The Philco Television Playhouse

The Philco Television Playhouse is an American television anthology series that was broadcast live on NBC from 1948 to 1955. (The reference book Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 lists the program as having been broadcast 1948-1956.)[1] Produced by Fred Coe, the series was sponsored by Philco. It was one of the most respected dramatic shows of the Golden Age of Television, winning a 1954 Peabody Award and receiving eight Emmy nominations between 1951 and 1956.

The Philco Television Playhouse
Fred Coe, producer of The Philco Television Playhouse
GenreAnthology drama
Directed byFred Coe
Vincent J. Donehue
Gordon Duff
Herbert Hirschman
Delbert Mann
Robert Mulligan
Arthur Penn
Ira Skutch
Composer(s)Morris Mamorsky
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes251
Producer(s)Fred Coe
Gordon Duff
Ira Skutch
Running time46–50 minutes
Original networkNBC
Picture formatBlack-and-white
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseOctober 3, 1948 – October 2, 1955
Related showsGoodyear Television Playhouse
The Alcoa Hour


The first season featured adaptations of popular Broadway plays and musicals. Ronald Wayne Rodman, in his book Tuning in: American Narrative Television Music, noted, "Despite ensuing complications over the legalities of broadcasting copyrighted plays on television and several legal battles that ensued, the show flourished."[2]

The first episode was Dinner at Eight by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. The second season consisted mostly of adaptations of popular novels from the Book of the Month Club. During later seasons, both original stories and adaptations were used. The title of the show was briefly changed to Repertory Theatre and Arena Theatre during part of the first season, but then reverted to The Philco Television Playhouse.

Bert Lytell was the program's host in 1948-1949.[1]

The series launched the television writing careers of Robert Alan Aurthur, Paddy Chayefsky, Sumner Locke Elliott, Horton Foote, Tad Mosel, William Templeton, Arnold Schulman, and Gore Vidal. Its most famous drama was Chayefsky's Marty (May 24, 1953), which starred Rod Steiger and was later made into a movie that won an Academy Award for Ernest Borgnine.

Among the many performers on the Philco Television Playhouse were Dennis Cross, Lillian Gish, Janet De Gore, Melvyn Douglas, Grace Kelly, Jack Klugman, Cloris Leachman, Walter Matthau, Steve McQueen, Paul Muni, ZaSu Pitts, Eva Marie Saint, Everett Sloane, Kim Stanley, Eli Wallach and Joanne Woodward. Many of these actors were making their first television appearance; one was Jose Ferrer, who recreated his stage performance in a one-hour television condensation of Cyrano de Bergerac a full year before the 1950 film version, for which Ferrer won an Oscar, was released. Another was Paul Muni, who starred in the 1948 presentation Counsellor-at Law.

Beginning in 1951, Philco shared sponsorship of the program with Goodyear, with the title alternating between Philco Television Playhouse and Goodyear Television Playhouse to reflect that week's sponsor.[3] In 1955, the show was retitled The Alcoa Hour. The three series were essentially the same, with the only real difference being the name of the sponsor.

When Peggy Mann's first novel, A Room in Paris, was published by Doubleday in 1955, it was immediately adapted for The Philco Television Playhouse. In the months after the August 7, 1955 live telecast with John Cassavetes, Popular Library released their paperback edition with cover illustration by Mitchell Hooks.

In the sixth season, Cathleen Nesbitt and Maureen Stapleton starred in Chayefsky's The Mother (April 4, 1954). This is one of the rare teleplays from television's Golden Age to be restaged on TV decades later, a Great Performances production on October 24, 1994, with Anne Bancroft and Joan Cusack.

The seventh season began September 19, 1954, with E. G. Marshall and Eva Marie Saint in Chayefsky's Middle of the Night, a play which moved to Broadway 15 months later and was filmed by Columbia Pictures in 1959.

