8 TV stars who hosted their own anthology shows

Move over Alfred Hitchcock, these stars told their own suspenseful tales!

Image: The Everett Collection

Westerns and sitcoms weren’t the only things that dominated the early TV airwaves. “Story of the week” programs, now more commonly called anthology shows, were all the rage. The earliest versions were essentially just televised plays, some performed live, and many bore the names of corporate sponsors like Alcoa and Kraft.

But soon a new, very specific kind of show was born: the former-movie-star-hosted anthology show. As famous faces aged out of lead film roles, they found a home on the small screen presenting new stories every week. Some were more successful than others, but all three networks tried their best to make the next Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Here are eight stars who all hosted their own anthology shows in the Fifties and Sixties.

1. Barbara Stanwyck

After making a name for herself in noir films and romantic dramas, Barbara Stanwyck brought her incredible talents to television in the late 1950s. She appeared in sponsored anthology shows like Alcoa Theatre before headlining The Barbara Stanwyck Show in 1960. She hosted and starred in almost every episode. Many stories were thrillers, some Westerns and a few even had comedic tones. Though it only lasted one season, Stanwyck won an Emmy Award for her work on the show in 1961. Four years later, she would find success as matriarch Victoria Barkley in The Big Valley.

2. Richard Boone

Another film actor who became a TV Western star, Richard Boone got his own anthology show after finding success as Paladin in Have Gun – Will Travel. The Richard Boone Show premiered in 1963 but was canceled after one season. Though Boone hosted, he only acted in about half the episodes. Interestingly, the series featured a regular group of performers who played different roles depending on the story – unique for an anthology series. Jeannette Nolan, Harry Morgan and former Our Gang child star Robert Blake were all part of the main cast.

3. Joseph Cotten

Though famous for films like Gaslight and The Third Man, Joseph Cotten didn’t lend his name to the anthology show he hosted in the mid-Fifties, at least not at first. The series started as On Trial and Cotten introduced and sometimes starred in each crime-related episode. Midway through the show’s first season, NBC used the name The Joseph Cotten Show – On Trial but canceled it at the season’s end. Two years later in 1959, CBS revived the series, now just The Joseph Cotten Show, but only aired one season as well. The show featured many notable guest stars including Tony Curtis, Ellen Corby and Chuck Connors.

4. Danny Thomas

Many people remember the sitcom The Danny Thomas Show but who can recall The Danny Thomas Hour? Thomas’ late-Sixties series was short-lived but unique. Part musical variety show, part sitcom and part dramatic anthology, it really offered something for everyone. Thomas hosted and invited everyone from Angela Cartwright to Sammy Davis Jr. to appear on his program. Sadly, it only lasted 22 episodes.

5. Dick Powell

Dick Powell started his acting career in 1930s comedies before winning more dramatic roles in '40s noirs. With the rise of television, he partnered with Charles Boyer, David Niven and Joel McCrea (soon replaced by Ida Lupino) to create Four Star Productions, which made The Rifleman among many others. Powell began hosting his own anthology, The Dick Powell Show, in 1961. After his death in 1963, a series of guest hosts like David Niven and June Allyson finished out the second and final season under the title The Dick Powell Theatre.

6. Lloyd Bridges

Four Star produced another anthology, The Lloyd Bridges Show. Coming off his success as Mike Nelson in the scuba diving series Sea Hunt, the father of Jeff and Beau Bridges tried his hand at hosting an anthology show. Created by future mega-producer Aaron Spelling, it was a different take on the format. Bridges played reporter Adam Shepherd who would research a new story each week and imagine himself as the protagonist. It only aired one season but did feature 13-year-old Jeff and 21-year-old Beau in separate episodes.

7. June Allyson

The DuPont Show with June Allyson also known as The June Allyson Show featured the former movie star hosting and occasionally acting in 30-minute stories both dramatic and comedic. It featured many notable guests including Ginger Rogers, Don Rickles and Ron Howard a year before he became Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show. It is also remembered for the suspenseful Christmas episode “Silent Panic” starring none other than Harpo Marx.

8. Loretta Young

The most successful show on this list by far, The Loretta Young Show aired eight seasons from 1953-1961. Most episodes opened with Young entering an immaculately furnished living room wearing the finest fashions money could buy. Many actors came back for multiple episodes over the show’s long run including Mr. Cleaver Hugh Beaumont and Khan himself, Ricardo Montalbán. The series also featured recognizable names like Frances Bavier, Eddie Albert and Johnny Crawford. And when Young took a break from certain episodes the equally glamorous Rosalind Russell or Irene Dunne filled in.

