Live Television Drama in the 1950s
The decade of the 1950s is sometimes known as the golden era of television, largely because thousands of live dramas were broadcast during that time. These dramas supplemented the standard television fare of variety shows, westerns, and soap operas. It was during this period that television replaced radio and film as the chief medium of entertainment for the American family.
The live programs were in the form of drama anthologies, such as NBC's Kraft Television Theater and Goodyear Television Playhouse and CBS's Studio One. It was Studio One, which ran from 1948 to 1958, that aired Twelve Angry Men and other plays by Rose. Rose recalled in an interview the challenging but rewarding nature of television drama in the 1950s: "It was a terrifying experience, but very exhilarating. But there were always mistakes…. I don't recall a show I ever did when something didn't go wrong" (quoted in "Reginald Rose: A Biography," in Readings on "Twelve Angry Men," edited by Russ Munyan). Rose recalls cameras breaking down and shows that ran either too long or too short to fill the exact time slot allocated.
There was great variety in the content of these dramas. Some were adaptations of stage plays by such playwrights as Eugene O'Neill and Arthur Miller as well as Shakespeare. Most, however, were original dramas. The constant demand for new plays provided a fruitful creative outlet for writers, directors, and actors in the new medium. Television drama offered actors who were not well known in movies their first national exposure. In 1949, Marlon Brando, then only twenty-four years old, starred in I'm No Hero, a television drama produced by the Actors Studio. Paul Newman and Steve McQueen made appearances on the...
(The entire section is 750 words.)