Four Star Playhouse

Four Star Playhouse is an American television anthology series that ran from 1952 to 1956. Four Star Playhouse was owned by Four Star International. Its episodes ranged anywhere from surreal mysteries, such as "The Man on the Train", to light comedies, such as "The Lost Silk Hat". The original premise was that Charles Boyer, Ida Lupino, David Niven, and Dick Powell would take turns starring in episodes. However, several other performers took the lead from time to time, including Ronald Colman and Joan Fontaine.

The show was sponsored in its first bi-weekly season by The Singer Company. Bristol-Myers became an alternate sponsor when it became a weekly series in the fall of 1953 (both sponsors' names alternated as part of the show's title in its initial broadcasts).

While it never made the Nielsen Top 30, the ratings were sufficient to keep it on the air for four seasons. In 1954, Billboard voted it the second best filmed network television drama series.[1]

Four Star Playhouse
Title card
Created byFour Star International
Country of originUSA
No. of episodes129
Running time25 minutes
Production company(s)Four Star International
Original networkCBS
Original releaseSeptember 25, 1952 –
July 26, 1956
Four Star Playhouse (Night Ride) 1
L-R: Adam Williams & David Niven in episode Night Ride (1953)
Charles Boyer-Dorothy Hart in Four Star Playhouse (Second Dawn)
L-R: Charles Boyer and Dorothy Hart in episode "Second Dawn" (1954)


While Charles Boyer, Ida Lupino, David Niven, and Dick Powell are the four main stars of the series, many other actors have appeared in different roles in more than one episode, including:[2]


Blake Edwards was among the writers and directors who contributed to the series, making his debut as a director on the program in 1952.[3] Edwards created the recurring character (eight episodes) of illegal gambling house operator Willie Dante for Dick Powell to play on this series. The character was later revamped and spun off in his own series starring Howard Duff, then-husband of Lupino.

The pilot for Meet McGraw, starring Frank Lovejoy, aired here (under that title, February 25, 1954), as did another episode in which Lovejoy recreated his role of Chicago newspaper reporter Randy Stone, from the radio drama Nightbeat (titled "Search in the Night", November 5, 1953).


Directors who worked on the show include:[2]


Writers who worked on the show include:[2]

  • Gwen Bagni in 15 episodes (1952–1954)
  • John Bagni in 13 episodes (1952–1954)
  • Richard Carr in 13 episodes (1954–1956)
  • Frederick Brady in 9 episodes (1954–1956)
  • Blake Edwards in 7 episodes (1952–1954)
  • Seeleg Lester in 5 episodes (1953–1954)
  • Merwin Gerard in 4 episodes (1953)
  • Frederick J. Lipp in 4 episodes (1954–1955)
  • Larry Marcus in 3 episodes (1952–1954)
  • Milton Merlin in 3 episodes (1952–1953)
  • Marc Brandell in 3 episodes (1954–1956)
  • László Görög in 3 episodes (1955–1956)
  • James Bloodworth in 3 episodes (1956)
  • Amory Hare in 2 episodes (1953)
  • Octavus Roy Cohen in 2 episodes (1954–1955)
  • Milton Geiger in 2 episodes (1954–1955)
  • Thelma Robinson in 2 episodes (1954)
  • Oscar Millard in 2 episodes (1955–1956)
  • Willard Wiener in 2 episodes (1955)
  • Robert Eggenweiler in 2 episodes (1956)
  • Ida Lupino in 2 episodes (1956)
  • Roland Winters in 2 episodes (1956)


  1. ^ The Billboard: Four Star Playhouse. Posted on 31 Jul 1954.
  2. ^ a b c "Four Star Playhouse - Full Cast & Crew". Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  3. ^ Feiwell, Jill (December 12, 2003). "Life Oscar to Edwards". Daily Variety. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved 21 January 2015 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (help)).

External links

7th Primetime Emmy Awards

The 7th Emmy Awards, later referred to as the 7th Primetime Emmy Awards, were held on March 7, 1955, to honor the best in television of the year. The ceremony was held at the "Moulin Rouge Nightclub" in Hollywood, California. The ceremony, hosted by Steve Allen and broadcast on NBC, was the first Emmy Awards ceremony to be televised nationally. All nominations are listed, with winners in bold and series' networks are in parentheses.

