History of Shows and Major Events in Television in the 1950s Part 1

About the history of television in the 1950s, some famous programs including Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life, Superman, Dragnet, and This is Your Life.

Tuning in on Television: From 1925 to 1975

1950s

1950--The popular radio show "Your Hit Parade" moved to NBC-TV with the hit songs of the era being sung by Snooky Lanson, Dorothy Collins, and Eileen Wilson. As each show ended, the Lucky Strike Hit Parade chorus harmonized "So long for a while . . . that's all the songs for a while. . . ."

--Groucho Marx introduced the 1st comedy show in a quiz show format, "You Bet Your Life." Bedecked in a polka-dot bow tie and with his ever present cigar, Groucho would utter one-liners and collect a $25,000-per-week salary. Not satisfied with the TV medium, Groucho said, "Intellectually, it's a joke. But unfortunately, it reflects the taste of the U.S. public."

--"It's a bird . . . it's a plane . . . it's Superman!" Those words introduced the 1st--and every subsequent--"The Adventures of Superman" show, with Clark Kent dividing his time between his heroic superhuman deeds and writing for the Daily Planet newspaper.

--NBC originated the 1st late-night variety-talk show, which was to change forever America's sleeping habits. The program, "Broadway Open House," aired at 11 P.M. and had 2 hosts, Jerry Lester and Morey Amsterdam.

--Flea catchers and shoelace threaders were the stars of "What's My Line?," where panelists tried to guess the strange occupations of the show's guests. John Daly was the host, and panelists on the 1st program were Arlene Francis, Harold Hoffman, Dr. Richard Hoffman, and Louis Untermeyer.

1951--Edward R. Murrow narrated the CBS documentary series "See It Now," featuring coverage and analysis of news events. The premiere show began with a split screen showing New York's Brooklyn Bridge and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. As Murrow said, "For the 1st time in the history of man we are able to look out at both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of this great country at the same time . . . no journalistic age was ever given a weapon for truth with quite the scope of this fledgling television."

--Both CBS and NBC telecast the U.S. Senate hearings on crime in America. Underworld character Frank Costello refused to allow his face to be telecast, so the cameras focused on only his hands as he answered questions from Sen. Estes Kefauver.

--Dinah Shore starred in "The Chevy Show," a 15-minute, twice-a-day program that became a weekly one-hour show in 1956. Dinah Shore, who advised her audience to "See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet," finished each show by blowing a big kiss.

1952--Garry Moore moderated the popular "I've Got a Secret," where original panelists Bill Cullen, Henry Morgan, Jayne Meadows, and Faye Emerson tried to guess the "secrets" that contestants were hiding. Typical secrets were: "I'm understudy for the star of Broadway's biggest play" and "I'm wearing red flannel underwear beneath my evening gown."

--With Badge 714 firmly in place, Jack Webb began solving crimes for the Los Angeles Police Dept. week after week on "Dragnet." Everyone was soon humming the show's theme song, "Dum de dum dum," or saying, "Just the facts, ma'am."

--Ralph Edwards began surprising famous personalities and recounting their life stories on NBC's "This Is Your Life." The honored personality of the 1st telecast was Laura Marr Stone, a 73-year-old pioneer woman from Kansas.

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