Ronald Reagan Becomes the Host of "General Electric Theater"

General Electric Theater is an American anthology series that was broadcast on CBS radio and television.

The series was sponsored by General Electric's Department of Public Relations Services.


Following a January 18, 1953 audition show, The Token, with Dana Andrews, the radio series debuted on CBS on July 9, 1953 with Ronald Colman in Random Harvest. With such guest stars as Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Van Johnson, Jane Wyman, William Holden, Alan Young, Dorothy McGuire, John Hodiak, Ann Blyth, James Mason, Joan Fontaine and Judy Garland the series continued until October 1, 1953. Jaime del Valle produced and directed. Ken Carpenter was the host and announcer. Wilbur Hatch supplied the music.


The television program was broadcast every Sunday evening at 9:00pm, EST, beginning February 1, 1953 and ending May 27, 1962. Each of the 200 television episodes was an adaptation of a novel, short story, play, film or magazine fiction.

Ronald Reagan became the show's only host on September 26, 1954. GE added a host to provide continuity, which was absent due to its anthology format. After four months, the show reached the Top Ten in the Nielsen Ratings.[citation needed] It also regularly outrated I Love Lucy in the 9:00-9:30pm time slot.[citation needed]}

The show made the already well-known Reagan, who had appeared in many films as a "second lead" throughout his career, wealthy, due to his part ownership of the show. After eight years as host, Reagan estimated he had visited 135 GE research and manufacturing facilities, and met over a quarter-million people. During that time he would also speak at other forums such as Rotary clubs and Moose lodges, presenting views on economic progress that in form and content were often similar to what he said in introductions, segues and closing comments on the show as a spokesman for GE.

Television guest stars

Among the guest stars on the anthology were:

* Nick Adams
* Claude Akins
* Eddie Albert
* Leon Ames
* Edward Andrews
* Fred Astaire
* Parley Baer
* Raymond Bailey
* Patricia Barry
* Anne Baxter
* Jack Benny
* Whit Bissell
* Ray Bolger
* Ward Bond
* Neville Brand
* Ernest Borgnine
* Diane Brewster
* Charles Bronson
* Sally Brophy
* Edgar Buchanan
* Michael Burns
* Francis X. Bushman
* Red Buttons
* Macdonald Carey
* Jack Carson
* Jack Cassidy
* George Chandler
* Phyllis Coates
* Lee J. Cobb
* Claudette Colbert
* Chuck Connors
* Russ Conway
* Ellen Corby
* Joseph Cotten
* Jerome Cowan
* Bob Crane
* Joan Crawford
* Hume Cronyn
* Tony Curtis
* Bette Davis
* Sammy Davis, Jr.
* James Dean
* Richard Denning
* Dan Duryea
* John Ericson
* Richard Eyer
* William Fawcett
* Frank Ferguson
* Nina Foch
* Joan Fontaine
* Eduard Franz
* Eva Gabor
* Zsa Zsa Gabor
* Judy Garland
* Greer Garson
* Anthony George
* George Gobel
* Billy Gray
* Virginia Gregg
* Virginia Grey
* Kevin Hagen
* Alan Hale, Jr.
* Barbara Hale
* Darryl Hickman
* Ed Hinton
* Skip Homeier
* Ron Howard
* Kim Hunter
* Burl Ives
* Victor Jory
* Allyn Joslyn
* Boris Karloff
* Joseph Kearns
* Ernie Kovacs
* Otto Kruger
* Nancy Kulp
* Alan Ladd
* Michael Landon
* Joi Lansing
* Keith Larsen
* Charles Laughton
* Piper Laurie
* Cloris Leachman
* Art Linkletter
* Myrna Loy
* Dayton Lummis
* Carol Lynley
* Dorothy Malone
* Flip Mark
* Strother Martin
* Scott Marlowe
* E.G. Marshall
* Lee Marvin (record 7 appearances)
* Groucho Marx
* Raymond Massey
* Walter Matthau
* Gisele MacKenzie
* Fred MacMurray
* Kevin McCarthy
* John McIntire
* Tyler McVey
* Joyce Meadows
* Burgess Meredith
* Gary Merrill
* Robert Middleton
* Vera Miles
* Ray Milland
* George Montgomery
* Rita Moreno
* Audie Murphy
* Burt Mustin
* Leslie Nielsen
* Lloyd Nolan
* Dan O'Herlihy
* J. Pat O'Malley
* Barbara Parkins
* Neva Patterson
* John Payne
* Suzanne Pleshette
* Judson Pratt
* Vincent Price
* Nancy Davis Reagan
* Jason Robards, Sr.
* Ruth Roman
* George Sanders
* Robert F. Simon
* Dean Stockwell
* Everett Sloane
* Stella Stevens
* Jimmy Stewart
* Hope Summers
* Gloria Talbott
* Rod Taylor
* Phyllis Thaxter
* Gene Tierney
* Audrey Totter
* Harry Townes
* Claire Trevor
* Gary Vinson
* Beverly Washburn
* David Wayne
* Jesse White
* Cornel Wilde
* Rhys Williams
* Natalie Wood
* Fay Wray
* Will Wright
* Ed Wynn
* Keenan Wynn

Reagan leaves GE

Reagan was fired by General Electric in 1962 in response to his referring to the TVA as one of the problems of "big government". Reagan would subsequently reiterate his points at the 1964 Republican National Convention, in his speech "A Time for Choosing":

One such considered above criticism, sacred as motherhood, is TVA. This program started as a flood control project; the Tennessee Valley was periodically ravaged by destructive floods. The Army Engineers set out to solve this problem. They said that it was possible that once in 500 years there could be a total capacity flood that would inundate some 600,000 acres (2,400 km2). Well, the engineers fixed that. They made a permanent lake which inundated a million acres (4,000 kmĀ²). This solved the problem of floods, but the annual interest on the TVA debt is five times as great as the annual flood damage they sought to correct. Of course, you will point out that TVA gets electric power from the impounded waters, and this is true, but today 85 percent of TVA's electricity is generated in coal burning steam plants. Now perhaps you'll charge that I'm overlooking the navigable waterway that was created, providing cheap barge traffic, but the bulk of the freight barged on that waterway is coal being shipped to the TVA steam plants, and the cost of maintaining that channel each year would pay for shipping all of the coal by rail, and there would be money left over.

The publicity Reagan gained in part from this speech paved the way for his election as Governor of California in 1966.

Also on the series was Don Herbert, a television personality well known as the host of Watch Mr. Wizard. Herbert appeared in the role of the "General Electric Progress Reporter," adding a scientific touch to the institutional advertising pitch. The show was produced by Revue Studios, whose successor-in-interest, NBC Universal Television, is owned by GE.

Following General Electric Theater's cancellation in 1962, it was replaced in the same time slot with another program sponsored by GE, Jack Webb's GE True.