Studio One


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About

Studio One was one of the most significant U.S. anthology drama series during the 1950s. Like other anthology series of the time--Robert Montgomery Presents, Goodyear Television Playhouse, Philco Theatre, Kraft Television Theatre--the format was organised around the weekly presentation of a one hour, live, television play. Several hours of live drama were provided by the networks per week, each play different: such risk and diversity is hard to come by today.

Writing about television, Stanley Cavell has argued, "What is memorable, treasurable, criticiseable, is not primarily the individual work, but the program, the format, not this or that day of I Love Lucy, but the program as such." While this admonition might admirably apply to the telefilm series that came later, the 1950s drama anthologies were premised on the fact that they were different every week. Yet the one hour live format was one they had in common with each other, and because of that very fact they had to distinguish themselves from each other. They worked to develop a "house style," a distinctive reputation for a certain kind of difference and diversity, whether based on quality writing, attention to character over theme or, more typically, technical and artistic innovation which developed the form. A full assessment would necessarily consider each distinctive anthology series (and assess its "distinctiveness" from others) as a whole, and the failures and achievements of individual productions.

Studio One provides an emblematic continuity for the 1950s drama: it was the longest running drama anthology series, lasting ten years from 1948-58, from the "big freeze" through the "golden age" to the made-in-Hollywood 90-minute film format: in all over 500 plays were produced. From the beginning Studio One's "house style" was foregrounded not only by the quality of its writers, but primarily by its production innovations, professionalism and experimentation within the limits of live production.

Studio One began as a CBS radio drama anthology show in the mid-1940s until CBS drama supervisor, Worthington Miner translated it to television. Its first production was an adaptation by Miner of "The Storm" (7 November 1948). Miner's control emphasised certain "quality" characteristics: adaptation (usually of classical works, e.g. Julius Caesar, 1948) and innovation ("Battleship Bismarck," 1949). Studio One adopted a serious tone under Miner, but also a pioneering spirit. For example, "Battleship Bismarck" made advanced use of telecine inserts, three-camera live editing within a confined and waterlogged set. Miner left to join NBC in 1952, but the show regained an even clearer sense of identity and purpose when Felix Jackson became the producer in 1953. Jackson used two directors, Paul Nickell and Franklin Schaffner, each with his own technical staff, who would alternate according to the material. Nickell would be given the more "sensitive" scripts, Schaffner the epics, the action. Both directors were committed to pushing the live studio drama to the limits. Nickell in particular has to stand as one of the greatest--and unsung--television directors: he never made the mistake of thinking a good TV drama has to look like a film.

By the mid-1950s the emphasis of production material had turned from adaptation to new works written for television, often giving attention to contemporary issues. Studio One followed this trend. Often the same writers, such as Reginald Rose, who had adapted for Studio One now wrote originals. Rose, who worked as an adapter until 1954 when he wrote "12 Angry Men" (1954) and the controversial "Thunder on Sycamore Street" (1954). This story, about racial hatred, was modified to satisfy southern television station owners, replacing a black protagonist with a convict. By 1955 Studio One was receiving over 500 unsolicited manuscripts per week.

However, it was Studio One's technical innovation, rather than its coterie of writers, which made the series distinctive. Its chief rival in the ratings, Fred Coe's Philco-Goodyear Theatre, although it had a superior stable of writers, (Paddy Chayefsky, Rod Serling, Horton Foote, Robert Alan Aurthur, Tad Mosel--most of who later worked for Studio One), could not match Studio One's technical daring. Philco-Goodyear Theatre developed a reputation for plays which explored the psychological realism of character, using many close-ups, but this was influenced by other factors. As Tad Mosel has said: "I think that began because the sets were so cheap, if you pulled back you'd photograph those awful sets. Directors began moving in to faces so you wouldn't see the sets. Studio One had much more lavish productions, they had more money."

After 1955 Studio One joined the general decline of the other New York based dramas. The formats began to favour 90- minute slots (such as CBS Playhouse 90), and drama shot on film, often in Hollywood. Eventually Studio One joined the drift to Hollywood and film. By 1957 the anthology was renamed Studio One in Hollywood--and the sponsors, Westinghouse, withdrew from the series.

