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All Americans know June Cleaver and Alice Kramden, and everybody loves Lucy, but no one saw the often uncredited women who were behind the scenes making television in its Golden Age and now it seems they never existed. This documentary fills in the blanks made of their presence. We ask what happened to the young women who – instead of choosing the ordained roles of wives and mothers that common lore tells us was the only route for women in 1950’s America – worked in television when it was a kindling medium fueling itself on people’s imaginations.

The women who were producers, production assistants, casting directors, directors, and writers tell us the true story of the birth of television as they lived it, in the abstract art, jazz, and theatre Mecca of New York City – in an exuberant era that gave rise to the Civil Rights movement but was shadowed by communist witch hunts and the Cold War.

This is the story of the women who worked in television when it was still an experiment – both novelty and revolutionary art form, at once popular and highbrow.
  This is the story of the personal and professional impact of McCarthyism, lasting well beyond the 1950’s.
  This is the story of women before Feminism navigating their way in an unabashedly man’s world.
  This is the story of a diverse and dazzling set of characters, who demonstrate the complexity and tenacity of the real 1950’s woman.
  This is the story of their lives, struggles, and accomplishments, and in the process New York, early television, and the culture of the time become characters on their own.


The New York shows had a highly stylized aesthetic – introducing Leonard Bernstein, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Eartha Kitt to America – and this documentary reflects the milieu: sophisticated, witty, angular, dry rather than sweet, urban rather than suburban, dissonant, and minimalist. There were no Lassies or Leave it to Beavers coming out of New York. The New York shows were live and unpredictable. If comedy was king, Broadway ruled and the live drama shows, like Kraft Television Theatre and Studio One, held audiences rapt from coast to coast nightly. If these shows weren’t recorded or their kinescopes long ago destroyed, they’re buried in archives and museums. "Missing in Action" showcases some of these rarely if ever re-broadcast programs.

Just as we recast stereotypes of the women and television of the day, this documentary sheds the clichéd style of 1950’s imagery and resuscitates the authentic look of these early New York shows in its presentation and structure.

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