The Associated Press is reporting that the 208 episodes of General Electric Theater hosted by Ronald Reagan have been restored and will be presented to Nancy Reagan today as part of the actor-turned-politician’s 100th birthday celebration. From The New York Times:
The 1954-1962 “General Electric Theater” tapes, most believed to be damaged or lost, were recently uncovered in the General Electric/NBC Universal archives. They were restored to broadcast quality for use in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
[…]“The opportunity to represent GE back in the 1950s, and the encouragement he received from the employees he met along the way, really launched Ronnie’s career in public service,” Mrs. Reagan said in a statement released Wednesday. ”I know he would be honored by this tribute.” GE CEO Jeff Immelt plans to deliver the tapes to Mrs. Reagan at the library Wednesday evening. General Electric is sponsoring the Ronald Reagan Centennial festivities with $15 million.
In addition to the episodes of General Electric Theater, GE is helping to renovate the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library; it will eventually feature a new General Electric Theater that “will focus on Reagan’s career in radio, television and film.” The Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration, a two-year event, will culminate in February of 2011. Reagan was born February 6th, 1911. Here‘s a press release announcing GE’s sponsorship of the celebration.
General Electric Theater premiered on CBS on Sunday, February 1st, 1953. It wasn’t until September 26th, 1954 that Reagan began his stint as host, which would last until the series went off the air in September of 1962 (the final new episode was broadcast on June 3rd, 1962). According to TV.com and the Internet Movie Database a total of 300 episodes were broadcast during its nearly ten years on the air.
The program’s entry in the Museum of Broadcast Communication’s Encyclopedia of TV (1st edition) puts the number at just 200, which can’t be right given that 208 featured Reagan as host. Regardless of how many episodes were produced, one would hope that those not involving Reagan have or will also be restored and perhaps eventually made available to researchers and other interested parties.