Seeking information on a very old TV SF show

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john2129
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Seeking information on a very old TV SF show

Postby john2129 » Tue Aug 05, 2014 2:10 am

I have a question about a plot element from an ancient tv show, perhaps you can point me in the right direction.

I am a child of the fifties when there were three tv networks, NBC, CBS and Dumont. In that era there was a great deal of editioral control and a desire to present drama of the highest quality aspiring to the level of Broadway in writing, direction and performance.

The highest dramatic achievement in early television were the anthology shows like Playhouse 90, US Steel Hour, Armstrong Circle Theater and many others. I'm guessing there were fifteen or twenty anthologie shows producing 30 or more shows a year. Long before videotape, they were live (sometimes filmed) 60-90 minute broadcasts often performed two or three times in a row for the audiences in the east, central and west time zones.

The anthology format, unlike modern series tv, presented a different cast and a different story each week. Star performers appeared in stories written by names like O'Neil, Serling, Hemingway, etc.

For many decades I have been trying to find more information about an anthology show where the main story line was:

During the investigation of an airplane crash the remains of an angel are found in the wreckage.

Thanks in advance for any help.

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Re: Seeking information on a very old TV SF show

Postby Moderator » Tue Aug 05, 2014 8:08 am

John
Welcome to the forums. I'm afraid that's very little to go on. Any chance you could name one of the actors, or maybe a description of the opening credits?
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

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Re: Seeking information on a very old TV SF show

Postby john2129 » Tue Aug 05, 2014 1:50 pm

First of ail am grateful for any reply - thanks for the interest.

The plot device with the angel in the plane wreckage is all that I can recall with any confidence - there can only be one show like that.

If I stretch my foggy memory back 60 years to when I was seven years old or so , this is a stream of consciousness recollection: The male lead was an actor like Paul Douglas or even Broderick Crawford. The actor Olan Souel was typecast as a general-purpose science guy, so he might have been in it.

The aircraft was a fighter jet and so the overall setting was military in nature as opposed to civilian. The jet may have been pursuing a UFO when it crashed. The body of the angel in the wreckage is not revealed until the end of the first act. Analysis reveals that the shape of the angel’s wing could support supersonic flight, which was a revelation at that time (like light speed today).

The show was not “sciency”; nothing technical about the plane and no techno babble. It considered the philosophical, metaphysical aspects of the event – nothing heavy but no science. I do not remember the conclusion of the show but anyone with a pencil and paper could take it in a thousand directions.

As far as the date it aired, I'm confident that it was prior to the fall of 1957 - I'd guess between 1953 and 1957 but closer to 1953.

That’s about it.

In my cursory research the plot details of the many, many anthology shows is sparse. Although I just realized that possibly publications like TV Guide or TV show reviewers my hold some promise.

The “angel in the plane wreckage” twist holds a lot of promise from a story telling point of view – perhaps visitors to this site would give it a try.

Regards,

John Walsh

PS - in my original post I mis-typed and used anthologie instead of anthology - a thousand pardons.

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Re: Seeking information on a very old TV SF show

Postby diane bartels » Thu Aug 07, 2014 9:47 pm

Welcome John. It didn't ring any bells for me, but I wanted to say hi.

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Re: Seeking information on a very old TV SF show

Postby FinderDoug » Sat Aug 09, 2014 9:20 pm

John: The anthologies of the fifties are tough nut to crack sometimes - they all managed to work in some fantasy to their offerings at one point or another, and while some (like PLAYHOUSE 90) have gotten a good deal of attention and documentation, so many others are lists of titles and production credits. Unfortunately, PLAYHOUSE 90 is at the upper end of the spectrum for your date range, debuting in 1956.

One question that might help narrow it down (and it's an odd one, but might work): do you recall what your bedtime was around that point in your life, and where were you in the US? Some of the dramas, such as STUDIO ONE, didn't air until 10PM, so if you had a firm bedtime, that might eliminate some of the contenders.

