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Lux Video Theatre (1955)

Rod Taylor appeared in two episodes of Lux Video Theatre early in his career in the United States.

Lux Video Theatre was a top TV anthology series that was an extension of the well-regarded and long-running Lux Radio Theater program (October 1934-June 1955). It was sponsored by Lever Brothers, maker of Lux soap.

The TV edition began airing on CBS with 30-minute live episodes from New York City in 1950. Big changes occurred in 1954, when the show moved to Hollywood and was aired on NBC in a 60-minute time slot.

Lux Video Theatre specialized in bringing shortened versions of cinematic movies to the small screen. It attracted top talent and good ratings.

Another change in 1954 was the addition of a host, whose job was to introduce each act of the teleplay, conduct short interviews with the stars, plug Lux soap and promote recently released movies. These interruptions squeezed the running time of each teleplay to about 44 minutes.

Acclaimed British actor James Mason was the first of these hosts (Aug. 26, 1954-May 19, 1955. During the summers, the host was longtime TV and radio announcer Ken Carpenter.

Lux Video Theatre ran through 1957 and was brought back for the 1958-59 season as Lux Playhouse, which alternated weeks with Schlitz Playhouse. (Rod appeared in both.)

Following are the installments of Lux Video Theatre in which Rod appeared.

"The Browning Version"
Episode 5.33 (April 7, 1955)

Rod Taylor played Peter Gilbert in this play that previously had been a stage play and a movie (1951). The original play was written by Terrence Rattigan, who also penned "Separate Tables" and "The VIPs."

It was adapted for this TV production by Charles Bennett, a prolific screenwriter whose credits include such Alfred Hitchcock films as "Foreign Correspondent," "Sabotage," "The 39 Steps," and "The Man Who Knew too Much" (1934).

However, critics lamented the shortening of the play into the 44 minutes allocated for the production.

For the Lux production of "The Browning Version," Herbert Marshall played Andrew Crocker-Harris, a stuffy teacher who is fired from the school he loves. His students laugh at him, he is suffering from a heart ailment, and his wife (Judith Evelyn) is having an affair with a younger faculty member, Frank Hunter (Robert Douglas).

Mr. Gilbert (Rod) is to be Crocker-Harris' replacement.

Amid all this misery, an unexpected act of kindness provides hope for Crocker-Harris. A student named Taplow (Christopher Cook) gives the departing teacher a gift: Robert Browning's translation of "Agamemnon." It is Crocker-Harris' favorite classic play, and the gesture provides a source of inspiration and renewed self-respect.

James Mason was the host of Lux Video Theatre at this time and interviewed the star actors after the performance.

Although not the host of Rod's next appearance, Mason still factored into the production.

"Dark Tribute"
Episode 5.47 (July 14, 1955)

Rod appeared with Robert Coote and Gage Clark in "Dark Tribute" -- a mystery that is set in motion after a woman who has won a sweepstakes is found murdered.

"Dark Tribute" was the property of James Mason's film company, Portland Productions, and was scheduled to become a motion picture. This was typical of the productions put on during the summer session of "Lux Video Theatre," which was also known as "Summer Video Theatre" or "Summer Studio Workshop." Rather than having TV shows adapted from movies, the TV shows were made for consideration as movies. Alas, none of the shows made the leap to the cinema.

Here is a synopsis of "Dark Tribute" from a syndicated newspaper TV roundup:

Rod Taylor, Robert Coote and Gage Clark portray three men who try to outwit one another. Baxter (Taylor) is acquitted of murdering a young woman when Lawton (Coote) appears at the crucial moment with vital testimony. Then blackmailer Tomkins (Clark) appears. He has seen Baxter kill the young woman and knows that Lawton's court testimony was false. The price of Tomkins' silence is a third of the loot from the robbery that had prompted the murder. Now each of the three searches for a way to rid himself of the other two. One succeeds.

The Lux host for this summertime production was longtime radio and TV announcer Ken Carpenter. In his introduction of "Dark Tribute," he said, "James Mason told me that of all of the stories he has acquired, none has excited him quite as much as the script of 'Dark Tribute.' The play was originally written for the BBC by Robert Strevens and was produced with such success that it was immediately brought to Mr. Mason's attention by his agent. ... As soon as he read the script, James said he thought it was 'a most fascinating thriller.'"

The Lux television play of "Dark Tribute" was adapted by Benjamin Simcoe and directed by Buzz Kulik, who worked on many highly respected series during the Golden Age of TV. Later, he became one of the most respected directors of made-for-TV movies, notably the 1971 drama "Brian's Song." Kulik also directed Rod in a "Playhouse 90" appearance.




IMDb // Wikipedia - Lux Video Theatre

IMDb - Browning Version

IMDb - Dark Tribute