Texaco Star Theater

NBC (ended 1953)
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  • Episode Guide
  • S 8 : Ep 13


    Aired 6/5/56

  • S 8 : Ep 12


    Aired 5/15/56

  • S 8 : Ep 11


    Aired 4/24/56

  • S 8 : Ep 10


    Aired 4/3/56

  • S 8 : Ep 9


    Aired 3/13/56

  • Cast & Crew
  • Milton Berle


  • Sid Stone

    Texaco Pitchman

  • Fatso Marco

    Series Regular

  • Arnold Stang

    Francis-Series Regular

  • Ruth Gilbert

    Max-Series Regular

  • show Description
  • This new medium needed something to get people talking and looking. It came in the form of a visual comedian who was larger than the tiny screens on which he appeared. On June 8, 1948, television's first hit series and superstar were born with Milton Berle starring on Texaco Star Theater. When the series began, there was little else on the TV landscape: an occasional cooking show, a low budget talent show, a newsreel or two, but nothing compelling. In fact, some stations were staying on the air longer hours just to show their test pattern for viewers' entertainment. That was about to change as 1948 was the year networks became serious about programming. Big-time entertainment also became possible at that time as a boycott by the musicians union finally came to an end. In the summer try-out, Berle was the first of several hosts who were tested. Comedians like Henny Youngman,Morey Amsterdam, and Jack Carter all gave it a shot, but Berle was an immediate hit and signed for the series within a few weeks of his debut. The show opened with four men in Texaco uniforms singing a jingle about the sponsor ("We are the men of Texaco/We work from Maine to Mexico..."). Then, they would give Milton an introduction that was a set-up for whatever goofy outfit he was wearing. One on occasion he was introduced as a man who had just paid his taxes so he came out dressed as a hobo wearing a barrel. More than once, Miltie came out in drag--very, very bad drag--walking on the sides of his feet while teetering in his heels. Berle would do absolutely anything to get a laugh! The crowd howled, especially his mother Sarah. She was always in the audience as a "plant" to egg on the laughter. You can easily pick her out on any episode; she's the loudest laughter in the studio. Texaco was a boon for vaudevillians. Besides big name singers and stars who performed in slapstick sketches and production numbers, novelty acts were a staple. It wasn't unusual to go from a dramatic torch song into a trained animal act. (On one show, a group of unfortunate dancers had to follow an elephant act that left a few "gifts" on the stage.) But ultimately, the show was all about Berle. He horned in on every performer's act. He personally ran the rehearsals armed with a referee's whistle that dangled from his neck. He'd even use his hands to give camera instructions while he was performing. In the first years, he was drawing more than 80% of all viewers--a feat that hasn't been accomplished since. NBC was so intent on keeping Berle around that, in 1951, they signed him to an exclusive 30-year contract worth $200,000 annually. During 1952, Berle's ratings began to slip, thanks in part to his taking a week off each month. The agencies, client and network all panicked and demanded changes. A new writing staff, headed by Goodman Ace, was brought in and the crazy Berle and his vaudeville format were out. In its place was a more dignified show that was set primarily "behind the scenes" of the Berle show, in much the same way as The Jack Benny Program. There were plenty of big production numbers and a staff of malcontents for Berle to do battle with. Now, instead of being Milton Berle, he was playing Milton Berle, something he says he was never comfortable with. Despite his misgivings, the show's ratings rebounded. Texaco Star Theater ended it's run June 9, 1953 when Texaco moved its sponsorship to another series. That fall, Miltie continued his Tuesday night reign with a new title: The Buick-Berle Show). "Mr. Television" began his final season in September 1955 under the simple title The Milton Berle Show. (That same title was used on his ABC variety series in the late 1960s.) A few notes on this episode guide: Texaco Star Theater, the Buick-Berle Show and The Milton Berle Show are all included under this listing; the episodes' air dates are correct but the episode numbers are relative; information from these earliest days of live television is sketchy at best. This guide has been pieced together using various reference books, newspapers and magazines of the day (NY Times, Variety, Time among them), various performers websites and Milton Berle's autobiography.moreless

  • Top Contributor
  • jaynashvil

    User Score: 7980


  • Trivia & Quotes
  • Quotes (16)

    • Berle: (describing his days as a boxer) I used to box guys and lay them out. Lorre: With me, it's different. I first lay them out and then I box them.

    • Berle: You've never appeared on a comedy television show before?
      Luke: No, I haven't. But someday I hope I will.

    • Berle: Have a heart! Mad Scientist Lugosi: I think I will!

    • Berle:(yelling at Lewis) You Listen to me! I'm Berle!
      Martin: Berle! Berle!
      Berle: Berle! Berle!
      Lewis: Two Berled eggs!

