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The Attack of the Small Screens: 1950-1960 



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Episode credited cast:
Christopher Plummer ... Narrator
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
A. Scott Berg A. Scott Berg ... Self
Andrew Bergman ... Self - Writer / Director
Peter Bogdanovich ... Self - Director, Film Historian
Donald Bogle Donald Bogle ... Self - Film Director
Robert F. Boyle ... Self - Art Director
Roger Corman ... Self
Samuel Goldwyn Jr. ... Self
Mark Harris ... Self - Journalist / Film Historian
Molly Haskell ... Self
Marsha Hunt ... Self - Actress
Miles Kreuger ... Self - Film Historian
Betty Lasky Betty Lasky ... Self
Jesse L. Lasky ... Self (archive footage)
Sidney Lumet ... Self - Director


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Did You Know?


A photograph purported to be of American International Pictures' 'James H. Nicholson (I)' and 'Samuel Z. Arkoff' is actually that of Tony Sandler and Ralph Young of the vocal duo Sandler and Young. See more »


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The Caisson Song
Music by Edmund L. Gruber
Played at the beginning
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User Reviews

The beginning of the end
11 March 2017 | by AlsExGalSee all my reviews

This episode begins by talking about how the motion picture industry made record profits in the year immediately following the war, but nothing lasts forever and by 1950 television is threatening. One mogul was asked about TV versus the movies and said that houses all have kitchens yet people still go out to eat.

This episode is less about moguls and movie stars and more about trends and the law. In the 40's the DeHaviland decision gave actors more control over who they worked for and how long. The Paramount decision went to the Supreme Court and ordered movie studios to divest themselves of their movie theatres in 1948, just in time for competition from TV to be a problem. The studio system continued to exist through the 1950s in a weakened state, but the 1960s was pretty much the end.

Back to the small screens. It's ironic that the coming of sound to motion pictures consolidated the moguls' power, but the coming of images to any home in America via TV broke them, changed the film industry, and ultimately broke old time radio as well. The episode talks about the death and retirement of the original moguls, with that retirement sometimes being voluntary, sometimes not so much. Darryl F. Zanuck of Fox just shrugged his shoulders and left for Europe in 1956 to make movies starring his girlfriends.

Television was the cause of movie studios changing their presentation. Those technologies that remain today include widescreen, which was pretty much a standard from the mid 1950s, as well as color, which TV could not yet do. Those that were a fad and went by the wayside include the 50's 3D craze.

TV also influenced who had star power. Ironically, Lucille Ball, who had never reached top tier stardom in film, was not only a star of early TV, but her business acumen led to her company eventually owning the RKO lot and controlling more sound stages than MGM. A play by Paddy Chayefsky, "Marty", was first televised and then made into a motion picture, ultimately winning the Best Picture Oscar.

There was the rise of a new type of movie mogul, one that did not belong to any studio, and Roger Corman is given as an example. There was also the rise of a new kind of star - stars that epitomized rebellion and the breaking of conventional norms such as Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, and James Dean. With the more youthful and energetically rebellious stars came the trend of the movie studios making films for more youthful audiences - the children of the people for whom they had been making films for decades, because they were more likely to want to go out to the movies.

Now all of this does not mean that the old movie moguls did not go down fighting. Look at any early TV schedule and you'll find large blocks of "off the air" time scheduled with generous helpings of films that were in the public domain. The moguls were not initially going to help television by allowing them to air films to which they still had distribution rights. Ultimately, though, companies like MCA broke through and bought the pre-1949 Paramount library and Universal Pictures, with one of the objectives being to sell these blocks of old films to television so that they could pad their off hour schedules.

Ironically, this episode of this series, as all of the others, ends with a panel discussion led by Robert Osborne, who was led to a career in journalism and championing old Hollywood by Lucille Ball, who would have never have met Mr. Osborne if not for the "Attack of the Small Screens".

This is a great episode of the series just chock full of ironies, but it does not have enough time to go too deep beneath the surface, just deep enough to give you a feel for the subject matter it is presenting.

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Release Date:

6 December 2010 (USA) See more »

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