 
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RichLorn 1 month ago
As a teen I had moments of being a rotten little cur. I would fantasize the orchestra striking up with Loretta Young flowing into her living room set, in her designer gown ...... tripping on her high heels falling flat on her face.
That was then and this is now, and how I wish those programs would return, so I could appreciate them as an adult.
jonnieking 1 month ago
About Joseph Cotton: He was a member of Orson Welles "stock company" of actors' going back to the 1930's, and working both on Broadway, and in the Radio Classic "War of the World's" with Welles' company, BUT, one of his biggest, most memorable roles was with Welles in the all-time uber-classic "Citizen Kane" ! Welles played "Charles Foster Kane", and Cotton played "Kane's" best friend & newspaper critic "Jedediah Leland" when Kane bought "The New York Inquirer" newspaper. Both perfect in every way !
dwalk 1 month ago
Four Star Playhouse - Dick Powell, David Niven, Charles Boyer, and Ida Lupino plus various others.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Star_Playhouse
Nala92129 1 month ago
Jeannette Nolan was an amazing, versatile actress.
KJExpress Nala92129 1 month ago
She certainly was.
tootsieg 1 month ago
I only remember Dick Powell and Loretta Young as well. It would be great if MeTV aired these anthology shows. So many great stars.
bukhrn 1 month ago
Dick Powell also played in, In the Navy with Abbott and Costello, along with Shemp Howard, and the Andrews Sisters ( If any of you kids remember them ).
bukhrn 1 month ago
The only 2 that I actually remember are Dick Powell and Loretta Young, however I do remember them all in their more famous rolls.
cperrynaples bukhrn 1 month ago
Which ones. hamburger or hot dog...LOL!
RichLorn cperrynaples 1 month ago
OUCH! You should be ashamed of yourself. LOL
MichaelSkaggs 1 month ago
I remembered the opening music of one program from my early childhood that my parents watched, however I didn't know the show it was from. Then the VERY short lived Channel 46 (two years) in South Bend aired The Dick Powell Show. And there it was.
Yep, a lot of low-power stations used to buy really old shows like TDPS because they were cheap!
Runeshaper 1 month ago
I never knew about any of these. They all sound AMAZING!
LeeWithers 1 month ago
"The Richard Boone Show" was another of the few dramatic shows from game show packagers Goodson-Todman Productions.
cperrynaples LeeWithers 1 month ago
Yep, they also did The Rebel whose theme was sung by Johnny Cash!
PS Hey this time they didn't censor his last name...LOL!
LeeWithers 1 month ago
KJExpress is right. William Powell starred in The Thin Man films. (Dick Powell played "Richard Diamond" on radio.)
cperrynaples LeeWithers 1 month ago
Yep, and David Jansen on TV!
Cyn_Finnegan 1 month ago
Dick Powell was best known for playing Nick Charles in the "Thin Man" movie series.
KJExpress Cyn_Finnegan 1 month ago
I believe that was William Powell.
cperrynaples KJExpress 1 month ago
Yes, William had the moustache and Dick was clean shaven! No relation whatsoever!
MrsPhilHarris 1 month ago
It would be great if ME put these on Sunday to Friday at 7. They could rotate them. It would be something different for a change rather than the same old same old. I’ve seen a few episodes from Dick Powell and Loretta Young.
KJExpress MrsPhilHarris 1 month ago
I'd go for that. 🙂
METV could show them like NBC did their Mystery Movies. But I think those were on twice a week, still the same concept, though. Have someone like Morgan Freeman, {or someone with a voice similar in tonality to his, or a woman with a deeper voice. Can't think of an example, at the moment.} introduce each one. Sort of like TZ's RS. "Submitted for your approval..." Only not those exact words.
OR...Just check You Tube or somewhere on line, for a website that's airing these 8 METV's listed.
I believe MeTV did show Loretta Young years ago, but yep it's on YouTube!
Yes I know some of them are on YouTube but I would prefer they are aired on tv. There aren’t many tv shows that I would watch on YouTube to be honest. If an episode or show is on tv that I like I’ll watch but I don’t want to go looking for them. I’m just not that interested.
KJExpress 1 month ago
Some of these sounded intriguing. Interesting how most of them were so short-lived.
cperrynaples 1 month ago
Robert Blake "a former child star"? isn't that like saying O.J. Simpson was a former football player? You know anyone under 40 doesn't even remember Baretta...LOL!
I think they meant at that time.
It's true, though. He was Mickey in the "Our Gang/Little Rascals" shorts under his real name, Mickey Gubitosi.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Blake_(actor)#Filmography
Of course I knew that, but let's just say Blake is as famous for his shooting as Simpson is for stabbing...LOL!
Nala92129 cperrynaples 1 month ago
OJ and Robert Blake are as different as night is from day. Different motives, for sure.
Zip 1 month ago
Never knew any of these people hosted shows like that.
Of course, I don't know some of these people anyway, but good information. You learn something new every day.
ncadams27 1 month ago
They could have included the Desilu Playhouse. DESI Arnaz and LUcille Ball.
cperrynaples 1 month ago
There are many more they didn't mention! Would you believe George Burns hosted a comedy anthology? And yes so did Carol Burnett! Bonus Question: What old anthology show did SHE appear on before TCBS?
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JohnBass cperrynaples 1 month ago
Elizabeth Montgomery, star of Bewitched and many TV movies, was the daughter of golden age movie star Robert Montgomery, who hosted a long running anthology series based in New York that was a critical and popular success.
JohnBass cperrynaples 1 month ago
Horror star Boris Karloff hosted the classic horror anthology Thriller for a couple of seasons, and it still has a cult reputation today.
cperrynaples JohnBass 1 month ago
Yes, and Elizabeth appeared on her father's show, as well as AHP & TZ! Thriller ran on MeTV Sundays but was dropped for The Fugitive!
jonnieking cperrynaples 1 month ago
"Mirror Image" was in the First Season of the "Twilight Zone". It's one of my favorites ! It's from February of 1960, the 21st Show in the Series. The beautiful Vera Miles is the woman who plays "Millicent" & Martin Milner is "Paul Grinstead" who is seemingly "cloned" along with her. All-in-All a VERY SCARY SHOW !!
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