The Martin Manulis collection, 1954-1985 contains scripts and production materials from television programs produced by Manulis.
Seasons 1 and 2 of Playhouse 90 (1956-1958) represent the bulk of the collection, which also includes development materials
for the anthology series Climax! (1955-1956) and scripts for The Day Christ Died (1980 TV movie), Chiefs (1983 mini-series),
and Space (1985 mini-series).
Martin Manulis was a film, television, and theater producer best known as the creator of the critically acclaimed anthology
series Playhouse 90 – the first weekly 90-minute live drama on American television. Born on May 30, 1915 in Brooklyn, New
York, Manulis graduated from Columbia University in 1935 and served in the Navy during World War II. Following the war, Manulis
became managing director of the Westport County Playhouse in Connecticut, producing and directing stage shows for prominent
Broadway producer John C. Wilson.
After joining CBS as a staff producer in 1951, Manulis produced episodes for Best of Broadway (1954-1955) and the dramatic
anthology series Studio One (1952), Suspense (1952-1954), and Climax! (1955-1956). CBS vice president Hubbell Robinson approached
Manulis to produce Playhouse 90 alongside two additional producers. Manulis initially turned down the project, expressing
a desire to head the production on his own.
“Then [Robinson] came back to me and asked me if I could do it alone,” Mr. Manulis said in an interview with The Orange County
Register in 1996. “I said yes. I felt from a programming point of view, it would work better this way”—from The New York Times
October 10, 2007 [accessed June 25, 2012].
The series’ first season began in the fall of 1956 with live broadcasts bringing the theater experience into homes across
the country. Often considered the benchmark of high-quality dramatic programming, Playhouse 90 received ample praise in the
early-going. In 1957, the program’s second installment, “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” (written by Rod Serling) won five Emmys,
and the series was awarded the Emmy for Best New Program Series. Manulis was also named “Producer of the Year” for the program’s
first two seasons. Despite the switch from live broadcasts to taped recordings in 1957 due to the demands of production,
Playhouse 90 maintained a high standard throughout its run into 1960, with repeat airings in 1961.
By 1958, Manulis had moved west to Los Angeles and became the head of production at 20th Century Fox Television where he produced
Adventures in Paradise (1959-1962) and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963). Manulis also produced the espionage series
Five Fingers which was broadcasted on NBC from 1959-1960. Branching out into feature film production, Manulis produced DAYS
OF WINE AND ROSES in 1962 (which received five Oscar nominations), based on the original 1958 Playhouse 90 teleplay of the
same title (unfortunately not present in this collection). Manulis also served as West Coast director of the American Film
Institute from the summer of 1974 through the fall of 1977. He died in Los Angeles on September 28, 2007.