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(Jane Wyman's) Fireside Theater



The Series

Fireside Theater was an anthology series, latterly presented by actress Jane Wyman (hence the above title). Little seems to be known about this show, and details of some episodes are sketchy at best.

The show started out as a fifteen-minute live drama series in April 1949. It soon switched to half-hour, with two stories run back-to-back, and pioneered pre-filming: it was one of the first TV dramas to be shot entirely on film (rather than continue to be broadcast live from a TV studio. It was hosted initially by producer Frank Wisbar from 1952, and by Gene Raymond from 1953.

With Wyman hosting and producing (and taking the possessive screen credit), it was thoroughly overhauled, and ran from 1955 to 1958.

Jane Wyman

Host of the anthology series in its last years, and sometime star of the weekly episodes.

A movie star from the 1930s onwards, she had roles in movies such as The Yearling (1946), Johnny Belinda (1948) and The Glass Menagerie (1950). In later years, she starred in TV soap Falcon Crest (1981-1990).

Bradbury Episodes

Bradbury wrote one script for the series, but it is also rumored that another episode was based on one of his books.


"The Relentless Weavers" (30 March 1954)
Starring Leo Gordon and Tim Considine, this episode is rumored to be based on Dark Carnival. This is an unlikely claim, as anyone familiar with Bradbury's work knows that Dark Carnival is a collection of very diverse stories. The possibility remains, however, that one of the stories might have been adapted. No details of scriptwriter or director seem to have survived. This episode would have pre-dated Wyman's involvment with the show, which began with the 1955-56 season.


"The Marked Bullet" (20 Nov 1956)
Starring Jane Wyman and Joseph Wiseman, this episode was scripted by Bradbury. Wyman plays a character called Madame Olivia. Several sources - and Bradbury himself - refer to this as "The Bullet Trick", which may have been Bradbury's original title.

In a 1972 interview with Arnold Kunert, Bradbury said "My first work in script writing after Moby Dick was in television. I didn’t get into television until after about ten years from its beginnings in the late 1940s. I recall first doing a story for The Jane Wyman Theatre, a fantasy about a carnival man and his wife, called “The Bullet Trick.” The wife was having an affair and they have to go through a bullet trick routine in which the husband forces the lover through some means to fire a bullet at the end of the act, which the wife is supposed to catch in her teeth. We have a feeling at the fade out that maybe the husband substituted a real bullet for the blank so that when the lover fires the wife will be killed. Joseph Wiseman played the husband, who was quite good. It was fair. That was my first television show. I was afraid of television, and for good reason. Quality has rarely been there. At least when you make films, even if they’re magnificent failures, there’s a helluva lot more quality."


Information sources:
Terrace, V. (1979) The Complete Encyclopedia of Television Programmes 1947-79. New York: A.S.Barnes and Co.
Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)
Museum of Broadcast Communications (www.museum.tv)
The Classic TV Archive (http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Stage/2950/index.html)
Kunert, A.R. (1972) "Ray Bradbury: On Hitchcock and Other Magic" in Aggelis, S. (2003) Conversations with Ray Bradbury. Ph.D. thesis, Florida State University.

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(c) Phil Nichols 2003

Page updated 8 March, 2019