With the anticipated start of commercial television in the UK and a growing US market to tap into, Douglas Fairbanks Jr decided to embark on an ambitious series of half hour films using British performers, directors and technicians.
In 1953, with a contract to supply thirty-nine telefilms to NBC, Fairbanks leased the British National studios at Elstree. In charge of Production of the first seven stories was Herman Blaser, before he was succeeded by Harold Huth. In the USA the series was shown under the titles of Rheingold Theatre and Paragon Playhouse.
Douglas Fairbanks Productions also supplied British cinemas with a total of 10 compilation films (in some cases 2 and in other cases 3 re-edited TV episodes) prior to them being shown on British television. For example; 'The Red Dress' released in 1954 was a 76 minute film made up of the TV episodes 'The Red Dress', 'Meet Mr. Jones' and 'Panic'. Fairbanks hosted and often appeared in many of the TV episodes and the series proved popular enough for a total of 156 episodes made over a four-year period.
Among the British directors recruited were Leslie Arliss and Terence Fisher. Christopher Lee appeared in numerous productions and there were also appearances by Honor Blackman, Fulton McKay, Diana Dors, Billie Whitelaw, Bill Owen, Hugh Griffith, Wilfrid Hyde-White, John Laurie, John le Mesurier, Sybil Thorndike, William Hartnell, Irene Handl and Buster Keaton. A 1957 episode; 'The Ludlow Affair' starring Robert Beatty as Bulldog Drummond was an unsold pilot for a series.
Douglas Fairbanks Presents was shown on ITV from 1955 to 1959 (the last episode was actually filmed in 1957) and was seen around the regions under various titles such as Play Gems, Saturday Playhouse and Crown Theatre.
Published on December 8th, 2018. Review: Dennis C Arums.