Television is celebrating its diamond anniversary this month, but the movies have been exploring the medium’s facets for even longer. Here are 10 of the most bizarre and most brilliant depictions of the small screen on the big screen.
International House (1933): This oddball farce set in Wuhu, China, starred W.C. Fields, Bela Lugosi and others bidding on a new invention called the “radioscope.” Must-see radioscope moment: “Reefer Man,” Cab Calloway’s ode to marijuana.
Murder by Television (1935): We always knew television was a deadly business, but this was ridiculous. An inventor with a new way to transmit television signals globally is murdered when he won’t play ball with the TV companies.
Trapped by Television (1936): Was this tale about an inventor of a television monitor and camera battling scam artists, a rival scientist and organized crime a bit far-fetched? As directed by Del Lord, who helmed dozens of Three Stooges shorts, soitenly!
The Twonky (1953): Great title, terrible movie. A professor (Hans Conried) gets a TV set that can wash dishes, vacuum and even print money. It also shoots beams and can control people’s minds.
A Face in the Crowd (1957): Andy Griffith was many miles away from Mayberry in his film debut as an Arkansas drifter who is transformed into a power-mad media superstar.
101 Dalmatians (1961): Disney’s charmer was spot-on with its witty jibes at TV, including a “What’s My Line?” takeoff titled “What’s My Crime?”
The Thrill of It All (1963): Doris Day had one of her best comedies playing a Westchester housewife who becomes a star doing soap commercials. The funniest bits, though, featured cameos by Carl Reiner (who also wrote the script) spoofing live TV dramas.
Network (1976): Paddy Chayefsky’s Oscar-winning screenplay presented a TV landscape where nothing was sacred if it meant good ratings.
The Truman Show (1998): Jim Carrey had the feeling someone was watching him — he just didn’t realize it was millions of people in this satire about a man who is unaware his life is nothing but a constructed reality show.
Pleasantville (1998): Modern-day teens (Reese Witherspoon and Tobey Maguire) are transported into a 1950s sitcom, where they soon learn that not everything is black and white.