On August 7, 1955, John Cassavetes played an American artist expatriate in A Room in Paris.[4] This adaptation of Peggy Mann's[5][6][7][8][9][10][11] novel (her first novel for adults) was published March 3, 1955, by Doubleday, followed by Popular Library's paperback edition.

The final Philco production, on October 2, 1955, was Robert Alan Aurthur's A Man Is Ten Feet Tall, co-starring Don Murray and Sidney Poitier, which was adapted and expanded into the 1957 MGM feature film, Edge of the City, with Poitier recreating his original role and John Cassavetes in Murray's part.

U.S. television ratings

Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of The Philco Television Playhouse on NBC.

Season TV season Ranking Viewers (in millions)
3rd 1950–1951 #3 4.620
4th 1951–1952 #12 6.181
5th 1952–1953 #17 7.609
6th 1953–1954 #19 8.450
7th 1954–1955 #

Awards and nominations

Year Result Award Category Recipient
1954 Winner Peabody Award
1951 Nominated Emmy Award Best Dramatic Show
1952 Nominated Emmy Award Best Dramatic Show
1953 Nominated Emmy Award Best Dramatic Show
1954 Nominated Emmy Award Best Dramatic Show
1955 Nominated Emmy Award Best Written Dramatic Material Paddy Chayefsky
Nominated Emmy Award Best Dramatic Show
Nominated Emmy Award Best Actress in a Single Performance Eva Marie Saint (For episode "Middle of the Night")
1956 Nominated Emmy Award Best Original Teleplay Writing Robert Alan Aurthur (For episode "A Man Is Ten Feet Tall")

In popular culture

In 2006, the NBC series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip referenced The Philco Television Playhouse as The Philco Comedy Hour, a comedy show that aired on the fictional NBS network. Eli Wallach made a guest appearance on Studio 60, playing a former show writer who was blacklisted in the 1950s.


Season 1 (1948-49)

No. in
No. in
Title Original air date
11"Dinner at Eight"October 3, 1948
22"Rebecca"October 10, 1948[12]
33"Counselor-at-Law"October 17, 1948[12]
44"Angel in the Wings"October 24, 1948[12]
55"Street Scene"October 31, 1948[12]
66"This Thing Called Love"November 7, 1948[12]
77"Camille"November 14, 1948[12]:245-246
88"An Inspector Calls"November 21, 1948[12]:246
99"I Like It Here"November 28, 1948[12]:246
1010"Suspect"December 5, 1948[12]:246
1111"Parlor Story"December 12, 1948[12]:246
1212"A Christmas Carol"December 19, 1948
1313"The Old Lady Shows Her Medals"December 26, 1948
1414"Ramshackle Inn"January 2, 1949
1515"Cyrano de Bergerac"January 9, 1949
1616"Papa Is All"January 16, 1949
1717"Pride and Prejudice"January 23, 1949
1818"Dark Hammock"January 30, 1949
1919"The Late Christopher Bean"February 6, 1949
2020"The Story of Mary Surratt"February 13, 1949[12]:249
2121"Twelfth Night"February 20, 1949[12]:249
2222"St. Helena"February 27, 1949[12]:249
2323"The Druid Circle"March 6, 1949
2424"Quality Street"March 13, 1949
2525"Dinner at Antoine's"March 20, 1949
2626"Becky Sharp"March 27, 1949
2727"And Never Been Kissed"April 3, 1949
2828"What Makes Sammy Run?"April 10, 1949
2929"Mr. Mergenthwirker's Lobblies"April 17, 1949
3030"Burlesque"April 24, 1949
3131"Macbeth"May 1, 1949
3232"Romeo and Juliet"May 15, 1949
3333"This Time, Next Year"June 5, 1949
3434"It Pays To Advertise"June 12, 1949
3535"Summer Formal"June 19, 1949
3636"Jenny Kissed Me"June 26, 1949
3737"Dark of the Moon"July 3, 1949
3838"For Love or Money"July 10, 1949
3939"The Five Lives of Richard Gordon"July 17, 1949
4040"You Touched Me!"July 24, 1949
4141"The Fourth Wall"July 31, 1949
4242"Enter Madame"August 7, 1949
4343"A Murder Has Been Arranged"August 14, 1949
4444"Pretty Little Parlor"August 21, 1949
4545"Three Concerned Moon"August 28, 1949

