Wed, 10/04/2006

"Playhouse 90" Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary!

In American television in the 1940s and 50s, one of the staple genres of the day was the "live" dramatic anthology series. Productions within these series featured the writing of such luminaries as Paddy Chayefsky, Rod Serling, and Horton Foote and defined what has been termed the "golden age of television." Among the anthology series were Kraft Television Theater, Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, Studio One, The U.S. Steel Hour, and Playhouse 90. As described by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh in The Complete Directory of Prime Time and Cable TV Shows: "of all the fine dramatic-anthology series to grace television in the 1950s, Playhouse 90 was the most ambitious and remains the standard against which all the others are judged." The series premiered on October 4, 1956 with Rod Serling's "Forbidden Area."

Among the most well-known productions that originated on Playhouse 90 were: Rod Serling's "Requiem for a Heavyweight," William Gibson's "The Miracle Worker," Rod Serling's "The Comedian," JP Miller's "Days of Wine and Roses," Abby Mann's "Judgment at Nuremberg, and David Shaw & Bo Goldman's "The Tunnel" as well as Horton Foote's adaptations of William Faulkner's "Old Man" and "Tomorrow."

Legendary director John Frankenheimer made his name while directing for Playhouse 90. This is part 8 of his interview, in which he talks about his work on this series. Click here to view the entire 13-part interview.

The Archive of American Television interviewed many of the series' most significant talents. In addition to John Frankenheimer, the Archive interviewed Martin Manulis (series creator and original producer), Robert Butler (assistant director), Horton Foote (writer), Albert Heschong (art director), Arthur Hiller (director), Kim Hunter (actress), Ernest Kinoy (writer), Angela Lansbury (actress), Jack Lemmon (actor), Abby Mann (writer), Delbert Mann (director), Bob Markell (set designer/associate producer), E. G. Marshall (actor), JP Miller (writer), Ricardo Montalban (actor), Rita Moreno (actress), Tad Mosel (writer), Hugh O'Brian (actor), Arthur Penn (director), Del Reisman (story editor), Rita Riggs (costumes), Cliff Robertson (actor), Mickey Rooney (actor), William Shatner (actor), David Shaw (writer), Fred Steiner (composer), George Takei (actor), and Ethel Winant (casting director).