Hallmark Hall of Fame
Written byRobert Hartung
Jean Holloway
Helene Hanff
Gian Carlo Menotti
Directed byGeorge Schaefer
William Corrigan
Albert McCleery
Kirk Browning
Fielder Cook
Jeannot Szwarc
John Erman
ComposersGian Carlo Menotti
Bernard Green
Richard Addinsell
Jerry Goldsmith
Bruce Broughton
Morton Stevens
John Kander
Ed Shearmur
Marvin Hamlisch
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons69
No. of episodes260 (list of episodes)
Executive producersGeorge Schaefer
Brent Shields
ProducersMaurice Evans
Samuel Chotzinoff
Phil C. Samuel
Robert Hartung
CinematographyFreddie Young
EditorsHenry Batista
Robert L. Swanson
Sam Gold (editor)
Richard K. Brockway
Running time30–150 minutes
Production companiesHallmark Hall of Fame Productions (1951–2016)
Crown Media Productions (2016–present)
Original release
ReleaseDecember 24, 1951 (1951-12-24) –
A production of Dial M for Murder, L–R: John Williams, Maurice Evans, and Rosemary Harris (1958)
A production of The Tempest, L–R: Lee Remick, Maurice Evans, Roddy McDowall and William Bassett (1960)

Hallmark Hall of Fame, originally called Hallmark Television Playhouse, is an anthology program on American television, sponsored by Hallmark Cards, a Kansas City–based greeting card company. It is the longest-running prime-time series in the history of television; it began airing in 1951 and is still currently in production [dubious ]. Since 1954, all of its productions have been broadcast in color. It was one of the first video productions to telecast in color,[1] a rarity in the 1950s. Many television films have been shown on the program since its debut, though the program began with live telecasts of dramas and then changed to videotaped productions before finally changing to filmed ones.

The series has received eighty-one Emmy Awards,[2] dozens [specify] of Christopher and Peabody Awards,[3] nine Golden Globes,[2] and Humanitas Prizes.[3] Once a common practice during the formative years of American television, it is one of the last remaining television programs where the title includes the name of its sponsor. Unlike other long-running TV series still on the air, it differs in that it broadcasts only occasionally and not on a weekly broadcast programming schedule.

The Hall of Fame films are made with production values and a budget that is comparable to that of a feature film.[4]


Early years

The series is the direct descendant of two old-time radio dramatic anthologies sponsored previously by Hallmark: Radio Reader's Digest, adapting stories from the popular magazine (though the magazine never sponsored the show); and, its successor, Hallmark Playhouse, which premiered on CBS in 1948.[5] The Hallmark Playhouse changed to more serious literature from all genres.

Hallmark Television Playhouse debuted on December 24, 1951, on the NBC television network, with the first opera written specifically for television, Amahl and the Night Visitors featuring the ballet dancer Nicholas Magallanes.[6] Playhouse was hosted by Sarah Churchill and was a weekly half-hour. In 1953, the series was renamed Hallmark Hall of Fame.[7] It was the first time a major corporation developed a television project specifically as a means of promoting its products to the viewing public. The program was such a success that it was restaged by Hallmark several times during a period of fifteen years. Amahl was also staged by other NBC television anthologies. Under the supervision of creative executives at its advertising agency, Foote, Cone, and Belding in Chicago, Hallmark also transformed its radio Hallmark Playhouse into a Hallmark Hall of Fame format—this time, featuring stories of pioneers of all types in America—from 1953 through 1955.

Early productions included some of the classical works of Shakespeare: Hamlet, Richard II, The Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and The Tempest. Biographical subjects were very eclectic, ranging from Florence Nightingale to Father Flanagan to Joan of Arc. Popular Broadway plays such as Harvey, Dial M for Murder, and Kiss Me, Kate were made available to a mass audience, most of them with casts that had not appeared in the film versions released to theatres. In a few cases, the actors repeated their original Broadway roles. Actors such as Richard Burton, Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne, Maurice Evans, Katharine Cornell, Julie Harris, Laurence Olivier and Peter Ustinov all made what were then extremely rare television appearances in these plays.

Two different productions of Hamlet have been broadcast on the Hallmark Hall of Fame, one featuring Maurice Evans (1953) and the other a British one featuring Richard Chamberlain (1970).[8][9] Neither version was more than two hours long. Evans and actress Judith Anderson repeated their famous stage performances of 'Macbeth' on the Hallmark Hall of Fame on two separate occasions, each time with a different supporting cast. The first version in 1954 was telecast live from NBC's Brooklyn color studio while the second in 1960 was filmed on location in Scotland and released to movie theaters in Europe after its American telecast. The Richard Chamberlain version of Hamlet, which was also telecast in Britain on ITV Sunday Night Theatre, won five Emmys when telecast on the Hallmark Hall of Fame, out of a total of thirteen nominations.[10] It may have set a record for the most-nominated Shakespeare production to ever be televised.

