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Startime (TV series)

For the 1950-51 DuMont TV series, see Star Time (TV series). For other TV series sponsored by Ford Motor Company, see Ford Television Theatre, Ford Festival, The Ford Show, and Ford Star Jubilee.
Also known as Ford Startime – TV's Finest Hour
Lincoln-Mercury Startime
Genre Drama/comedy/music anthology
Country of origin United States of America
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 33 episodes
Running time 60/90 minutes
Production company(s) Hubbell Robinson Productions,
Shamley Productions
Original channel NBC Television Network
Original run October 6, 1959 – May 31, 1960

Startime is an anthology show of drama, comedy, and variety, and was one of the first American television shows broadcast in color. The program was aired Tuesday nights in the United States on the NBC Television network in the 1959-60 television season.


  • Summary 1
    • Production 1.1
  • Episodes 2
  • Nominations & Awards 3
  • Canadian Version 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The show was known as either Ford Startime—TV's Finest Hour or Lincoln–Mercury Startime, depending on which division of the Ford Motor Company was presenting commercials within that show. The contents varied from week to week — dramas, musical comedies, and variety shows were all presented.[1]

The show was always broadcast on Tuesday nights. Initially, from the premiere through the end of 1959, the show was broadcast 9:30–10:30 PM (EST) -- but, starting on January 5, 1960, the show was broadcast 8:30–9:30 PM (EST). Furthermore, some of the shows first broadcast in 1959 were ninety minutes long, continuing to 11 PM.

Some of the presentations of this series might be considered tryouts—for example, Dean Martin hosted two variety episodes within this series, several years before he began his own successful variety show. The same is true for Mitch Miller, and, to a lesser extent, Art Linkletter.


The Music Corporation of America (MCA), under Lew Wasserman, was the "packager" of the series, providing stars who would not ordinarily appear on American television, such as Alec Guinness and Rex Harrison at reduced rates, in exchange for an overall packaging fee for the entire series paid to MCA. Wasserman was also the agent for Alfred Hitchcock, who directed one Startime episode, "Incident at a Corner" (aired April 5, 1960).

For example, Ingrid Bergman, who at that time commanded a salary of $750,000 per film and who had never appeared in a dramatic role on American television, was paid $100,000 for her role in Startime's presentation of The Turn of the Screw. Though MCA only received $10,000 (10% of Bergman's salary) as commission, the company also received, as packager, 10% of the entire production schedule of the entire Startime season (which was $7.24 million). In other words, MCA received $724,000 solely for providing to Startime the services of stars such as Bergman, in addition to the commissions for each individual star.[2]


