The oldest surviving archived remnant of a David Susskind OPEN END television broadcast is a WNTA TV December 23,1958 kinescope 20 minute segment of a broadcast titled "Method or Madness?" The topic, "method acting" with guests Michael Benthal, Ben Gazarra, Adolph Green, Betty Comden, Lawrence Harvey, Jule Styne , and Patricia Neal.
NOTE: Archival Television Audio, Inc. has a rare 90 second pristine sound recorded excerpt air check representing this early earliest extant OPEN END broadcast.
Originally scheduled to premiere on October 7, but delayed one week.
October 14, 1958 - August 13, 1961
OPEN END with David Susskind: (WNTA Channel 13 Television)
September 10, 1961-May 5, 1963
OPEN END with David Susskind (WNEW Channel 5 Television)
June 9, 1963 last show of the season broadcast on WPIX TV.
October 13, 1963-September 18, 1966
OPEN END with David Susskind (WPIX Channel 11 Television)
October 2, 1966-September, 1986
DAVID SUSSKIND SHOW (SYNDICATED, PBS, and COMMERCIAL STATIONS, including WNEW, New York).
After an association of nearly three decades with Channel 5 in New York, the former WNEW-TV, later changed to WNYW-TV, David Susskind stopped producing the program in September 1986 because of its late-night time slot, from 1:30 to 3:30 A.M. Sunday nights. His audience like his iconic talk show dwindled not only in its following but in the ratings. Susskind knew when to quit. His last David Susskind Show aired only five months from the time of his death.
Open End with David Susskind was a break through talk show which literally had no time limit.
The premiere broadcast reviewed in Variety stated:
"In the blueprint stage, OPEN END was initiated on WNTA-TV on Tuesday October 14th the same night 'The World of Suzie Wong' premiered on Broadway. When the show is going slowly, then Susskind has the right to end it as soon as he likes; when it's going well , he can stretch it the night through since "OPEN END" is the last scheduled WNTA program of the night."
The show ended when host, moderator David Susskind, felt all conversation points were discussed. Some of these marathon telecasts lasted over four hours! Jean Kennedy was the producer during the 28 year run of the series.
The series premiered and aired on WNTA Channel 13 in New York for three years, an independent broadcast station, before it would become a Public Broadcast Station in 1962. A myriad of talk show guests, famous, infamous and unknown, found a forum on OPEN END. Subjects varied focusing on usually one topic...show business, politics, the economy, sex, education, crime, etc. Typically, many guests would discuss a subject sitting around a large table with David Susskind moderating, leading his guests with baited questions. On occasion a solo guest would highlight the show.
For the first three years, of its 28 year existence as a regular series, WNTA TV was home to OPEN END which originally began its broadcasts on Tuesday nights, switching on January 18, 1959 to Sunday nights...a future Sunday evening time slot of the week where it would remain until 1986, for the rest of its run.
After broadcasting with a two hour truncated format on WNEW form September 10, 1961 to May 5, 1963 a falling out and rift occurred between Susskind and WNEW management centered on WNEW's reluctance to air discussions regarding race relations in America. WPIX reacted with interest in bringing OPEN END to their flagship New York channel. For the last OPEN END show of the 1962-1963 season WPIX TOOK LAST MINUTE EMERGENCY MEASURES TO CLEAR TWO HOURS ON SUNDAY NIGHT June 9, 1963, featuring solo guest Dr. Martin Luther KIng, pre-empting regular scheduled programming (6:30-8:30 pm).
Open End was later cut by WPIX to one hour time slot. David Susskind not satisfied with the shortened format reconnected with WNEW where he returned to a two hour format with a changed program name.
THE DAVID SUSSKIND SHOW had its return premiere on WNEW TV October 2, 1966.
The David Susskind Show also found syndication across the country and each market would run the program at different times at their own discretion.
Most all of the telecasts were recorded on video tape, 2" quadruplex. Most shows were kept for a year or two like THE MOVIE MAKERS broadcast which was re-run on August 6, 1961 almost a year after it was first telecast on October 2, 1960. By this time the show was no longer without a time limit. It ran for a finite three hours long. Thus the re-run of the MOVIE MAKERS had some footage deleted from its original run which aired for over three and half hours, including commercials.
