At the Movies

At the Movies

Movie Magic: The Search for Transcendence in a Celluloid World

By Fred Wistow

March/April 2010

On the handful of channels that constituted the still-primitive medium that was television in the 1950s and early '60s—before talk shows metastasized into the omnipresence they now enjoy; before today's near-infinite library of old sitcoms had had the time to accumulate and be available for near-infinite rebroadcast; before cable, videocassettes, DVDs, TiVo, and the Internet made the entire history of audiovisual "content" as accessible as a box of Kleenex—late-night programming usually consisted of nothing more than old movies.

After the 11 o'clock news, Channel 2 in New York, for example, would run The Late Show, followed by The Late Late Show, and then, depending on running times, maybe a Late Late Late Show, and (while I may be making this up) even a Late Late Late Late Show. Television in those days treated movies with an indifference that crossed the border into contempt. They were brutally edited—at times to comply with broadcast "standards," at others, purely randomly—and were interrupted every 10 or 15 minutes by a barrage of commercials, many of which were repeated again and again throughout the night.

Then, one day, news that a breakthrough in television programming, a "major television event," was on its way.

We were told that every other month or so, in the Saturday night/Sunday morning time slot ordinarily filled by The Late Show, the F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company would proudly present something very special: The Schaefer…

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