Ray Forrest

Announcer/ Broadcaster


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-hour interview, Ray Forrest (1916-1999) recalls how he became television's very first news anchor, announcer, personality, and political commentator in 1939. He discusses how he got his start as a page/guide at NBC and worked his way up to junior radio announcer before becoming an announcer for NBC experimental television. He speaks at length about the early days of NBC where he announced for shows of all genres as well as breaking news events -- including the outbreak of World War II. He talks of serving in the Signal Corps during World War II, getting injured while serving in the OSS, and returning to NBC after the war. He describes what it was like to shoot remotes -- for sporting events and political conventions (including the 1940 Republican convention -- the first ever televised), and recounts working in the television studios with the cumbersome lights and cameras. He recalls how, after the war, he started one of the first children's television programs, Children's Theater, and reminisces about many of his fellow colleagues during the early days of NBC television. Jeff Kisseloff conducted the interview in New York, NY on April 12, 1997.

"When radio was king in the early days of television, the announcers sounded stuffy and very elegant and unapproachable. When I got into television... everybody was sort of relaxed and easygoing... I found that was the simplest way to do it." 

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Ray Forrest on his first big TV job -- interviewing the stars of Gone with the Wind
Ray Forrest on announcing at TV's first political convention in 1940 - the Republican convention in Philadelphia
Ray Forrest on the coming of commercial television and announcing the very first commercial (for Bulova) - July 1, 1941, and the first on-camera commercial
Ray Forrest on announcing that NBC was now a commercial station, WNBT, and no longer W2XBS
Ray Forrest on his on-air announcement of the start of World War II
Ray Forrest on hosting Children's Theater -- a children's television program composed of films, c. 1949-1951 and likely TV's first educational program
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early years and influences; on his father trying to bring his family to America from Germany, but instead serving in World War I for Germany; on coming to America; on wanting to get a job in radio; on attending military school; on going to Europe and then getting a job at NBC; on the importance of radio at the time he entered the industry; on his first job at NBC radio -- as a page -- and how he rose through the ranks
On fellow NBC pages when he was at the network; on giving Albert Einstein a tour of NBC; on rumblings about television when he worked in NBC radio; on his next step up at NBC after being a tour guide -- announcer; on his path to becoming a junior radio announcer and why he finally joined AFRA (the precursor to AFTRA)

Chapter 2

On the shows he worked on as a junior radio announcer at NBC; on his first job as an announcer for experimental NBC TV in New York; on studio 3H - NBC's experimental television studio; on early TV equipment; on how the public first reacted to television
On early television makeup; on an early TV news simulcast with Lowell Thomas and Thomas' beard being problematic on camera; on subbing for Lowell Thomas in studio; on problematic cables in early TV studios and doing dramatic teleplays on Friday nights; on Broadway actors adjusting to television; on working with early NBC television program manager Warren Wade; on Dinah Shore suffering under the hot lights of early television

Chapter 3

On a typical broadcast day on experimental NBC TV from 1939-1942; on early TV test patterns; on early TV test cities for experimental television: New Brunswick, NJ, and Newburgh, NY and early systems of TV ratings; on recording the opening of LaGuardia airport in New York; on remote shoots; on the 1939-40 World's Fair; on working on an early TV broadcast of a baseball game and on horse races and hockey games
On working with an assistant on live TV and dealing with "mic fright"; on NBC newscaster Paul Alley wanting to do color commentary for a boxing game; on using a television camera in a plane, pre-World War II; on announcing religious services and ceremonies; on televising pretty much anything you could take a picture of during the days of experimental television and the value of remotes; on the difficulties of parking the remote TV trucks when out on assignments; on how many people were watching experimental television in the early days; on feedback he received

