MISS CLAIRE BROWN
Speaking of Television...
July 7, 1950
By GENE AUTRY
(Star of CBS-TV's "Gene Autry Show,"
starting Sunday, July 23)
To paraphrase a famous question, "TV or not TV" was the big problem facing me early this year.
Like everyone else in show business, I had become very much interested in the possibilities of television. And, in addition, I had a special reason for wanting to hit the video channels. During my three and a half years in the service, a whole new generation of children had been born. These youngsters are still too young to attend many movies (if at all), but they're not too young to watch television. And in these days, cowboy fans, like charity, begin at home.
On the other hand, Hollywood has been mighty good to me for many years and, rightly or wrongly, Hollywood considers television a threat to its own business. This is particularly true of theatre exhibitors, the men and women who own and manage the movie houses where pictures are shown. So if I did go in for television, theatre men might consider this a definite affront, an evidence of disloyalty.
Well, the problem plagued me for a good many months, but finally I reached a decision: to go ahead and produce a series of western films for CBS television. I didn't want to make my TV debut in old serials of old movies in which I had appeared 10 or 15 years ago, so I made plans to star in a brand new series of half-hour movies especially designed for the needs and limits of television.
And the reasons I decided to go ahead with this venture were: (1) most of my movies play in small towns, whereas television sets are most numerous (per capita) in the large cities; thus, these areas of competition would not overlap to any considerable extent; (2) and more important, television can and will serve as a boon to movie business. Children, and adults, too, who see a certain star on television become interested in him and, as a result, will also go to see his movies . . . or his rodeos, or his night club act. It has worked that way in every other phase of the entertainment business. Stardom on radio, records, or movies immediately stirs up interest in that personality in other mediums – and it is also going to be true of television. I firmly believe that.
As I write this, we have just completed the first six of our television features. They will be released for viewing on CBS television channels about the middle of July. The first one is titled "Gold Dust Charlie."
Those of you who are familiar with my CBS radio show, "Melody Ranch," will recognize quite a few of the characters in these movies as recruits from radio. In addition to myself, there's Pat (The Beard) Buttram (he calls me "the Pinza of the Plains"); Johnny Bond, who plays guitar and also acts as my "saddle pal" in the short dramatic sketches on our radio show; and the Cass County Boys, that very fine vocal and instrumental trio from out Texas way. In the feminine leads, you'll see some of my movie heroines, among them lovely Sheilah Ryan. And of course Champion, the smartest horse in the movies, is co-starred.
We hope you'll like these television movies. The boys in the trade tell me they're just about the most expensive films yet made for TV. We shot them on location at Pioneertown, California, where many of my movies are filmed. Armand Schaefer, who produces my movies, has worked hard to achieve the right blend of story, action, and music in these video films.
Now we'd like your reaction. Let us hear from you, won't you? We plan to make about 40 more tv pictures within the next year, and we'd like to get your ideas on the subject.
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