In the days before virtual sets and computer graphics, this is how it was done…with big maps. Although the middle board and frame on the US map look like unpainted plywood, they are actually covered in tan felt. Notice the satellite photo on the easel. This is one of 5 Norelco cameras the station had in their studios. Thanks to Craig Cuttner for the picture.
75 Years Ago, Last Night…Theater Of The Mind At It’s Best!
Although the ‘Mercury Theater Of The Air’ radio presentation lasted only an hour, it’s impact has lasted 75 years. Here is the Orson Wells radio adaptation of H.G. Wells ‘War Of The Worlds’ program in full.
First Network Television Broadcast From Boston
On January 23, 1948 from 2 to 3 PM, a 3 camera NBC remote, sponsored by the Massachusetts Fisheries Association, was done from Boston’s Fish Market. Although a 40 inch Zoomar lens was on one of the cameras, it did little good as a heavy snow began the moment the broadcast started. The cameras and crew were from WNBT in New York and although WBZ TV was still six months away from sign on, WBZ Radio helped with the telco transmission. Back then, NBC’s television network only consisted of New York, Schenectady, Philadelphia and Washington DC. Thanks to Maureen Carney for the photo and story.
In this clip, starting at 2:00, we see what is thought to be the first ever use of the zoom lens in a cinematic presentation. The film is ‘It’, starring “The It Girl”, Clara Bow. “It” by the way is “that special something, a unique sparkle of personality and looks that command attention”. The zoom lens was not new when it first made its cinema appearance in 1927. It had been described many decades before and an example was even patented in 1902. For cinema of the time it wasn’t an ideal solution, as the cameraman had no way of seeing exactly what he was shooting while in the act of shooting it (true reflex finders didn’t arrive in cine cameras until the Arriflex). One advantage is it needed to only be focused once and the lens would stay in focus throughout the shot. So, it had uses even in its original form for cinema and was developed and patented by more than one person. Now, the optical elements of a zoom could not be patented outside any novel lens formula, but the mechanism used to zoom could be and was. The first major patent applied for came from Rolla T. Flora in early 1927 and was granted patent #1,790,232 in January 1931. This was what was used in the ‘It’ movie and was known as the Paramount zoom, and was the earliest cine zoom used. Another was Joseph Walker’s zoom ( #1,898,471 applied for September 1929 and granted March 1933). From a profile on Walker, he had been working on a practical zoom for years, but there is no evidence of a useful patent emerging from his work before this, and no evidence this mechanism itself was then useful. He later built what became the RCA Electrazoom for television.
In the years from 1927 until 1932, the zoom lens was essentially exclusive to Paramount. It was used immediately: In the first shot of the 1927 film ‘It’, when establishing the store setting. After the Waltham’s sign is shown, the camera tilts down then zooms to the bustling sidewalk storefront.
In early 1932, a commercially available zoom began to be sold by Bell and Howell. This was known as the B&H/Cooke Varo. Initially it was made to order, but later was available as stock. The lens was said to have been acquired by all the major studios and by the government. The lens was also available as a rental to any reputable producer, so it may have found its way to independent producers or a small studio like Monogram. Thanks to Jack Hirschorn for his help with this post.
Ladies And Gentlemen…Meet The Voice Of Sleeping Beauty
Mary Costa (R) was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and went on to become a famous opera singer. Although Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ debuted in 1958, all the voices were recorded in 1952. ‘Sleeping Beauty’ spent nearly the entire decade of the 1950s in production: the story work began in 1951, animation production took from 1953 until 1958, and the stereophonic musical score, mostly based on Tchaikovsky’s ballet of the same name, was recorded in 1957. The film holds a notable position in Disney animation as the last Disney animated film to use hand-inked cels. Beginning with the next feature, 101 Dalmatians, Disney would move to the use of xerography to transfer animators’ drawings from paper to celluloid. By the way, if you ever put together Aurora model kits and wondered about the name Aurora, it’s Latin for “dawn”. I only now know this because Coast’s character is Princess Aurora and the translation was mentioned in my research. In this photo, the lady on the left is Mary Starr, a well known Knoxville television hostess of the 50s and 60s, and this photo was taken on a visit home by Costa.
