One was one of the most significant U.S. anthology drama series
during the 1950s. Like other anthology series of the time--Robert
Montgomery Presents, Goodyear Television Playhouse, Philco Theatre,
Kraft Television Theatre--the format was organised around the
weekly presentation of a one hour, live, television play. Several
hours of live drama were provided by the networks per week, each
play different: such risk and diversity is hard to come by today.
about television, Stanley Cavell has argued, "What is memorable,
treasurable, criticiseable, is not primarily the individual work,
but the program, the format, not this or that day of I Love Lucy,
but the program as such." While this admonition might admirably
apply to the telefilm series that came later, the 1950s drama anthologies
were premised on the fact that they were different every week. Yet
the one hour live format was one they had in common with each other,
and because of that very fact they had to distinguish themselves
from each other. They worked to develop a "house style," a distinctive
reputation for a certain kind of difference and diversity, whether
based on quality writing, attention to character over theme or,
more typically, technical and artistic innovation which developed
the form. A full assessment would necessarily consider each distinctive
anthology series (and assess its "distinctiveness" from others)
as a whole, and the failures and achievements of individual productions.
One provides an emblematic continuity for the 1950s drama: it
was the longest running drama anthology series, lasting ten years
from 1948-58, from the "big freeze" through the "golden age" to
the made-in-Hollywood 90-minute film format: in all over 500 plays
were produced. From the beginning Studio One's "house style"
was foregrounded not only by the quality of its writers, but primarily
by its production innovations, professionalism and experimentation
within the limits of live production.
One began as a CBS radio drama anthology show in the mid-1940s
until CBS drama supervisor, Worthington Miner translated it to television.
Its first production was an adaptation by Miner of "The Storm" (7
November 1948). Miner's control emphasised certain "quality" characteristics:
adaptation (usually of classical works, e.g. Julius Caesar,
1948) and innovation ("Battleship Bismarck," 1949). Studio One
adopted a serious tone under Miner, but also a pioneering spirit.
For example, "Battleship Bismarck" made advanced use of telecine
inserts, three-camera live editing within a confined and waterlogged
set. Miner left to join NBC in 1952, but the show regained an even
clearer sense of identity and purpose when Felix Jackson became
the producer in 1953. Jackson used two directors, Paul Nickell and
Franklin Schaffner, each with his own technical staff, who would
alternate according to the material. Nickell would be given the
more "sensitive" scripts, Schaffner the epics, the action. Both
directors were committed to pushing the live studio drama to the
limits. Nickell in particular has to stand as one of the greatest--and
unsung--television directors: he never made the mistake of thinking
a good TV drama has to look like a film.
the mid-1950s the emphasis of production material had turned from
adaptation to new works written for television, often giving attention
to contemporary issues. Studio One followed this trend. Often
the same writers, such as Reginald Rose, who had adapted for Studio
One now wrote originals. Rose, who worked as an adapter until
1954 when he wrote "12 Angry Men" (1954) and the controversial "Thunder
on Sycamore Street"(1954). This story, about racial hatred, was
modified to satisfy southern television station owners, replacing
a black protagonist with a convict. By 1955 Studio One was
receiving over 500 unsolicited manuscripts per week.
it was Studio One's technical innovation, rather than its
coterie of writers, which made the series distinctive. Its chief
rival in the ratings, Fred Coe's Philco-Goodyear Theatre,
although it had a superior stable of writers, (Paddy Chayefsky,
Rod Serling, Horton Foote, Robert Alan Aurthur, Tad Mosel--most
of who later worked for Studio One), could not match Studio
One's technical daring. Philco-Goodyear Theatre developed
a reputation for plays which explored the psychological realism
of character, using many close-ups, but this was influenced by other
factors. As Tad Mosel has said: "I think that began because the
sets were so cheap, if you pulled back you'd photograph those awful
sets. Directors began moving in to faces so you wouldn't see the
sets. Studio One had much more lavish productions, they had
1955 Studio One joined the general decline of the other New
York based dramas. The formats began to favour 90- minute slots
(such as CBS Playhouse 90), and drama shot on film, often
in Hollywood. Eventually Studio One joined the drift to Hollywood
and film. By 1957 the anthology was renamed Studio One in Hollywood--and
the sponsors, Westinghouse, withdrew from the series.
