History of Shows and Major Events in Television in the 1950s Part 4

About the history of television in the 1950s, some famous events and programs, Captain Kangaroo, Rod Serling, and Alfred Hitchcock come to tv, Elvis is on Ed Sullivan, American Bandstand debuts, the Twenty-One quiz show scandal.


--Judy Garland's long-awaited television debut finally occurred in her own special, titled "The Ford Star Jubilee." With her hair cropped very short and wearing a long evening gown, she sang many of the songs that had brought her fame, including "Over the Rainbow."

--Bob Keeshan, who had played Clarabell the Clown in the popular "Howdy Doody" show, debuted as Captain Kangaroo on CBS. His activities for children and his gentle manner of speech made him an early morning favorite.

--"Alfred Hitchcock Presents" appeared on CBS, offering a series of spine-tingling mysteries. Hitchcock was quoted as saying, "Television has brought murder back into the home, where it belongs."

1956--Rod Serling scripted Requiem for a Heavyweight, which CBS aired on "Playhouse 90" and which was a phenomenal success. It told the story of the seamier side of boxing, and starred Jack Palance and Ed Wynn.

--"The Ed Sullivan Show" played host to Elvis Presley, who made 3 appearances for an unprecedented $50,000. Presley was shown only from the waist up. Sullivan blocked out the singer's hips as they swiveled to the beat of "Hound Dog" and "Heartbreak Hotel."

1957--Robert Kennedy, a young New York lawyer, was counsel to the Senate Rackets Committee which investigated links between the underworld and unions. Kennedy's brother, John, was a member of that committee, and the siblings received national attention through televised questioning of organized-crime figures like "Tony Ducks" Corallo and "Johnny Dio" Dioguardo.

--"Perry Mason," a series based on Erle Stanley Gardner's famous character, came to TV with Raymond Burr as its star. Aided by his loyal secretary, Della Street-played by Barbara Hale--Perry never lost a case.

--The children's classic, Cinderella, was adapted for TV by Rodgers and Hammerstein. It appeared on CBS with a cast that included Julie Andrews as Cinderella, Ilka Chase as the stepmother, and Edie Adams as the fairy godmother.

--One of television's longest-running shows, "American Bandstand," debuted on ABC in 1957. While local Philadelphia teen-agers danced the hand jive and the twist, idols Frankie Avalon and Fabian sang forgettable songs like "Bobby Sox to Stockings" and "Turn Me Loose."

--James Garner brought a new style of Western hero to the small screen as the star of "Maverick." Unlike other TV cowboys, Garner was a cowardly rogue who hated the outdoors, couldn't ride a horse, and was notoriously slow on the draw.

1958--Scandal rocked the TV game show "Twenty-One" when it was revealed that the show's producers had given some contestants the correct answers to make the show more interesting. Charles Van Doren, an English instructor at Columbia University, was one of those who had been primed with answers to the show's questions. The scandal brought big-money game shows to an end.

--Fred Astaire made his TV debut dancing with Barrie Chase on the special "An Evening with Fred Astaire."

1959--Robert Stack--with machine gun in hand--starred as Eliot Ness in the CBS show "The Untouchables," which re-created the lives of the nation's most notorious mobsters.

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