Studio One's achievements have to be measured in terms of technical and stylistic superiority over their rival anthologies. With plays such as "Dry Run" and "Shakedown Cruise" (1955) (both set on a flooded submarine, built in the studio) and "Twelve Angry Men", they were the first to use four-walled sets, hiding the cameras behind flying walls, or using portholes to conceal cameras between shots. The freedom to innovate was in part due to CBS' policy of giving directors relative autonomy from network interference and the stability of the Schaffner-Nickell partnership, but it is also a pioneering quality which can be traced back to Worthington Miner and the late 1940s. Miner was quite clear that he wanted Studio One to advance the medium via its experimental storytelling techniques: "I was fascinated by the new medium and convinced that television was somewhere between drama and film ... a live performance staged for multiple cameras."

However, with the mature Studio One productions of the early and mid-1950s, one has the sense that the movements of the cameras were not subordinate to the requirements of the performance: quite the opposite. For example, "The Hospital" was an adaptation produced during the 1952 season, and directed by Schaffner. This play seems to achieve the impossible: it literally denies the existence of live studio time. Flashbacks and other interruptions could be achieved with some narrative jigging to allow for costume and scene changes. Still, unlike film, live studio time was real time, and the ineluctable rule of live drama was that the length of a performance was as long as it took to see it. But Schaffner had a reputation for thinking that nothing was impossible for live television. Most other anthologies of the period used a static three camera live studio set up, where two cameras were used for close-ups and the other for the two-shots. In such an arrangement the television camera acted as a simple, efficient, relay. Schaffner favoured instead a mobile mise-en-scene; his cameras were constantly on the move, with actors and props positioned and choreographed for the cameras.

This play concerns the drama of a local hospital, following the various staff and patients through typical medical crises. Although the transmitted play lasts 50 minutes, the story-time takes up only 18 minutes. Some scenes are therefore repeated during the three acts, using a different viewpoint, and requiring the actors to re-stage precisely their initial scenes. As some scenes are lengthened, or modified in the light of what we have seen before we gain a greater understanding of the events from each character's viewpoint. Whilst this would be relatively simple to achieve on film, for live drama it involved complex methods of panning and camera movement to capture and expand the chronicity of events and repeat them exactly as it had gone before. Schaffner achieves this by using several cranes to snake through the various sets as the scenes are played and repeated, often in a different order. Doing what seems technically impossible is therefore foregrounded in this drama, and the complexity of this achievement is emphasised by the ironic commentary of one of the hospital patients who, with head bandaged, is able to explain at the end, as the sponsors shout for their adverts, "Time? There is no time. Time is only an illusion." And Studio One could prove it.

-Jason Jacobs

SPOKESPERSON (1949-1958)

Betty Furness

PRODUCERS

Herbert Brodkin, Worthington Miner, Fletcher Markle, Felix Jackson, Norman Felton, Gordon Duff, William Brown, Paul Nickell, Franklin Shaffner, Charles H. Schultz

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

466 Episodes

CBS

November 1948-March 1949   Sunday 7:30-8:30

March 1949-May 1949   Sunday 7:00-8:00

May 1949-September 1949   Wednesday 10:00-11:00

September 1949-September 1958   Monday 10:00-11:00 

FURTHER READING

Averson, Richard, and David Manning White, editors. Electronic Drama: Television Plays of the Sixties. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon, 1971.

Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh, editors. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows: 1946-Present. New York: Ballentine, 1992.

Gianakos, Larry James. Television Drama Series Programming: A Comprehensive Chronicle, 1947-1959. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow, 1980.

Hawes, William. The American Television Drama: The Experimental Years. University, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1986.

Kindem, Gorham, editor. The Live Television Generation of Hollywood Film Directors: Interviews with Seven Directors. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1994.

MacDonald, J. Fred. One Nation Under Television: The Rise and Decline of Network TV. New York: Pantheon, 1990.

