Bookshelf: Television Life Magazine (Volume 1, Number 1)

Bookshelf is a monthly column examining printed matter relating to television. While I love watching TV, I also love reading about it, from tie-in novels to TV Guides, from vintage television magazines to old newspaper articles. Bookshelf is published on the second Thursday of each month.

Television Life (Volume 1, Number 1)
First Published January 1949
Published by U.S.A. Com. Magazine Corp.
50 Pages

This is the earliest magazine in my collection of TV-related publications devoted exclusively to television. I have several issues of Radio & TV Mirror that predate it. I also have the first issue of Radioland and Television from November 1948. Martin Goodman was the publisher of that magazine, which included a short “Television Life” section. Goodman also published this first issue of Television Life, which suggests it may have been a spin-off of Radioland and Television.

Jinx Falkenburg is on the cover of the magazine, which excites readers with the promise of “Over 150 exciting pictures of video’s stars and programs plus facts you want to know about television.” I didn’t count the number of pictures.

Scan of the front cover to Television Life Magazine Volume 1, Number 1
Front cover to Television Life Magazine Volume 1, Number 1 – Copyright 1948 U.S.A. Com. Magazine Corp.

It’s interesting to flip through the pages and see who was considered worth writing about in January 1949. There are famous names like Gloria Swanson, Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle, Ted Mack, and Dinah Shore as well as Kyle MacDonnell, Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns, and Jinx Falkenburg, Johnny Desmond, all of whom have slipped into varying degrees of obscurity over the decades.

Then there are those who are even more forgotten: Kathi Norris, Danny “Sad Sack” Webb, Dennis James, and Gloria Jean. As for the two wrestlers featured in an article–Gorgeous George and Nature Boy Rogers–I can’t say I recognized their names but wrestling fans with long memories probably will.

Scan of the table of Contents from Television Life Magazine Volume 1, Number 1
Table of Contents – Copyright 1948 U.S.A. Com. Magazine Corp.

The six feature articles cover a wide range of topics. One discusses the production company founded by Rudy Vallee (Vallee Video Productions Inc.) to provide films for television. A second article also discusses how films were impact TV. Another feature examines the TV work of artist Jon Gnagy. There are also profiles of Gloria Swanson and Dennis James.

The longest feature article is titled “Television’s Here, Where Is Hollywood?” and covers how television is bringing the glamour of Hollywood to the masses while also giving new life to old silent films and old vaudeville stars and offering radio stars new opportunities. It is also making stars out of newcomers like Kyle MacDonnell and Win Elliot.

The “Video Stations Around the Nation” section of the magazine is my favorite. The eight pages feature local stars and programs from TV stations across the country: WRGB in Schenectady; KRYL-TV in Salt Lake City; the Don Lee-KTSL station in Los Angeles; KLTA-Paramount in Los Angeles; WLWT-TV in Cincinnati; WTVB-TV in Richmond; KSD-TV in St. Louis; and WGN-TV in Chicago.

The promotional and behind-the-scenes pictures on these pages may well document truly lost TV shows from the late 1940s like WRGB’s Drawing Room, KDYL-TV’s Sandman Stories, WLWT-TV’s Kitchen Klub, and WGN-TV’s Club Television.

Scan of page 39 from Television Life Magazine Volume 1, Number 1
Don Lee-KTSL TV Shows (Page 39) – Copyright 1948 U.S.A. Com. Magazine Corp.

The big question is whether or not Television Life continued past this issue. It was supposedly published quarterly, so the second issue should have come out in April 1949. Did it? I can’t say. I do know there were several other magazines with similiar titles, including one publication called Radio-Television Life from the late 1940s and early 1950s. And there was TV Picture Life in the late 1950s.

There was also a Los Angeles weekly radio and TV program guide called TV-Radio Life that was originally called Radio Life when it began in the 1930s and was published until at least 1958. Several other local or regional program guides that used the name TV Life, including one in Portland, OR and another in Rochester, NY.

If anyone knows of additional issues of Television Life, please hit the comments.

See Also:

In April 2014 I reviewed the first issue of Telecast magazine, which was published in November 1949.

In November 2014, I reviewed several issues of Radio and Television Mirror from July and September 1948.


2 Comments

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    Vallee Video produced one of the first “animated cartoon” series syndicated to TV that year (although it was essentially “storyboards”, accompanied by “radio” soundtracks): “THE TELECOMICS”. A second season was sold to NBC [and sponsor Standard Brands] for the fall of 1950 {“THE NBC COMICS”}; those episodes were later syndicated with the earlier ones, through the 1950’s.

  • Jack Morrow says:

    Gorgeous George had a huge impact on popular culture, including sales of television sets. See John Capouya’s biography Gorgeous George for discussion of the popularity of G.G. and professional wrestling on television in the medium’s early days.

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