New categories for this ceremony included awards for writing and directing, as well as one-time performances in anthology series, (this category would eventually morph into the current guest-acting category). Studio One was the most successful show of the night, winning three awards.

Fredric March made Emmy history when he became the first actor to be nominated for two different works in the same category. However, he lost for both of his performances in the category of Best Actor in a Single Performance.

8th Directors Guild of America Awards

The 8th Directors Guild of America Awards, honoring the outstanding directorial achievements in film and television in 1955, were presented in 1956.

9th Primetime Emmy Awards

The 9th Emmy Awards, later referred to as the 9th Primetime Emmy Awards, were held on March 16, 1957, to honor the best in television of the year. The ceremony was held at the NBC Studios in Burbank, California. Desi Arnaz hosted the event. All nominations are listed, with winners in bold and series' networks are in parentheses. Categories were sorted based on running time, instead of by genre.

The top shows of the night were Caesar's Hour and Playhouse 90. Each show won a then-record five major awards, (however, two of Playhouse 90's wins came in now defunct categories).

Caesar's Hour became the first show to be nominated in all four major acting categories. Caesar's Hour also made history when it swept the four acting categories. After over fifty years, it remains the only comedy or drama series to win every major acting award. In 2004, the miniseries Angels in America became the second show, and first miniseries/television movie, to sweep the acting field.

Allene Roberts

Allene Roberts is a retired American actress.

Born in Fairfield, Alabama, she appeared in twelve movies between 1947 and 1954 and on TV in Four Star Playhouse, The Adventures of Superman and Dragnet. Her first big picture was The Red House (1947) starring Rory Calhoun, Julie London and Edward G. Robinson. That movie was considered by the critics to be the "sleeper hit" of the year.

Roberts' other films included Knock on Any Door and Union Station. She also appeared in the serial Bomba on Panther Island.

Anthology series

An anthology series is a radio, television or book series that presents a different story and a different set of characters in each episode or season. These usually have a different cast each week, but several series in the past, such as Four Star Playhouse, employed a permanent troupe of character actors who would appear in a different drama each week. Some anthology series, such as Studio One, began on radio and then expanded to television.

Charles Boyer

Charles Boyer (French: [bwaje]; 28 August 1899 – 26 August 1978) was a French actor who appeared in more than 80 films between 1920 and 1976. After receiving an education in drama, Boyer started on the stage, but he found his success in American films during the 1930s. His memorable performances were among the era's most highly praised, in romantic dramas such as The Garden of Allah (1936), Algiers (1938), and Love Affair (1939), as well as the mystery-thriller Gaslight (1944). He received four Academy Award nominations for Best Actor.

Chevron Hall of Stars

Chevron Hall of Stars is an American television anthology series which aired in 1956 in first-run syndication. Information is somewhat scarce on the series. It was produced by Four Star Productions, and was a half-hour series. Four Star's other mid-1950s anthology series ran about 25 minutes excluding commercials (as can be seen of episodes of Four Star Playhouse and The Star and the Story on the Internet Archive), which was likely also the case with Chevron Hall of Stars. Confusingly, in some areas the episodes aired under the title Stage 7, which had also been a series in 1955. Gene Roddenberry’s script The Secret Weapon of 117 aired as part of the series.

Dante (TV series)

