Goodyear Playhouse (TV Series 1951–1957) Poster

(1951–1957)

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beautiful series
mpgmpg12320 January 2003
I have only been able to see a few of this series' episodes. But each has been wonderful. The Lawn Party has Geraldine Fitzgerald as a snobby woman, India, who wants a beatiful party for her daughter, without realizing how it is making those who most love her suffer. Typically, Fitzgerald plays the part as written, a snobby woman who ultimately sees the harm she is doing. There is also the wonderful October Story with Julie Harris and Leslie Nielson; it is a charming comedy with both stars in great form. Best of all are the Eileen Heckart character dramas written by Tad Mosel. One of these, Other People's Houses, is about a still common family problem of how to deal with the fact that a parent is aging and has to go live in a retirement home. This also features a young Rod Steiger, who over-acts horribly. There is also My Lost Saints, about a woman who must choose between her selfish mother and the family she works for and thought of as "family" until events change. She has to see that her beloved employers and her mother are humans and not saints, having to mourn this loss along the way. Heckart is very touching in that one. Best of all of course is a Trip to Bountiful with lovely young Eva MArie Saint as the war bride and this time Heckart as a nasty daughter in law. But the star of the show is Lillian Gish, giving the performance of a lifetime in this beautiful Horton Foote drama. That is why these "tv shows" were so beautiful and great, they were character dramas written by great writers. Hopefully more will show up and today's audiences can enjoy these early dramas that are still so relevant today. As they say, only times change, not people and these dramas about people certainly prove that.
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Gore Vidal's "Visit to a Small Planet"
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre6 December 2003
'Goodyear Television Playhouse' was an anthology series with a low budget and poor production values; all the episodes were transmitted live from a small studio, and so the series favoured dramas which took place entirely indoors on minimal sets. This series aired fortnightly on NBC, alternating with 'The Philco Television Playhouse': basically the same series with a different sponsor.

The most notable episode of 'GTP' is 'Visit to a Small Planet' , a sardonic comedy scripted by Gore Vidal, which aired on 8 May 1955, starring Cyril Ritchard. This episode was so successful that Vidal later expanded it into a stage play, in which Ritchard starred on Broadway. It was also turned into a film, starring Jerry Lewis ... a casting which Vidal decried. I personally dislike Jerry Lewis, yet nothing he has ever done was as tasteless as Gore Vidal's screenplay for 'Caligula'.

'Small Planet' stars Ritchard as Kreton, a highly-advanced citizen of the future who has travelled yesterwards to study the pathetic humans of the Cold War era, gleefully provoking them to the brink of a nice little global nuclear holocaust. Kreton's base of operations is the suburban home of Roger Spelding, a pompous businessman. Spelding is played by Edward Andrews, a prolific character actor with an extremely narrow range: he basically gave the same performance throughout his career, yet Andrews was highly effective in that narrow range.

Dick York is impressive as the young man who hopes to marry Spelding's daughter. Unfortunately, York's character is named John Randolph: the same name as a real-life character actor who was an outspoken advocate of communist activities.

Due to the low budget and technical constraints of this period, most of the science-fictional events in 'Small Planet' happen offscreen. We see the Speldings' reactions as Kreton's spaceship lands in their front garden ... but we don't witness the landing itself, and we never see the spaceship. At one point, Kreton uses his psychokinetic abilities to make a rifle leap out of a soldier's hands and levitate past the Speldings' house. This is an amusing incident, but we can clearly see the wires enabling the rifle to 'fly'.

There is some clever dialogue when Kreton converses with the Spelding family's cat, and when he reveals his ability to see other people's thoughts in the form of colours: a combination of synaesthesia and telepathy. For all its technical faults, 'Visit to a Small Planet' is an intelligent and enjoyable comedy, worthy of revival on video. I hope that one day this story will be filmed as Gore Vidal originally wrote it.
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