Tuesday, June 27, 2023

James Dean (Small Screen)

 When I heard that my beloved Turner Classic Movies is in trouble I decided to dip down a rabbit hole for diversion and in preparation for a potential Warner Bros. boycott. For years I've noticed that many of my favorite movie directors and writers (George Roy HillPaddy Chayefsky, et al.) began their careers working on short TV movies that were broadcast live in the 1950s. It didn't take long to stumble across many works of James Dean, who only made three films for the big screen before his tragic death in 1955, but did a lot of work on these anthology series. I thought I'd share some here.

A Word about Kinescope Recordings: Before 1956 the only way to record live TV shows was by pointing a movie camera at a television screen and filming it that way. These recordings are called kinescopes, and their quality is nowhere near as good as the original broadcasts must have been, but at least they were preserved.

So, as promised, here are some early James Dean "movies" for you:

From the Schlitz Playhouse of Stars we have "The Unlighted Road," broadcast live on May 6, 1955:

Campbell's SoundStage brings us a presentation of James Dean in "Something for an Empty Briefcase", was broadcast live on July 17,1953:

James Dean and Natalie Wood starred in the live broadcast of "I'm a Fool" for General Electric Theater on November 14, 1954. This video shows a version that was aired following the death of James Dean in 1955, with an introduction by Ronald Reagan

From the Kraft Television Theatre we have "A Long Time Till Dawn," written by Rod Serling and broadcast live on November 11, 1953:

Less than two weeks later, on November 23,1953, Dean appeared on the Johnson's Wax Program's production of "Harvest" (with several other faces classic film fans will find familiar):

November of 1953 was a busy time on the small screen for James Dean, as you'll see in the Armstrong Circle Theatre production of "The Bells of Cockaigne", which aired live on November 17 (between the two films above):

There are several more of these that can be found on YouTube, and a seemingly endless number of teleplays featuring classic film stars and future Academy Award winners early in their careers. That being said, please, dear God, #SaveTCM!

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