Tales of Lost TV: Manhattan Safari (1941)

Tales of Lost TV is a monthly column in which I examine a particular TV program either known or believed to be lost forever. The amount of lost TV is truly staggering–aside from a handful of exceptions everything broadcast prior to 1948 no longer exists. That doesn’t mean it all has to be forgotten.

Full disclosure: I know absolutely nothing about “Manhattan Safari” except the title, when and where it aired, the company that produced it, and who was in it. That may seem like a lot of information, but it’s not. Aside from TV listings in The New York Times, I’ve only found one source that mentions the program: a short paragraph published in Broadcasting magazine.

Early TV In New York City

“Manhattan Safari” apparently aired twice on early commercial TV station WNBT in New York City in November 1941. That was only a few months after the FCC authorized commercial television in the United States in July 1941. Why did it air twice? I have no idea.

Here are the TV listings for November 28th, 1941 when “Manhattan Safari” aired:

WNBT (New York City) TV Listings – Thursday, November 28th, 1941

3:30-4:30PM – Film: Boy of the Streets
8:30PM – Manhattan Safari
8:40PM – Harvey Harding, Songs
8:50PM – Civilian Defense Program
9:00PM – Face of the War-Sam Cuff
9:10PM – Manhattan Safari

Is it safe to assume the second broadcast at 9:10PM lasted ten minutes, just like the initial broadcast at 8:30PM? Probably but there’s no way to know.

According to the January 5th, 1942 issue of Broadcasting magazine, a company called Telecast Productions produced “Manhattan Safari.” Myron Zobel, publisher and editor of Screenland Magazine, established Telecast Productions in September 1941 and served as its president. The company planned to work with advertisers and agencies to provide “packaged” TV programs.

Telecast Productions sold “Manhattan Safari” to NBC for use on WNBT. It was the first “packaged” program the company produced. Broadcasting made no mention of a sponsor, however. Nor did it specify whether “Manhattan Safari” was live or filmed.

Exactly what kind of program was “Manhattan Safari?” That’s a mystery. It featured Harry Hershfield, Rube Goldberg, Russell Patterson, and Otto Soglow. All four were cartoonists, among other things, which suggests the program was about cartooning. Joining the men were four of the “most telegenic girls in New York” (that’s according to Myron Zobel).

That is literally all I know about “Manhattan Safari.”

References:

“Radio Today.” New York Times. 28 Nov. 1941: 44.
“Video Package Show.” Broadcasting. 5 Jan. 1942: 40.
“Video Program Firm.” Broadcasting. 22 Sep. 1941: 64.


Does “Manhattan Safari” sound interesting to you? If anyone has information about Telecast Productions or Myron Zobel, please get in touch.


4 Comments

  • Karen Martin says:

    The only one of the four gentleman I’ve ever heard of is Rube Goldberg, who drew cartoons about complicated machines to do simple tasks. People began referring to foolish or overly-complex devices as Rube Goldberg machines.

    I find it amusing that he was on an early television program, for there may have been people who considered the bulky and expensive 1940s television receivers to be Rube Goldberg contraptions. Why spend all that money on such a foolish invention when you could listen to good radio programs, or go to the movies for entertainment?

    I have no idea what Manhattan Safari would have been about, but if it were available I’d watch it to see what experimental programs perople came up with.

  • michael shonk says:

    All four men had been cartoonists in the early part of the 20th Century. All four had involvement in TV and film.
    Harry Hershfield (Abie the Agent) was called the “Jewish Will Rogers” and spent a short time as a writer in the MGM cartoon story department. By the 40s Hershfield was well known as a humorist and radio parsonality (CAN YOU TOP THIS?)

    Rube Goldberg was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist best remembered for his over complicated machines. He wrote a feature film called Soup To Nuts that featured the Three Stooges.

    Russell Patterson was cartoonist and illustrator best remembered for his “flapper” pretty girl art. He and Goldberg appeared in the 1937 film ARTISTS AND MODELS

    Otto Soglow was best remembered for his very successful pantomime strip LITTLE KING. He also did animation based on his strip and Max Fleischer’s BETTY BOOP.

    All four were famous at the time.

  • Patrick McNamara says:

    I was searching through the Internet Archive for info on this show based on the people involved. I ran across segments of an other show called Rube Goldberg Inventions.
    https://archive.org/details/cubanc_000187
    It appears the segments were to be five minutes each but I can’t tell if the show actually made it to air or if this was just unaired pilot material.

    It’s interesting that they have the Jackie Cooper movie Boy Of The Streets running only an hour. If it’s the same 1937 film that the Internet Archive has it should have a running time of 1h 16 min.
    https://archive.org/details/BoyOfTheStreets
    So it’s possible that they’re only approximate times listed.

  • Randy says:

    Based on the title of the show, I’m betting that the concept was to highlight different well-known people from Manhattan, if the show had been packaged as a weekly series. I’d also guess that the had the beautiful women there to act as model for drawings or caricatures by the artists.

    It could have been one of these trial balloons or demonstrations for some potential sponsors that didn’t pan out.

    I found an obit for Zobel – he went on to produce travel films for television.
    https://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=DS19670307.2.3

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