The re-run of "THE MOVIE MAKERS" was the next to last broadcast telecast on WNTA channel 13. On September 10, 1961 the show moved to WNEW Channel 5 METROMEDIA in New York.
Sadly, most all of OPEN END broadcasts (1958-1966), later re titled THE DAVID SUSSKIND SHOW (1966-1986), were wiped erased, destroyed, discarded...whereabouts unknown, representing most shows produced and telecast during the late 1950's, 1960's and early 1970's. Only a handful of OPEN END / DAVID SUSSKIND shows are known to survive from 1958 thru 1969. Hundreds of programs survive representing the middle 1970's thru 1986.
Open End with David Susskind was a unique break through talk with no time limit, rare during any time in television broadcast history, and never to be replicated in the future of television broadcasting after 1960.
On occasion only one guest would be profiled. Mostly shows were comprised of many individuals discussing one topic which included race relations, the draft, organized crime, the Hollywood scene, the politics of the times, sex-change operations, divorce, clairvoyants, psychoanalysis, prostitution, etc.
Sadly, most all of OPEN END broadcasts, later re titled THE DAVID SUSSKIND SHOW, commencing with the Oct. 2, 1966 broadcast, were wiped (erased), destroyed, discarded...whereabouts unknown, representing most shows produced and telecast during the late 1950's, 1960's and early 1970's. Hundreds of broadcasts circa mid 1970's - 1986 have been archived and are extant.
Rediscovering David Susskind
May 17, 2016 by Cary O’Dell
David Susskind was one of the most prolific yet overlooked producers in the history of American film and television.
Eight years after OPEN END had changed its name to The David Susskind Show, it was videotaped weekly in New York City and then syndicated across the nation, most often over PBS stations. Each episode typically addressing two topics. Given the show’s 28 year run, a full list of David Susskind Show topics, airdates, and guests runs to a staggering 160-plus pages.
The depth and breadth of subjects discussed on Susskind—not to mention his star-studded guest lists—reads like an annotated history for the second half of the 20th century. A very small sample:
1959: “Words and Wit” with guests Truman Capote, Dorothy Parker, and Norman Mailer
1960: Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev
1963:“LSD: Madness or Miracle?”
1965: “4 Draftees in a Hot Debate on Going to Viet Nam”
1966: “Are Cigarettes a Killer?”
Unfortunately, the majority of Susskind talk programs from the late 1950's and 1960s do not survive—either lost, destroyed or taped over. But what remains makes for fascinating viewing. Consider:
1971: “What It Means to Be a Homosexual”
1972: “Nice White People Scream ‘Blacks Stay Out of Our Neighborhood!’”
1972: “Is A Woman’s Body Her Business?—The Abortion Battle”
1976: “Why the Rich Get a Kick from Cocaine”
1982: “Video Game Craze”
At the time of David Susskind’s passing in February 1987, his videotape archive (most of it on 2” Quadruplex) was so vast it was divided up between different institutions, including the Paley Center (then the Museum of Television & Radio) in New York, the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, and the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research in Madison.
But that wasn’t the end of the archive’s travels; only Wisconsin, whose collection includes most of Susskind’s fictional productions, has retained its holdings. The Museum of Broadcast Communications transferred its tapes to University of Southern California in the late 1990s. In 1992, the Paley Center—facing severe space issues—transferred their copies of Susskind’s talk show to the Library of Congress where they are now stored in Culpeper, Virginia.
We (The Library of Congress) hold almost 350 episodes of The David Susskind Show, the great majority of them unseen since their original broadcast. While some are still awaiting preservation—and, in some cases, identification due to insufficient labeling on the original tapes—a great many have been transferred, including a 1982 episode featuring Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, and Susskind’s wife Joyce Susskind, who occasionally served as co-host on the show. These shows are an extraordinary time machine, a fascinating glimpse into our culture, and featuring a very brave host and his often fearlessly candid guests.
Archived in the collection of Archival Television Audio, Inc. are 42 "lost" OPEN END broadcasts (1958-1966...some excerpt, some complete), including the very first extended talk show Woody Allen ever appeared (broadcast December 24, 1961). In 1997 Phil Gries, who personally audio recorded this complete program, gave a copy to Allen who had been searching for this broadcast for thirty years. It began a correspondence relationship with Woody Allen that continues to this day, having received 35 anecdotal letters from him during a span of 26 years.