Season 2 (1949-50)

No. in
No. in
Title Original air date
461"What Every Woman Knows"September 4, 1949
472"Pride's Castle"September 11, 1949
483"The Little Sister"September 18, 1949
494"The Lonely"September 25, 1949
505"The Queen Bee"October 2, 1949
516"Something's Got To Give"October 9, 1949
527"The Last Tycoon"October 16, 1949[12]:262
538"Because of the Lockwoods"October 23, 1949[12]:262
549"Damion's Daughter"October 30, 1949[12]:263
5510"The House of the Seven Gables"November 6, 1949[12]:263
5611"The Promise"November 13, 1949[12]:264
5712"Medical Meeting"November 20, 1949[12]:264
5813"The Wonderful Mrs. Ingram"November 27, 1949[12]:265
5914"Mist on the Water's"December 4, 1949[12]:265
6015"The Beautiful Bequest"December 11, 1949[12]:266
6116"The Strange Christmas Dinner"December 18, 1949[12]:266
6217"In Beauty Like the Night"December 25, 1949[12]:267
6318"Little Boy Lost"January 1, 1950[12]:267
6419"Bethel Merriday"January 8, 1950[12]:268
6520"Murder at the Stork Club"January 15, 1950[12]:268
6621"The Marriages"January 22, 1950
6722"Uncle Dynamite"January 29, 1950
6823"The Sudden Guest"February 5, 1950
6924"Ann Rutledge"February 12, 1950
7025"Letter to Mr Priest"February 19, 1950
7126"Hometown"February 26, 1950
7227"The Life of Vincent Van Gogh"March 5, 1950
7328"The Uncertain Molly Collicutt"March 12, 1950
7429"The Trial of Steve Kent"March 19, 1950
7530"The Second Oldest Profession"March 26, 1950
7631"Nocturne"April 2, 1950
7732"Dirty Eddie"April 9, 1950
7833"The End Is Known"April 16, 1950
7934"The Man in the Black Hat"April 23, 1950
8035"The American"April 30, 1950
8136"The Feast"May 7, 1950
8237"Brat Farrar"May 14, 1950
8338"The Charmed Circle"May 21, 1950
8439"Semmelweis"May 28, 1950
8540"Sense and Sensibility"June 4, 1950
8641"The Bump on Brannigan's Head"June 11, 1950
8742"Anything Can Happen"June 18, 1950
8843"Hear My Heart Speak"June 25, 1950
8944"The Reluctant Landlord"July 2, 1950
9045"The Tentacles"July 9, 1950

Season 3 (1950-51)

No. in
No. in
Title Original air date
911"High Tor"September 10, 1950


  1. ^ a b Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7. P. 831.
  2. ^ Rodman, Ronald Wayne (2010). Tuning in: American Narrative Television Music. Oxford University Press. p. 60. ISBN 9780195340242. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  3. ^ Kraszewski, Jon (2011). The New Entrepreneurs: An Institutional History of Television Anthology Writers. Wesleyan University Press. p. 181. ISBN 9780819571038. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  4. ^ "The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa · Page 51". Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  5. ^ "Peggy Mann Houlton, 65, Author Of Books About Drug Abuse, Dies". The New York Times. 19 July 1990. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  6. ^ "Finding Aid for the Sidney Carroll papers, 1957-1981". Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  7. ^ "Peggy Mann". Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Author Peggy Mann Houlton, 65". Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Peggy Mann Biography". Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  11. ^ "The Santa Fe New Mexican from Santa Fe, New Mexico · Page 66". Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Hawes, William (2001). Live Television Drama, 1946-1951. McFarland. p. 245. ISBN 9781476608495. Retrieved 8 October 2016.

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