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Hosted by Walter Cronkite before his bigger successes, "You Are There"
created something totally new for television - a reporter with a camera
and microphone who covered historical events as though they were
One example was, "The Assassination of Julius Caesar." He interviews many of the people who took part as they stand over Caesar"s body.
"Excuse me, sir," he asks Marc Antony. Antony takes a moment to be interviewed. What a fascinating concept.
The only other episode I remember seeing live was, "The Capture of Jesse James," with an unknown James Dean in the title role.
If the episodes have not been lost, they should be put on DVD for today's generation to watch.
I noticed the one user comment about this show, about seeing it in
elementary school in the 1960s. That person seemed to feel the acting
wasn't up to par and kids were not too interested.
I remember the series as a teenager in the 1950s when it was on the air for real. Our whole family would watch this show together, and we were as I recall fascinated by it. I distinctly recall one of the shows was on the death of Socrates which even to this day must affect me in some way. Here I was, a teenager, thoroughly bored with history in school, being fascinated by the way it was portrayed right in front of us. Poor acting? I don't remember that - knowing CBS at the time, it was probably as good as anything else being shown on the little black and white tube.
In thinking back on this, I really think it was amazing that this serious - and important - subject could be shown in the way it was. Today's programming is dumbed down stuff compared to the plot lines and staging that were done back then. I think we are the poorer for the lack of good programming that is available on prime time for our kids - programming that is presented as a serious prime time program, not as a History Channel feature that the kids would never be caught dead watching.
One of the interesting footnotes to this New York-based show from the
1950s was that it became a sort of refuge for blacklisted
scriptwriters. Walter Bernstein and Abe Polonsky are mentioned in the
extended IMDb credits as "uncredited" writers. Some of the Hollywood
blacklist histories mention this series as employing blacklisted
I think it was Polonsky (whose FORCE OF EVIL is arguably one of the best of the film noirs) who talked about his "You Are There" experiences at a panel I attended in Berkeley in 1980. He stated that many of the historical episodes covered in the series were about the suppression of dissidents (such as The Death of Socrates), mirroring what the leftist screenwriters felt about being blacklisted from their industry on the basis of their political beliefs and affiliations.
I watched "You Are There" occasionally as a kid growing up in the 1950s, and of course I had no sense of this context. I remember thinking the shows were interesting--but corny. But I cannot compare the effort to penetrate historical events with anything currently on commercial broadcast network TV, and the CBS effort behind "You Are There" was a laudable one, in a different age.
ONCE AGAIN WE come to a great series from our youth. Of course, at that
time, 1953-59, we had no idea that it was great or even very good. We
did understand the premise of having a recreation of a Historical
incident; while imaginarily employing the modern technologies of both
Radio and Television.
THAT'S RIGHT, DEAR Reader, we said both TV and Radio; as the series started out on the CBS Radio Network in 1947. Its birth name was CBS IS THERE. It was soon changed to YOU ARE THERE and lasted to 1950 on radio.
AS FAR AS the video version. we fondly remember it being a staple of our household's tele-viewing every Sunday, early evenings (about 6:30 PM Central Time, we think). In those days of strong sponsor identification, we would hear the voice of Walter Cronkite very authoritatively announcing the evenings subject.
FOR EXAMPLE, IT would go something like : "Tonight we have the story of THE MONITOR AND THE MERRIMAC as the Prudential Insurance Company presents YOU ARE THERE!"
DONE IN A STYLE that we today would call 'Docudrama', a reporter on the scene would use his microphone to interview eyewitnesses to whatever the particular occurrence being covered that day. There was also a TV camera present as both the famous and the infamous were recreated in a most interesting manner.
WE'RE SURE THAT a lot of our contemporaries of that 'Baby Boomer' generation, as well as the older folks cultivated a greater appreciation of History as a result of this series. Its longevity proved to be much greater on the television network than on the radio; as it lasted for 5 full seasons.
EVENTUALLY IT EITHER morphed into or was superseded by the series (also narrated and introduced by Walter Cronkite) which was titled, THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. (also sponsored by PRUDENTIAL).
I, too, remember seeing an episode of the original "You Are There" in
elementary school in 1973 (I don't remember which episode, however).
And since selected episodes of the original 1950's series are now on
DVD, I hope to check out some of them.