In 1955, Hallmark Hall of Fame switched its format to a special series seen only four to eight times a year around greeting card holidays and in 90-minute or 120-minute length. Starting in 1970, the frequency dropped to two to three times a year. The source material were plays and novels from major authors and were produced with stage actors and actresses.[7]

Hamlet, Macbeth and the other Shakespeare plays presented on Hallmark Hall of Fame were cut (sometimes drastically) to fit the time limits of a standard film or of the Hallmark Hall of Fame itself, which during the 1950s, '60s and '70s never ran longer than two hours and frequently even less. It was left to National Educational Television (NET) and its successor, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to be the pioneers in presenting nearly complete Shakespeare productions on American television.

As a result of Foote, Cone, and Belding Advertising executive and producer Duane C. Bogie's influence, Hallmark Hall of Fame began to offer original material, such as Aunt Mary (1979) and Thursday's Child (1983), although its lineup still primarily consisted of expensive-looking Masterpiece Theatre-style adaptations of American and European literary classics, such as John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent (1983), Robert Louis Stevenson's The Master of Ballantrae (1984), and Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities (1980), Oliver Twist (1982), and A Christmas Carol (1984). A Tale of Two Cities was the first Hallmark production (and to date, one of the very few) to run three hours. The late 1980s featured productions such as Foxfire (1987), My Name Is Bill W. (1989), Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991), O Pioneers! (1992), To Dance with the White Dog (1993), The Piano Lesson (1995), and What the Deaf Man Heard (1997). One installment, Promise (1986), featuring James Garner and James Woods, won five Emmys, two Golden Globes, a Peabody award, a Humanitas Prize, and a Christopher Award.


For nearly three decades the series was broadcast by NBC, but the network ended its association with the series in 1979 due to declining ratings. Since then, the series has been televised by CBS from 1979 to 1989 (except for briefly on PBS in 1981), then on ABC from 1989[7] to 1994.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, Hallmark Hall of Fame movies often had twice the budget of other network movies. [citation needed] Hallmark movies also ran (in some cases) approximately 10–15 minutes longer (or up to 110 minutes minus commercials) because Hallmark Cards fully sponsored the movies and had fewer commercial breaks. Unlike most network movies of the period, Hallmark always filmed on location, [citation needed] and usually filmed for 24 days, compared to 18–20 days for most other TV-movies.[citation needed]

Richard Welsh Company was retained in 1982 to work on developing HoF projects. Brad Moore was placed in charge of the Hallmark Hall of Fame in 1983.[11]

In February 1992, Hallmark Cards had formed Signboard Hill Productions as sister production company leveraging HHOFP management and expertise to produce some Hall of Fame movies.[11]

CBS picked up the series again in 1994. It ran three movies a year over 16 years, until 2011, when it ended its association with the series. The final film was Beyond the Blackboard, on April 24, 2011.[12]

On November 27, 2011, Hallmark Hall of Fame returned to ABC with Have a Little Faith, which debuted to very low ratings for the night.[13] The total number of viewers was estimated at 6.5 million, compared to 13.5 million for the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of November Christmas on the weekend after Thanksgiving in 2010.[14] Encore broadcasts of these ABC episodes aired on Hallmark Channel a week after their initial broadcast on ABC.[15] The films were also available for streaming on the website Feeln.com a few days after airing.[16]

In September 2014, it was announced that the Hallmark Hall of Fame would air exclusively on the Hallmark Channel for the foreseeable future, ending the program's 63-year run on broadcast television. The first episode to debut on Hallmark Channel was One Christmas Eve, starring Anne Heche.[17] On the cable channel, four original movies at most would air as a part of the Hall of Fame with multiple encores. The HHOF library would also be available.[18]

In February 2016, Hallmark Cards, which had been directly involved in the production of Hall of Fame from its inception, transferred management of the series division to a subsidiary, Crown Media Productions. Hallmark Cards continued to sponsor the program and oversees the creation of films.[2]


Main article: List of Hallmark Hall of Fame episodes

Only a small number of Hallmark Hall of Fame episodes have been released on VHS and DVD. The 1960 production of the Tempest and the 1966 production of Lamp at Midnight were released as VHS tapes by Films for the Humanities;[19][20] they have not been released in DVD format.

