Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The NBC Big Show

Tallulah BankheadMore from the TVparty! Blog archives: For one brief, shining moment a radio program became a hit in the era of television, a time when nearly everyone reasoned (rightly) that radio was finished as the predominant form of home entertainment .

It was 1950 and the NBC program was called The Big Show, a star-studded 90 minutes that attracted the biggest names in the entertainment industry and beyond. The star attraction was the outrageous hostess, a most unusual pick for a master of ceremonies, stage and screen actress (and the ultimate diva) Tallulah Bankhead. Known for her catty ways and pert put-downs, the writers created some absolutely hilarious exchanges between Tallulah and her female guests.

The program aired Sunday nights at 6:00pm but despite the network putting everything it had behind the program in an attempt to salvage the once dominant medium, The Big Show reportedly lost a million dollars (real money in the fifties) and was cancelled after a couple of years. It was then moved unsuccessfully over to television as the All-Star Revue with Tallulah as one of the rotating hosts. But then, a lot of radio hits fizzled on the small screen.

Here's an episode of The Big Show from December of 1950 with guests Fred Allen, Margaret Truman, Joan Davis, Phil Silvers, The Sons of The Pioneers and more. The highlight of every episode was Tallulah's madcap putdowns and acid tongued bouts with the guests. (I edited out a boring 13 minute dramatic presentation with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.)
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