James L. Caddigan, Jr. (12/9/1999)

RR: To start off, what were your father's precise position and duties at DuMont in 1949?

JC: My Dad left Paramount Pictures in Boston in the late 40s to join Dr. DuMont in the formation of TV broadcast facilities in New York. By title, he was the Director of Programming and Production for the DuMont Network. In the very early days and in that capacity he was responsible for the development of programming to fill the broadcast day. I can recall a low-cost program originally from Cincinatti and later from New York that featured Sis Camp and Paul Dixon lip-syncing to popular songs of the day. As the network grew he produced several shows and brought many well known programs to the air including Jackie Gleason and The Calvacade Of Stars (first introduction of The Honeymooners), Bishop Fulton Sheen, the Program Playhouse, and Big Brother Bob Emery. His introduction of religious programming was as important to TV's development as was CV.

RR: Do you have any idea what suggested to him that the time was ripe, despite the infancy of TV and the very limited audiences, for a science-fiction-themed adventure program aimed at children?

JC: As I recall his comments later in life, the budget restrictions under which he had to operate were so restrictive that he had to develop truly low cost programs with limited commercial sponsorship. One readily available source of programming was a great number of western "cowboy" movies. His hesitancy to use them was based on the need to find a vehicle to show them that would have audience appeal. The concept for Captain Video was born from that need--- my father recognized the success of the Saturday movie house serials with such science fictional story lines as Buck Rogers. The two concepts quickly came together. He called on his past experiences in the film industry wherein the Saturday matinee usually showed one or two westerns with at least one installment of the serial. For TV, he reversed the roles and used the science fiction theme as the vehicle to show the films.

RR: For those who have never seen a Captain Video episode, we should explain that for the entire weekday run of the 30-minute show, we would see about 6 or 7 minutes of live action with Captain Video and his Rangers, then cut to about 15 minutes of an old cowboy movie on the "Remote Teleceiver" at Ranger Headquarters, the cowboy hero always being introduced as one of Captain Video's "agents out west," and then we had about 6 minutes more live action with Captain Video! In four or five days, a complete B-western would be shown in this way.

Getting back to specifics, do you know why your father chose to approach Larry Menkin and M. C. Brockhauser about creating and writing such a program?

JC: Not specifically, but I must assume he knew them by reputation, especially Menkin. My Dad had a warehouse of talented people tucked away in his head and had an uncanny talent to find the folks he needed to "pull things together".

RR: Do you know anything about Olga Druce, who became producer of CV after Larry Menkin, in about 1951-2, and who made huge changes in the look of the show, by getting new costumes, new sets, good special effects and even good scripts, from well-known science fiction writers of the day?

JC: No, I am sorry that that I have no recall of her except a vague recollection of her name.

RR: As a child you were around the DuMont studios. Any personal memories of the studios, particular programs, the sets, the actors... particularly for Captain Video?

JC: I have many! Let me start with CV. I vividly recall sitting in what was a balcony surrounding the set of CV on the lower level. There was a great use of cardboard in those days and, by today's standards, the sets were actually comical. If there was a need for an elevated shot, the camera was either raised up on some stacked boxes or dismantled and brought up to the balcony. There was no such thing as a boom! As you already know, the Wannamaker store was a ready source for props and the back halls were often used for chase scenes and the like. Although only 12 when CV was first broadcast, I held a fascination for the production aspects of the show as much as I did for the story line itself. In later years I spent a lot of time in the Adelphi Theater where the Bishop Sheen and Cavalcade Of Stars shows were broadcast in front of live audiences. I was honored in those years to be introduced to the Bishop, Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Maury Amsterdam and several others who appeared on those shows. I met Mr Amsterdam several years later in Europe when he was doing the Military Club circuit (As an aside, my wife was very pregnant and Amsterdam made too many references to "little Jimmy Caddigan" during his show that caused my wife to laugh her way to the delivery room later that night). Al Hodge was a college classmate of my stepmother and that may have had some bearing on his selection for the role as CV (my speculation --- not known fact). I also spent time in the DuMont Telecenter in New York. That facility was originally the East Side Opera House that my Dad had gutted to its shell and rebuilt as the network headquarters and several integrated studios. I recall seeing his plans for the building and they were drawn by him at home in great detail. I recall discussions centering on his ability to do that without any training as a design engineer. To my knowledge, the New York FOX facilities used that facility for several years. For all I know they may still be doing so. It was in the Adelphi and the Telecenter that I was introduced to the DuMont TV Electronicam, a unit that mounted a movie camera next to an orthicon head using a unitary lens system. My Dad invented that capability that allowed the recording of filmed programming in almost real time using three cameras just as in any other TV operation. He failed to secure a patent in his own name, a fact that was overshadowed by the introduction of video tape a short time later.

