Here’s the schedule for NBC’s experimental station W2XBS in New York City for the week starting Sunday, November 12th, 1939, straight from the weekly television listings printed in The New York Times. The week was filled with sporting events, films and a few plays. There was also a “style show burlesque” featuring Frances Hidden and the Goddard Neighborhood Center Television Ball Committee Meeting (the ball itself was planned for December 15th). But the most interesting program of the week was the variety hour broadcast on Sunday, November 12th. In addition to a Thornton Wilder play, the variety show featured Diosa Costello and Desi Arnaz.
According to this article, Costello and Arnaz worked together at the La Conga nightclub in New York City in 1939 and were part of the cast of the Rodgers and Hart musical Too Many Girls, which opened on Broadway in October of that year. (Arnaz would later appear in the 1940 film version of the musical where he first met Lucille Ball.) Was this the first television appearance for Desi Arnaz? I can’t say for sure but my guess is that very well could be. I don’t know exactly what he did as part of the variety show. My guess is that Costello and Arnaz performed a Latin dance of some sort.
Sunday, November 12th, 1939
2:15-4:45PM – Football: Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Washington Redskins, at Ebbets Field.
8:30-9:30PM – American Actors Company in “Happy Journey,” by Thornton Wilder; the Revuers, Diosa Costello and Desi Arnaz.
Wednesday, November 15th, 1939
2:30-3:30PM – Finesse in Photography; film, “Dr. Irving Langmuir on Surface Chemistry”; Frances Hidden, style show burlesque.
8:30-9:30PM – Goddard Neighborhood Center Television Ball Committee Meeting and Tex O’Rourke’s Round-Up, interviews.
Thursday, November 16th, 1939
2:30-3:30PM – Film, “Rose of Tralee.”
8:30-9:30PM – Wrestling at Ridgewood Grove.
Friday, November 17th, 1939
2:30-4:00PM – Film, “Rancho Grande,” with Tito Guizar.
8:30-9:30PM – Play, “A Criminal at Large,” by Edgar Wallace.
Saturday, November 18th, 1939
2:30-3:30PM – “Wings Over the Nation,” fourth in a series on aviation and air travel.
9-11PM – Boxing at Ridgewood Grove.