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Playhouse 90: Days of Wine and Roses

Playhouse 90: Days of Wine and Roses
February 16, 2019 - 9:00 am

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Playhouse 90—CBS Closed Circuit Presentation  (1956)

In this rare, newly-discovered network kinescope of a closed circuit press conference, producer Martin Manulis presents an array of superstars to introduce the debut of CBS Television’s pioneering anthology series, Playhouse 90. The A-list talent appearing in this never-broadcast gem includes John Frankenheimer, Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Rod Serling, Ed and Keenan Wynn and many others.

Digital video, b/w, 30 min. Courtesy of CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

Playhouse 90: Days of Wine and Roses  (CBS, 10/12/1958)

An original drama written specifically for the Playhouse 90 series, author J.P. Miller’s “Days of Wine and Roses” stands among the most emotionally hard-hitting of any anthology programs produced during the golden age of television. Miller’s heartbreaking teleplay dispenses with the clichés associated with TV’s frequent portrayal of drunks as comic relief, instead offering a harrowing, realistic account of a young couple whose fates are forever changed by alcoholism. For his powerhouse script on a then still-taboo subject, Miller would be nominated for an Emmy for Best Writing of a Single Dramatic Program—One Hour or Longer.

In his acclaimed directorial effort, John Frankenheimer utilizes “Days of Wine and Roses” stars Piper Laurie and Cliff Robertson to great impact, with both giving nuanced performances of restraint and grit rarely seen on the small screen. To this point, in the foreword to the print edition of his teleplay, Miller recounted that legendary producer Fred Coe observed the show’s stars in rehearsal as they perfected acting being intoxicated—with Coe gently admonishing Frankenheimer by stating, “you've got the wine. Now let's see if you can get the roses.” The resulting broadcast illuminates that Coe’s comment was assimilated, with the protagonists’ star-crossed love story effectively grounding the volatile drama. Among the program’s wide critical notice, Jack Gould of the New York Times praised Laurie’s performance as “enough to make the skin crawl, yet it always elicited deep sympathy… a superlative achievement.” For her work, Laurie would be nominated for an Emmy for Best Single Performance by an Actress. In 1962, the teleplay would be adapted by Miller into a major motion picture for Warner Bros., directed by Blake Edwards and starring Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon in the lead roles.—Mark Quigley

Digital video, b/w, 90 min. Courtesy of CBS Broadcasting, Inc. A CBS Television Network production. Producer: Fred Coe. Director: John Frankenheimer. Screenwriter: J.P. Miller. Cast: Piper Laurie, Cliff Robertson, Charles Bickford. Host: Sterling Hayden.

Preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive from the original 2” tape. Video transfer at the CBS Media Exchange. Special thanks to Peter Murray and Robert Haxby. Use of Playhouse 90 episode courtesy of CBS Broadcasting, Inc.