Episode 10, The Big Show


Tallulah Bankhead at the mic

NBC’s 1950-52 variety series, The Big Show was a last ditch effort to stave off the coming domination of television. The series starred Broadway actress and raconteur Tallulah Bankhead as mistress of ceremonies. It was a lavish, star-studded production.  Each episode ran an unusual 90 minutes, and cost the network $100,000 apiece to produce. Radio stars, including Fred Allen were semi-regulars, as were a surprisingly wide array of film and variety performers. The show, which was typically produced in New York, traveled occasionally to Hollywood, and, in the 1951-52 season, to London. Aside from generating a buzz for the show, taking The Big Show on the road allowed the producers to bring on a different collection of famous guests. In the April 1 1951 episode we’re featuring today, Ethel Barrymore, Van Johnson, Groucho Marx, and Bob Hope are among the guests. The episode was broadcast from Hollywood, soon after the Academy Awards honored All About Eve as Best Picture. Starring Bette Davis, the movie was based on Tallulah Bankhead’s life in the theatre. You’ll hear a few “Eve” references in this episode of The Big Show, along with congratulations for show semi-regular, Judy Holiday, who took home the Best Actress prize for her performance in Born Yesterday.