But, having been born in April 1962 - and *this* is the one I *really* remember, having seen it on some Saturday afternoons when I was a kid - I'd like to know:
*What about the 1971-72 revival of "You Are There?"*
I recently saw just the opening and closing of one episode from the "You Are There" revival on YouTube; it was the one about the Alamo. According to the credits, Fred Gwynne of "The Munsters" had a brief role in this segment (for some strange reason, the poster of that video *didn't* include the body of that episode in his submission).
Also, I discovered some episodes of the 1971 "You Are There" were made available for school use; following the closing credits, a title card read: "Distributed by BFA Educational Media." I did some research on Google and found out BFA morphed into a company now called The Phoenix Learning Group, Inc.; when I went to PLG's website, I checked to see if any episodes of the 1971 "You Are There" were still available on DVD or VHS. Sadly, PLG is *no longer* printing any episodes of the 1971 "You Are There" on DVD or other formats, including the above-mentioned "Alamo" episode. (The 1971 revival of "You Are There" was recorded on videotape rather than film; perhaps that's another reason hampering a DVD release of this version? I can only hope not, since that "Alamo" episode was converted to film from videotape without any problem.)
So, CBS, if you and your sister company Paramount Home Entertainment don't want to release the 1971 version of "You Are There" on DVD yourselves, why don't you lease it out to Shout! Factory, Real Gone, or some other "Classic TV" DVD company? I'm sure there are others who remember the 1971 revival of the show and might enjoy seeing these episodes again, too (hopefully you still have the 1971 "You Are There" in your archives and didn't let the copyrights expire)!
In the meantime, I hope to purchase some of those original 50's "You Are There" episodes on DVD and watch them. After viewing the brief snippet of that one 1971 episode on YouTube, that made me want to see other episodes of the original series even more!
I truly can't say given the times and context of its original
broadcast, but I must say I enjoy my fortuitous introduction to some
remastered episodes from the Fifties of this CBS News production.
If they're not "live TV" they're certainly kept "in-camera" at the credited Hal Roach Studios. They had to have been filmed quickly too.
Besides a youthful Walter Cronkite (yes, I remember him) sitting behind a desk with a huge microphone to one side, clutching a thick script, and providing two intros and a summary in his inimitable style, we hear off-camera radio announcers handing off to each other in the traditional style as the "reporters on the scene".
We also watch the historical figures blithely if not gladly address "the fourth wall" in response to the reporters' questions. You'll recognize some faces, some to become famous and others as the established character actors that you'll need this database to help identify.
Judge the writing for yourselves, though keep in mind what can only be inferred as the goal. Each episode depicts an historical calendar date, a nice newsbeat touch that Cronkite partly resolves in his summary. The end credits include a disclaimer that everything "is based on historical fact and quotation." With CBS News in charge viewers could have no doubt of that.
Jack Pierce does makeup...recognize him? And some images linger, among them rocks and snowballs bouncing off the bewigged head of "Roy" Randell during the Boston Massacre and railings very nearly giving way in any age...
...but this was indeed the Golden Age of Television. I award an extra vote for audacity.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember this, though it might have been in re-runs. I don't know how one can possibly be guilty of "spoiler alert" since the show is exactly as advertised and summed up here. It also was a prelude to future newscasts and maybe an amplification of those WW2 newsreels my parents told me about. Still, the views and events were based on the "standard model" we all read in school. There wasn't much of the other side and when there was it was pretty slanted. It's like that old test that if you tell one person an eye witness account and he/she tells it to another, by the time you get through ten generations you have turned "Mary Had a Little Lamb" into the Spanish Inquisition..... The only other show that I remember was on PBS called "The Battle of Culloden". It was very violent, though only in words describing the effect of grapeshot, for example...etc. Looking for it here and will make my comments. Lastly, Walter Cronkite. Jeez, how can you sum him up in a few words?? He was the anchor at my house for JFK in Dallas, RFK in California, and two unknown guys taking a stroll on the moon.
I somehow stumbled upon this looking at the bio of director John
Frankenheimer, and thought I'd throw in a quick review, just to see if
I can stir up anybody else's memory.
These "films" (and I use that term loosely) were shown to me in the mid-1960's during elem. history class, and they were about on par with the "Mr. Bungle" series Pee-Wee Herman used to feature on his show. Each black and white episode was introduced by Walter Cronkite "embedded" right in the middle of some historical event, and it was all downhill from there. Bad acting eliciting snickers and catcalls from 3rd graders is most-likely not something Mr. Frankenheimer featured prominently on his resume', but he was probably more proud of these than THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU!
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