Dante is an NBC adventure/drama television series starring Howard Duff as Willie Dante, a former gambler who operates Dante's Inferno, a San Francisco, California, nightclub. Alan Mowbray co-starred as Stewart Styles, the Maitre d'; Tom D'Andrea as Biff, the bartender and Dante's "man Friday", and Mort Mills as police Lieutenant Bob Malone.Dante claims to have put his past behind him but has retained old associates Stewart and Biff. While his club is legitimate, neither the police nor the mob believe that he is truly finished with the criminal underworld. Dante's old associates in crime keep appearing at the club in efforts to lure him back to the underworld.Dick Powell had previously played Dante in eight episodes of his Four Star Playhouse, initially written by Blake Edwards, who had previously created the radio drama Richard Diamond, Private Detective for Powell. There, Willie operates an illegal gambling operation in the back room of the "Inferno", which police soon shut down. The only regular from the Four Star Playhouse version to be cast in the series as well was Mowbray, who had first played a millionaire named Jackson who had gambled away his fortune and then worked as one of Dante's waiters. These episodes were subsequently rebroadcast under the collective title The Best in Mystery.The inspiration for the Dante character may have come from the 1942 film Casablanca and Humphrey Bogart's character of Rick Blaine. Dante has been compared to the 1959-1960 CBS adventure/drama series Mr. Lucky, starring John Vivyan, as the operator of a legitimate gambling ship, with Ross Martin as his screen associate, Andamo. Pippa Scott portrayed Lucky's girlfriend, Maggie Shank-Rutherford. Mr. Lucky, because of its Henry Mancini theme music, has been more remembered over the years than Dante.Duff's wife, Ida Lupino, one of Powell's partners in Four Star Television, along with David Niven and Charles Boyer, directed some of the episodes. Duff and Lupino had co-starred in the 1957-1958 CBS sitcom, Mr. Adams and Eve. Dante ran at 9:30 p.m. Eastern on Monday nights from October 3, 1960, to April 10, 1961. The series proved unable to compete against CBS's The Andy Griffith Show and ABC's Adventures in Paradise, starring Gardner McKay.

David Niven on screen, stage, radio, record and in print

The British actor David Niven (1910–1983) performed in many genres of light entertainment, including film, radio and theatre. He was also the author of four books: two works of fiction and two autobiographies. Described by Brian McFarlane, writing for the British Film Institute (BFI), as being "of famously debonair manner", Niven's career spanned from 1932 until 1983.

After brief spells as an army officer, whisky salesman and with a horse racing syndicate, he was an uncredited extra in his screen debut in There Goes the Bride; he went on to appear in nearly a hundred films, the last of which was in 1983: Curse of the Pink Panther. During his long film career, he was presented with a Golden Globe Award for his part in The Moon Is Blue (1953) and was nominated for a BAFTA for the titular lead in Carrington V.C. (1955). For his role as Major Pollock in the 1958 film Separate Tables, Niven was awarded the Academy and Golden Globe awards for a performance where "the pain behind the fake polish was moving to observe". According to Sheridan Morley, Niven's other notable works include The Charge of the Light Brigade (1938), The Way Ahead (1944), A Matter of Life and Death (1946)—judged by the BFI to be one of the top twenty British films of all time—The Guns of Navarone (1961) and the role of Sir Charles Litton in three Pink Panther films.Niven lived much of his life in the United States, although upon the outbreak of the Second World War, he returned to Britain to fight, and was re-commissioned as a lieutenant in the Highland Light Infantry. At the end of the war he returned to the US and continued his film work, but increasingly appeared on American radio and television channels, and later on their British counterparts. In the latter medium he appeared frequently in the Four Star Playhouse series, as well as producing some editions. For his roles in both television and on film, Niven was honoured with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He died in 1983 from a virulent form of motor neurone disease at the age of 73.

Execution (novel)

Execution is a 1958 war novel by Canadian novelist and Second World War veteran Colin McDougall (1917–1984). Although it won McDougall the 1958 Governor General's Award for English language fiction, it was his only novel, and after publishing it to wide acclaim he retreated into a quiet life as Registrar of McGill University in Montreal. Nevertheless, Execution stands with Timothy Findley's The Wars and Hugh MacLennan's Barometer Rising as one of the most widely read and studied Canadian war novels of the twentieth century.

Four Star Playhouse (radio program)

Four Star Playhouse was a radio dramatic anthology series in the United States. The 30-minute program was broadcast on NBC beginning in July 1949 and was sustaining. It lasted only three months.Four Star Playhouse was one of "at least 10" new programs developed for that summer by NBC's [West] Coast programming department. A story in the July 2, 1949, issue of The Billboard reported that NBC "is now keyed to the recent programming drive, launched to offset Columbia Broadcasting System's (CBS) talent raids, and is anxious to use summer hiatus periods to develop shows worthy of fall bankrolling. Hence, the new raft of airers will not be treated as fill-in shows, but produced with an eye to long-term web tenancy."

