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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.[1] It lasted only three months.[2]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."[3]

Four Star Playhouse
Genre Dramatic anthology
Running time 30 minutes
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
Syndicates NBC
TV adaptations Four Star Playhouse
Starring Fred MacMurray
Loretta Young
Rosalind Russell
Robert Cummings
Written by Milton Geiger
Original release July 3, 1949 – September 18, 1949
No. of episodes 12

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.[4]

Other NBC shows developed as a part of that effort included Hollywood Calling, Screen Directors Playhouse, Dragnet, Richard Diamond and Trouble with the Truitts.[3]

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."[4] 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.


Format and CastEdit

The show's title came from the fact that it was built around "four major film stars, each of whom was featured in turn in the weekly presentations." They were Fred MacMurray, Loretta Young, Rosalind Russell and Robert Cummings.[5] As an anthology series, Four Star Playhouse did not have a standard cast. However, many radio actors and actresses of that time appeared in episodes. They included Elliot Lewis, Shirley Mitchell, Paul Frees, Ross Taylor, Will Wright, Lurene Tuttle, William Conrad, Wilms Herbert, Lawrence Dobkin, Betty Moran, Frank Lovejoy, George Neise, Janet Waldo, Jeanne Bates, Joe DuVal, Willard Waterman, Jack Edwards, Mary Jane Croft, Frank Nelson, Charles Seel, Herb Butterfield, Jeff Chandler, Shepard Menken, Dan O'Herlihy and Ken Christy.[6] Frank Barton was the announcer.[7] Episodes were adapted by writer Milton Geiger from short stories in Cosmopolitan magazine.[7]


The series' entire run consisted of 12 episodes. Their dates, titles and stars were as follows:[6]

Date Title Star
July 3, 1949 Welcome to Our City Rosalind Russell
July 10, 1949 Another Day, Another Dollar Ninety-Eight Fred MacMurray
July 17, 1949 A Legend for Spring Brides Loretta Young
July 24, 1949 Third Girl From The Right Robert Cummings
July 31, 1949 From an Admirer Rosalind Russell
August 7, 1949 The Life and Death of George Wilson Fred MacMurray
August 14, 1949 The Hunted Robert Cummings
August 21, 1949 The Incredible Anna Lee Rosalind Russell
August 28, 1949 Cory Fred MacMurray
September 4, 1949 Surprise For The Professor Robert Cummings
September 11, 1949 Paradise U S A NA
September 18, 1949 Once Upon a Horse Loretta Young


  1. ^ "NBC's 'Playhouse' For July 6 Debut". The Billboard. June 11, 1949. P. 7.
  2. ^ "W. C. Hiatus Starters Feeling NBC Axe". The Billboard. August 27, 1949. P. 7.
  3. ^ a b "Plethora of Summer Shows Swells Coast NBC Operations". The Billboard. July 2, 1949. P. 6.
  4. ^ a b Dunning, John. (1976). Tune in Yesterday: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, 1925-1976. Prentice-Hall, Inc. ISBN 0-13-932616-2. P. 215.
  5. ^ Reinehr, Robert C. & Swartz, Jon D. (2008). Historical Dictionary of Old-Time Radio. Scarecrow Press, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8108-7616-3. P. 102.
  6. ^ a b "Four Star Playhouse". The Digital Deli Too. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  7. ^ a b Morse, Leon. "Four Star Playhouse". The Billboard. July 23, 1949. P. 15.

External linksEdit