RR: Let me ask a bit more about that. If I understand it correctly, your father's system allowed the TV cameramen to make a 16 mm movie of precisely what the TV camera lens was showing. This was very different from the kinescope process used by other networks, in which a 16 mm film was made of the very bright image on a very small picture tube. One difference was that the kinescope system showed the actual broadcast of the program. In your father's system, the images were much sharper, but didn't a film editor then have to edit them together to match the director's switches from camera to camera during the live broadcast?

JC: The system had a built in capability to allow the director from his booth to call shots just as in live TV using three cameras. The system automatically put an edit mark on the film as the shot was called thus eliminating the need to truly edit. It resulted in very little effort required to cut and splice at the right marks. The end result had the same effect as in a live show.

RR: Do you have any favorite stories or vivid memories related to these early days, TV broadcasting and your father? Many sources suggest Allan B. DuMont was an amazing character and a great engineer but the very last person who should have been in charge of a TV network! Any response?

JC: I think I have responded already to the question of memories. I agree that Dr. DuMont was a brilliant engineer but a man with very little business acumen. It is only an opinion, of course, but I feel that it was his lack of business sense that eventually cost the existence of both his manufacturing and broadcast ventures. I think that now as a 63-year-old looking back, I would not have the awareness of good business practices at the time to make such a judgement beyond limited recall of my Dad's comments along those lines. His engineering talent was widely recognized. I recall the first color set brought into our home with 16 controls just for the color. A van load of technicians arrived once a week to adjust it. My Dad brought home a 40 inch TV set in about 1953; the first of such a size and one not marketed for several years. The largest I have in my home today is a 36 inch screen!

RR: A friend of mine who is an avid collector of electronics from the 1940s and 50s actually has a projection TV, from the early 50s. Only 5 were made, specifically for NBC executives. A very bright picture tube rear-projects directly through a huge lens onto a ground-glass screen about 3 feet by 3 feet. Amazing. Was the DuMont set one with a conventional but gigantic (for the day) picture tube?

JC: Yes! The set we had at home was a tube-- not projection!

RR: What did your father do after DuMont collapsed in about 1955? Can you briefly sketch his subsequent career?

JC: He consulted for a time and eventually formed a company producing industrial films throughout the Midwest. He managed that firm until his death at the age of 65 in 1972.

RR: Is there anything else you think we need to know about this heroic era of live TV?

JC: As a youngster growing up in the wings of a developing industry I must agree with your choice of the word "heroic" in describing those early days. The players were indeed pioneers and all made a lasting mark on today's glitzy media. There are so many names I recall that are probably lost in history. I remember Harry Coyle loaning me his 1965 T-Bird. Harry was a sports director who went on to spend many years with NBC. I remember Frank Bunetta who was the director of the Sheen and Cavalcade Shows. I remember spending time with so many of the stage hands, electricians and musicians in the Adelphi Theater. Dad's program originating from the St. Louis Zoo was a pioneering effort that has remained popular under differing formats until today. The things that happen routinely in today's TV world were pioneering developments back then and the legacy of those efforts should give us all pause to say thanks for a job well done to the forward thinking folks who had the foresight to think of them.

I hope I have given you something worthwhile and that I have not rambled too far from your wishes! It has afforded genuine pleasure me to think about things that have not been in my mind for many years and I thank you for that. I very much enjoyed reviewing your web site and wish you continuing success in your quest to preserve a very important time in our history.


James L. Caddigan in the heady DuMont days.

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