However, just as silent films were humbled by the advent of sound, the dominance of big screen movies would soon be humbled by the small screens that were suddenly populating America's living rooms. Once again, premature conclusions that "It's just a passing fad" gradually shifted to "How can I get in on this?" And just as suddenly, everything old became new again.
Once big screen names began embracing the new medium, even the most accomplished of stars like multiple Oscar-winner Bette Davis were required to audition for starring roles in what became known as the TV pilot. Still, due to the exigencies and fickleness of the evolving new industry, many major stars failed to make it past the pilot episode to become a series. Many of those curious and historic episodes are preserved in several esteemed national TV archives, while others exist only in the hands of private film collectors -- or may be lost forever.
Bijou executive producer and Festival Films founder Ron Hall is about to release some of these gems in an an exciting new DVD series called Lost & Rare Film and Television Treasures. We asked Ron to elaborate on the subject of TV pilots and provide a sneak preview of his new Festival Films series.
Most everyone knows the concept of the TV pilot -- a sample show produced since the dawn of television and still being made today (though the costs have increased a hundred fold). They were shown to networks, to sponsors and to test audiences to determine if they would be successful if turned into a series. Hundreds were made and many went on to become popular TV shows, while others changed drastically. For example, the Dick Van Dyke Show evolved from a sit-com pilot starring Carl Reiner. Some died a quiet death and never hit the airwaves and are beyond "forgotten" into the realm of "never heard of."
Unsold TV pilots made before 1964 are often in the public domain. The reasoning must have been, if they were not turned into a series, then what would have been the point of copyrighting and renewing them? The producers may have felt that way since they certainly proceeded to bury their losses and forget as fast as possible.
Pillow Talk that launched the popular series of Doris Day and Rock Hudson sex comedies. The bantor and bickering of the leads and the situations they encounter are similar, Jane even wears the same hair style as did Doris, and Russell in many scenes is a dead-ringer for Rock.
After locating rare and lost TV shows and movies for years I am joining forces with a number of private film collectors around the country to release the worthiest of titles under the Festival Films banner. The new series is called Lost & Rare: Film and TV Treasures. Volumes 1 and 2: "Television Pilots" and "Sports Immortals" will be available on May 15th from vendors soon to be announced or they may be ordered now at http://www.lostandrare.com/.
Meanwhile, please enjoy these sample clips from the Lost & Rare pilot episode for The Jane Powell Show.