Miner, Worthington. Worthington Miner, Interviewed by Franklin Schaffner. Hollywood, California: Directors Guild of America; Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow, 1985.

Skutch, Ira. Ira Skutch: I Remember Television: A Memoir. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow, 1989.

Stemple, Tom. Storytellers to the Nation: A History of American Television Writing. New York: Continuum, 1992.

Sturcken, Frank. Live Television: The Golden Age of 1946-1958 in New York. Jefferson, North Carolina : McFarland, 1990.

Wicking, Christopher, and Tise Vahimagi. The American Vein: Directors and Directions in Television. New York: Dutton, 1979.

Wilk, Max. The Golden Age of Television: Notes From the Survivors. New York: Dell, 1977.

Highlights
Actress Maria Riva on director Paul Nickell, for whom she worked with several times on Studio One
00:37
Director Norman Felton on directing and becoming associate producer on Studio One
04:28
Loring Mandel on Studio One producers Herbert Brodkin and Felix Jackson
03:12
Tad Mosel on writing "The Five Dollar Bill" for Studio One
07:16
Bob Markell on set design work for the anthology Studio One
01:16
Sidney Lumet on directing various episode of Studio One, including "No Deadly Medicine"
07:14
Who talked about this show

Edward Asner

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Ed Asner on acting in the Studio One episode "The Night America Trembled"
02:03

Paris Barclay

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Paris Barclay on working for the Museum of Broadcasting in New York, archiving Studio One
02:30

Dick Berg

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Dick Berg on writing for Kraft Television Theater and Studio One
02:05
Dick Berg on writing "The Drop of a Hat" for Studio One  directed by Franklin Schaffner
02:53
Dick Berg on writing "Man Under Glass" for Studio One 
01:27

John Conte

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John Conte on appearing as an actor on Studio One, and on appearing on the Studio One production "Flowers From a Stranger" with Yul Brynner
03:39

Hume Cronyn

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Hume Cronyn on appearing in Studio One's presentation of "A Member of the Family"
02:40

Dominick Dunne

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Dominick Dunne on producing Studio One
02:19

Norman Felton

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Director Norman Felton on directing and becoming associate producer on Studio One
04:28
Norman Felton on Studio One writers and the show moving from New York to Hollywood; on going from live to video tape
00:52
Norman Felton on a photo from Studio One
00:43

John Forsythe

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John Forsythe on his early experiences on live television including Studio OneSuspense, and U.S. Steel
03:37

Jerry Goldsmith

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Jerry Goldsmith on working with producer Norman Felton on Studio One
02:31

Don Hastings

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Don Hastings on appearing on Studio One
02:10

Buck Henry

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Buck Henry on being cast as an extra on Studio One as a teenager

Lamont Johnson

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Lamont Johnson on his early television work as an actor
02:37

Ernest Kinoy

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Ernest Kinoy on writing for Studio One
04:02
Ernest Kinoy on the Studio One episode "Walk Down the Hill"
08:08

Jack Klugman

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Jack Klugman on working on Studio One
01:39

Jack Lemmon

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Jack Lemmon on working on Studio One 
03:27

Sidney Lumet

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Sidney Lumet on directing the film version of the Studio One production of "12 Angry Men"
03:40
Sidney Lumet on directing various episode of Studio One, including "No Deadly Medicine"
07:14

Loring Mandel

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Loring Mandel on getting into writing for anthology series like Studio One
03:14
Loring Mandel on writing his first script for Studio One, "Shakedown Cruise"
03:53
Loring Mandel on Franklin J. Schaffner directing his Studio One episode "Shakedown Cruise," and on shooting the episode
05:19
Loring Mandel on writing the Studio One episodes "Fair Play," "This Will Do Nicely," and "The Open Door"
03:24
Loring Mandel on watching the live broadcasts of Studio One from inside the studio, and on writing the episode "The Rice Sprout Song," directed by Sidney Lumet with mostly blacklisted actors
04:25
Loring Mandel on Studio One producers Herbert Brodkin and Felix Jackson
03:12
Loring Mandel on the Hollywood Blacklist, and on casting blacklisted actors on Studio One
05:46

