This item over at TVShowsOnDVD.com about the upcoming release of 6-DVD box set of Studio One kinescopes almost slipped past me…but since it didn’t, I thought I’d pass it on to some of the more “highbrow” visitors to Thrilling Days of Yesteryear. (I am, of course, referring to the gentleman and gentlewoman eating the sandwiches over the sink.) Koch Vision will release this set on November 11th, and it will contain seventeen classic dramas like “Confessions of a Nervous Man,” “Dark Possession,” “The Arena” and “The Remarkable Incident at Carson Corners.” The Emmy Award-winning “Twelve Angry Men” is also included; this landmark 1954 production written by Reginald Rose garnered three statuettes for writing (Rose), direction (Franklin J. Schaffner) and performance by an actor in a drama (Bob Cummings…Bob Cummings?)
Studio One began life as a short-lived CBS radio series first broadcast on April 29, 1947…but its brief run had nothing to do with its quality (it was critically lauded as “the most ambitious new series in radio”) insomuch as it was scheduled opposite Fibber McGee & Molly and The Bob Hope Show. (Not a particularly good sign.) Also, Studio wasn’t heard on the West Coast for at least six months after its premiere—which also put a small crimp in whatever ratings aspirations the series had. The program was placed in the custody of a twenty-six-year-old wunderkind named Fletcher Markle, who had earned a reputation at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as another Orson Welles.
Markle’s plan for the show in the beginning was to shape the series into a sort of showcase for the top radio actors in New York—names like Everett Sloane, Robert Dryden, Paul McGrath, Mercedes McCambridge, etc. Fletch wasn’t enamored of the big “star system” in radio (“Americans have been educated to think that a program is not a major program without stars; in Canadian and British radio, there are no stars, yet every performer is a star”) and supported his “repertory company” policy with a novel system in which his actors and actresses would step up to the mike and announce the name of their characters at the conclusion of that evening’s production. (Markle would follow up by identifying each performer with his/her real name.) But by 1948, under pressure from the network to lift Studio’s ratings out of the cellar, Markle compromised by including high-wattage names like Charles Laughton, Robert Young and Marlene Dietrich, among many others.
Markle was also insistent that the productions on Studio One be culled from lesser-known works of prestigious authors, illustrated by the fact that the program’s debut show was an adaptation of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano. Fletch insisted that each work be presented as close to the author’s original intent as possible—taking liberties with books or short stories was verboten. In later years, Markle looked back and marveled at how cheaply material for the show could be obtained. “We even got Hemingway,” he recalled in an interview, “I believe, for a hundred dollars.”
Studio One left the radio airwaves on July 27, 1948—only to turn up on CBS’ fledgling television network months later (November 7, 1948) with an adaptation of the mystery play “The Storm,” starring stage and screen star Margaret Sullavan (quite a coup in those days, since movie stars who agreed to appear on television were often dismissed as “slumming”). Markle had departed the show by then (though he did return to the series briefly as a producer in 1953); expressing a desire to direct films (Night Into Morning, The Man With a Cloak) and the producer’s reins were turned over to Worthington Miner. Under Miner’s stewardship, Studio One became one of the longest-running—and critically acclaimed—anthology series of its era, finally closing its television doors on September 29, 1958.