Television History…In Stunning Living Color! Ultra Rare Details!
I’ve seen this image before, but never with such literal and figurative clarity. Let me tell you the secrets this pristine color photo reveals.
First, this is the first color photo taken at RCA and NBC’s first non experimental color studio…The Colonial Theater. It is also among the first taken there and I would bet this picture was taken no later than January of 1953, or within eight weeks of the cameras arrival in late October. The first Colonial broadcast was November 8, 1952 and the program was a special edition of ‘Your Show Of Shows’ which was shown on NBC in black and white and was done as a facility test.
Second, this settles the long debated question of whether there were three RCA TK40s delivered, or were there four? As we can see here…there were four.
Notice the lens turrets on Cameras 2 and 4. They are the same umber gray semi gloss used on the RCA TK10s. These four cameras were not built on an assembly line…they are prototypes built individually and in the past, I have shown you a photo of one of these cameras being built and the camera body was painted this same umber gray. The silver coat must have been a last minute change, but we know that in 1951, one of the four experimental “coffin cameras” from Studio 3H had been painted silver to better reflect the suns heat after one almost overheated at a Palisades Park remote. This is the only photo that shows these turrets in umber as all the other Colonial photos have the turrets painted silver.
We are also seeing two support hardware firsts in this photo. Notice the large center steering rings on the two cameras mounted on the RCA PD 1 pedestals. In the first couple of weeks of use, the cameramen had two complaints…the regular PD 1 steering ring was too small for such a big camera which Houston Fearless fixed quickly with these larger rings.
The second problem was that the camera were to heavy for the regular friction type pan heads. Within a month, Houston Fearless had a fix for this, and under Camera 2, you see the prototype HF Cradle Head. After they put this under the camera, they realized that there was still too much weight under the center plate (as was the case with the friction head), and developed the larger model custom made for the TK40/41s. The Cradle Heads were in development for use under black and white cameras, but there was only one actually built and it’s this one. I’ve seen this from the other side and there are no brake or tension knobs…yet. The HF Cradle Heads for b/w debuted in early ’54 at the same time RCA took the TK40 to the production line.
The lady in the photo is NBC’s long time color model, Marie McNamara. Marie spent more time in front of NBC’s color cameras than any of their stars ever did. When color testing was moved from Washington to Studio 3H, she had been hired as one of the small group of performers to do a show four times a day for color tests. Nanette Fabray was the lead performer of the show that was carried via closed circuit to RCA in Princeton and Camden, scrutinized by engineers at 30 Rock and finally fed into color receivers viewed by the public at the RCA Exhibition Hall on 49th Street, directly across from 30 Rock.
Her red hair and beautiful complexion made Marie the perfect color model and she was did this for many years. I think she started in 1951 and stayed till around 1958. There is a story that she had so much overtime, she was making more per week than many of NBC’s executives. On that discovery, she was put under contract on a fixed salary.
Thank you Jodie Peeler for sending this great image. This came from the 1961 edition of “Rockefeller Center: A Photographic Narrative,” edited by Samuel Chamberlain. Enjoy and share!