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TV in the 1950s

THE BIG SHOW

Tallulah BankheadFor one brief, shining moment a radio show became a hit in the era of television, a time when nearly everyone reasoned (rightly) that radio's days as the predominant form of home entertainment were over.

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 / ultimate diva Tallulah Bankhead.

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 medium, The Big Show reportedly lost a million dollars and was cancelled after a couple of years, then moved unsuccessfully to television as the All-Star Revue with Tallulah as one of the rotating hosts.

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.)

Quicktime - The Big Show

Which can't help but remind me of the Diva doing a parody of morning radio shows - it's Tallulah Bankhead and Fred Allen from a radio show of the 1940s.

As long as we're on the subject, here's Judy Garland guest starring on Tallulah's The Big Show, radio's last stand.

Here the witty hostess and Groucho Marx trade scripted quips from February of 1951.

One of her last appearances on TV was as the villianous Black Widow on Batman in 1967, you can tell by this clip she wasn't in the best of health, hardly her finest hour. Her very last network appearance was on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967, she died just a few months later.

FEUDING DIVAS
TV Blog / Bette Davis VS Tallulah Bankhead on NBC's THE BIG SHOW 1950-51One of Hollywood's most colorful feuds was between Miss Bankhead and Bette Davis. It didn't attain nearly the intensity Davis' hatefest with Joan Crawford did but, like any good feud, there were legitimate reasons for the tension.

Someone has mixed together Tallu's references to Bette from The Big Show for us all to enjoy. Bette was riding high at the time thanks to All About Eve. Bette's characterization, many claimed, was an imitation of Tallulah. In fact, Bette made a career out of playing roles originated on the stage by La Bankhead, acted in much the same style. Any potential Divas out there - here's how it's done.


 


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