    • Berle: (giving Thomas advice on how to be a hit on TV) The first thing is your appearance. Your appearance. Your nose is too big for eight inch screens. Thomas: You should talk. (pointing at his nose) This is your old one!

    • Milton: Satchmo, I want to tell you something, whenever I hear you, whenever I hear you sing, I get a great feeling of your great talent, and whenever I hear you blow the trumpet, you were born -- well, I mean, you're the top, you're really the young man with a horn. Louis: Thank you, thank you. And you are my favorite, and you're the young man with the corn. Milton: If I knew it was going to get such a big laugh, I would have given it to myself.

    • Milton Berle: You're with me, Captain Horatio Hornberler, scourge of the seven seas. Hornberler, the king of the pirates. Yes, I am the lord of the pirates, and where I go, everywhere in the world I am feared by men and adored by women! Arnold Stang: You're kiddin'.

    • Berle:(to Bankhead) Don't lower your voice to me!

    Show More Quotes

    Notes (72)

    • In the issue dated 6/16/1948, Variety had this to say about Berle's debut: "Vaudeo-the adaptation of old-time vaudeville into the new video medium-came of age last Tuesday night (8) in a performance that may well be remembered as a milestone in television."

    • Editor's Note: It is unclear who was the actual host of this telecast.

    • According to several newspaper TV listings, this episode was shortened to 45 minute to make way for NBC coverage of the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

    • Television was providing early live coverage of the 1948 Republican Convention in Philadelphia between 6/21-25, 1948 at various times throught the days. (NBC, in fact, went to coverage following this program.) As of June 15, 1948, the largest East coast network of television stations ever assembled was able to carry live convention coverage (18 stations in nine cities). Those stations and cities were: WNBT, WCBS, WABD and WPIX in New York, WNHC in New Haven, WBZ-TV in Boston, WATV in Newark, WFIL, WPTZ and WCAU in Philladelphia, WMAR-TV and WBAL-TV of Baltimore, WTTG and WNBT in Washington and WTVR in Richmond.

    • Editor's Note: Details on this telecast are scant. One newspaper listing indicates that Gaxton was the host, but this can't be confirmed.

    • According to the (long-since defunct) Hooper ratings, viewership for this telecast in New York was huge. Airing on WNBT, Texaco pulled 82.4% of the TV viewers that hour. Its nearest competition was WABD (with pool coverage of the Democratic Nation Convention and short films) was 4.7%. WCBS-TV also had a 4.7 share with the show Musical Varieties and other short programs.

    • The Billboard magazine reports in a story dated 7/31/1948 (August 7, 1948 edition) that the Kudner Agency is negotiating with Berle to be the permanent host of the series based on the strength of his performance on the debut show.

    • Editor's Note: It's unclear, based on newspaper listings, if Peter Donald, Willie Howard, or someone else was the host.

    Show More Notes

    Trivia (11)

    • Watch for another great live TV moment: At the finish of "Figaro", Melchior dumps a bucket of lather over Milton's head. The bucket was metal instead of plastic and gave Berle a bloody gash on his nose.

    • While dancing as Carmen Miranda, Milton Berle slips and falls in the egg/tomato/motor oil mess from the previous sketch.

    • Another embarrassing "Live TV" moment: As Lewis wraps up "When My Baby Smiles at Me", he says his trademark line: "Yes sir! Is everybody happy?" He then tilts forward for his top hat to roll off his head and down his arm. The hat catches the back of his toupee, flipping it down onto his forehead.

    • The episode runs long. In the glee club sketch, as Rudy Vallee begins singing, Berle yells, "Cut! We haven't the time." He has Rudy take a bow and the Texaco men come marching on to sing the close. Berle and Vallee stand behind them and sing off-key.

    • A smart-mouthed kid takes of for vacationing pitchman Sid Stone in the Texaco mid-show spot.

    • Performer Gracie Fields suffered a "wardrobe malfunction" while performing a burlesque of Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. During a song, she threw her arms into the air and her bodice ripped almost to her navel. She quickly ran off-camera. It's not known if anything personal was actually shown; a statement issued afterwards said that Fields "was clothed underneath".

    • Goof: For some reason, the singing men of Texaco do not appear to do their usual song at the close of the show. Berle is left to ad lib a sign-off.

    • Live TV Moment: Raye is waiting for Berle to call but her phone doesn't ring on cue. She keeps talking even though Berle is on his phone pretending to be talking with her. Finally her phone rings, leading her to tell Berle she knew he was going to call.

    Show More Trivia

    Allusions (1)

    • This episode includes two jokes about Bob Hope and one about Ed Sullivan, who's referred to by a space alien as a mechanical man who walks without moving and has almost life-like features.

  • Fan Reviews (2)
  • One of televison's first great hits.

    By gideonbernstein, Mar 03, 2006

  • This variety show was televisions first hit series.

    By vicmackey31, Apr 12, 2006