Radio historian John Dunning put the production surge in context:The Four Star Playhouse was a 1949 NBC effort ... quickly put together as part of the network's barrage against CBS. During the previous summer, CBS had raided the top of NBC's comedy line, luring Jack Benny, "Amos and Andy," and others into a network jump. NBC's reaction was almost frantic: a battery of new shows like this one, featuring glamor and lots of big names.

Other NBC shows developed as a part of that effort included Hollywood Calling, Screen Directors Playhouse, Dragnet, Richard Diamond and Trouble with the Truitts.Despite the star power of the show's four featured artists, Dunning noted, "the new NBC lineup just couldn't compete against the old, which CBS stacked into the same time slots on Sunday. Most of the new shows vanished from the air within months, and The Four Star Playhouse was one of them."

Three years after Four Star Playhouse's demise on radio, the same format was used -- with different stars -- for a TV version that ran for four years. See Four Star Playhouse.

Four Star Television

Four Star Television, also called Four Star International, was an American television production company. The company was founded in 1952 as Four Star Productions, by prominent Hollywood actors Dick Powell, David Niven, Charles Boyer, and Joel McCrea. McCrea left Four Star soon after its founding to continue acting in film, television and radio, before being replaced with Ida Lupino as the fourth star, even though Lupino did not own any stock in the company.Four Star produced several popular programs from the early days of television, including Four Star Playhouse (their first series), Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre, Stagecoach West, The June Allyson Show (aka The DuPont Show Starring June Allyson), The Dick Powell Show, Burke's Law, The Rogues and The Big Valley. Despite each of its four stars sharing equal billing, it was Powell who played the biggest role in the success of the company's early growth.

Within a few years of Four Star's formation, Powell became President of the company. In 1955, a second company, Four Star Films, Inc., was formed as an affiliate organization to produce shows as The Rifleman, Trackdown, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Richard Diamond, Private Detective and The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor. There were also failed series, like Jeannie Carson's Hey, Jeannie!

In the late winter of 1958, both Four Star Productions and Four Star Films were merged into the new holding company Four Star Television, and began publicly trading on the American Stock Exchange on January 12, 1959. After Dick Powell died, Four Star was led by Thomas McDermott, followed by Aaron Spelling, was then purchased and developed for the global film and television market by David Charnay and later sold to Ron Perelman before Perelman sold Four Star to Rupert Murdoch's 20th Century Fox Television in 1996.

Gwen Bagni

Gwen Bagni (January 24, 1913 – May 13, 2001) was an American screenwriter. She worked on Backstairs at the White House and Four Star Playhouse.

She worked with her first husband actor/writer John Bagni, who died in 1954.She also wrote screenplays with her second husband, the actor Paul Dubov (1918-1979), whom she married in 1963.

Herb Vigran

Herbert "Herb" Vigran (June 5, 1910 – November 29, 1986) was an American character actor in Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1980s. Over his 50-year career, he made over 350 television and film appearances.

Hugh Beaumont

Eugene Hugh Beaumont (February 16, 1909 – May 14, 1982) was an American actor, television director, and writer. He was also licensed to preach by the Methodist church. Beaumont is best known for his portrayal of Ward Cleaver on the television series Leave It to Beaver, originally broadcast from 1957 to 1963. Earlier, in 1946, he had starred in a series of low-budget crime films distributed by the Producers Releasing Corporation, performing in the role of private detective Michael Shayne.

Hugh Sanders

Hugh Sanders (March 13, 1911 - January 9, 1966) was an American actor, probably best known as Dr. Reynolds in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird.

Born in Illinois, Sanders graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.He worked in radio until 1949 and then made the transition to Hollywood. He was a guest star in several series, including The Lone Ranger, Highway Patrol, Four Star Playhouse, Playhouse 90, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Maverick, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Zane Grey Theater, Bat Masterson, and The Asphalt Jungle. He also made five guest appearances on Perry Mason, including two roles as murder victims: John Callender in "The Case of the Fan Dancer's Horse" (1957), and Ken Bascombe in "The Case of the Bashful Burro" (1960). He also had eight appearances on Rawhide, four on Bonanza, and four on The Fugitive.

Sanders was married to Dorothy Allsup of Dayton, Ohio.Sanders is interred at Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum in Altadena, California.

