Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hollywood's Finest - WNEW-TV Channel 5

I make no bones about the fact that I do not know much about the history of HOLLYWOOD'S FINEST, which was a fairly long running late night movie showcase program on WNEW-TV channel 5. I really have no clue as to when it first started and when it finally ended. What I do know for sure was that I was a frequent late night viewer of the program and that it kept me company on many a late night back in the 1970's. As a matter of fact, it was on HOLLYWOOD'S FINEST that I first saw one of my favorite horror films of all time. More on that in a bit.

What I can say about this fairly well remembered movie showcase is that, depending on the year, it pretty much ran up to six nights a week. The exception being Sunday night when channel 5 would normally go off the air after DAVID SUSSKIND. Another thing was that, at times, it's title was a bit misleading as on many nights WNEW would air films of somewhat less quality then what the HOLLYWOOD'S FINEST title might indicate. Generally speaking, channel 5 was the king of local independent television in NY back in the day. It normally would battle WPIX for the top spot and more times then not, come out ahead. That being said, their post 11PM schedule would fluctuate quite a bit. If anything was constant, it was HOLLYWOOD'S FINEST though it also wouldn't be strange to see it missing from the schedule for periods of time. Still, it pretty much wrapped up 5's schedule for the night featuring an array of films that ran the gamut between top Hollywood fare to low budget, "B" entries. All in all, one of the many entertaining movie showcase programs we got to enjoy back in the day. If anyone has any additional information or can clear up any inaccuracies in this entry, by all means, feel free to chime in.

Oh yes, that all time favorite horror film I first saw on HOLLYWOOD'S FINEST was CARNIVAL OF SOULS back in the fall of 1975.


  1. "Hollywood's Finest's" origins date most likely to post-1961, along with "Movie Greats" and "Metromedia Movie" (which, prior to 1967, was called "Metropolitan Movie," in reference to the name WNEW-TV's owner sported back then - Metropolitan Broadcasting Television). I've seen some vintage New York Times TV listings from 1960 where WNEW's late night movie shows were "Five Star Movie" (later a Sunday 1 P.M. staple), followed by "Five Star Finale." (The former name may have been a play on "All Star Movie" which ran at 11 P.M. on rival WPIX at the time, with the channel number slyly forming this subtle pun.) As of the early 1970's, it appeared "Hollywood's Finest" was on after the "11:30 Movie."

    As to when "Hollywood's Finest" ended, it was around the early 1990's, after the station's ownership and call letters changed to Fox 5 WNYW. (David Susskind's show ended only a few months after Fox officially took over ownership; he died in early 1987.)

  2. Thank you very much for the information. Any info on HOLLYWOOD'S FINEST is great to have.

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  4. It should also be noted that while it seemed "Hollywood's Finest" specialized solely in B&W movies, this was not the case; in fact, it was under this banner, on Sept. 9, 1965, that the earliest known case of a feature film shown in color on WNEW-TV occurred with the airing of the 1955 Alec Guinness/Peter Sellers version of "The Ladykillers." (The next night, Sept. 10, 1965, on "Movie Greats," was aired "The McConnell Story" which starred Alan Ladd and June Allyson, likewise in color; both films had just recently been acquired by WNEW after a few years on WNBC where they had been staples of "Movie 4.")

  5. Another tibit, Hollywood's Finest and Movie Club ran to conclusion. Meaning the movies were not cut. Aside from some censoring. Movie Club was cut into 4 parts, Hollywood's Finest would be in 6 or 8. I worked at the station in the 80's.

  6. Correction...

    First line should read. Another tidbit.....

  7. I saw Straw Dogs on Hollywood finest late one night in the 80's uncut. Boobies!

  8. I think "Blowup" was another one that we aired on HF with nudity.

  9. To 'WNWS' about "Movie Club" in four parts: Sounds similar to the old "Schaefer Award Theatre" run for years (1959-68 and briefly in 1970) by WCBS-TV, which ran films to conclusion with only four commercial interruptions (and occasional cuts to suit broadcast standards of the times).

    I actually found the start date of "Hollywood's Finest" to be early 1962, after what was left of the syndicated news/talk series "PM East / PM West" came to an end and its producer, Westinghouse Broadcasting ("Group W"), recast it as "The New Steve Allen Show" (which was snapped up by rival WPIX). The original "Metropolitan Movie" title dated to May 1958, after the DuMont Broadcasting Corporation was renamed the Metropolitan Broadcasting Corporation (though the calls were still WABD, not to become WNEW-TV until Sept. 7, 1958); prior thereto, that movie series had been called "Warner Bros. Premiere."

    Would you remember what film chain cameras were at Channel 5 while you were there - GE PE-24 or -240? Or RCA TK-27?

  10. Sorry, I can't recall what was used for film playback. Although RCA sounds right. Program Operations and Telecine were located in Secaucus, NJ at the time. I worked in the Program Operations Dept from 1983 till about 1988. Our department had about 5 editors left from the golden days that would cut the films for breaks and time.

    My official title was Program Screener. We timed and checked the quality of tape and film. I also had the fun of picking the WB cartoon shorts to play. However the 30 min time slot didn't give room for choice. Some of the shorter cartoons would run every two weeks so I could fit the gems in. It was the last breath of that format anyway.

    The high profile movies would go to a certain editor and would take an entire shift, sometimes two, to cut. By the mid 80's the shift to tape on TV shows would be complete except for "I love Lucy" and there would be no work except for the movies. As new syndicated packages were purchased they would arrive on tape and would be murdered by the tape editors in NY. After I left, the operations dept moved back to NYC and as the Fox network grew, there were less syndicated shows and movies were gone. Most of the films shown on Turner Classics today played on WNEW/WNYW.

    Thanks for the history! I am always hungry for information. One of the techs in Telecine worked for Dumont. Too bad I didn't get any stories out of him. So I don't have much to share on that aspect. But I'll keep an eye on future posts in this blog and jump in with some memories. I did save some press releases and schedules, maybe even a run down sheet.

    1. Joan Crawford filmed introductions to 4 or 5 of her movies for one of these movie weeks in 1974/75. Does anyone know where archives of this might exist??

  11. Joan Crawford filmed introductions to 4 or 5 of her movies for one of these movie weeks in 1974/75. Does anyone know where archives of this might exist??