Network censors and program sponsors found the subject "too downbeat, too violent and too dated" but because of the strike by the Writers Guild of America this was the only unproduced script left, leaving the venue open for production.
For prime-time television in 1960, "Shape of the River" was an especially unblinking and unalloyed character study, and deserves to be thought of in the same landmark terms as such Golden Age TV triumphs as Rod Serling's "Patterns" and "Requiem for a Heavyweight," Paddy Chayefsky's "Marty" and Reginald Rose's "Twelve Angry Men." As this teleplay publication gains notice, and especially if the original CBS production is remastered and released on DVD, Foote's forgotten TV masterwork should be remembered, and revered, much more readily.
Published for the first time and reprinted from the only surviving copy of the script, which was discovered in the CBS-TV vaults, "The Shape of the River", is the ambitious television drama by Horton Foote.
Airing on primetime network television in the spring of 1960, a full two years before the Cuban missile crisis confronted the world with the dire possibility of a catastrophic thermonuclear war, CBS's Playhouse 90 presentation of "Alas, Babylon" provided a reported audience of 24 million viewers with a shockingly realistic dramatization of the potential horrors of the atomic age. Originally announced as the premiere installment of Playhouse 90's opening season in 1959, the production was abruptly postponed, initially without formal explanation by CBS. While the network reported weeks later that the withdrawal was to accommodate the availability of actor Charlton Heston as a possible a lead in the production, the New York Times speculated that the delay of the broadcast was to avoid any negative repercussions that might impact a (then pending) visit to the United States by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Adapted by prolific Tony Award-winning, television writer David Shaw (Redhead) from the best-selling novel of the same name by author Pat Frank (nom de plume of journalist, Harry Hart Frank) the Playhouse 90 teleplay of "Alas, Babylon" unflinchingly portrays the tragic aftermath of a major nuclear conflict with the U.S.S.R, including scenes featuring a child being rendered blind from a violent bomb flash and a character severely disfigured by radiation burns. Narrated in flashback with solemn resignation by noir veteran Dana Andrews, who announces in the play's first lines that he is already dead (à la Sunset Boulevard), the controversial drama was both lauded and criticized for its grim, daringly honest exploration of a scenario in which "92 percent of the world's people were killed." While the New York Times praised the presentation's "remarkably convincing" performances by an all-star cast including Don Murray, Barbara Rush, and Rita Moreno, the paper decried the teleplay's "moral cloaked in horror" stating that it was "impossible to comprehend what good purpose could be served by… [the] terror and hysteria depicted in the program." Variety disagreed, proclaiming the broadcast as "powerful propaganda for peace."
This segment of "Playhouse 90" was made in London, using British studios and an almost all-British cast. It also marked the television directing debut of film director Terence Young, who would later make the first two James Bond films.
This episode is known as one of the most censored moments on TV. Being sponsored by The American Gas Co. they wanted all references to gas chambers removed from this drama about accountability for the Holocaust. Claude Rains conspired with fellow cast members to defy the idiotic censorship and say 'gas chamber' as originally written in the script.
During "The Great Gatsby," Philip Reed missed an entrance because he'd gotten so involved in watching the show.
In 1958, Rod ran into a storm of censorship about his play, "A Town Has Turned to Dust," which ran on Playhouse 90. The topic was racial prejudice, and Rod commented in a letter: "Town got wonderful notices in New York and rather mixed around the country, but one thing it did create was talk! It was rough in spots, some of the problems had to be flanked rather than hit at head on, and some of the issues had to be cloaked, but I think it made its point." The censoring led Rod to comment to a newspaper reporter, however, "By the time the censors had gotten to it, my script had turned to dust. We're developing a new citizenry, one that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won't be able to think."
Rod Serling was paid $7,500. for the script.
Director John Frankenheimer, a gangly TV veteran of 27, was disappointed from the start with George Bellak's TV adaptation of his original play. So Frankenheimer called in TV Author Rod Serling to doctor the script.
Martin Manulis took the cigar from Harry Guardino and replaced it with a cigarette to appease the sponsor Marlboro in the scene just before airing.
After being threatened with loss of sponsorship on the controversy surrounding the episode Rod Serling was called in to "doctor" the script strengthening Ben Gazzara's role.
Based on a real case at Dartmouth where in 1949 eight students assaulted a GI. One of the students was charged with manslaughter but got off with a suspended sentence and a $500. fine.
Based on the list of crimes allegedly committed by Dr. William Palmer in 1856.
On the first anniversary of the release of his film Around the World in 80 Days, producer Mike Todd and his wife Elizabeth Taylor invited 18,000 of their "close friends" to a Madison Square Garden extravaganza. Boasting a long list of celebrities, an enormous cake and music from Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler, Todd conned the CBS program Playhouse 90 into covering the spectacle live. But when the crowd got out of control, a bland publicity stunt turned into a giant food fight. Cronkite recalls the disastrous night.
Peggy Wood was set to star in this "Playhouse 90" episode "The Playroom" but her sponsors of her show "Mama" didn't think it would be good to have her on a competitive sponsor's show so Mildred Dunnock replaced her.
Listed after credits as talent are Tony Randall, Nina Foch, Patricia Neal, Marilyn Erskine, Charles Drake, Mildred Dunnock, Julia Meade, Robert Ruark and Doak Walker, who appear in next week's Playhouse 90 program "The Playroom".
Based on the life of one of the greatest bullfighters Manolete (1917-1947).
In June 1956, Robert Briscoe was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin, the first man of the Jewish faith to hold this office. While the world was surprised, Ireland was not, for Robert Briscoe is a noted Irish patriot.
I was a top-billed Guest star in this episode, I do not recall the character's name. Karen Sharpe