Chapter 4

On developing his personal style as an announcer; on how television announcing differed from radio announcing; on how people would reach him at the NBC offices; on the man who ran NBC's television unit before World War II -- Alfred H. Morton -- and the people who reported to him; on the advent of television commercials; on announcing at TV's first political convention in 1940 -- the Republican convention in Philadelphia
On other TV stations doing experimental television; on the coming of commercial television and announcing the very first commercial (for Bulova) - July 1, 1941, and the first on-camera commercial; on how commercials changed television in 1941 -- until the beginning of World War II, and on some of the early sponsors; on the on-air announcement of World War II; on being drafted into the TFPL (Training Film Production Laboratory) in World War II

Chapter 5

On working for the Signal Corps during World War II and then joining the OSS (because he spoke fluent German), and getting into a serious vehicle accident; on appearing on television in uniform during World War II; on returning to NBC TV (WNBT) after World War II and how the station had changed; on how TV camera technology changed quickly and on using the image orthicon cameras
On Hour Glass; on doing the warm-up for Texaco Star Theater; on announcing a Joe Louis fight on The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports; on introducing theater television; on the first color television system; on introducing and hosting Children's Theater -- a children's television program composed of films; on The Tex and Jinx Show replacing Children's Theater; on being told that he was getting transferred back to radio announcing for Pat Kelly, quitting, then getting asked to host Children's Theater on Saturday mornings -- NBC's first Saturday television programming

Chapter 6

On his film work (including underwater films) for the Saturday version of Children's Theater; on the awards Children's Theater won; on how long Children's Theater lasted on air and the cost of doing the show in color; on introducing films for a syndicated TV program; on leaving the television industry; on his thoughts on television today; on the importance of his work on television; on the power of television
On people he worked with in television; on having a children's gallery on the later version of Children's Theater and on successful promotions on the show
On B-roll photos from his career: of him doing an early newscast; of early NBC cameraman Joe Conn; of him interviewing Leo Rosenberg - radio's first announcer; of the NBC remote TV truck around 1940; of Belmont Park circa 1940; of Jamaica arena; of the 1940 Republican convention - the first televised convention and the first networked program; of the first on-air, live commercial for television -- for Adam Hats on July 4, 1941; of NBC's first TV shoot in a submarine; of a class on a field trip with him -- the footage of which would air on Children's Theater; of him with Milton Berle at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, circa 1948/'49; of a postcard given out on the NBC tour in the early days of television
Shows

Children's Theater

View Show Page
Ray Forrest on hosting Children's Theater -- a children's television program composed of films, c. 1949-1951 and likely TV's first educational program
Ray Forrest on being told that he was getting transferred back to radio announcing for Pat Kelly, quitting, then getting asked to host Children's Theater on Saturday mornings -- NBC's first Saturday television programming
Ray Forrest on his film work (including underwater films) for the Saturday version of Children's Theater
Ray Forrest on the awards Children's Theater won
Ray Forrest on how long Children's Theater lasted on air and the cost of doing the show in color
Ray Forrest on having a children's gallery on the later version of Children's Theater and on successful promotions on the show
Ray Forrest on a photo of a class on a field trip with him -- the footage of which would air on Children's Theater

Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, The

View Show Page
Ray Forrest on introducing a Joe Louis fight on The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports

Hour Glass

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Ray Forrest on announcing television's first regularly scheduled variety show, Hour Glass, and working with James Beard

Howdy Doody

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Ray Forrest on how Bob Keeshan became "Clarabell the Clown" on Howdy Doody

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

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Ray Forrest on a photo of him with Milton Berle at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, circa 1948/'49

Tex and Jinx Show, The

View Show Page
Ray Forrest on The Tex and Jinx Show replacing Children's Theater

Texaco Star Theater

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Ray Forrest on doing the warm-up for Texaco Star Theater
Topics

1939-40 World's Fair

View Topic
Ray Forrest on attending the 1939-40 World's Fair

Advertising and Sponsorship

View Topic
Ray Forrest on his sign-on for NBC experimental television -- before commercial television in 1941
Ray Forrest on the advent of commercial television -- July 1, 1941
Ray Forrest on the coming of commercial television and announcing the very first commercial (for Bulova) - July 1, 1941, and the first on-camera commercial
Ray Forrest on announcing that NBC was now a commercial station, WNBT, and no longer W2XBS
Ray Forrest on how commercials changed television in 1941 -- until the beginning of World War II
Ray Forrest on NBC TV becoming more professional once it went commercial
Ray Forrest on a photo of the first on-air, live commercial for television -- for Adam Hats on July 4, 1941