Sadly, so many of the early shows are lost (out of 80 episodes of THE PEPSI COLA PLAYHOUSE, only three are still extant, for example) that it might be impossible to nail down without perusing individual TV Guides for the period (because your slug-line would probably stand out; but I'm happy to do some digging to see if we can't nail it down.

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Re: Seeking information on a very old TV SF show

Postby john2129 » Sun Aug 10, 2014 1:38 am

Thank you for your response and comments.

I’m guessing that the “angel in the wreckage” story began with a military jet chasing a UFO, it crashes; then the revelation of the angel in the wreckage. The UFO part of the story might match up with the 1950’s UFO scares – I’m thinking, say ’53 to ’56. Remember, my TV memories probably begin around 1952. So although there were many UFO issues before ’52 and after ’57, the real world events of the day have to line up with my ability to see and remember, and the broadcast of the show. There’s a sweet spot in there somewhere – UFO’s in the news, my awareness and the broadcast of the show.

Concerning my bed time...I was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1947. A good idea to try and narrow the time slot but if something was interesting I stayed up to watch it. Just to be realistic from 1952 to '54 I was probably asleep by 9pm; from '55 on I was up during all of prime time. But even as a pre-schooler I can remember some late nights if there was something on that was really interesting.

I think my viewing the "angel in the wreckage" show was unplanned - channel surfing or it just came on following one of our regular shows.

One observation...we had one TV at that time and as a child I watched what my parents watched; John Cameron Swayze, You Bet Your Life, Dragnet on NBC. We probably watched NBC for the rest of the night on most nights. But we also watched I Love Lucy, Ed Sullivan and Arthur Godfrey on CBS.

My earliest TV memories are Kookla, Fran and Ollie and Howdy Doody, along with John Cameron Swazye and Walter Winchell (when visiting NYC). I'm guessing my memories of TV would begin in 1952 with Dragnet, I Love Lucy then Medic, Grocho Marx, Burns and Allen, Sid Caeser and Milton Berle. Bishop Fulton J Sheen, My Little Margie and Life with Elizabeth were some of my favorites.

I know what you mean about the lack of information about anthology TV – anthology TV was like a newspaper – ephemeral, for the moment, then gone and on to the next program. My next step is to hit the microfilm of old newspapers and try my luck. I’m also going to check out some UFO web sites.

Regards,

John Walsh

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Re: Seeking information on a very old TV SF show

Postby FinderDoug » Mon Aug 11, 2014 9:42 am

John - Your memories of what you watched do help narrow down most likely suspects from the prime time line-ups. Working with 1953 as a starting point, your best bets if you move on to microfilm TV listings would be to check the following:

- Studio One (10PM Mondays on CBS): followed Burns & Allen, Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts and I Love Lucy

- Kraft Television Theatre (9PM Wednesdays on NBC): followed My Little Margie (note - there was also a Kraft Television Theater on ABC on Thursdays, just to make research interesting; but nothing you noted served as a lead-in to that one, and it lasted about 16 months.)

- The General Electric Theater (9PM Sundays on CBS): Followed Ed Sullivan

- Ford Theater (9:30 PM Thursdays on NBC): Followed You Bet Your Life and Dragnet

All four aired throughout the period in question, and none of them moved around in the schedule as far as I can tell, so finding them in a listing should be fairly consistent.

And some immediate outliers (based on possible channel-fliping after Milton Berle concluded on NBC) would be:
- the US Steel Hour (9:30 Tuesdays, ABC)
- Suspense and Danger (9:30 and 10PM Tuesdays, CBS)

Hopefully, that helps narrow it. Sorry I don't have more to offer.

Sadly, even TV Guide - which I'm sure published one or two line descriptions of the weekly content back in the day for all of these* - hasn't digitized any of their old listings or issues. I'm surprised with all of the television scholarship of the 'Golden Age' dramas that no one has tried to compile even a simple episode guide for something like Kraft Television Theatre, which aired 650 episodes and had some dynamite talent in and behind them. (The writer in me says "Hmmmm...")