# Episode Name Length Original air date
1 "The Wonderful World of Entertainment" 60 minutes October 6, 1959
Kirk Browning and Bob Fosse (also credited as choreographer) directed this variety show, written by Larry Gelbart, and starring Polly Bergen, Maurice Chevalier, Eddie Foy Jr., Ernie Kovacs, Arthur O'Connell, Jack Paar, Rosalind Russell, and Kate Smith.
2 "The Jazz Singer" 60 minutes October 13, 1959
Jerry Lewis starred in this remake of the Al Jolson original as a young man who wants to be a nightclub comic, but whose father wants him to become a cantor. Also starring were Anna Maria Alberghetti, Barry Gordon, Molly Picon, and Alan Reed (best known as the voice of Fred Flintstone.)
3 "The Turn of the Screw" 90 minutes October 20, 1959
Ingrid Bergman starred as the governess in this drama directed by John Frankenheimer, and adapted by James Costigan from the Henry James novel.
4 "The Secret World of Kids" 60 minutes October 27, 1959
Art Linkletter hosted this variety show based on his book of the same name. In addition to a Kids Say the Darndest Things segment, there were skits, musical performances and dancing, with child actors Angela Cartwright, Jon Provost, and Teddy Rooney (son of Mickey Rooney), with animal actors Lassie and Jerry the chimpanzee, and with Hollywood stalwarts Ed Wynn and Vincent Price. The show ended with an interview with then-Vice-President of the United States Richard M. Nixon and his mother, about Richard Nixon's childhood.
5 "The Dean Martin Variety Show" 60 minutes November 3, 1959
Dean Martin hosted this variety show, with guests Frank Sinatra and Mickey Rooney.
6 "The Wicked Scheme of Jebal Deeks" 60 minutes November 10, 1959
Alec Guinness starred in this drama about a middle-aged bank employee who resents having worked for over twenty years at the same job without a promotion.
7 "The Big Time" 60 minutes November 17, 1959
The Kingston Trio, starred in this comedy/musical reliving the early days of vaudeville.
8 "Merman on Broadway" 60 minutes November 24, 1959
Ethel Merman sang a musical review of her career on Broadway, with guests Tab Hunter, Fess Parker, and Tom Poston, covering songs ranging from her debut in 1930 right up to her then-current starring role in Gypsy.
9 "Something Special" 60 minutes December 1, 1959
Red Buttons starred in this comedy about a country boy who has come to the city to meet a woman he might marry.
10 "My Three Angels" 90 minutes December 8, 1959
Barry Sullivan starred in this comedy about three Devil's Island convicts who befriend the prison's storekeeper.
11 "Cindy's Fella" 60 minutes December 15, 1959
12 "Christmas Startime" 60 minutes December 22, 1959
This musical Christmas special featured conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein, and opera singers Marian Anderson, Lee Venora, Charles Bressler, Russell Oberlin, and Betty Allen. The host was Joseph N. Welch, best known as the attorney representing the Army in the Joseph McCarthy hearings.
13 "Meet Cyd Charisse" 60 minutes December 29, 1959
Dancer Cyd Charisse starred in this revue with Eve Arden, and fellow dancers Tony Martin and James Mitchell.
14 "The Man" 60 minutes January 5, 1960
Thelma Ritter starred in this drama as a widow terrorized by a handyman played by Audie Murphy. Based on the Mel Dinelli play of the same name, it had been produced twice before on the radio, once in 1945 with Frank Sinatra and Agnes Moorehead, and again in 1949 with Gene Kelly and Ethel Barrymore.
15 "The Dean Martin Variety Show (II)" 60 minutes January 12, 1960
Dean Martin hosted another variety show, this one with actress Nanette Fabray, pianist André Previn, and 1950's pop-singer Fabian.
16 "Crime, Inc." 60 minutes January 19, 1960
Lloyd Nolan narrated this docu-drama about organized crime in the United States from 1900 through 1960.
17 "The Wonderful World of Jack Paar" 60 minutes January 26, 1960
Jack Paar hosted this music and comedy special exploring the "World of Paar", with, among others, comedians Jonathan Winters and Alice Pearce.
18 "The Greatest Man Alive" 60 minutes February 2, 1960
Ed Wynn and Bert Lahr starred in this black comedy about a solitary widower who, in order to place some attention on his unnoticed life, decides to commit suicide by hanging himself, only to be thwarted by well-meaning strangers.
19 "The Swingin' Years" 60 minutes February 9, 1960
This special of Big Band swing music was hosted by Ronald Reagan, and featured, among others, Gene Krupa and his Drum Boogie, Tex Beneke and The Modernaires singing Chattanooga Choo Choo, Count Basie and His Orchestra doing One O'Clock Jump, and Woody Herman and The Herd performing Caldonia.
20 "Closed Set" 60 minutes February 16, 1960
Joan Fontaine and John Ireland starred in this behind-the-scenes drama about a famous Hollywood actress who wants to break out of her stereotypical roles and do a "quality film". Agnes Moorehead also starred.