Something that got my attention right away was the two Nifty Notebooks (remember those) on the desk. Also, it’s still odd to me to see the NBC snake logo on black and white cameras like these two RCA TK10s. Left to right, Chet Huntley, Dave Garroway, Frank Blair and David Brinkley in 1960. Don’t know who’s behind the camera on the left but it could be Edwin Newman. Thanks to Ken Johannessen for the photo.
AS RARE AS RARE CAN BE! Ikegami’s First Studio Color Camera
This is the Ikegami TK 301. Earlier this year I posted a photo of the Ikegami 301A which followed a year later with some updates inside and a smaller tally. I’ll have a new photo of that tomorrow, but here is the granddaddy of the color studio line from Ikegami that was built and delivered to Japan’s NHK Network in Tokyo in 1971.
A friend of Chuck Pharis’, Jerome Halphen in Paris, France made a trip to the NHK Museum earlier this month and took over 120 photos. I’ll be posting them in albums as we go along, so be ready for a first class photo tour of the magnificent NHK museum. If only the US networks had done what NHK has done, we would have a fantastic, historic collection of broadcast technology unrivaled in the world, but…most of it is gone now except what a few of us have managed to save for posterity. Enjoy and thanks to Chuck for sharing his friend’s photos.
Another Mini Masterpiece From Richard Wirth
Here’s another very well done article from Richard on mechanical television. Just think, had this system endured, I wonder if we could have had mechanics making house calls to tune up the car and TV on the same trip? :>)
This photo from Maureen Carney is a rare one! Here’s Bill Dana, best known as Jose Jimenez hosting the flagship show called ‘The Las Vegas Show’. Beginning May 1, 1967, the two hour late night show from the Hotel Hacienda hit the air on 106 stations. The network was created to be a forth network with eight hours of programming a day and had UPI as a partner supplying news, but after only a month, the cost of the leased transmission lines from Ma Bell became too much and it folded like an accordion. The network was founded by self-made millionaire Daniel H. Overmyer and was originally named after him, but before the network even went on the air, Overmyer was forced to sell a majority share to investors, although he remained the largest shareholder the new orginization was renamed The United Network.
This one surprised me too! From 1955 til 1961 Jim Henson and company had a local kids show on Washington D.C.’s WRC TV. Across town at WTOP, Jimmy Dean was doing a daytime show called ‘Country Style’ which was later picked up as (the first) ‘The Jimmy Dean Show’ by CBS for a couple of years. While in DC, they met but that was all until Dean went to ABC. (More on that in the post above). In this clip Frank Oz talks about meeting Dean and being Henson’s right hand man, literally, on Rowlf sketches. Jimmy Dean is as easy going and graceful as any host I’ve ever seen. Enjoy.
‘The Adventures Of Superman’ actually debuted on radio a week before this broadcast of February 14, 1940, but that first show was about his trip to earth and Clark Kent was just a child with no speaking part. The show was done at WOR and it may come as a surprise to those of us that know Bud Collier as a game show host…he was the voice of Superman! Enjoy!
In 1956, Edward R. Murrow’s “eyes and ears” drop in for a visit with Hal March. At the time, March was host of the wildly popular $64,000 question, which incidentally aired on CBS. March was well known before the game show as a supporting regular on ‘The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show’ and ‘My Friend Irma’. Although it was ‘Twenty One’ and ‘Dotto’ that were found to be rigged, by 1958 most of the game shows had left the air.
Here are two custom trucks built by Southern Coach for KPRC in Houston. When RCA’s TJ48/50 mobile units were not big enough for some major metro markets, Southern Coach was the next step up. This shot was taken during the the taping of a special at the ranch of then Vice President Lyndon Johnson in the summer of ’63.
The RCA TJ 48, Television’s Local Market Workhouse
Remember these? In 1948, these sold for $9000. In today’s money that is over $87,000. RCA introduced its first postwar mobile production van in 1948, the TJ-48. The interior electronics were modified in 1950 and that became the TJ 50. Prior to this, most local stations that had a mobile unit had modified buses or panel trucks on their own. RCA had made some big remote trucks for NBC in the 1930s but they ever sold any to competing networks.
