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Encyclopedia > Four Star Television


Four Star Television, also called Four Star Films and Four Star International, was an American television production company which operated from 1952 to 1989. It was formed by prominent Hollywood actors Dick Powell, David Niven and Charles Boyer. The company produced many well-known shows of the early days of television, including The Rifleman, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Zane Grey Theater, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor, Burke's Law, The Rogues, and The Big Valley. Dick Powell (1904-1963) The singer, actor, producer, and director Dick Powell was born as Richard Ewing Powell in Mountain View, Arkansas on November 14, 1904. ... David Niven was the second unofficial James Bond. ... Charles Boyer in Love Affair Charles Boyer (August 28, 1899 – August 26, 1978) was a French actor. ... Chuck Connors as The Rifleman The Rifleman was a television program that ran from 1958 to 1963. ... Richard Diamond, Private Detective was a 1950s television show starring David Janssen. ... Burkes Law was a detective series which ran on ABC from 1963 to 1966, and then again on CBS from 1994 to 1995. ... The Big Valley was a television Western which ran on ABC from 1965 through 1969. ...

Contents


Dick Powell

The story of Four Star properly begins with actor Dick Powell. A veteran of Hollywood for about 20 years in 1952, Powell longed to produce and direct. While he did have some opportunities to do so at Howard Hughes' RKO studio (including the legendarily bad film The Conqueror, starring John Wayne) Powell saw the oppotunities being offered by the then infant medium of television. For other people named Howard Hughes, see Howard Hughes (disambiguation). ... RKO could stand for: RKO Pictures The R.K.O. - finishing manoever (and initials) of WWE professional wrestler Randy Orton. ... The Conqueror was a 1956 motion picture starring screen legend John Wayne which was a portrayal of the life of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan. ... U.S. John Wayne stamp from 2004 John Wayne (May 26, 1907 – June 11, 1979), popularly known as The Duke, was an American film actor whose career began in silent movies in the 1920s. ...


Four Star Playhouse

Powell came up with an interesting program idea: an anthology series, with a rotation of established stars every week, four stars in all. (Hence the name of the program, Four Star Playhouse, and the studio.) The stars would own the studio and the program, as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had done successfully with Desilu studio. // Lucille Désirée Ball (August 6, 1911 – April 26, 1989) was an American actress, comedian and star of I Love Lucy. ... Desi Arnaz Desi Arnaz (March 2, 1917 – December 2, 1986) was a Cuban-American musician, actor, comedian and television producer. ... Desilu Productions was a company jointly owned by American actors Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. ...


Powell had intended for the program to feature himself, Charles Boyer, Joel McCrea and Rosalind Russell, but Russell and McCrea backed out and David Niven came on board as the "third star". The fourth star would be a guest star at first. CBS liked the idea and Four Star Playhouse made its debut in fall of 1952. While it ran on alternate weeks only at that first season (the program it alternated with was the television version of Amos and Andy) it was successful enough to be renewed and made a weekly program from the second season till the end of its run in 1956. Actress/director Ida Lupino was brought on board as the de facto fourth star, though unlike Powell, Boyer and Niven she owned no stock in the company. Joel McCrea in Foreign Correspondent Joel Albert McCrea, (November 5, 1905 - October 20, 1990) was an American film actor. ... Rosalind Russell (June 4, 1907 - November 28, 1976) was an American film and stage actress. ... CBS (an acronym for Columbia Broadcasting System, the former legal name of the network) is one of the largest television networks, and formerly one of the largest radio networks, in the United States. ... Amos & Andy (also rendered as Amos n Andy) was a United States from the 1920s through the 1950s. ... Lupino in High Sierra Ida Lupino (February 4, 1914 – August 3, 1995) was a film actress, director, and a pioneer in the field of women filmmakers. ...


Westerns

Following the cancellation of Four Star Playhouse, two new programs came on CBS: a comedy called Hey, Jeannie which starred Jeannie Carson, and a western anthology show Zane Grey Theater, more formally named Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater. Carson's show ran for just a season, but Zane Grey Theater ran for four, and was an influential show. It hosted the pilot episodes for Trackdown starring Robert Culp (which in turn hosted a pilot for Wanted: Dead or Alive with Steve McQueen), The Westerner with Brian Keith, and The Rifleman. It can in short be said to be strongly responsible for the influx of westerns on television in the 1950's. Trackdown was a western television series running from 1957 to 1959 that featured Robert Culp as gunslinger Hoby Gilman, a law enforcer hunting down criminals all over the west. ... Robert Culp (born August 16, 1930 in Oakland, California) is an American actor, best known for his work on television. ... This article is about the actor Steve McQueen. ... The Westerner is a 1940 film with Walter Brennan. ... Brian Keith (November 14, 1921 - June 24, 1997) was an American stage, film and television actor. ... Chuck Connors as The Rifleman The Rifleman was a television program that ran from 1958 to 1963. ...


Richard Diamond, Private Detective

Not that Four Star stuck to westerns, though it aired many. In 1957 it debuted the first of its many police/detective shows, Richard Diamond, Private Detective. The Diamond show had originally created for radio by Blake Edwards, and the character played by Powell, but Edwards recast the character with the then-unknown Clark Gable-lookalike David Janssen. Richard Diamond, Private Detective was a 1950s television show starring David Janssen. ... Blake Edwards (b. ... Clark Gable with 8th AF in Britain, 1943 Clark Gable (February 1, 1901–November 16, 1960) was an American film actor and the biggest box office star of the early sound film era. ... David Janssen David Harold Meyer (March 27, 1931 - February 13, 1980), better known as David Janssen, was an American film and television actor who is best-known for his role as Dr. Richard Kimble in the television series The Fugitive (ABC,1963-1967). ...


