A debate between attorney Melvin Belli and Marguerite Oswald, mother of Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy, eight and half months earlier.
During the show Les Crane states that this program is his most important, and a breakthrough in television history broadcasting.
Mel Brooks, who listened to this tape in 2012, stated that he did not remember doing this show. He in fact does appear and contributes a rare serious editorial recap at the end of the broadcast.
Archival Television Audio, Inc. sold to Shout Factory a number of "lost" Mel Brooks TV appearances used in their 2012 release of "The Incredible Mel Brooks," a five DVD and one CD box set.
The only known broadcast record of this iconic broadcast, recorded, as it was telecast, by archivist Phil Gries, direct line on to his 1/4" Webcor Stereophonic Tape recorder.
Television History of the LES CRANE SHOW
September 16, 1963 - July 31, 1964 (WABC N.Y.)
August 3 - 8, 1964 (ABC)
November 9, 1964 - February 26, 1965 (ABC)
June 28, 1965 - October 22, 1965 (Nightlife ABC)
January 15, 1968 - September 6, 1968 (WNEW N.Y.)
Debut of program was September 16, 1963. For the first month the title of the telecast was NIGHT LINE...LES CRANE. Beginning on October 22, 1963 the title was changed to THE LES CRANE SHOW.
These late night LIVE broadcasts were aired Monday thru Friday. on local station WABC New York. Beginning December 6, 1963 late night broadcasts aired Tuesday thru Saturday. Also, another time slot opened for Crane with a similar format airing on WABC in the afternoon...a one hour version broadcast from 1:30-2:30pm, five days a week, and again returning to late night broadcasting usually 1am to 2:00am after the WABC late movie, THE BEST OF BROADWAY. This TALK SHOW / PHONE IN version of The Les Crane Show concluded its final broadcast on July 31, 1964.
On August 3, 4, 5, 6, & 8, 1964 THE NEW LES CRANE SHOW premiered...a five program trial rivaling Johnny Carson's TONIGHT SHOW. It was Nationally televised and it is considered the FIRST network talk show program to compete with THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON.
On November 9, 1964 THE LES CRANE SHOW premiered and aired regularly weeknights on the ABC network, opposite Johnny Carson's TONIGHT SHOW.
After 14 weeks, and low ratings, this series ended with its last telecast airing on February 26, 1965. Les Crane's late night network career was over, as a solo host, and never to be resumed Nationally.
ABC renamed their late night time slot NIGHTLIFE, premiering on March 1, 1965.This one hour forty five minute weekly late night talk series showcased guest hosts. This series run lasted four months, the last broadcast airing on June 25, 1965. Guest hosts included: Shelley Berman, Pat Boone, Jack Carter, Allan Sherman, Dave Garroway, Bill Cullen, William B. Williams (announcer of this series run), Eddy Arnold, Dale Robertson, Dick Shawn, Louis Nye, & Jan Murray.
Form June 28 to October 22, 1965 Les Crane returned to this time slot...the series title remaining, NIGHTLIFE. Les Crane no longer was a solo host. He co-hosted with Dave Garroway, and Nipsy Russell.
Two years later, Les Crane returned to local late night television appearing for eight months on WNEW channel 5 in New York 11:15pm - 12:15am from January 15, 1968 changing time slots on July 8, 1968, 11:45pm - 12:45pm. Final show aired on September 6, 1968, and it was the last time Les Crane would host a late night television talk show.
NOTE: A two hour radio broadcast profiling Les Crane, including TV Audio Air Check Crane highlights from the ATA archive can be listened to in its entirety. It appears on the ATA website under the link TV CONFIDENTIAL. The segment (SOUNDS OF LOST TELEVISION) was recorded in Pasadena California and aired in 2014 with host Ed Robertson, and guest Phil Gries.
NOTE: Most all of Les Crane's cumulative 26 months of broadcasting as a talk show host is today non-existent. Tapes were destroyed, erased and whereabouts unknown. The 27 LES CRANE SHOW television air checks archived in the Archival Television Audio, Inc. library is the largest collection known to exist of extant Les Crane broadcasts in the country.
Extant examples existing elsewhere include two broadcast kinescopes archived by The Paley Center for Media (one from 1967, and the other, a broadcast from January 31, 1968 titled "Rich Jews." There is archived at UCLA FILM & TV ARCHIVE four extant examples related to Les Crane, including a preserved 41:36 minute compilation demo/presentation kinescope reel with clips from the New Les Crane Show five night trial run (August 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 1964).
The content of what the UCLA Film & TV Archive's has related to the above programs include the first show with Les Crane introducing his show and Robert Preston (2:53), a bullfighting segment with Ricardo Montalbaum (6:32), a Jackie Robinson segment debating William F. Buckley with Shelley Winters on the panel (5:40),a Pamela Mason and Artie Shaw segment (3:50), a segment related to New York City cab drivers with Les Crane interviewing a number of them (5:59), guest Irving Schulmen, Adela Rogers St.John and two other guests discussing the legendary actress Jean Harlow (4:18), a segment related to "Deathtraps related to playgrounds in New York" and interviewed comments from women on the street (3:11), an in studio interview segment with Marguerite Oswald, mother of Lee Harvey Oswald 4:14), and an in studio interview with Richard Burton and Les Crane sign off (6:03).
Of interest, as to the quality of the video and audio, it is noted many variations exist including tinny sound reproduction, at times, poor audio clarity, at times, echo effect, tinny effect, at times, occasional video glitches, dark, high contrast segments at times, overexposed ("milky") segments. at times.
NOTE: The Les Crane Show late night talk program on ABC during the 1964-65 television season pioneered a format of television later embraced by icon Phil Donahue, Crane fell to NBC’s The Tonight Show, a national brand with a decade of broadcasting tenure, proved its dominance. Donahue began his legendary career in Dayton in 1967, evolving into a daytime programming staple for nearly 30 years.
Les Crane’s daughter Caprice points out that her father used journalism to cover topics and people that others feared to explore. “He created the shotgun mike,” says Crane of her dad, who passed away in 2008. “He had guests who did not provide the typical fluff, for example, Malcolm X, Bob Dylan, and the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald. He had the first publicly gay man on his show. He was also an amazing listener who helped create a new television format that demanded more information for the listener.
The Les Crane Show didn’t last long because the person who tries the new thing always gets penalized. People are afraid of the unknown until it becomes mainstream.”
A renaissance media man for the second half of the 20th century, Crane held interests and influences beyond journalism. “My dad gave The Mamas and the Papas group its name,” reminds Caprice Crane. “Casey Kasem credited him with inventing the Top 40 radio format at KRLA. He also got into the computer business before it was big. His company was Software Tool Works, which produced the Chess Master computer program. He was always before his time.”
Crane’s innovative format allowed one of baseball’s biggest heroes, Jackie Robinson, to debate one of conservatism’s biggest allies, William F. Buckley. Nowhere on television in the mid-1960s could audiences see this type of television fodder. Unfortunately, The Les Crane Show fell victim to a common policy of television networks destroying tapes because of the shortsighted view that future generations would not be interested. How wrong they were.