With George Carlin as guest host, ‘Saturday Night Live’ would take to the airwaves for the first time later on this day. Did you know that at first, the show did not air every weekend? NBC’s news show ‘Weekend’ aired the first Saturday of every month. From ’65 till SNL’s debut, this time slot was used for ‘The Best Of Carson’ reruns of the ‘Tonight Show’.
The Emitron tube was roughly the European equivalent of the Image Orthicon tube RCA had developed in the US. This is a very nice design with a 6 lens turret. Most likely the taking lens is the top center position. Interesting how they slung the large turret face to hang down under the camera’s front.
Standing beside one of the Technicolor cameras on the set of ‘Gone With The Wind’ is director Victor Fleming, camera operator Arthur Arling and cinematographer Ernest Haller. When this movie was in production, there were only about 6 or 7 of these cameras in existence and Fleming used all of them for the burning of Atlanta scenes. All together, I don’t think there were but about 30 of these cameras made for world wide use. The blimp housing is said to have weighed around 220 pounds. Add another 100 for the camera and you’ve got a hernia.
The only place most of us in the US have ever seen this camera was in the movie ‘Network’, but the BBC workhorse for many years beginning around 1966. Heres a close look thanks to Troy Walters in Australia.
This is a great one hour HBO documentary that covers the rise of ABC Sports as well as Cosell himself with great historical footage. From Monday Night Football and Mohamed Ali to Wide World Of Sports, it’s all here and very well done. Thanks to Kevin Vahey for the clip.
Thanks to Glenn Mack for this fantastic photo taken during a rehearsal of ‘The Doctors’ around 1972. Although the RCA TK44A was introduced in 1968 and the better ‘B’ model in 1971, the TK41s could still hold their own and were still in service in some NBC NY studios as late as ’73 including studios 3A and 3B where this show came from. Originally, ‘The Doctors’ was not supposed to be a conventional soap opera. It first aired in 1963 for a trial run as an anthology series with self-contained episodes about medical emergencies. When the show was brought back in 1964, the show adopted a serial form of storytelling. NBC aired the show in the 2:30 p.m. Eastern slot in between ‘Days of our Lives’ and ‘Another World’, two highly rated shows. ‘The Doctors’ took over the time slot that had been used by Merv Griffin on his first daytime talk show, and remained in the 2:30pm timeslot for nearly sixteen years. This is an extraordinary feat for daytime shows of its day, especially since some of its victims in the ratings were long-running favorites such as CBS’ ‘House Party with Art Linkletter’ and ABC’s ‘Dating Game’. The longest-running soap opera in television history, CBS Daytime’s ‘The Guiding Light’, also competed against The Doctors on several occasions. The show went color in 1966. This show is not connected to the current ABC soap by the same name.
This first episode aired September 26, 1962 and was titled “The Clampetts Strike Oil”…it was Donna Douglas’ 29th birthday. By the way, the truck was a 1921 Oldsmobile. The show ran for 274 episodes and was canceled in 1971 by Fred Silverman when CBS decided to erase its image as a “rural network.” In the process, other rural shows (including Green Acres and Petticoat Junction) were canceled as well. The general feeling was that “CBS canceled every show with a tree in it”.
CLASSIC! RCA TK41s In Action At NBC Brooklyn Studios
At 12:58 and 23:35, you’ll see the great RCA TK41s in action at NBC Brooklyn. The date was March 13, 1966 and the production was ‘The Bell Telephone Hour’. That episode was ‘The Music Of The Movies’ and in the clip you’ll see (Oz scarecrow) Ray Bolger and a young Peter Marshall. This rare footage is from an interesting AT&T film that touts the reliability of their services to all types of industries. Enjoy!
Taken on the catwalk, this shot is looking down on the ’60 Minutes’ green screen set that we saw yesterday. The camera may be a Norelco PC60 (instead of a PC70) as it looks like it has two cables going to it. How clever is that old TD 1 pedestal that has been converted into a monitor stand?
Here’s another great article from our friend Richard Wirth. The original “broadband” and much more are covered in this write up of how AT&T made coast to coast television possible. The videos are very good too, so take a look! Thanks Richard!
Today, we think nothing of clicking our remote and have live images from somewhere else in the world appear on the screen. Push a few buttons on our computer and loved ones living far away appear. But in television’s early days, a live program meant we were watching a local program.