Emmy Awards

View Topic
Ray Forrest on the awards Children's Theatre won

Fame and Celebrity

View Topic
Ray Forrest on how many people were watching experimental television in the early days and feedback he received

First Big Break

View Topic
Ray Forrest on his first job as a junior radio announcer and why he finally joined AFRA (the precursor to AFTRA)

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Ray Forrest on his father trying to bring his family to America from Germany, but instead serving in World War I for Germany
Ray Forrest on attending the 1939-40 World's Fair
Ray Forrest on his on-air announcement of the start of World War II
Ray Forrest on being drafted into the TFPL (Training Film Production Laboratory) in World War II
Ray Forrest on working for the Signal Corps during World War II and then joining the OSS (because he spoke fluent German), and getting into a serious vehicle accident
Ray Forrest on visiting the TV station and appearing on television in uniform during World War II

Memorable Moments on Television

View Topic
Ray Forrest on the advent of commercial television -- July 1, 1941
Ray Forrest on announcing at TV's first political convention in 1940 - the Republican convention in Philadelphia
Ray Forrest on the coming of commercial television and announcing the very first commercial (for Bulova) - July 1, 1941, and the first on-camera commercial
Ray Forrest on announcing that NBC was now a commercial station, WNBT, and no longer W2XBS
Ray Forrest on a photo of the first on-air, live commercial for television -- for Adam Hats on July 4, 1941

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Ray Forrest on his first job as a junior radio announcer and why he finally joined AFRA (the precursor to AFTRA)

Pop Culture

View Topic
Ray Forrest on how many people were watching experimental television in the early days and feedback he received

Technological Innovation

View Topic
Ray Forrest on how hot early TV cameras were -- and how they were made cooler by painting them aluminum instead of black
Ray Forrest on the purpose of early TV test patterns
Ray Forrest on using a television camera in a plane, pre-World War II, and expanding the range of the broadcast signal
Ray Forrest on how TV camera technology changed quickly and on using the image orthicon cameras
Ray Forrest on introducing the experimental color shows out of Princeton, New Jersey

Television Industry

View Topic
Ray Forrest on rumblings about television when he worked in NBC radio
Ray Forrest on getting hired to work for NBC experimental television (1939-1942)
Ray Forrest on his sign-on for NBC experimental television -- before commercial television in 1941
Ray Forrest on a typical broadcast day on experimental NBC TV from 1939-1942
Ray Forrest on the advent of commercial television -- July 1, 1941
Ray Forrest on announcing at TV's first political convention in 1940 - the Republican convention in Philadelphia
Ray Forrest on the coming of commercial television and announcing the very first commercial (for Bulova) - July 1, 1941, and the first on-camera commercial
Ray Forrest on announcing that NBC was now a commercial station, WNBT, and no longer W2XBS
Ray Forrest on how commercials changed television in 1941 -- until the beginning of World War II
Ray Forrest on NBC TV becoming more professional once it went commercial
Ray Forrest on returning to NBC TV (WNBT) after World War II and how the station had changed
Ray Forrest on the business of television after World War II
Ray Forrest on a photo of the first on-air, live commercial for television -- for Adam Hats on July 4, 1941

War

View Topic
Ray Forrest on his father trying to bring his family to America from Germany, but instead serving in World War I for Germany
Ray Forrest on his on-air announcement of the start of World War II
Ray Forrest on being drafted into the TFPL (Training Film Production Laboratory) in World War II
Ray Forrest on working for the Signal Corps during World War II and then joining the OSS (because he spoke fluent German), and getting into a serious vehicle accident
Ray Forrest on visiting the TV station and appearing on television in uniform during World War II

