The United States Steel Hour

The United States Steel Hour

Infobox Radio Show
show_name = The United States Steel Hour

imagesize = 200px
caption = Rod Serling's "The Rack", a production of "The United States Steel Hour" on April 12, 1955, was later published in this 1957 Bantam paperback.
other_names = "Theater Guild on the Air"
format = Anthology drama
runtime = 1 hour
country = USA
language = English
home_station = ABC (09/09/45-06/05/49)
NBC (09/11/49-06/07/53)
syndicates =
television = "The United States Steel Hour" (1953-1963)
presenter = Lawrence Langner, Roger Pryor
starring = Broadway and Hollywood actors
creator =
writer = Robert Anderson, Erik Barnouw, Robert Cenedella, Jeffrey Dell, Robert Fresnell Jr., George Lowther, Peter Lyon, Arthur Miller, Kenyon Nicholson, William S. Rainey, Norman Rosten, Stanley Young
director = Homer Fickett
producer = George Kondolf, Carol Irwin
executive_producer = Armina Marshall, George Lowther
narrated =
record_location =
first_aired = September 9, 1945
last_aired = June 7, 1953
num_series =
num_episodes = 315
audio_format = Monaural sound
opentheme =
endtheme =
website =
podcast =

"The United States Steel Hour" (a.k.a. "Theater Guild on the Air") was an American radio anthology series which embarked on the ambitious plan to bring Broadway theater to radio. Presenting both classic and contemporary plays, the program was broadcast for eight years before it became a television series. It first aired on radio on September 9, 1945, and within a year the series drew some 10 to 12 million listeners each week.


Playwrights adapted to radio ranged from Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde to Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams with numerous Broadway and Hollywood actors in the casts, including Ingrid Bergman, Ronald Colman, Bette Davis, Rex Harrison, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, Gene Kelly, Deborah Kerr, Agnes Moorehead and Basil Rathbone. The radio show was broadcast until June 7, 1953, when the United States Steel Corporation decided to move its show to television.


The television version aired from 1953 to 1955 on ABC, and from 1955 to 1963 on CBS. Like its radio predecessor it was a live dramatic anthology series. By 1963, the year it went off the air, it was the last surviving live anthology series from the Golden Age of Television. It was still on the air during President John F. Kennedy's famous April 11, 1962 confrontation with steel companies over the hefty raising of their prices. The show featured a range of television acting talent as its episodes explored a wide variety of contemporary social issues, from the mundane to the controversial.

Notable guest actors included Martin Balsam, Tallulah Bankhead, James Dean, Keir Dullea, Andy Griffith, Rex Harrison, Celeste Holm, Sally Ann Howes, Jack Klugman, Peter Lorre, Walter Matthau, Paul Newman, George Peppard and Albert Salmi.

Episodes were contributed by many notable writers, including Ira Levin, Richard Maibaum and Rod Serling. The program also telecast one-hour musical versions of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". "The United States Steel Hour" telecast "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" on November 20, 1957 with a cast starring Jimmy Boyd, Earle Hyman, Basil Rathbone, Jack Carson and Florence Henderson. Boyd had previously played Huckleberry Finn in the aforementioned telecast of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer".


Serling was not regarded as a controversial scriptwriter until he contributed to the "United States Steel Hour", as he recalled in his collection "Patterns" (1957)::In the television seasons of 1952 and 1953, almost every television play I sold to the major networks was “non-controversial.” This is to say that in terms of their themes they were socially inoffensive, and dealt with no current human problem in which battle lines might be drawn. After the production of "Patterns", when my things were considerably easier to sell, in a mad and impetuous moment I had the temerity to tackle a theme that was definitely two-sided in its implications. I think this story is worth repeating.:The script was called "Noon on Doomsday". It was produced by the Theatre Guild on the "United States Steel Hour" in April 1956. The play, in its original form, followed very closely the Till case in Mississippi, where a young Negro boy was kidnapped and killed by two white men who went to trial and were exonerated on both counts. The righteous and continuing wrath of the Northern press opened no eyes and touched no consciences in the little town in Mississippi where the two men were tried. It was like a cold wind that made them huddle together for protection against an outside force. which they could equate with an adversary. It struck me at the time that the entire trial and its aftermath was simply “They’re bastards, but they’re our bastards.” So I wrote a play in which my antagonist was not just a killer but a regional idea. It was the story of a little town banding together to protect its own against outside condemnation. At no point in the conception of my story was there a black-white issue. The victim was an old Jew who ran a pawnshop. The killer was a neurotic malcontent who lashed out at something or someone who might be materially and physically the scapegoat for his own unhappy, purposeless, miserable existence. Philosophically I felt that I was on sound ground. I felt that I was dealing with a sociological phenomenon--the need of human beings to have a scapegoat to rationalize their own shortcomings.

:"Noon on Doomsday" finally went on the air several months later, but in a welter of publicity that came from some 15,000 letters and wires from White Citizens Councils and the like protesting the production of the play. In news stories, the play had been erroneously described as “The story of the Till case.” At one point earlier, during an interview on the Coast, I told a reporter from one of the news services the story of "Noon on Doomsday". He said, “Sounds like the Till case.” I shrugged it off, answering, “If the shoe fits...” This is all it took. From that moment on "Noon on Doomsday" was the dramatization of the Till case. And no matter how the Theatre Guild or the agency representing U.S. Steel denied it, the impression persisted. The offices of the Theatre Guild, on West 53rd Street in New York City, took on all the aspects of a football field ten seconds after the final whistle blew. [ [ Serling, Rod. "Writing for Television," "Patterns". New York: Bantam, 1957.] ]


The series won Emmys in 1954 for Best Dramatic Program and Best New Program. The following year it won an Emmy for Best Dramatic Series, and Alex Segal was nominated for Best Direction. It received seven Emmy nominations in 1956, one in 1959 and one in 1961, In 1962 it was nominated for a science fiction Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation ("The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon").

ee also

*Academy Award Theater
*Author's Playhouse
*The Campbell Playhouse
*Cavalcade of America
*CBS Radio Workshop
*Ford Theatre
*General Electric Theater
*Lux Radio Theater
*Mercury Theatre on the Air
*Screen Director's Playhouse
*The Screen Guild Theater


Listen to

*InternetArchiveOTR|id=TheaterGuildontheAir|title=Theater Guild on the Air

External links

* [ Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs: "Theater Guild on the Air"]
*imdb title|0045449
* [ "Writing for Television" by Rod Serling]

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