11 March 2006 | krorie
Perhaps the most prestigious show on early television
I grew up in a remote area of northern Arkansas. We got a television in 1953 that was capable of receiving the only TV station in the state, KARK, Channel 4, in Little Rock. Since we were the only family in the area with a television set, our neighbors would come from miles around to watch. The two most popular shows were the wrestling events on Saturday nights after regular programming and "Gillette Cavalcade of Sports" on Friday nights. Later "Wagon Train" would be added. However, some of our neighbors came on Wednesday nights to watch "Kraft Television Theatre." I remember in particular one elderly lady with arthritis and no means of transportation who would often hobble a mile or more when she couldn't get a ride to watch the Kraft dramas.
I recall watching Shakespeare for the first time on this program. It was a presentation of "The Tempest." There was one particular drama popular with the Wednesday night congregation at our house that featured a lad who dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy and went around reciting literature passages. He would end each recitation with, "Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." Since these were live performances and only a few were preserved on Kinescope, I may never know what this drama was or who played in it. Later, the episode that rumor had it would star Elvis was presented. Instead we got a newcomer named Tommy Sands who had some talent, enough to get a hit recording from the song "Teenage Crush" used on the program and to marry Nancy Sinatra, but who was definitely no Elvis. We were very disappointed. One of the dramas starred Sal Mineo. He sang "Start Movin'," which became popular.
"Kraft Television Theatre" was big budget for television in those days. Big name stars and writers were spotlighted. Many a star was born on the program. Many a home viewer was introduced to topnotch drama, including the Bard himself, as a result of this show.