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NBC Matinee Theater

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Matinee Theater is an American anthology series that aired on NBC during the Golden Age of Television, from 1955 to 1958. The series, which ran daily in the afternoon, was usually broadcast live and most of the time in color. It was produced by Albert McCleery, Darrell Ross, George Cahan and Frank Price with executive producer George Lowther. McCleery had previously produced the live series Cameo Theatre which introduced to television the concept of theater-in-the-round, TV plays staged with minimal sets.

Matinee Theater
John Conte Matinee Theater.jpg
Genre Anthology
Directed by John Drew Barrymore
Alan Cooke
Walter Grauman
Arthur Hiller
Lamont Johnson
Sherman Marks
Lawrence Menkin
Albert McCleery
Boris Sagal
Pace Woods
Alan Hanson
Presented by John Conte
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 650
Executive producer(s) George Lowther
Producer(s) George Cahan
Albert McCleery
Frank Price
Darrell Ross
Running time 45–48 minutes
Original network NBC
Picture format Most in color; a few episodes in Black-and-white
Audio format Monaural
Original release October 31, 1955 (1955-10-31) – June 27, 1958 (1958-06-27)

Jim Buckley of the Pewter Plough Playhouse (Cambria, California) recalled:[1]

When Al McCleery got back to the States, he originated a most ambitious theatrical TV series for NBC called Matinee Theater: to televise five different stage plays per week. This series aired live at 3 p.m. Eastern time and 12 noon Pacific, in order to promote color TV (which NBC parent RCA had just been develop, by having TV and appliance stores be able to show an hour of color television programming while they were open). The program's target audience was the American housewife (one print ad NBC created showed a typical housewife watching the show as) she labored over her ironing. McCleery 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.

The series ended in 1958 due to its high budget; much higher than any other daytime program in television. A few of the later episodes were preserved on color film for later rerun syndication under different titles.

Zsa Zsa Gabor as Madame Brillon in The Last Voyage, 1957.


Notable guest starsEdit

Award nominationsEdit

Year Result Award Category Notes
1956 Won Emmy Award Best Contributing to Daytime Programming[2]
1957 Won Golden Globe Award Best TV Show Tied with The Mickey Mouse Club, Cheyenne, Playhouse 90, and This Is Your Life

Notable episodesEdit

One noteworthy episode is "Dracula", which first aired on 6 January 1956, and was repeated on 23 November 1956. This was based on Bram Stoker's book, similar to the 1931 movie Dracula. It was adapted by Robert Esson and directed by Lamont Johnson. Shown in color, the episode had John Carradine as Dracula and Lisa Daniels as Lucy Weston. This was the first time "Dracula" had been presented on television and the first time it had been done in color.[citation needed]


External linksEdit