Eddie Albert wrote and starred in the first ever TV drama
Long before 'Green Acres,' Albert was in 'The Honeymooners,' but not the one you're thinking of.
Image: The Everett Collection
Most people know and love Eddie Albert from Green Acres, the rural comedy that paired him with the gorgeous Eva Gabor and one peppy pig. By the time that hit sitcom came around, Albert was an established star. His resume stretched back decades. He was a circus performer while doubling as a spy for the Army. He starred in movies during World War II. He got an Oscar nomination for his work in Roman Holiday in 1953. He had headlined the early sitcom Leave It to Larry. Heck, he even had his own daytime show, The Eddie Albert Show, in 1953, as well.
Before all of that, Eddie Albert wrote and acted in the first original television drama. First, as in first ever. You could almost say the Green Acres star invented the television drama. Don't feel bad if you've never seen it. Your family didn't have a TV set. In fact, nobody really did.
The year was 1936. The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and its parent company, RCA, wanted to show off its hot new technology for the press. It was a fantastic upgrade to radio called television — sound and a picture! On November 6, NBC broadcast a transmission signal from the top of the Empire State Building. The signal didn't have to go far, just 15 blocks north, where it was received at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, then known as the RCA Building.
This test demonstration for the media lasted 40 minutes. The program included musical performances by the Ink Spots and cabaret sensation Hildegarde, as well as a short romantic drama starring two radio performers, Eddie Albert and Grace Bradt.
Albert and Bradt had been making a series called The Honeymooners for three years on the radio. No, it had no relation to the more famous Honeymooners starring Jackie Gleason. Albert (pictured up top in a Honeymooners promotional image from the early 1930s) crafted a script for the duo titled "The Love Nest."
With a set consisting of little more than a couch, a lamp, and some curtains, Albert and Bradt demonstrated the captivating narrative power of television. It was like a stage drama right in your living room!
Well, a rather tiny one. RCA showed off this new-fangled "television drama" thing on a 7.5x10-inch screen.
But big talent shines through a small window.