History of Shows and Major Events in Television in the 1950s Part 3

About the history of television in the 1950s, some famous events and programs, first Academy Awards, debut of Lawrence Welk, Mickey Mouse Club, and Gun Smoke, Mike Wallace Interviews.


--"See It Now" presented a controversial report that discredited Sen. Joseph McCarthy's communist-searching investigation. Edward R. Murrow concluded the program by declaring: "He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it. . . . Cassius was right: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.'"

--The Academy Awards presentation was telecast for the 1st time. When the show ran overtime, William Holden was cut off the air in the middle of his acceptance speech for the Best Actor award for Stalag 17. Unhappy viewers had to find out in the newspapers the next day who won awards for the Best Actress--Audrey Hepburn--and Best Picture--From Here to Eternity. Five years later (1959), when Gigi won Best Picture, the last Oscar was handed out 22 minutes before the show ended and the list of credits was run 11 times to fill up the remaining time.

1955--Lawrence Welk brought his champagne music and his bubble machine to TV as a summer replacement show. "The Lawrence Welk Show" is still on the air, although many of its original cast members--Alice Lon, Dick Dale, the Lennon Sisters, Tiny Little, Jr.--have left the program.

--Children across the country learned how to spell "Mickey Mouse" when they sang along with the theme song of ABC's weekday "Mickey Mouse Club." With Mouseketeer ears perched firmly in place, millions of youngsters never missed a show.

--The 1st big-money quiz show, "The $64,000 Question," debuted on CBS with Hal March as its host. Closeted inside an isolation booth, contestants answered questions about their speciality--Dr. Joyce Brothers on prizefighting, New York cobbler Gino Prato on opera, and actor Vincent Price on art.

--When the family situation comedy "Father Knows Best" was canceled on March 27 after 6 months on the air, viewers around the country protested vehemently to CBS. The public outrage so impressed rival network NBC that it had the show on its own stations on August 31, where it remained for 3 years before switching back to CBS.

--The "Mike Wallace Interviews" show on CBS established Wallace as one of the most probing interrogators on TV. He asked questions so soul-searching that several lawsuits were filed after subjects realized just how much of themselves they had revealed. Only once over the years was Wallace truly silenced by a guest's reply. He had asked radical magazine editor Paul Krassner, "What about all those 4-letter words in your magazine?" Krassner replied, "Which ones do you mean, Mike?" Wallace was speechless.

--Mary Martin, soaring through the air with the help of some carefully camouflaged wires, starred in Peter Pan, the 1st network presentation of a full Broadway production. One out of every 2 Americans watched the show.

--Despite the show's title, "You'll Never Get Rich," Phil Silvers was never at a loss for get-rich-quick schemes on his CBS program. Playing Sgt. Ernest G. Bilko, Silvers ran everything from a mini-casino and a dance hall to a beauty parlor in his barracks.

--The 1st "adult" Western, "Gunsmoke," debuted on CBS, and Marshal Matt Dillon soon became an American institution.

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