Ronald Reagan Plays Lieutenant Commander Masterson in "The Ford Television Theatre" - Season 2, Episode 34: Beneath These Waters

Ford Theatre (spelled Ford Theater for the radio version) is a radio and television anthology series broadcast in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s.

At various times, the television was to appear on all of the then-three major U.S television networks, while the radio version also was broadcast on two separate networks and on two separate coasts. Ford Theatre was named for its sponsor, the Ford Motor Company, which had an earlier success with its concert music series, The Ford Sunday Evening Hour (1934-42).

Radio

Ford Theater as a radio series lasted only for two seasons. It broadcast its first season from New York City on NBC with such actors as Ed Begley, Shirley Booth, Gary Merrill, Everett Sloane, and Vicki Vola. This season ran from October 5, 1947 to June 27, 1948. Due to poor ratings, Ford moved the show to Hollywood and CBS for the second season, where top Hollywood actors headed the casts. This season lasted from October 8, 1948 to July 1, 1949, where it received much higher ratings. However, with television arising as a popular season, Ford decided to end its radio show and focus solely on television.

Television

The first Ford Theatre on U.S. television appeared on October 17, 1948, near the dawn of regularly-scheduled prime time network programming. It was an hour-long drama, broadcast, as was most television of the era, live. This series used primarily Broadway actors. The program began as a monthly series, switching to bi-weekly a year later, in alternation on Friday nights at 9 pm Eastern time with the 54th Street Revue. During this period, programming included adaptations of Little Women, with June Lockhart and Kim Hunter, and One Sunday Afternoon, with Burgess Meredith and Hume Cronyn. During the following season, the final one for the program on CBS, the alternation, in the same time slot, was with Maganavox Theater.

A half-hour, filmed Ford Theatre returned to the airwaves on NBC for the 1951-52 season on Thursday nights at 9:30 pm Eastern time. At this time, production was moved from New York to Hollywood, and featured actors based there, rather than on Broadway. Some of these programs were comedies rather than dramas. Performers appearing during this era included Claudette Colbert, Charles Coburn, Peter Lawford, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell, Ann Sheridan, Ed Hinton, Barry Sullivan, and Beverly Washburn, among others. Also appearing, for the first time together, were Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis, in an episode entitled "First Born", which first aired on February 3, 1953. In October 1954 it became the first network television series to be filmed regularly in color.

After four seasons on NBC, the program was shown for a final season on ABC during the 1956-57 season. The time slot was changed to Wednesdays at 9:30. The last prime time broadcast of the program was aired on July 10, 1957.