Overview


During the 1950s, commercial television in the United States grew beyond anyone's wildest projections. There was already a solid black and white base when, in 1953, RCA's "compatible color" format was chosen as the industry standard, and the networks began to plan their switch from live black and white programs, to live compatible color programs. NBC's major push began with the Fall of 1954. The key prime-time night was Monday; NBC's plan was to begin building a color-aware audience with a series of blockbuster 90-minute live "spectaculars." NBC contracted with the leading theatrical producer of the day, Leland Hayward, to produce the spectaculars; the series was to be called "PRODUCER'S SHOWCASE". Mr. Hayward was represented by Saul Jaffe, of the law firm of Jaffe and Jaffe (the second "Jaffe" being his brother Henry, one of the founders of the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors ("AFTRA"). Their law firm was one of New York City's leading entertainment law firms. Mr. Hayward withdrew from the project after suffering a heart attack, and an agreement was reached for the two lawyers to set up a separate company for the packaging and production of the programs -- Showcase Productions, Inc.; instead of a single producer, there would be individual producers for each program, and the name of the series was changed to "PRODUCERS' SHOWCASE." Although brother Henry was nominally separate from Showcase, since he continued to act as Counsel for the New York chapter of AFTRA, in fact he and Saul were equal shareholders. The minority shareholder, in charge of day-to-day operations, was Saul "Pete" Pryor, who went on to found the reknowned New York entertainment law firm of Pryor and Cashman.


Between 1954 and 1957, a total of 37 (including one repeat) of the PRODUCERS' SHOWCASE spectaculars were broadcast. Originally budgeted at $150,000 each (about 4 times the cost of a top-of-the-line 1-hour dramatic program), budgets escalated to more than $500,000. Their activities expanded to include a number of other acclaimed series and specials, described elsewhere in this site. Although all of Showcase's programs were broadcast live, in compatible color, the kinescopes on which they were preserved are, for technical reasons inherent in the "kinescope tube" process, primarily black and white; technological advances made it possible to make color kinescopes in late in 1956. The original kinescope negatives,stored by NBC since the original broadcasts, supplemented by a few kinescope prints available only from museums and archives, will become the basis for our new digital video masters, using state-of-the-art equipment and electronics.