Four Star Television

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Four Star Television
Four Star 1969.jpg
Founded 1952
Dissolved 1989 (folded into New World Television)
Notable Works The Rifleman
The Big Valley
Four Star Playhouse
The Westerner
Wanted: Dead or Alive
Burke's Law
Zane Grey Theatre

Four Star Television was an American television production company founded by actors Dick Powell, Charles Boyer, David Niven and Ida Lupino in 1952.


Powell, a veteran Hollywood actor, saw potential in the then-new medium of television and founded Four Star as the vehicle for an anthology TV series he planned to pitch to network executives. His intention was to have himself and three other actors own the studio and the program (thus contributing to the name Four Star). He initially planned to have the show feature himself, Boyer, Joel McCrea and Rosalind Russell, but Russell and McCrea dropped out of the venture before the series began. Niven and Lupino then joined in prior to production to round out the show's cast. Four Star Playhouse was picked up by CBS and made its debut in the fall of 1952, lasting for four seasons until 1956.

Four Star became well known later on for its output of network series, most notably Western shows such as The Rifleman, The Big Valley, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre, The Westerner and Wanted: Dead or Alive, as well as other shows like Richard Diamond, Private Detective and Burke's Law. The studio and its programs served as the launching pad for the careers of many well-known Hollywood actors such as Lee Majors, Linda Evans, Peter Breck, David Janssen, Steve McQueen, Chuck Connors, Mary Tyler Moore, Robert Culp and Aaron Spelling (who later became an influential television producer in his own right). Four Star also briefly owned the record label Valiant Records (best known as the original label of rock band The Association) until it sold the label to Warner Bros. in 1967.

Powell died at the age of 58 on January 2, 1963, one day after what would be his final appearance on his anthology series The Dick Powell Show, as the result of lymphoma. Four Star went into decline following Powell's death, with its output reduced over the next few years until The Big Valley was its only network show still on the air by 1967. The studio was sold to David Charnay in 1967 and renamed as Four Star International, and it survived over the following years mainly on the success of its syndicated reruns, though it did produce a few short-lived first-run syndicated series as well.

Four Star became inactive as a production company in 1975, but the studio's owners revived it in 1984 to produce new shows for syndication. The last shows to be produced by Four Star were the syndicated comedy Mad Movies with the L.A. Connection in 1985, and the game show Liar's Club in 1988-89. Four Star was sold to Compact Video in 1986, then subsequently purchased by Ronald Perelman after Compact Video folded. Perelman later bought New World Entertainment in 1989 and folded Four Star's operations into New World Television that year. With the subsequent sale of New World to News Corporation (later 21st Century Fox) in 1997 and then The Walt Disney Company in 2019, the Four Star catalogue is now in the hands of 20th Television, one of Disney's two TV distribution units, with a few exceptions:

  • The Rifleman, which is now owned by its original co-production company Levy-Gardner-Laven Productions and whose TV distribution rights are handled by the Peter Rodgers Organization
  • Trackdown, which was co-produced with CBS, is now owned and distributed by CBS Television Distribution
  • Wanted: Dead or Alive, which was also co-produced with CBS, now has its TV distribution rights handled by StudioCanal
  • The syndicated game show PDQ, which was co-produced with Heatter-Quigley Productions and distributed by Four Star, is now owned and distributed by MGM Television through its ownership of the Heatter-Quigley library (which it inherited following its purchase of Orion Television, whose predecessor Filmways Television had bought Heatter-Quigley in the late-1960s)
  • Canadian series Police Surgeon (also known as Dr. Simon Locke), which was co-produced with Viacom Enterprises (which also originally distributed the series in the United States) and CTV, is now distributed by SFM Entertainment

List of shows produced by Four Star Television

Title Format Buyer Year(s)
Four Star Playhouse Anthology CBS 1952–1956
Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre Western CBS 1956–1961
Richard Diamond, Private Detective Crime drama CBS 1957–1959
NBC 1959–1960
Trackdown Western CBS 1957–1959
Black Saddle Western NBC 1959–1960
Wanted: Dead or Alive Western CBS 1958–1961
The Rifleman Western ABC 1958–1963
The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor Crime drama ABC 1959–1961
NBC 1961–1962
Johnny Ringo Western CBS 1959–1960
Law of the Plainsman Western NBC 1959–1960
The Westerner Western NBC 1960
The Dick Powell Show Anthology NBC 1961–1963
Burke's Law Crime drama ABC 1963–1966
The Rogues Crime drama NBC 1964–65
The Big Valley Western ABC 1965–1969
Police Surgeon Medical drama Syndication 1971–1975
Thrill Seekers Reality Syndication 1973–1974
Mad Movies with the L.A. Connection Comedy Syndication 1985
Liar's Club Game Shows Syndication 1988–1989

External link