The Hallmark Hall of Fame division does not own most of the films from the series from 1951 to the 1970s, as the rights to those films were retained by the producers and/or directors involved. Hallmark Channel has sought to reclaim rights to these films.[21]

Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions

Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions LLC (HHOFP) is a TV film production company that produces films for the Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions and is owned by Crown Media Productions.

Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions' first credited film was an adaptation of The Tempest in 1960.[22] Richard Welsh Company was retained in 1982 to work on developing HoF projects.[11] Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Inc. was incorporated on September 27, 1994.[23] In February 1992, Hallmark Cards had formed Signboard Hill Productions as sister production company leveraging HHOFP management and expertise.[11] The Hallmark Hall of Fame division, including production, was transferred to affiliate Crown Media Productions.[2]

See also


  1. ^ "Hallmark of Firsts". Broadcasting & Cable. February 18, 2001. Archived from the original on January 4, 2018. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d de Moraes, Lisa (February 9, 2016). "Crown Media Holdings Takes Over 'Hallmark Hall of Fame' Franchise". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on February 7, 2018. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Goodale, Gloria (February 2, 2001). "A 'drive-in' 50th for Hallmark series". The Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on January 6, 2018. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  4. ^ Pierce, Scott (February 3, 2001). "Hallmark celebrates its 50th anniversary". Deseret News. Archived from the original on January 6, 2018. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  5. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 307–308, 565. ISBN 9780195076783. Retrieved January 4, 2018. The Hallmark Playhouse.
  6. ^ "The Paley Center for Media - Hallmark Hall of Fame Amahl and the Night Visitors - Gian Carlo Minotti and Nicholas Magallanes on paleycenter.org". Archived from the original on 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  7. ^ a b c Shapiro, Mitchell. "Hallmark Hall of Fame". Encyclopedia of Television. Museum of Broadcast Communications. Archived from the original on December 12, 2018. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  8. ^ "Hamlet (1953, Albert McCleery)". Internet Shakespeare Editions. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  9. ^ McKernan, Luke; Terris, Olwen, eds. (1994). Walking Shadows. British Film Institute. pp. 57–58. ISBN 9780851704142.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-12-15. Retrieved 2012-10-05.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ a b c d "Hallmark Announces Formation of Signboard Hill Productions" (Press release). Kansas City: Hallmark Cards. PR Newswire. February 14, 1992. Archived from the original on January 1, 2018. Retrieved December 31, 2017 – via The Free Library.
  12. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (May 6, 2011). "'Hallmark Hall Of Fame' Ends On CBS". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on May 20, 2014. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  13. ^ "ABC's Thanksgiving turkey: 'Have a Little Faith'". Media Life Magazine. 2011-11-28. Archived from the original on 2012-01-12. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  14. ^ Kepler, Adam W. (November 28, 2011). "Hallmark Hall of Fame Has Rough Start on ABC". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 2, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  15. ^ Seidman, Robert (2011-07-07). "Hallmark Hall of Fame to Air on ABC and Hallmark Channel". zap2it. Tribune Media Services. Archived from the original on 2012-10-19. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
  16. ^ ""Beyond the Blackboard," A New Hallmark Hall of Fame Presentation Available Now on Feeln.com". Reuters. April 28, 2011. Archived from the original on May 17, 2014. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  17. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (September 12, 2014). "Hallmark Hall Of Fame Moving To Cable, Will Air On Hallmark Channel". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on September 27, 2015. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  18. ^ Umstead, R. Thomas (September 12, 2014). "Hallmark Hall Of Fame Films To Move To Hallmark Channel". Multichannel News. NewBay Media. Archived from the original on April 1, 2020. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  19. ^ The Tempest (VHS). Films for the Humanities. 1983. OCLC 11417941.
  20. ^ Lamp at Midnight (VHS). Films for the Humanities. 1983. OCLC 11689040.
  21. ^ Pierce, Scott D. (April 4, 1999). "Hallmark, Henson take on Odyssey Cable channel is being relaunched one more time". DeseretNews.com. Archived from the original on January 10, 2018. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  22. ^ "The Tempest (1960)". BFI. British Film Institute. Archived from the original on January 6, 2018. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  23. ^ "Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Inc. (search on File Number:2438746)". icis.corp.delaware.gov. Delaware State Division of Corporations. Archived from the original on September 20, 2016. Retrieved January 5, 2018.