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An earlier comment claims that an episode in November 1953 was the first
color television broadcast ever. That is not so. The Federal
Commission, on Oct. 10, 1950, approved a color television system developed
by CBS that was not compatible with existing black and white television
sets. However, a court challenge by RCA, which was developing its own
system that was compatible with black and white sets, tied up the
inauguration of the CBS color system until a decision for CBS by the U.S.
Supreme Court in May 1951.
Finally, on June 25, 1951, CBS broadcast a one-hour program in color, called "Premiere", featuring Ed Sullivan and other CBS stars, and carried it on a five-station East Coast CBS-TV hookup.
The episode of "The Colgate Comedy Hour" broadcast in color in November 1953 was actually the network debut of the rival RCA color television system. In December 1953, the FCC formally reversed its earlier decision and approved the RCA system as the color standard for American television.
'Colgate Comedy Hour' was a first-rate comedy-variety series, performed
from New York City and featuring some of the biggest names in American
business at the time. The series was sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive, a
'health and beauty aids' company which had established a healthy presence
the sponsorship of entertainment since the early days of radio. In the
1940s, Al Jolson had starred in a weekly radio show sponsored by Colgate
Tooth Powder, but he mistakenly kept identifying the sponsor as 'Colgate
Toothpaste': a different product altogether, which was sponsoring a
different radio show at the time.
Apart from its excellent entertainment value, the Colgate Comedy Hour is also important for a technological reason. The episode broadcast live on 22 November, 1953, hosted by Donald O'Connor, was the very first colour tv broadcast. Prior to this, all colour tv transmissions had been closed-circuit only.
Recently, Gloria O'Connor (Donald's widow) told me that she thought the Nov. 22, 1953 Colgate Comedy Hour was the first color telecast of the newly-approved color system. Evidently it was part of a test. Many old-timers have insisted that the Jan 1 Rose Bowl Parade was the first color telecast. Can anyone shed some light on the Colgate Comedy Hour? I met Joyce Smith, one of the original dancers, at an NBC Reunion and she also believed that the show was telecast in color. It would be a good thing to straighten this out for the history books. In addition, Joyce said the Comedy hour originated at the original 'El Capitan' theater on Vine Street.
Not all Colgate Comedy Hour episodes originated from New York. In fact, when it began, production originated from New York and was kine-scoped for West Coast broadcast. Beginning with the second season, production was divided between Hollywood and New York, with the majority of episodes originating from Southern California. The show started in New York and ended in L.A. The first Los Angeles-based episode of the show aired late in September 1951. All of the Los Angeles-based Colgate Comedy Hour episodes seem to have been filmed instead of aired live, as I have seen with a December 1952 Abbott and Costello-hosted episode. Fred Waring was the final host of the series, and on Christmas Day 1955. The first Colgate Comedy Hour to originate from outside New York or Los Angeles was from Philadelphia in 1951 not Las Vegas or Miami in 1954. No sooner did the show end did Los Angeles overtake Chicago as an important center for TV production, as it remains 50 years later.
I've been lucky enough to see five episodes of this golden age of TV pioneer. The high powered talent was only part of a top notch production. Two of those shows featured Abbott and Costello, who can be seen doing their "Who's on First?" routine and interacting with horror film legend Boris Karloff. The other three are Martin and Lewis shows, and actually made me laugh out loud more than a half century later, their work was that good. In fact, what's obvious from those shows is that there's a lot of ad-libbing going on, and the two seem like they're absolutely having the times of their life. If you find that DVD (the sleeve advertised two shows but actually contains three, all with original commercials, I found it for a dollar at a Dollar General store...talk about a buried treasure!) look for the bit part where Jerry teases two NBC studio cameramen. A true gem. And fans of old TV commercials won't be let down, either, by the catchy jingles and nice animation for Colgate toothpaste, Palmolive soap and shave cream, Halo shampoo or Fab detergent.
I own a DVD that is entitled "The Abbott & Costello Show". But it's actually two episodes of "The Colgate Comedy Hour". From what I have seen it looked like a good show. But again I have only seen two shows. Both shows were hosted by Abbott & Costello and they were hilarious. It featured many different skits and bits including the "Two Tens For a Five". And of course it had everyone's favorite "Who's on First?". I really enjoyed the quick banter between the two. I heard the best Abbott & Costello routines are the ones preformed in front of a live audience. Costello was great at ad-libbing and it shows here. I have only seen a couple of the Martin & Lewis movies and they were good. So I'm guessing the ones hosted by them were good too. I really recommend this to anyone who likes comedy and especially anyone who hasn't seen the "Who's on First?" bit. It's classic stuff.
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