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Black ABC, , a half-hour mystery anthology series, were produced in Chicago as well. Ranging in duration from thirty minutes to an hour, these live dramas were generic hybrids uniquely suited to the evolving video technology. Borrowing specific elements from the legitimate stage, network radio, and the Hollywood film, the newly constructed dramas on television teledramas fashioned a dynamic entertainment form that effectively fused these high and low cultural expressions.
From radio these teledramas inherited the CBS and NBC network distribution system, sound effects, music, theme songs and the omniscient narrator, who provided continuity after commercial message breaks.
From film, teledramas borrowed aging stars and emerging personalities, camera stylistics, mobility and flexibility. Imported from the theater were Broadway-inspired set designs, contemporary stage i. This postwar demographic shift from urban to suburban centers is often credited with creating the new mass audience and the subsequent demand for the home-theater mode of entertainment that network television, boosted by the high quality drama programs, was uniquely capable of satisfying.
The first so-called "golden age" drama program to appear was the Kraft Television Theater, which premiered on 7 May , on the NBC network. In network television was linked coast to coast and in Hollywood Theater Time ABC became one of the first dramatic anthology shows to originate from the West coast although transmitted to the East via kinescopes--inferior copies of shows filmed directly from the television screen.
Several important factors contributed to the rise of "golden age" dramas by the mids. Consequently, this major expansion of the television industry necessitated a rapid increase for new shows. The remaining dramas were transmitted usually from the East Coast to the West via kinescopes.
Location on the television schedule was also a key element in the success of anthology dramas during this early phase. Because the sponsors rather than the networks generally controlled the programs, teledramas were not restricted to a particular network or time schedule.
As a result of this programming flexibility, it was not unusual for shows either to rotate around the dial or to remain firmly entrenched, all in search of the best possible ratings. In , the Kraft Television Theater aired at 9: The venerable Ford Television Theater appeared on all three networks during its nine-year run. The anthology format itself, which demanded a constant supply of actors, writers, directors and producers, and was quite different from the episodic series structure featuring a stable cast, always offered something new to viewers.
And since anthology dramas provided plenty of work to go around, many actors got their first starring roles in live dramas, while others gained national exposure that was not possible on the stage or that eluded them on the big screen.
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This rotating system of anthology drama production resulted in a creative firmament for television that many television historians consider as yet unsurpassed.
The fact that these shows dramatized many high quality original works as well as adaptations of high and middle-brow literature gave advertisers cost-effective reasons for underwriting the relatively high production values that characterized many of the topnotch anthology programs.
Many, in fact, were consistent Emmy Award winners. Accordingly, the growing prestige of live dramas enabled established and fading stars from the Broadway stage and Hollywood films to be less reticent about performing on television, and many flocked to the new medium. In fact, some even lent their famous names to these anthology drama programs. His star-driven program was later joined by the Charles Boyer Theater , and in silent film star Conrad Nagel hosted his own syndicated anthology drama entitled The Conrad Nagel Theater.
Bing Crosby Enterprises produced The Gloria Swanson Show in , with Swanson as host and occasional star in teleplays produced for this dramatic anthology series. As crucial as these elements were, perhaps the most important reason leading to the success of this nascent television art form was the high caliber of talent on both sides of the video camera. For television, it was writers like Serling and Chayevsky who became the auteurs of its "golden-age.
Some of the anthologies were now produced on film, but they maintained the aesthetic and psychological premises of the live productions that tutored their creators and their audiences. One instance of such a programming pattern occurred on Thursday nights during the , TV season.
The Museum of Broadcast Communications - Encyclopedia of Television - Golden Age of Television
Dramatic anthologies came in various generic formats as well. The other genres were, for example, suspense: Theater of the Mind NBC, , legal: They Stand Accused DuMont , science fiction: Twilight Zone CBS, , military: Citizen Soldier Syndicated, , reenactments: As these various titles suggest, the dramas staged on these anthology programs were remarkably diverse, at least in form if not in substance. In this regard, critics of the so-called "golden age" dramas have noted what they consider to be major problems inherent in the staging of plays for the commercial television medium.
Much of the criticism of these live television dramas concerned the power sponsors often exerted over program content. Specifically, the complaints concerned the mandate by sponsors that programs adhere to a "dead-centerism.
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Only those dramas that supported and reflected positive middle-class values, which likewise reflected favorably the image of the advertisers, were broadcast.
Critics charge the networks with pandering to Southern viewer expectations in order not to offend regional sensibilities. Scripts exploring problems at the societal level i. Instead, critics complain, too many "golden age" dramas were little more than simplistic morality tales focusing on the every day problems and conflicts of weak individuals confronted by personal shortcomings such as alcoholism, greed, impotence, and divorce, for example.
While there is no doubt that teleplays dealing with serious social issues were not what most network or advertising executives considered appropriate subject matter for predisposing viewers to consume their products, it is important to note that the "golden age" did coincide with the cold-war era and McCarthyism and that cold-war references, such as avoiding communism and loving America, were frequently incorporated in teleplays of the mid to late s.
This menu of live television dramas, especially when compared with popular Hollywood films, the elite theater, or commercial radio, presented American audiences with an extraordinary breadth of viewing experiences in a solitary entertainment medium. In response, the networks began cultivating original scripts from young writers.
Thus, the majority of the dramas appearing on these anthology shows were original works. Starring Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand as the principals, "Marty" is a love story about two ordinary characters and the mundane world they inhabit.
What further distinguishes "Marty" is the fact that it signaled a trend in the entertainment industry whereby teleplays were increasingly adapted for film. Shortly after its phenomenal television success, "Marty" became a successful feature film. Some of the most successful and critically acclaimed dramatic anthology programs of the "golden age" were, Armstrong Circle Theater thirteen seasons , Kraft Television Theater eleven seasons , Alfred Hitchcock Presents ten seasons , Studio One ten seasons , The U.
Steel Hour ten seasons , General Electric Theater nine seasons , Philco Television Playhouse seven seasons , Goodyear Playhouse six seasons , Playhouse 90 four seasons , and Twilight Zone four seasons-revived in Brooks, Tim and Earle Marsh, eds.
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