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Logo of Family Theater
|Country of origin||United States|
|Syndicates||Mutual Broadcasting System|
|Produced by||Family Theater Productions|
|Original release||February 13, 1947 – September 11, 1957|
|No. of episodes||540|
The show was produced by Family Theater Productions, a film and radio studio extension of the Family Rosary Crusade founded by the Holy Cross Priest, Father Patrick Peyton, CSC, as a way to promote family prayer. The motto of Holy Cross Family Ministries is "The family that prays together stays together."
The program had no commercial sponsor, yet Father Peyton arranged for many of Hollywood's stars in film and radio at the time to appear. In its 10-year run, well-known actors and actresses, including James Stewart, Gregory Peck, Dennis Morgan, Irene Dunne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Shirley Temple, Natalie Wood, Barbara Whiting Smith, Raymond Burr, Jane Wyatt, Charlton Heston, Lizabeth Scott, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Gene Kelly, Kate Smith, William Shatner, and Chuck Connors, appeared as announcers, narrators, or stars.
A total of 540 episodes were produced. The program featured not only religious stories, but also half-hour adaptations of literary works such as A Tale of Two Cities, Moby-Dick, and Don Quixote. It is one of several radio programs that exist in its entirety, as it is owned by Family Theater Productions.
In 1951, while the radio version was still on the air, Family Theater moved to television, where it aired in syndication. The spelling of the title was altered to Family Theatre and the series was extended to one hour. Father Peyton also hosted the TV version, which ran for seven years.
One of the TV episodes was "Hill Number One", famous for featuring an early appearance by James Dean (as John the Apostle - not John the Baptist, as is commonly thought). It combined a World War II story with the story of the Crucifixion of Christ and has recently been released on DVD.
As of May 2008, the Catholic television network EWTN began showing selected Family Theatre episodes at 11:30 pm on Sundays and 1:00 am on Thursdays, ET. As of September 2009, however, these programs were no longer being broadcast on EWTN. The radio version still airs on the radio on Sunday nights on both EWTN and Immaculate Heart Radio, another Catholic network.
Radio Maria USAEdit
In addition to being aired on the above-mentioned networks, Radio Maria USA's 10-station English-language network (based at KJMJ in Alexandria, Louisiana) still airs the series on Sunday afternoons from 2:00 until 2:30 pm Eastern time.