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  • Writer's pictureAdam Nedeff

In Living Color

If you're a classic TV lover, maybe you spotted this story in the news a few weeks ago:

Milton Berle's wife unearthed a color videotape recording of the October 8, 1958 premiere of NBC's Kraft Music Hall, hosted by Milton. This unearthing makes it the oldest known existing color videotape recording of an entertainment program.

On February 24, the Billy Wilder Theater in Los Angeles hosted a special screening of this recording. I (co-webmaster Adam) was fortunate enough to attend along with National Archives of Game Show History co-founder Bob Boden.

David Crosthwait, one of the engineers involved in the restoration and digitization of the tape delivered a brief speech beforehand explaining the process, and gave us a heads-up about how the videotape would look and why it looked that way.

This was not, say, a studio master tape. Kraft Music Hall was a live broadcast, like many shows in that era, and since recording and preservation was such a primitive process in those days, they saved episodes exactly the way you saved episodes on your VCR at home 30 years later--they pressed the record button on a machine hooked up to a TV, and they just straight-up recorded the show as it was broadcast, and that became their archival tape.

So, Crosthwait explained, "When we start this videotape, you're not going to see 'Kraft Music Hall' right away. They hit the record button early, so you're going to see the last minute or so of the game show that aired before it that night."

Bob and I exchanged a look, and then the theater darkened, the tape played...and what should we see, but the warm, smiling face of Bill Cullen, sitting at the counter in front of the Price is Right logo, leg propped up so his knee was at his shoulder. He was repeating the address for us all to mail our postcards for the current Showcase contest, and asking us to please tune in tomorrow morning for the daytime Price is Right. He signed off, Don Pardo delivered some plugs for Speidel and American Airlines, and the credits rolled.

It wasn't much, but it was Bill Cullen, hosting The Price is Right, in glorious, living color, at 30 frames per second, in picture quality that looked like somebody had recorded it off Buzzr yesterday. The picture quality was immaculate.

Now here's the downside--as far as we know, there's no plan in place YET to release this footage. And before anyone sends us a DM, let me make it emphatically clear, we didn't manage to tiptoe out of the building with anything stuffed in our jackets. But tonight, I can tell you with certainty...

The logo behind Bill is a light beige, pretty much the same color as the one-bid envelopes on a Barker-era Price episode. The squares surrounding it are all various shades of blue. The curtain behind the contestant was a grayish-blue. The contestant's names were on wood-panel placards mounted over red strips. And even if we don't have a means of sharing it publicly (or heck, even watching it a second time), we can now say for certain that somewhere in Los Angeles County, there is color videotape of The Price is Right starring Bill Cullen.

Now onto stuff that we DO have access to...

Over in Syndicated Radio, we've added another five episodes and another short promo from Ideas for Better Living with Bill and Betsy Palmer.

The website Inches Per Second unearthed an audio recording of NBC's daytime game show lineup from November 5, 1974. This means that we finally have some information about the second format of Bill's flop Winning Streak.

Over in Photos, we uploaded the last few snapshots from Bill & Ann's 1977 vacation in Los Angeles.

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