World War II

View Topic
Ray Forrest on his on-air announcement of the start of World War II
Ray Forrest on being drafted into the TFPL (Training Film Production Laboratory) in World War II
Ray Forrest on working for the Signal Corps during World War II and then joining the OSS (because he spoke fluent German), and getting into a serious vehicle accident
Ray Forrest on visiting the TV station and appearing on television in uniform during World War II
Professions

Announcer

View Profession
Ray Forrest on his next step up at NBC after being a tour guide -- announcer
Ray Forrest on how senior radio announcers made money -- commercials -- and what "standby duty" was
Ray Forrest on how he finally got his start as a real radio announcer
Ray Forrest on his first job as a junior radio announcer and why he finally joined AFRA (the precursor to AFTRA)
Ray Forrest on his first job as a junior radio announcer at NBC and on why he changed his name from "Feurestein" to "Forrest"
Ray Forrest on the shows he worked on as a junior radio announcer at NBC
Ray Forrest on most early television announcers not being happy to leave radio - they made money from commercials and television did not have commercials until 1941
Ray Forrest on working with an assistant on live TV and dealing with "mic fright"
Ray Forrest on developing his personal style as an announcer, and on how television announcing differed from radio announcing
Ray Forrest on the importance of likeability in television success

Engineer

View Profession
Ray Forrest on the importance of television engineers in the early days of the industry

Hosts

View Profession
Ray Forrest on his next step up at NBC after being a tour guide -- announcer
Ray Forrest on how senior radio announcers made money -- commercials -- and what "standby duty" was
Ray Forrest on the path to his start as a real radio announcer
Ray Forrest on his first job as a junior radio announcer and why he finally joined AFRA (the precursor to AFTRA)
Ray Forrest on his first job as a junior radio announcer at NBC and on why he changed his name from "Feurestein" to "Forrest"
Ray Forrest on the shows he worked on as a junior radio announcer at NBC
Ray Forrest on most early television announcers not being happy to leave radio - they made money from commercials and television did not have commercials until 1941
Ray Forrest on working with an assistant on live TV and dealing with "mic fright"
Ray Forrest on developing his personal style as an announcer, and on how television announcing differed from radio announcing
Ray Forrest on the importance of likeability in television success

Technology Innovators

View Profession
Ray Forrest on the importance of television engineers in the early days of the industry
Genres

Children's Programming

View Genre
Ray Forrest on hosting Children's Theater -- a children's television program composed of films, c. 1949-1951 and likely TV's first educational program
Ray Forrest on being told that he was getting transferred back to radio announcing for Pat Kelly, quitting, then getting asked to host Children's Theater on Saturday mornings -- NBC's first Saturday television programming
Ray Forrest on his film work (including underwater films) for the Saturday version of Children's Theatre
Ray Forrest on the awards Children's Theatre won

Commercials

View Genre
Ray Forrest on how senior radio announcers made money -- commercials -- and what "standby duty" was
Ray Forrest on his first job as a junior radio announcer and why he finally joined AFRA (the precursor to AFTRA)

News and Documentary

View Genre
Ray Forrest on an early TV news simulcast with Lowell Thomas and Thomas' beard being problematic on camera; on subbing for Lowell Thomas in studio
Ray Forrest on announcing at TV's first political convention in 1940 - the Republican convention in Philadelphia

Sports

View Genre
Ray Forrest on working on an early TV broadcast of a baseball game; on horse races and hockey games
Ray Forrest on NBC newscaster Paul Alley wanting to do color commentary for a boxing game
Ray Forrest on the difficulties of parking the remote TV trucks when out on assignments
Ray Forrest on introducing a Joe Louis fight on The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports
People

Eddie Albert

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on people he worked with in radio - Eddie Albert

Paul Alley

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on NBC newscaster Paul Alley wanting to do color commentary for a boxing game

James Beard

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on announcing television's first regularly scheduled variety show, Hour Glass, and working with James Beard

