Philco Television Playhouse

views updated

Philco Television Playhouse

One of the most distinguished of the live anthology series, NBC's Philco Television Playhouse is best remembered for nurturing talent to create original television productions. Producer Fred Coe assembled one of television's most illustrious writing teams, including Paddy Chayefsky, Horton Foote, Tad Mosel, and Gore Vidal. When Philco debuted on October 3, 1948, the series was produced in conjunction with the Actors' Equity Association and specialized in Broadway adaptations, including Dinner at Eight with Peggy Wood, Cyrano de Bergerac starring Jose Ferrer, and Counsellor-at-Law, Paul Muni's TV debut. A year later, Philco worked with the Book-ofthe-Month Club to present dramatizations of noteworthy novels, including Sense and Sensibility with Cloris Leachman. Beginning in the early 1950s, Coe instructed his writers to create intimate dramas for the small screen. What resulted were such acclaimed teleplays as Chayefsky's Marty with Rod Steiger (1953); Foote's A Trip to Bountiful with Lillian Gish (1955); and Vidal's The Death of Billy the Kid with Paul Newman (1955), all of which were later made into films. Goodyear became an alternating sponsor of Coe's Playhouse in 1951, and, in all, more than 350 live dramas were produced over eight seasons.

—Ron Simon

Further Reading:

Considine, Shaun. Mad as Hell: The Life and Work of Paddy Chayefsky. New York, Random House, 1994.

Krampner, Jon. The Man in the Shadows: Fred Coe and the Golden Age of Television. New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 1997.