*Waaay back in the day, well before Marc Scott Zicree's TWILIGHT ZONE COMPANION, I would go through the TV Guides when they were done for the week and clip any capsule summaries I could find for Twilight Zone episodes in the listings, trying to puzzle out just how many episodes there were. It quickly became evident that the magazine had a) a standing clip file from which to pull descriptions based on title, and b) that these were edited for space (or omitted entirely) as required. Several episode listings turned up in variant forms, omitting half a line of the capsule or notation of a performer in the episode. All I can imagine when I think of this now is the worlds largest card catalog and the logistics of publishing the magazine - especially given regional variations and syndication - before computer layout. But I also think a run of TV Guide from its debut in April 1953 is one of the most overlooked foundational reference libraries there could be.

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Re: Seeking information on a very old TV SF show

Postby john2129 » Mon Aug 11, 2014 12:19 pm

FinderDoug - Wow!

Kent Taylor and Roscoe Karns would be very impressed with your outstanding detective work. I cannot thank you enough for this.

I promise to use every scrap of information as I start my re-energized search in earnest. Thank you, thank you.

Although, it might be faster to write my own cliché ridden script...scary Theremin music, clipped static filled radio transmission from military jet pilot chasing a UFO ending in hysterical scream, wingman dreadfully reports plane crash, investigation reveals surprise in wreckage, OLAN SOUEL: "...this is not from Earth - nothing like this has ever been seen before..." concluding with KENNETH TOBY "...the world as we know it will never be the same..." Writes itself.

I'll get back to you soon....I think Speilberg is on the line...

Warmest regards,

John Walsh

…What’s that Steven? My treatment – option? Harrison and Dreyfus? Merchandising? We’ll have to get my agent involved…for me Steve, it’s all about the art... lets talk about final cut..

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Re: Seeking information on a very old TV SF show

Postby FinderDoug » Thu Aug 21, 2014 8:16 am

John - I had a revelation (while looking for information of the 1968 campaign and Nixon's whistle-stop tour of Ohio) of a possible resource you can hit right from the comfort of your own home without necessarily resorting to libraries and microfilm (though it's going to take some initial hunting and pecking and can be wildly hit or miss) for old TV listings: Google's newspaper archive:

http://news.google.com/newspapers

There's a LOT of non-applicable papers, and none of their archives are especially complete, so to be honest, a microfilm reel or two for one paper for the period in question might be an easier and more consistent slog; but I thought I'd throw it out there as an additional resource.

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Re: Seeking information on a very old TV SF show

Postby john2129 » Thu Aug 21, 2014 9:15 am

Excellent! I'll check out google newspapers now.

I already took a stab at the NY Times archive,...nothing good to report. I will also explore Time Magazine's web archive.

I agree about the TV Guide - there should be an archive but I guess not. Perhaps google will get around to it.

As dumb as this sounds, I'm not exactly sure what I am going to do when I find the details of this very old show. Once I have more information on the who, where and when of the show I could try and locate a script, video or kinescope.

Thanks for keeping my quest in your thoughts.

Regards,

John Walsh

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Re: Seeking information on a very old TV SF show

Postby Rick Keeney » Thu Oct 23, 2014 8:49 am

Any luck, john?

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Re: Seeking information on a very old TV SF show

Postby john2129 » Thu Oct 23, 2014 12:27 pm

No.
In researching the anthology shows of the era and into the sixties - I was simply overwhelmed. The number of shows and variety of topics from a guy called Marty to a lost WW2 US Bomber discovered in the North African desert to Witchcraft in Colonial times to the Holocost to a "Heavyweight"....but I could not find my angel in the plane wreckage.

I imagine there is - or will be - a resource out there to make research easier but I have officially given up.

Then there is always the question: Now that you have found it, what will you do with the information? It's only going to be a short blurp in a newspaper TV section or with luck a paragraph in a TV Guide. So, for now, I guess the world will keep on spinning and I'll "keep a spinnin' too".

Although, is there a Serling, Niven, O'Banion, etc data base?

Regards,

John


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