21 "The Talent Scouts Program" 60 minutes February 23, 1960
Dave Garroway hosted this musical variety showcase, where well-known stars (among others, Hugh Downs, Maureen O'Hara, Richard Rodgers and Joan Crawford) introduced young new stars (among them, Colleen Dewhurst, introduced by Crawford).
22 "Jeff McCleod, the Last Reb" 60 minutes March 1, 1960
Robert Horton, Anne Francis, and Ricardo Montalban starred in a war story set in the closing days of the American Civil War, where an isolated conflict between Union and Confederate forces continues on for days, even after they all know the war is officially over.
23 "The Swingin' Singin' Years" 60 minutes March 8, 1960
Ronald Reagan again was the host for another Startime episode of Big Band swing music. Among the musicians appearing were Dinah Washington singing a medley (What a Difference a Day Made/Making Whoopee), Woody Herman (again), and Jo Stafford, Louis Jordan, and Stan Kenton.
24 "Academy Award Songs" 60 minutes March 15, 1960
Jane Wyman hosted this musical variety special of songs nominated in the Best Song category for the 1959 Academy Awards, and of other Academy Award winning songs from years past.
25 "Dear Arthur" 60 minutes March 22, 1960
Rex Harrison starred in this drama, adapted by Gore Vidal from the story by P. G. Wodehouse based on the play by Ferenc Molnár, about a con-man at work on the modern-day French Riveria.
26 "The Young Juggler" 60 minutes March 29, 1960
Tony Curtis starred in this remake of the story The Greatest Gift, about a young man in a European monastery who has no gift to place before the statue of the Holy Virgin Mary, other than his juggling.
27 "Incident at a Corner" 60 minutes April 5, 1960
Jack Albertson, Eve McVeagh, and Vera Miles.
28 "Well, What About You?" 60 minutes April 19, 1960
Eddie Albert hosted this non-partisan presentation on the obligation and privilege of voting in the upcoming American election. Politicians Adlai Stevenson, Nelson Rockefeller, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon gave speeches, and entertainers Polly Bergen and Marian Andersen, as well as various US military bands and choirs, performed.
29 "Soldiers in Greasepaint" 60 minutes April 26, 1960
Bob Crosby hosted this musical salute to the USO, the United Services Organization, known for providing free entertainment and recreation to American servicemen stationed overseas.
30 "Fun Fair" 60 minutes May 3, 1960
Margaret Hamilton, and Cliff Arquette (in his country bumpkin persona Charley Weaver), doing skits, songs and dances.
31 "Tennessee Ernie Ford Meets King Arthur" 60 minutes May 10, 1960
Tennessee Ernie Ford starred in this remake of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. John Dehner narrated; Alan Mowbray played King Arthur, and Carl Ballantine played Merlin; also in the cast were Vincent Price and Alan Young.
32 "The Mitch Miller Variety Show" 60 minutes May 24, 1960
Mitch Miller hosted this musical performance show, an immediate precursor to his NBC network show Sing Along With Mitch that premiered the following year. Leslie Uggams appeared as a singer.
33 "The Nanette Fabray Show, or Help Me, Aphrodite" 60 minutes May 31, 1960
Nanette Fabray starred in this musical about a diner waitress who wants to be as famous as such legendary women of the past as Marie Antoinette and Pocahantas. Also in the cast were Jean-Pierre Aumont, Stubby Kaye, and Tony Randall.

Nominations & Awards

Alec Guinness, playing the lead role in The Wicked Scheme of Jebal Deeks, received a nomination in the Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor category in the 12th Primetime Emmy Awards. He lost to Laurence Olivier in The Moon and Sixpence.

Canadian Version

From October 6, 1959 through June 28, 1960, Ford of Canada broadcast, in the Tuesday 9–11 PM timeslot, on the CBC network in Canada, a show also called Ford Startime, presenting many of the same shows as the American version, alternating with Canadian-produced shows, including adaptions of Arthur Miller's The Crucible (starring Leslie Nielsen), Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, and James Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks.[3]


  1. ^ Tim Brooks and Earl March, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows: 1946–Present (Random House, 2007) ISBN 0-345-45542-8 p. 976
  2. ^ Dennis McDougal, The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA, and the Hidden History of Hollywood (De Capo Press, 2001) ISBN 0-306-81050-6 page 282
  3. ^ "Switzer) to Stage Door"CBC Television Series, 1952-82 ( webpage on the Queens' Film and Media website

External links

  • at IMDBStartime
  • at TV.COMFord Startime
  • at Classic TV ArchiveFord Startime
  • at CVTA with episode listStartime
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