[Why people will go to see a bad movie faster than a good one]

Wednesday, July 25, 1956

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Gilbert Seldes reads a 30-year-old letter to him by Arthur L. Mayer - an important figure in motion pictures. The Gold Rush was almost a flop but The Freshman was pulling in more money. Not because the Gold Rush is not a good movie, but because "the average movie audience reared on trash and tawdriness will reject the superior for the inferior." He talks about a month-old piece called "Myths, movies and maturity." Seldes believes there has been a raising of the level since that time. Also true that since there is a large amount of movies, a large amount of them of them will be trashy. There has been a large drop in audience attendance.

Television using the movies. An old saying, "nothing could keep a man home at night except a dame." Old movies are now available on television. General Sarnoff, head of RCA, had warned television that it can not become another distribution arm for the picture business. But that is what seems about to occur. Disney was getting paid relatively little. A short picture like The Three Little Pigs would draw more people than the feature did. Thought of television as away to circumvent the movie houses.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 64353
Municipal archives id: LT7527

Hosted by:

Gilbert Seldes


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About Lively Arts, The

Legendary critic and author of The Seven Lively Arts Gilbert Seldes discusses big-thinking issues in art and life from his characteristically populist perspective.

Simultaneously a timely and visionary program, Gilbert Seldes's The Lively Arts (1953-1956) examines contemporary issues of 1950s television, radio, and theater, as well as current events and the intellectual arts. Seldes, who was the first Director for Television at CBS News and the founding Dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, was also a renowned critic, author, playwright, and editor. As a major social critic and observer, Seldes viewed theater, television, and radio with a prescient eye to the future based on a well-informed understanding of the past. 

These programs feature commentary and discussion on a wide range of topics — from sex and censorship in the movies to progressive education to juvenile delinquency to political campaigning on television — many of which are still hotly debated today. Serving as a precursor to Seldes's television programs and providing an audio context for his seminal books, this show is key to understanding today's cultural commentary.


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