One's achievements have to be measured in terms of technical
and stylistic superiority over their rival anthologies. With plays
such as "Dry Run" and "Shakedown Cruise" (1955) (both set on a flooded
submarine, built in the studio) and "Twelve Angry Men", they were
the first to use four-walled sets, hiding the cameras behind flying
walls, or using portholes to conceal cameras between shots. The
freedom to innovate was in part due to CBS' policy of giving directors
relative autonomy from network interference and the stability of
the Schaffner-Nickell partnership, but it is also a pioneering quality
which can be traced back to Worthington Miner and the late 1940s.
Miner was quite clear that he wanted Studio One to advance
the medium via its experimental storytelling techniques: "I was
fascinated by the new medium and convinced that television was somewhere
between drama and film ... a live performance staged for multiple
with the mature Studio One productions of the early and mid-1950s,
one has the sense that the movements of the cameras were not subordinate
to the requirements of the performance: quite the opposite. For
example, "The Hospital" was an adaptation produced during the 1952
season, and directed by Schaffner. This play seems to achieve the
impossible: it literally denies the existence of live studio time.
Flashbacks and other interruptions could be achieved with some narrative
jigging to allow for costume and scene changes. Still, unlike film,
live studio time was real time, and the ineluctable rule of live
drama was that the length of a performance was as long as it took
to see it. But Schaffner had a reputation for thinking that nothing
was impossible for live television. Most other anthologies of the
period used a static three camera live studio set up, where two
cameras were used for close-ups and the other for the two-shots.
In such an arrangement the television camera acted as a simple,
efficient, relay. Schaffner favoured instead a mobile mise-en-scene;
his cameras were constantly on the move, with actors and props positioned
and choreographed for the cameras.
play concerns the drama of a local hospital, following the various
staff and patients through typical medical crises. Although the
transmitted play lasts 50 minutes, the story-time takes up only
18 minutes. Some scenes are therefore repeated during the three
acts, using a different viewpoint, and requiring the actors to re-stage
precisely their initial scenes. As some scenes are lengthened, or
modified in the light of what we have seen before we gain a greater
understanding of the events from each character's viewpoint. Whilst
this would be relatively simple to achieve on film, for live drama
it involved complex methods of panning and camera movement to capture
and expand the chronicity of events and repeat them exactly as it
had gone before. Schaffner achieves this by using several cranes
to snake through the various sets as the scenes are played and repeated,
often in a different order. Doing what seems technically impossible
is therefore foregrounded in this drama, and the complexity of this
achievement is emphasised by the ironic commentary of one of the
hospital patients who, with head bandaged, is able to explain at
the end, as the sponsors shout for their adverts, "Time? There is
no time. Time is only an illusion." And Studio One could
Herbert Brodkin, Worthington Miner, Fletcher Markle, Felix Jackson,
Norman Felton, Gordon Duff, William Brown, Paul Nickell, Franklin
Shaffner, Charles H. Schultz
HISTORY 466 Episodes
November 1948-March 1949
March 1949-May 1949 Sunday
May 1949-September 1949 Wednesday
September 1949-September 1958 Monday 10:00-11:00
Richard, and David Manning White, editors. Electronic Drama:
Television Plays of the Sixties. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon,
Tim, and Earle Marsh, editors. The Complete Directory to Prime
Time Network TV Shows: 1946-Present. New York: Ballentine, 1992.
Gianakos, Larry James. Television Drama Series Programming: A
Comprehensive Chronicle, 1947-1959. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow,
William. The American Television Drama: The Experimental Years.
University, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1986.
Gorham, editor. The Live Television Generation of Hollywood Film
Directors: Interviews with Seven Directors. Jefferson, North
Carolina: McFarland, 1994.
J. Fred. One Nation Under Television: The Rise and Decline of
Network TV. New York: Pantheon, 1990.
Worthington. Worthington Miner, Interviewed by Franklin Schaffner.
Hollywood, California: Directors Guild of America; Metuchen, New
Jersey: Scarecrow, 1985.
Ira. Ira Skutch: I Remember Television: A Memoir. Metuchen,
New Jersey: Scarecrow, 1989.
Tom. Storytellers to the Nation: A History of American Television
Writing. New York: Continuum, 1992.
Frank. Live Television: The Golden Age of 1946-1958 in New York.
Jefferson, North Carolina : McFarland, 1990.
Christopher, and Tise Vahimagi. The American Vein: Directors
and Directions in Television. New York: Dutton, 1979.
Max. The Golden Age of Television: Notes From the Survivors.
New York: Dell, 1977.
Drama; "Golden Age"
of Television; Miner,