7/101 Votes Alchetron
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 3
Original language(s) English
Final episode date 27 May 1957
Writers David Shaw
|Directed by Kirk Browning
Vincent J. Donehue
Composer(s) Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen Moose Charlap Harry Sosnik
Cast Mary Martin, Paul Newman, Cyril Ritchard, Lauren Bacall, John Wayne
Producers' Showcase is an American anthology television series that was telecast live during the 1950s in compatible color by NBC. With top talent, the 90-minute episodes, covering a wide variety of genres, aired under the title every fourth Monday at 8 pm ET for three seasons, beginning October 18, 1954. The final episode, the last of 37, was broadcast May 27, 1957.
- Premiere episode
- Peter Pan
- Additional productions
- Wide Wide World
- DVD releases
Showcase Productions, Inc., packaged and produced the series, which received seven Emmy Awards, including the 1956 award for Best Dramatic Series.
In 1953, stage producer Leland Hayward had the idea to create a 90-minute TV series, a series of color spectaculars to be broadcast monthly on NBC. Hayward was represented by Saul Jaffe of the Madison Avenue law firm Jaffe & Jaffe; Henry Jaffe, the firm's senior partner, was national counsel for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, an organization he helped found. When illness forced Hayward to withdraw from the project, NBC partnered with Showcase Productions, an independent production company created by Henry and Saul Jaffe to produce the series. Producers' Showcase went on the air October 18, 1954.
The ambitious series presented a total of 37 live color programs, which included original musicals or plays, restaging of Broadway productions, great concert artists, and tribute programs. Producers' Showcase presented the first international show with live remote locations (Wide Wide World), and the first full-length Broadway production on color television (Peter Pan).
"Producers' Showcase has undoubtedly been a tremendous prestige presentation by the network with elaborate and worthy cultural productions," The New York Times published in 1957, the series' final year.
Producers' Showcase received seven Emmy Awards, including the 1956 award for Best Dramatic Series.
Director Otto Preminger was invited to produce and direct Tonight at 8:30, a trio of one-act plays by Noël Coward, for the series premiere. Red Peppers, Still Life, and Shadow Play were three of 10 plays comprising a cycle the playwright had written to be performed on stage over the course of three evenings, and under this umbrella title they were presented on Producers' Showcase. The cast included Ginger Rogers, Trevor Howard, Gig Young, Ilka Chase, and Gloria Vanderbilt. Preminger had no experience in television, but he welcomed the opportunity to work in the medium.
From the beginning, the director obviously was in trouble. He believed a television production was no different from a film and lit the sets and placed the cameras accordingly. He failed to understand that during the actual live broadcast, he would be working with a monitor, pushing buttons to signal which camera should be operating. Rogers in particular was nervous about her performance, and Preminger spent a considerable amount of time with her, but basically ignored the rest of the cast. Supporting player Larkin Ford later recalled he felt Preminger had no sense of Coward's work or how it should be played.
As the production entered its third week of rehearsals, a complete run-through still had not been accomplished. Three days prior to the broadcast, executive producer Fred Coe decided to take action. He privately fired Preminger and then simply told the cast and crew, "Mr. Preminger will not be with us. I will be with you through the presentation." Although they felt sorry a man of Preminger's stature had been dismissed for incompetence, they were relieved he was gone. When the show aired, Preminger introduced each act in a filmed segment, and he received sole credit as producer and director. It proved to be his first and last television venture.
One of the most memorable productions of the first season was telecast on March 7, 1955. Peter Pan, a recreation of the 1954 Broadway musical with all its original cast members, including Mary Martin as Peter Pan and Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook, was so highly acclaimed by critics and well received by viewers, drawing the largest ratings for a single television program up to that time, that the program was restaged live with nearly the same cast in January 1956. A 1960 NBC revival of the production, first broadcast as a Christmas season special, was videotaped and later released on home video. By the time the 1960 version was made, the children had outgrown their roles and had to be replaced, but nearly all of the adult cast remained the same as those of the two earlier productions.
This production also marked the first time that any version of Peter Pan had been performed on television.
Wide Wide World
Producers' Showcase served as the springboard for the live documentary series Wide Wide World. Conceived by network head Pat Weaver and hosted by Dave Garroway, the show was introduced on Showcase on June 27, 1955. The premiere episode, featuring entertainment from the United States, Canada, and Mexico, was the first international North American telecast in the history of the medium. It received a regular Sunday afternoon time slot the following October.
These 37 episodes comprise the Producers' Showcase library:
Producers' Showcase averaged a 36.5 percent audience share. Sixty-five million viewers watched the first presentation of Peter Pan, garnering a 68.3 audience share that made it the highest-rated episode in the series. The restaged Peter Pan earned a 54.9 share; and The Petrified Forest earned a 50.6 share. The series had this level of success even though its last third aired opposite I Love Lucy, the highest or second-highest rated series on television during the three seasons Producers' Showcase was broadcast.
Presenters' Showcase received the following awards and nominations from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Video Artists International  has formed joint ventures with Showcase Productions, Inc. for the release of a number of Producers' Showcase programs, as well as Showcase programs from other "Golden Age of Television" series, complete with their commercial announcements, on DVD: Festival of Music (#4244), Festival of Music II (#4245), The Sleeping Beauty (#4295) and Cinderella (#4296). Although these episodes were broadcast live and in color, the kinescope process by which they were preserved is black-and-white.