The Rogues

Another program, The Rogues, starred Boyer and Niven with Gig Young; this was the closest the studio's owners would come to appearing on the same program since Four Star Playhouse. The idea was for the three actors to alternate as the lead each week playing moral con-man cousins out to fleece reprehensible villains, often with one or two of the others turning up to play a small part in the caper (real ensemble episodes were rare). The schedule of who pulled leading man duty was largely determined by the actors' movie commitments, thereby giving Niven, Boyer, and Young additional work between film roles. In the event, Young wound up helming most of the episodes since he usually had more spare time than Niven or Boyer, but even he had to be replaced by Larry Hagman (twelve years before playing J.R. Ewing on Dallas) as another cousin for one show when Young was too busy. The series only lasted through the 1964-65 season but remains fondly remembered for its sophistication and humor by many who saw it. Actor Gig Young in City That Never Sleeps Gig Young (November 4, 1913 – October 19, 1978) was an American film actor. ... Larry Hagman, born Larry Martin Hageman on September 21, 1931, is an American actor who is famous for playing J.R. Ewing in the television soap opera Dallas. ... Dallas redirects here. ...


A Major Launching Pad

The studio was extremely successful in the late 1950's as a result of the success of its programs. Four Star also helped bring some prominent names in television and movies to public attention including David Janssen, Steve McQueen, Chuck Connors, Mary Tyler Moore, Linda Evans, Lee Majors, The Smothers Brothers, Aaron Spelling, and Sam Peckinpah. The studio was well known as being sympathetic to creative staff and Powell was quite willing to do battle with network executives on behalf of writers, directors, and actors. It also made Powell, Niven, and Boyer very wealthy men. David Janssen David Harold Meyer (March 27, 1931 - February 13, 1980), better known as David Janssen, was an American film and television actor who is best-known for his role as Dr. Richard Kimble in the television series The Fugitive (ABC,1963-1967). ... This article is about the actor Steve McQueen. ... Chuck Connors Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors (April 10, 1921 – November 10, 1992) was an actor and professional basketball and baseball player. ... Mary Tyler Moore (born on December 29, 1936) is an American actress and comedian, perhaps best known for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, in which she starred as Mary Richards, a 30ish single woman who worked as a news producer at WJM-TV in Minneapolis. ... Linda Evans Linda Evans was born Linda Evanstad on November 18, 1942, in Hartford, Connecticut. ... Lee Majors as Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors (born Harvey Lee Yeary on April 23, 1939 in Wyandotte, Michigan) is an American actor, best known for playing the part of Steve Austin, a former astronaut with bionic limbs, in the television series The Six Million Dollar... The Smothers Brothers are an American music-and-comedy team, formed by real-life brothers Tom Smothers (born 1937) and Dick Smothers (born 1939). ... Aaron Spelling Aaron Spelling (born April 22, 1923 in Dallas, Texas) is an American film and television producer. ... Sam Peckinpah David Samuel Peckinpah (February 21, 1925 - December 28, 1984) was an American film director, known as Sam Peckinpah. ...


Dick Powell's Death

But the glory days would not last. On January 2, 1963, just a day after his last appearance on his program The Dick Powell Show ran, Dick Powell died of stomach cancer, possibly as a result of having directed The Conqueror amidst dust clouds of atomic test radiation in Utah (the government had assured everyone that it was perfectly safe; out of a cast and crew of 220, 91 had contracted cancer by 1981, including John Wayne). The studio would never quite recover from Powell's death. January 2 is the second day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1963 (MCMLXIII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (the link is to a full 1963 calendar). ... The Conqueror was a 1956 motion picture starring screen legend John Wayne which was a portrayal of the life of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan. ...


An ad executive named Thomas McDermott was brought in to run the studio for Niven, Boyer and Powell's family. But without Powell's vision, the studio went into decline. Within two years after Powell's death, Four Star had only 5 programs on the air, and after another two years all but one, The Big Valley, would be gone. The Big Valley was a television Western which ran on ABC from 1965 through 1969. ...


Four Star was sold to new owners in 1968 and was renamed Four Star International. While it did get a hit of sorts in a show called Thrill Seekers (which was a sort of proto-reality television program), the studio was living off of its successful syndicated reruns for years and was sold to Roger Corman's New World Entertainment in 1989. It is now owned by News Corporation. Thrill Seekers was a television series aired in 1973 and 1974. ... Reality television is a genre of television programming which presents unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and features ordinary people over professional actors. ... Roger William Corman (born April 5, 1926) is an American producer and director of low-budget films. ... News Corporation (abbreviated to News Corp) (NYSE: NWS) is one of the worlds largest media conglomerates. ...


Listing of programs
  • Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater(1956-60)
  • Hey, Jeannie(1956-57) starring Jeannie Carson
  • The David Niven Show (Summer 1959)
  • The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor (1959-62)
  • The June Allyson DuPont Show (1959-61)
  • The Tom Ewell Show(1960-61)
  • The Dick Powell Show (1961-63)
  • The Lloyd Bridges Show (1962-63)
  • McKeever And The Colonel(1962-63) starring Scott Lane & Allyn Joslyn
  • Mad Movies with the L.A. Connection (1985)

 
 

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