The Joseph Cotten Show
Philip Reed and Paulette Goddard in "The Ghost of Devil's Island", 1957.
Also known asOn Trial
Directed byJohn Brahm
Ida Lupino
Robert Stevenson (director)
Nicholas Ray
Presented byJoseph Cotten
StarringJoseph Cotten
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes31
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time25 minutes
Production companiesFordyce Enterprises Productions
Revue Studios
DistributorStudios USA Television
Original networkNBC
Picture formatBlack-and-white
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 14, 1956 (1956-09-14) –
September 13, 1957 (1957-09-13)

The Joseph Cotten Show (also known as On Trial)[1] is an American anthology series hosted by and occasionally starring Joseph Cotten. The series, which first aired on NBC, aired 31 episodes from September 14, 1956, to September 13, 1957.[2] Four other new episodes were broadcast on CBS in Summer 1959.

Episode overview

Cotten appeared in different roles in fifteen episodes, including the title character in the series premiere, "The Trial of Edward Pritchard", the story of a physician of questionable background in Glasgow, Scotland, who is accused of having poisoned his wife and mother-in-law and who claims to have been a personal friend of the Italian revolutionary Garibaldi.[3]

Virginia Gregg starred twice in historical roles, first as Mary Surratt, the woman hanged in the conspiracy case stemming from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, in the 1956 episode "The Mary Surratt Case", directed by Ida Lupino. Cotten appeared with Gregg in the role of Robert Westwood.[4] Gregg also portrayed Frances Adeline Miller Seward, wife of United States Secretary of State William Henry Seward, who was stabbed the same night that Lincoln was murdered. Cotten played Seward in this 1957 episode entitled "The Freeman Case". This episode is not about the attack on Seward but about a legal case that the attorney Seward handled on behalf of the African American Willie Freeman, who was found guilty but insane of the murders of a white farm family. The prosecutor in the trial was John Van Buren, son of former U.S. President Martin Van Buren.[5]

In the first episode of 1957, "The Trial of Colonel Blood", Michael Wilding guest starred in the title role of Thomas Blood, the Irish-born colonel who in 1671 tried to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. Norman Lloyd, a director of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, portrayed the Second Duke of Buckingham. Henry Daniell portrayed King Charles II.[6]

The series also aired a Victorian-era mystery "The Tichborne Claimant", with Gladys Cooper portraying the Roman Catholic Lady Tichborne, who seeks the whereabouts of her son, Roger Tichborne, who disappeared at sea. In her search, Lady Tichborne encounters the Protestant Thomas Castro of Australia, played by Robert Middleton.[7]

Notable guest stars

Production notes

The series was filmed in Los Angeles in conjunction with Fordyce Productions and Revue Studios, later Universal Television.[8]

In its full season, The Joseph Cotten Show aired at 9 p.m. Friday opposite CBS's Crusader and then, at mid-season, the sitcom, Mr. Adams and Eve, starring Howard Duff and Ida Lupino. ABC aired Jan Murray's Treasure Hunt quiz show in the same time slot.[9]


  1. ^ Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (1979). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows: 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-25525-9. P.315.
  2. ^ Alex McNeil, Total Television, New York: Penguin Books, 1996, 4th ed., p. 618
  3. ^ "On Trial: The Trial of Edward Pritchard". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved March 24, 2009.
  4. ^ "On Trial: The Trial of Mary Surratt". IMDB. Retrieved March 24, 2009.
  5. ^ "On Trial: The Freeman Case". IMDB. Retrieved March 24, 2009.
  6. ^ "On Trial: The Trial of Colonel Blood". IMDB. Retrieved March 24, 2009.
  7. ^ "On Trial: The Tichborne Claimant". IMDB. Retrieved March 24, 2009.
  8. ^ "Company credits for The Joseph Cotten Show". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved March 23, 2009.
  9. ^ McNeil, Total Television, appendix