Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Steel Hour

The Theatre Guild on the Air was on air from 1943 to 1947 on ABC. Then it was brought back in 1949 by NBC and continued until 1953. In 1953 it was converted to a TV program the US Steel Hour that ran until 1963. Both sponsored by the United States Steel Corporation. It was an era of corporations feeling civil obligations to their employees, to their country and to our culture. It seems every so foreign now, but yes, this was real.

Here is the closer for their 52 minute version of George Orwell's 1984 on NBC.

In 1918 the Theatre Guild was Founded in New York City by Lawrence Langner. They really intended in the beginning just to produce high-quality plays. Radio had already had dramas, but this was the real deal, big stars the whole she-bang. In 1943 they had to learn how to adapt their plays for radio. Programs had to play out in under 52 minutes to leave time for station identification and ads. They created a radio department with Armina Marshall in charge. More here.

At their peak they had upwards of 12 million weekly listeners. You'd know the names of their stars and writers: Theresa Hepburn, Alfred Lunt, Walter Huston, Karl Malden, Kenyon Nicholson and many others. Mr. Norman Brokenshire was the announcer for the series. By the 1970s they had really faded out of existence, their last offering to the world was a co-production of the play "State Fair" in 1996. Probably it's last.