World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

The Bell Telephone Hour

Article Id: WHEBN0000782905
Reproduction Date:

Title: The Bell Telephone Hour  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Lena Horne, Version 1.0 Editorial Team/Bell System articles by quality log, Bell System, 1960–61 United States network television schedule, NBC
Collection: 1930S American Radio Programs, 1940 Radio Programme Debuts, 1940S American Radio Programs, 1950S American Television Series, 1958 Radio Programme Endings, 1959 American Television Series Debuts, 1960S American Television Series, 1968 American Television Series Endings, American Classical Music Radio Programs, American Music Television Series, Bell System, Black-and-White Television Programs, English-Language Television Programming, Nbc Network Shows, Nbc Radio Programs, Peabody Award Winning Radio Programs, Peabody Award Winning Television Programs
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Bell Telephone Hour

Donald Voorhees

The Bell Telephone Hour (also known as The Telephone Hour) is a long-run concert series which began April 29, 1940, on NBC Radio and was heard on NBC until June 30, 1958. Sponsored by Bell Telephone as the name implies, it showcased the best in classical and Broadway music, reaching eight to nine million listeners each week. It continued on television from 1959 to 1968. Throughout the program's run on both radio and television, the studio orchestra on the program was conducted by Donald Voorhees.


  • Synopsis 1
  • Television 2
  • Re-issues on DVD 3
  • Awards 4
  • Rehearsal: The Telephone Hour 5
  • Listen to 6
  • Watch 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


After early shows featuring James Melton and Francia White as soloists, producer Wallace Magill restructured the format on April 27, 1942, into the "Great Artists Series" of concert and opera performers, beginning with Jascha Heifetz. The list of talents heard over the years included Marian Anderson, Bing Crosby, Margaret Daum, Nelson Eddy, Benny Goodman, José Iturbi, Fritz Kreisler, Oscar Levant, Ezio Pinza, Lily Pons, Gladys Swarthout, and Helen Traubel.

The series returned to radio in 1968-69 as Bell Telephone Hour Encores (Encores from the Bell Telephone Hour) featuring highlights and interviews from the original series.

The Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra included the clarinetist and saxophonist Joe Allard, who is well known in sax history as a saxophone teacher at the Juilliard School and the New England Conservatory of Music. His list of students include Stan Getz, Eric Dolphy, Dave Liebman, Ricky Ford, Bob Hanlon, Dave Tofani, Mike Brecker, Roger Rosenberg, John Coltrane and Steve Grossman.

Warner Anderson was the program's announcer, and Floyd Mack was the narrator.[1]


The TV show, seen on NBC from January 12, 1959, to the summer of 1968, was one of the first TV series to be telecast exclusively in color, using the color TV system perfected by RCA in 1954. It aired every week on Friday evenings at 10:00 PM, then was switched to Tuesday evenings at 10:00 P.M. in 1963. It was noted for its Christmas specials, frequently featuring opera stars as well as stars of musical theater and ballet. In the fall of 1965, the show was switched to an earlier time slot of Sundays at 6:30pm.

Beginning in 1965, the program sometimes had to share its time slot with an NBC news series called Actuality Specials on NBC, and was telecast every other week. In the fall of 1963, the program alternated with The Andy Williams Show.[2]

During its last season, 1967-1968, the program was switched back to its old Friday night time slot and the format changed from a videotaped and mostly musical presentation to filmed documentaries about classical musicians made on location.

One of the most notable of the Bell Telephone Hour documentary programs combined a tour of the George Szell. This one was not a biography of Szell, but a documentary showing how he worked with the orchestra.

One of the last, and most notable episodes done in the videotape format, was "First Ladies of Opera", featuring Joan Sutherland, Leontyne Price, Renata Tebaldi and Birgit Nilsson, all on one program. In 1976, footage from the TV series was edited into a 90-minute documentary, The Bell Telephone Jubilee, aka Jubilee.

Re-issues on DVD

Beginning in 2001, DVDs of performances from the television series have been released by Video Artists International. To date, VAI has issued more than two dozen DVD compilations, as well as a number of complete telecasts, most notably the episode of April 29, 1960, which presented a lavishly staged production of The Mikado starring Groucho Marx. The stunning array of performers who appeared on the Bell Telephone Hour television program includes:

• Singers: Thomas Hayward, Gordon MacRae, Ethel Merman, Robert Merrill, Anna Moffo, Birgit Nilsson, Roberta Peters, Leontyne Price, John Raitt, Dinah Shore, Risë Stevens, Joan Sutherland, Renata Tebaldi, Richard Tucker, Leslie Uggams, Jon Vickers, Mildred Miller and Gretchen Wyler.

• Pianists: Robert Casadesus, Alicia de Larrocha, Van Cliburn, Philippe Entremont, Lorin Hollander, Byron Janis, Grant Johannesen, and José Iturbi.

• Violinists: Mischa Elman, Zino Francescatti, Yehudi Menuhin, Erica Morini, David Oistrakh, Michael Rabin, Ruggiero Ricci, and Isaac Stern. (Also, the famed cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and master of the guitar Andrés Segovia.)

• Dancers: Alicia Alonso, Erik Bruhn, Jacques d'Amboise, Carla Fracci, Rudolf Nureyev, Matt Mattox, Edward Villella, Violette Verdy, and Maria Tallchief.


The series won two Emmys and was nominated for seven others.

Rehearsal: The Telephone Hour

In 1947, a 27-minute black-and-white short subject entitled Rehearsal: The Telephone Hour, was released to theaters. This film featured, in addition to Voorhees and the orchestra, operatic bass Ezio Pinza and opera mezzo-soprano Blanche Thebom singing arias. It simulated a rehearsal of the popular program, complete with a commercial announcement, and then, near the end, segued to what was presumably the actual radio broadcast.

Listen to

  • The Bell Telephone HourInternet Archive:


  • Rehearsal: The Telephone Hour


  1. ^ Ranson, Jo (April 22, 1942). "Radio Dial Log". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. p. 18. Retrieved October 23, 2015 – via  
  • Prime Time Tv Schedule - 1948-1966 Season

External links

  • The Bell Telephone Hour at the Internet Movie Database
  • collection of sound recordings, 1940-1968The Bell Telephone Hour, at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
  • The Bell Telephone HourJerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs:
  • Groucho Marx in The Mikado
  • -related interview videosThe Bell Telephone Hour at the Archive of American Television
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.