Pulitzer Prize Playhouse
Oakland Tribune ad (January 30, 1952)
GenreAnthology drama
Written byMaxwell Anderson
Sidney Howard
George S. Kaufman
Directed byLawrence Carra
Charles S. Dubin
Alex Segal
Presented byElmer Davis
Narrated byElmer Davis
ComposerKurt Weill
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes53 (list of episodes)
Running time47-50 mins. (October 1950 - June 1951)
24-25 mins. (December 1951 - June 1952)
Original release
ReleaseOctober 6, 1950 (1950-10-06) –
June 4, 1952 (1952-06-04)

Pulitzer Prize Playhouse is an American television anthology drama series which offered adaptations of Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, novels, and stories.[1] The journalist Elmer Davis was the host and narrator of this 1950-1952 ABC series.

Sponsored by the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, the 60-minute show[1] opened with theme music by Bernard Green. Columbia University's Pulitzer School of Journalism, which made the annual Pulitzer awards, benefited from its agreement with Schlitz and ABC, receiving $100,000 from Schlitz for its cooperation. However, the show made no mention of Columbia or the Pulitzer School of Journalism.[citation needed]

Productions and performers

Elmer Davis was host and narrator of the series.

Plays in the first season included You Can't Take It with You (the initial telecast),[2] The Magnificent Ambersons and Our Town. The second season productions included Ah, Wilderness and The Skin of Our Teeth. Actors in these shows included Spring Byington, Charles Dingle, James Dunn, Nina Foch, John Forsythe, Helen Hayes, Wanda Hendrix, Wright King, Otto Kruger, Joan McCracken, Thomas Mitchell, Mildred Natwick, Gene Raymond, Kent Smith and Fredd Wayne. Lighting design was by Imero Fiorentino. The announcer was Nelson Case.[3]

Advertising Controversy

The series began October 6, 1950, and a month later it came under criticism from the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which objected to the tie-in between Schlitz and the Pulitzer Prize. Mrs. D. Leigh Colvin, president of the WCTU, suggested that Columbia should return the $100,000, stating that the program was "a scheme of education for alcoholism which uses American classics as a springboard for beer promotion. The tie-up... allies the university, its school and the Pulitzer name with programs which are obviously put on by the brewer to promote drinking in the American home. Beer bottles and beer drinking have been rampant in commercials between acts, one recent commercial depicting Mona Lisa coming to life from her painting to reach for a glass of the sponsor's beer."

Dean Carl W. Ackerman of the Pulitzer School responded, "This has been a pioneering development in the relationship between industry and education. It is raising the standards of entertainment in American homes. Any development which contributes to the improvement of home life is wholesome because the home is the bulwark of democracy."

Schlitz president Erwin C. Uilein pointed out that Vassar College was founded in 1861 by Matthew Vassar who had made a fortune in his Poughkeepsie, New York brewery.[4]

Graphic design and formats

The opening title card displayed a painted design of comedy/tragedy masks with a quill pen positioned in the mouth of the tragedy mask. Advertising for the series also used comedy/tragedy masks but in a more simplified line-art version minus the quill pen.

The series was telecast live, but in some areas it was shown two weeks later as captured on kinescope film. It initially presented hour-long dramas from October 1950 to June 1951; the series was reduced to a 30-minute format from December 1951 to June 1952. During the second season, the series alternated with Celanese Theater. Pulitzer Prize Playhouse continued until June 4, 1952, producing a total of 53 episodes.


Edgar Peterson was the producer, with Alex Segal and Frank Telford as directors. Bernie Green directed the music. The program originated from WJZ-TV.[1]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1951 Emmy Award Won Best Dramatic Show
1952 Nominated


Partial List of Episodes of Pulitzer Prize Playhouse
Date Episode Actor(s)
October 6, 1950 "You Can't Take It With You" Charles Coburn, Ella Raines[5]
November 23, 1950 "The Raven" Zachary Scott[6]
December 8, 1950 "The Ponzi Story" Hume Cronyn, Colleen Gray, Blanche Yurka, Quentin Reynolds, Jonathan Harris, Will Kuluva, Walter Brooke.[7]
December 19, 1951 "The Skin of Our Teeth" Thomas Mitchell, Nina Foch, Peggy Wood, Mildred Natwick[8]
February 13, 1952 "Hill 346" Phillip Borneuf, Vaughn Taylor, Philip Coolidge[9]


  1. ^ a b c "Debuts, Highlights, Changes (Continued)". Ross Reports. October 1, 1950. p. 2. Retrieved August 11, 2023.
  2. ^ "Prize Playhouse" (PDF). Broadcasting. October 9, 1950. p. 50. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  3. ^ Alicoate, Jack, Ed. (1952). The 1952 Radio Annual. Radio Daily Corp. P. 934.
  4. ^ "WCTU Decries TV Beer Show,"Tucson Daily Citizen, November 9, 1950.
  5. ^ "Pulitzer Prize Playhouse". The New York Times. October 1, 1950. p. 119. ProQuest 111393290. Retrieved April 21, 2021 – via ProQuest.
  6. ^ "Television Highlights of the Week". The Boston Globe. November 19, 1950. p. 20-A. Retrieved May 4, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "Quentin Reynolds In Debut Friday as Television Actor". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. December 3, 1950. p. 5 G. Retrieved April 20, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ Gould, Jack (December 21, 1951). "Radio and Television: Pulitzer Prize Playhouse Returns to A. B. C. for Video Season With Wilder's 'Skin of Our Teeth'". The New York Times. p. 30. Retrieved April 21, 2021 – via ProQuest.
  9. ^ Gould, Jack (February 15, 1952). "Radio and Television: Pulitzer Prize Playhouse Gives 'Hill 346,' in Which Effective Studio Battle Scene Is Wasted". The New York Times. p. 22. Retrieved April 21, 2021 – via ProQuest.