1 9 4 7 – 1 9 5 8 (USA)
The Kraft Foods Co. was the sole sponsor of this dramatic anthology series that was the first hour-long series of this kind on American television when it premiered on NBC on 7 May 1947.
During the 11 years it was on the air, Kraft Television Theatre presented 650 plays, which were, for the most part, presented live and employed 3,955 actors in over 6,750 roles.
The first production was ‘Double Door’ which starred John Baragrey.
The series – produced by the J Walter Thompson advertising agency – originated from a small converted radio studio at NBC, and for many years the various dramas were introduced by announcer Ed Herlihy, the Kraft Company’s longtime spokesman.
During the show’s early years, each hour-long play cost $3,000 to produce, but by 1958 (when the series departed the airwaves) each show cost $165,000.
Scripts produced on the show ranged from Shakespearean plays to productions written by contemporary playwrights, and practically every major dramatist was represented on the series at one stage or another.
Memorable performances over the years included James Dean in ‘A Long Time Till Dawn’ (1953), Rod Serling’s ‘Patterns’ (1955), Eugene O’Neill’s ‘The Emperor Jones’ (1955), F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Diamond as Big as The Ritz’ (1955), John F Kennedy’s ‘A Profile In Courage’ (1956, when Kennedy was a US Senator), ‘A Night To Remember’ (1956) – an adaptation of the book about the final hours of the Titanic, ‘The Singing Idol’ (1957) with Tommy Sands, and ‘Drummer Man’ (1957) with Sal Mineo.
Prominent actors seen on Kraft Television Theatre included Jack Lemmon, Art Carney, Anthony Perkins, Rod Steiger, Grace Kelly, and Paul Newman.
The series closed on 1 October 1958.