Albert McCleery

Albert McCleery (30 December 1911 – 13 May 1972) was an American pioneering television producer during the 1950s.

He created his innovative Cameo Theatre for television in 1950. A weekly live production, it continued until 1955. On this half-hour series, McCleery offered dramas seen against pure black backgrounds instead of walls of a set. This enabled cameras in the darkness to pick up shots from any angle. His work with Cameo Theatre led to his position with NBC's Matinee Theatre in 1955.

Jim Buckley of the Pewter Plough Playhouse (Cambria, California) recalled:

When Al McCleery got back to the States, he originated a most ambitious theatrical TV series for NBC called Matinee Theatre: to televise five different stage plays per week live, airing around noon in order to promote color TV (which had just been developed) to the American housewife as she labored over her ironing. Al was the producer. He hired five directors and five art directors. Richard Bennett, one of our first early presidents of the Pewter Plough Corporation, was one of the directors and I was one of the art directors and, as soon as we were through televising one play, we had lunch and then met to plan next week's show. That was over 50 years ago, and I'm trying to think; I believe the TV art director is (or was) his own set decorator (selecting furnishings and hand props)—yes, of course! It had to be, since one of McCleery's chief claims to favor with the producers was his elimination of the setting per se and simply decorating the scene with a minimum of props. It took a bit of ingenuity.[1]

In 1953, McCleery directed the first two-hour television production of Hamlet ever shown on U.S. television, for the Hallmark Hall of Fame. The production starred Maurice Evans and was Evans' only portrayal of the role on television, after having played it on Broadway in several productions.


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