 30 minutes). Guests: Robert Mitchum, Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez.
You Bet Your Life (aka "The Best of Groucho") (October 21, 1954; 30 minutes)
Your Show of Shows (March 11, 1950; 90 minutes). Cast: Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner. Host: Rex Harrison
COMEDY and VARIETY
Saturday, March 10, 12:30 p.m.
My Little Margie: Efficiency Expert (1954, 30 minutes). Cast: Gale Storm, Charles Farrell
Tennessee Ernie Ford (May 2, 1955; 30 minutes). Guest: Keefe Braselle
Dinah Shore (November 29, 1951; 15 minutes). Dinah sings "Getting to Know You," " Stardust," and others.
The Kate Smith Evening Hour (January 2, 1952; 30 minutes). Guest: Gloria Swanson
Saturday, March 17, 12:00 p.m.
Broadway Open House (May 22, 1950; 60 minutes).Cast: Pat Harrington, Mollie Ficker, Lee Tracy
Original Amateur Hour (February 3, 1957; 30 minutes)
The Steve Allen Show (November 18, 1956; 60 minutes). Cast: Duke Ellington, Olsen and Johnson, Bob Hope
Saturday, March 17 at 3:00 p.m.
The Dinah Shore Chevy Show (October 5, 1958; 60 minutes). Cast: Gwen Verdon, Art Carney, Louis Jourdan
Your Hit Parade (October 7, 1950; 30 minutes). Top Ten includes "La Vie en Rose," " Mona Lisa," and "Goodnight Irene"
Your Hit Parade (September 8, 1956; 30 minutes). Carnival setting for songs; Top Ten includes "Whatever Will Be Will Be," "Hound Dog," and "Don't Be Cruel"
Saturday, March 31, 1:00 p.m.
Home (April 19, 1955; 58 minutes). Arlene Francis and Hugh Downs tour the National Gallery
Queen for a Day (March 27, 1956; 30 minutes)
This Is Your Life (September 25, 1957; 30 minutes). Guest: Lew Ayres
Meet the Press (April 17, 1960; 30 minutes). Guest: Martin Luther King Jr.
Look Here (March 2, 1958; 30 minutes). Guest: Jack Webb
American Forum (December 6, 1953; 30 minutes). Guest: Sen. Joseph McCarthy
General David Sarnoff Opens KPTV, Portland, Oregon (October 1, 1952; 15 minutes)