Official Films

Official Films, Incorporated (Inc.) was a home movie distributor founded by Leslie Winik in 1939 to produce educational shorts. Soon, after buying the Keystone Chaplin library, the company found itself in the home movie business. It obtained several dozen Van Beuren cartoons.

Official retitled the Van Beuren cartoons and changed the name of Cubby Bear to "Brownie Bear". The human Tom and Jerry characters were renamed "Dick and Larry" to avoid confusion with MGM's cat and mouse characters Tom and Jerry.

In addition to cartoons, Official also offered a number of sports films, newsreels, and specialities including a souvenir film of the 1939 New York World's Fair (which remained available until around 1980) and "The Broadway Handicap," a home-movie-board-game combination with a horse-racing theme.

Official Films was primarily a theatrical producer and distributor of several pictures in the 1930s and 1940s, including Monsieur Vincent, Free Wheeling, She's Oil Mine, Shep Fields and His New Music (with Ken Curtis), Dance of Shame, Groom and Bored, Phoney Cronies, Chiquita Banana, A Bundle of Bliss, Fats Waller, Boogie Woogie Dream, Paderewski Concert, Harlem Jump and Glove Slingers; with later titles including Fall of Poland, La Guardia, Stacked Deck, The Magnificent Bride, and The Show Place.During the 1940s, Robert R. Young's Pathe Industries acquired Official; through which it obtained home movie rights to the Young-owned Producers Releasing Corporation's westerns and B-pictures. Official also purchased the backlog of the Soundies Distributing Corporation of America, releasing numerous short musicals; both singly and in compilation reels.

In the late 1940s, the company licensed a number of short subjects from Columbia Pictures; including Krazy Kat and Scrappy cartoons, Community Sing musicals, and comedy shorts starring Buster Keaton, Charley Chase, and others. The Columbia shorts were available through the 1950s, along with some comedy shorts originally released by E. W. Hammons' Educational Pictures.

Official became an early syndicator of theatrical cartoons for television, during the late 1950s and early 1960s. It also syndicated live action television series such as Peter Gunn, Yancy Derringer, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Decoy, H.G. Wells: The Invisible Man, Mr. Lucky, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, Four Star Playhouse, The Buccaneers, Colonel March of Scotland Yard, The Stu Erwin Show, My Little Margie and the original Biography during this period.In the 1950s, Official licensed Hal Roach's Our Gang comedies for home movie release; due to trademark conflicts involving the names "Our Gang" and "The Little Rascals", Official renamed the series "Hal Roach's Famous Kid Comedies". Concentrating on TV syndication, Official's home movie operations diminished in the 1950s and 1960s; many older items were discontinued and few if any new titles were added, except for a Super 8mm documentary on Marilyn Monroe edited from "Biography." By the late 1960s, Official's TV syndication business had also dwindled, with an aging backlog of black-and-white shows and almost no new series to offer; and the company became increasingly inactive.

From 1969 to 1971, the company was known as Official Industries. In the 1980s, Official Films was acquired by International Creative Exchange. In 1994, A&E acquired the original Biography series from ICE; A&E Networks also acquired Battle Line from ICE in 1999. The Official Films library is currently controlled by Multicom Entertainment Group and the Peter Rodgers Organization.

Thank You, Jeeves!

Thank You, Jeeves! is a 1936 comedy film directed by Arthur Greville Collins, written by Stephen Gross and Joseph Hoffman, and starring Arthur Treacher, Virginia Field, David Niven, Lester Matthews, Colin Tapley and John Graham Spacey. It was released on October 4, 1936, by 20th Century Fox.

The Star and the Story

The Star and the Story is a United States television anthology series which aired 1955–1956 in first-run syndication. A filmed half-hour series, episodes were approx. 25 minutes excluding commercials.

Produced by Four Star Productions, it was similar in some respects to Four Star Playhouse and Stage 7.

Henry Fonda was the host. With a new cast each week, the series featured a wide range of actors, often well-known character actors such as Edmond O'Brien and occasionally emerging stars such as Joanne Woodward (who appear in the episode Dark Stranger together). Notable directors included Blake Edwards and Robert Stevenson (director).

It appears the series has entered the public domain; a number of episodes appear on budget public domain DVD releases.

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