Saturday, April 4, 2009

Golden Age of TV

The Golden Age of Television fell between the years 1949 and 1961, although some would date the end as early as 1954. What made it Golden? There were several reasons, among them the presentation of original plays, adult drama theater on a weekly basis, variety shows that brought us the older performers as well as new talent, and most productions were live, actors acting in real time before live audiences.

There was a higher cultural output than has been seen since and it all appeared on the three major networks.
All that I have just written is well documented and in greater detail than I need to do here. I raise the subject to make note of one program which never gets mentioned in any history of this time in TV.
I don't remember the name of the program nor in what year it appeared although it was the 1950's. The program was hosted by the actor James Mason and included his wife Pamela and one guest, Richard Burton. The set was a private library with a few easy chairs, wall shelves filled with books and a stepladder. The three actors would take turns reading passages from novels and plays, or poetry from the great poets of the past.
For a young man who grew up in rural farm country this kind of show was magical and I have never forgotten how these three people treated literature with great attention and respect.
My one specific memory is of Richard Burton (his turn to recite having come round) climbing the ladder to take down a book and returning to stand on the floor. He opened the book, turned some pages, said "Ah", and began to read aloud one of the sonnets of John Keats. I can still hear the deep rich Welsh voice begin: "When I have fears that I may cease to be Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain...."

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