[October 6th, 2016 Update: I was able to find an archived version of the blog post.]
[August 31st, 2016 Update: The video clip and the blog post mentioned below are no longer accessible.]
In August, The Paley Center for Media posted a short clip from a very old television play titled “The Streets of New York.” Ron Simon, the Center’s Television and Radio curator, has written a wonderful discussion about both the program and the clip itself. Why am I mentally kicking myself for not having seeing it earlier? Because “The Streets of New York” was broadcast on Thursday, August 31st, 1939–it’s among the earliest TV footage from the United States known to exist.
According to Simon, the silent footage was uncovered by the American Film Institute at an estate sale some years back. It made its way to the Paley Center and Simon was able to identify it–which is an incredible achievement when you think about it. Now, roughly one minute has been posted at the Center’s website. A total of eleven minutes exist. Here’s the entry from the Center’s database:
This home-made kinescope (without sound) shows fragments of one of the Thursday Night Programs broadcast by the predecessor of WNBC-TV, the experimental NBC station W2XBS. The melodrama, about a family’s descent into poverty, is presented as a play within the program. Also shown are shots of patrons entering the Lester Wallace Theatre to watch the show, cards that direct theater patrons in proper behavior, and a “dramatis personae.” Fragmentary scenes include Badger (played by Norman Lloyd) and Bloodgood (played by George Coulouris) plotting together and Bloodgood setting a house on fire.
Yes, that’s producer/actor/director Norman Lloyd, who appeared in a variety of early W2XBS broadcasts. However, I cannot identify him in the footage available at the Paley Center’s website but he may not be in that scene. I was aware that the Center had this footage for quite some time. You can view it in person in New York City or Los Angeles. But I never thought it would be made available online. I implore everyone to take a minute to watch the footage here.
Revised August 31st, 2016