Milton Berle

View Interview Page
Ray Forrest on meeting Milton Berle for the first time
Ray Forrest on doing the warm-up for Texaco Star Theater
Ray Forrest on a photo of him with Milton Berle at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, circa 1948/'49

Joe Conn

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Ray Forrest on a photo of early NBC cameraman Joe Conn

Burke Crotty

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Ray Forrest on people he worked with in television - Burke Crotty
Ray Forrest on a photo of the NBC staff that covered the 1940 Republican convention - the first televised convention and the first networked program

Bill Eddy

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on studio 3H - NBC's experimental television studio, lighting engineer Bill Eddy, and the heat generated by early TV lights
Ray Forrest on people he worked with in television - Bill Eddy, who started modern lighting for television
Ray Forrest on a photo of Bill Eddy

Albert Einstein

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on giving Albert Einstein a tour of NBC and on Einstein's impressions of radio

Jinx Falkenburg

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Ray Forrest on The Tex and Jinx Show replacing Children's Theater

Dave Garroway

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Ray Forrest on other fellow NBC radio pages at the time -- Dave Garroway
Ray Forrest on his early impressions of Dave Garroway

O.B. Hanson

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Ray Forrest on people he worked with in television - O.B. Hanson

Hildegarde

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Ray Forrest on people he worked with in television - Hildegarde

William Holden

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Ray Forrest on working with Bill Holden in the Signal Corps during World War II

Tom Hutchinson

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Ray Forrest on people he worked with in television - Tom Hutchinson
Ray Forrest on a photo of the NBC staff that covered the 1940 Republican convention - the first televised convention and the first networked program

Noel Jordan

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Ray Forrest on people he worked with in television - Noel Jordan

Bob Keeshan

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Ray Forrest on how Bob Keeshan became "Clarabell the Clown" on Howdy Doody

Pat Kelly

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on his first job as a junior radio announcer for Pat Kelly and why he finally joined AFRA (the precursor to AFTRA)
Ray Forrest on being told that he was getting transferred back to radio announcing for Pat Kelly, quitting, then getting asked to host Children's Theater on Saturday mornings

Gypsy Rose Lee

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on a TV broadcast of Gypsy Rose Lee

Joe Louis

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on introducing a Joe Louis fight on The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports

Alfred H. Morton

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on on the man who ran NBC's television unit before World War II -- Alfred H. Morton -- and the people who reported to him
Ray Forrest on a photo of the NBC staff that covered the 1940 Republican convention - the first televised convention and the first networked program

Edward Padula

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on people he worked with in television - Eddie Padula

Leo Rosenberg

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on a photo of him interviewing Leo Rosenberg - radio's first announcer

David Sarnoff

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on the effort and money that David Sarnoff put into NBC experimental television
Ray Forrest on never meeting David Sarnoff in person, but knowing Robert Sarnoff

Robert Sarnoff

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Ray Forrest on never meeting David Sarnoff in person, but knowing Robert Sarnoff

Abe Schechter

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Ray Forrest on people he worked with in television - Abe Schechter

Fulton J. Sheen

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Ray Forrest on announcing religious services and ceremonies - once with Fulton J. Sheen

Dinah Shore

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on Dinah Shore suffering under the hot lights of early television

Dick Smith

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Ray Forrest on people he worked with in television - Dick Smith

Bob Smith

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Ray Forrest on people he worked with in television - Bob Smith

Lowell Thomas

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Ray Forrest on an early TV news simulcast with Lowell Thomas and Thomas' beard being problematic on camera; on subbing for Lowell Thomas in studio

Arturo Toscanini

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Ray Forrest on the shows he worked on as a junior radio announcer at NBC -- NBC Symphony Orchestra with Arturo Toscanini
Ray Forrest on a postcard given out on the NBC tour in the early days of television

Warren Wade

View Person Page
Ray Forrest on working with early NBC television program manager Warren Wade
Ray Forrest on on the man who ran NBC's television unit before World War II -- Alfred H. Morton -- and the people who reported to him
Ray Forrest on people he worked with in television - Warren Wade

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