Abby Mann

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Abby Mann on writing for Studio One produced by Herbert Brodkin
04:12
Abby Mann on writing "The Desperate Age" and "A Child is Waiting" for Studio One, and on Judy Garland appearing in the film version
08:47

Martin Manulis

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Martin Manulis on producing Studio One
05:37
Martin Manulis on producing the summer version of Studio One
01:59

Bob Markell

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Bob Markell on set design work for the anthology Studio One
01:16
Bob Markell on working on Studio One
01:06
Bob Markell on working on Studio One and other shows in color
00:50
Bob Markell on working on Studio One
02:24
Bob Markell on working on Studio One on specific episodes: "Henry James," "Hamlet," "Out of Towners," 'Walk Down the Hill," and episodes on the classics
03:10
Bob Markell on working with Worthington Minor on Studio One
00:26

E. G. Marshall

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E.G. Marshall on appearing on the Studio One production of "Mary Poppins"
01:21
E.G. Marshall on appearing on the Studio One production of "The Out-of-Towners"
00:36

Mitch Miller

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Mitch Miller on Studio One using a song he produced, "Let Me Go Devil," which made it a big hit
07:33

Tad Mosel

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Tad Mosel on writing "The Presence of the Enemy" for Studio One and working with E.G. Marshall
04:09
Tad Mosel on writing "The Out of Towners" (starring E.G. Marshall and Eileen Heckart) for Studio One
04:09
Tad Mosel on writing "The Five Dollar Bill" for Studio One
07:16

Robert Mott

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Robert Mott on various live television bloopers including on Studio One, Betty Furness' Westinghouse commercial, and The Web
12:46
Robert Mott on various sound effects bloopers including on Studio One, The Edge of Night, and Search For Tomorrow
10:41

Maria Riva

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Actress Maria Riva on the Golden Age of "live" TV in New York in the 1950s, exemplified by such classic anthology series as Studio One
01:04
Actress Maria Riva on making costume changes in "live" TV in the 1950s
01:14
Actress Maria Riva on how she became a contract player for CBS in the early 1950s, along with actress Mary Sinclair, John Newland, and (possibly) John Forsythe all of whom then worked on such CBS series of the day as Studio One and Danger
01:43
Actress Maria Riva briefly on Studio One producer-director Worthington Miner
00:19
Actress Maria Riva on how she didn't feel she was up to the challenge of the accent required for the Studio One show "The Education of Hyman Kaplan"
00:33
Actress Maria Riva on how she worked for director Paul Nickell rather than Franklin Schaffner on Studio One
00:22
Actress Maria Riva on director Paul Nickell, for whom she worked with several times on Studio One
00:37
Actress Maria Riva on how she was often cast as a "poor man's Dietrich" not only because of her association to her mother but also because she could also provide her own costuming
01:16
Actress Maria Riva on keeping a supply of safety pins while working in "live" TV in case there were problems with a costume
00:34
Actress Maria Riva on her experience playing a scene from Jane Eyre with Charlton Heston on a publicity stint for Westinghouse
01:40
Actress Maria Riva offers off-screen descriptions of a few stills from her work on Studio One
02:23
Actress Maria Riva on director Paul Nickell, for whom she worked with several times on Studio One
00:37

Doris Roberts

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Doris Roberts on appearing on an episode of Studio One
01:18

Marion Ross

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Marion Ross on performing on Matinee Theater and on what it was like to perform on live television on shows like Studio One
04:21

David Shaw

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David Shaw on writing for Studio One
01:31

Jerry Stiller

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Jerry Stiller on working on Studio One with Margaret Sullivan
03:36

Ethel Winant

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Ethel Winant on working in the Broadway theater, and getting involved with casting for television via Studio One
07:15

Alan Young

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Alan Young on appearing in the live Studio One teleplay "This Will Do Nicely" (airdate: April 2, 1956)
01:06

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