Preserving Historic Color Videotape: Mr. Television (a.k.a. Milton Berle) and Friends

Wed 2/14/2024 • 7:30PM PST

Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum

Made possible by the John H. Mitchell Television Programming Endowment
In-person:

engineer David Crosthwait, DC Video.

Admission is free. No advance reservations. Your seat will be assigned to you when you pick up your ticket at the box office. Seats are assigned on a first come, first served basis. The box office opens one hour before the event.

A quarter-century after his debut on the small screen, the name Milton Berle remains synonymous with the medium of television. Inducted into the inaugural Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1984, comedy legend Berle (“Mr. Television”) hosted NBC’s The Texaco Star Theatre in 1948, becoming the first major star of the cathode ray tube. Berle’s Texaco ratings decimated competing shows, forcing businesses to close as viewers stayed home glued to their sets. The comedian’s pioneering place in early television extended into the late 1950s, as he took on hosting duties for the launch of the Kraft Music Hall variety series, videotaped in the still-evolving technological wonder of “living color” on NBC.

Until recently, the oldest entertainment program known to survive on color videotape was An Evening with Fred Astaire, broadcast live on October 17, 1958, on NBC. The original 2 in. videotape of that acclaimed special was preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in 1987, garnering engineers Ed Reitan, Don Kent, television archivist Dan Einstein and the Archive itself Emmy Awards for the technically challenging project. Last year, thanks to Milton Berle’s widow, Lorna Berle, a rare color videotape of the Kraft Music Hall Starring Milton Berle that predates the Astaire special by nine days (airdate October 8, 1958) was deposited at UCLA. Through the extensive efforts of engineer David Crosthwait of DC Video(opens in a new tab) in Burbank, CA, this historic 2 in. color videotape starring Milton Berle (a.k.a. “Uncle Miltie”) has been preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Join us for the world premiere screening of the preservation of the earliest known entertainment program to survive on color videotape. Introduced by engineer David Crosthwait of DC Video, who will give a presentation outlining the significant technical challenges of this preservation project. The evening will highlight additional Kraft Music Hall surprises, with superstar guests Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and more.

Program notes by Mark Quigley, John H. Mitchell Television Curator.

Milton Berle Starring in The Kraft Music Hall
U.S., 10/8/1958

With original commercials!

In this debut episode, the enormously popular Kraft Music Hall radio variety program is adapted for television in NBC’s living color. Hosted by comedy legend Milton Berle, the live broadcast boasts cameos from Bob Hope and Gene Barry, the big band sounds of musical director extraordinaire Billy May, and an impressive demonstration of the unexpected hoofing prowess of Uncle Miltie. Recently preserved from the oldest known surviving color videotape of an entertainment program.

DCP, color, 30 min. NBC. Producer: Hal Kanter. Directors: Selwyn Touber, Hal Kanter Writers: Hal Goodman, Larry Klein, Milt Josefberg, Hal Kanter. With: Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Gene Barry.

Preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive from original 2 in. videotape. Video transfer at DC Video. Engineering services by David Crosthwait. Special thanks to Lorna Berle, Paul Brownstein, Bill DiCicco, Ian Marshall. Preservation funded by the John H. Mitchell Television Preservation Endowment.

Milton Berle Starring in The Kraft Music Hall — Excerpts (1958-59)
In this compilation of clips from rare, recently preserved color and black and white 2 in. videotapes, Milton Berle shares the Kraft stage with icons Count Basie, Andy Griffith, Peter Lorre, Harpo Marx, Sammy Davis Jr. and Jerry Lewis.

DCP, color and b&w, 30 min. NBC. Producer: Hal Kanter. Directors: Selwyn Touber, Hal Kanter Writers: Hal Goodman, Larry Klein, Milt Josefberg, Hal Kanter. With: Milton Berle.

Preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive from original 2 in. videotapes. Video transfers at Retro Video. Special thanks to Lorna Berle, Paul Brownstein, Bill DiCicco, Ian Marshall, Retro Video.

Milton Berle Starring in The Kraft Music Hall
U.S., 12/03/1958

With original commercials!

In this stellar live broadcast, Uncle Miltie invites the “Toastmaster General of the United States,” George Jessel, and the “First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald, to the Kraft stage for an evening of comedy and song in living color. Highlights include video effects immersing a luminous Fitzgerald in an “electronic picture” for a peerless rendition of “It Might as Well Be Spring.”

DCP, color, 30 min. NBC. Producer: Hal Kanter. Director: Hal Kanter Writers: Hal Goodman, Larry Klein, Milt Josefberg, Hal Kanter. With: Milton Berle.

Preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive from original 2 in. videotape. Video transfer at Retro Video. Special thanks to Lorna Berle, Paul Brownstein, Bill DiCicco, Ian Marshall, Retro Video.

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