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The Marconi Television Cameras


There is no mistaking the fame of the name. Guglielmo Marconi was known worldwide as the father of radio, and started his company, Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company in 1897. In 1920 RCA acquired the assets of Marconi's business in America which was their radio division. In 1946, English Electric bought the company to compliment their broadcasting division and began development of the Marconi branded 3 inch image orthicon cameras. In '48 the Mark I was introduced, the Mark II in '50 and the Mark III in '53.

The cameras were known and used widely in the UK and Europe, but it was not till the 1958 introduction of the Mark IV with it's 4 ½ inch image orthicon tube that the Americas warmed up to Marconis. CBS loved the Marconi Mark IV because, like when the Norelco color cameras debuted in ''65, there was finally something to buy other than RCA. Canadians and some South American counties bought a lot of them too.

The next major camera from Marconi was the Mark VII color camera and CBS began to buy these too around 1967 to augment their huge stock of Norelco PC 60s and 70s. By '69, The Ed Sullivan Theatre and a few other CBS broadcast centers were all using Marconi Mark VIIs. For the complete line up of Marconi, and many other makes and models, visit Brian Summers excellent UK site at http://www.tvcameramuseum.org/index.htm

On this page and this site, there is a lot of mention of CBS Studio 50 or The Ed Sullivan Theatre and for good reason. It is hallowed ground. In case you did not know, one of the other famous shows that originate there was The Honeymooners with Jackie Gleason and later, The Jackie Gleason Show before they moved to Miami. Above, "The Great One” directs a Honeymooners rehearsal with a Marconi Mark IV on the set.
Photo courtesy CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: CBS Photo Archive. This image cannot be archived, sold, leased or shared.

If you saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan live (like I did) you saw them through a Marconi Mark IV.
3 above images courtesy of CBS Photo Archives. All Rights Reserved. This image cannot be archived, sold, leased or shared.

In these 2 historic shots above, we see the CBS Studio 50, Marconi Mark IVs bringing America The Beatles on Ed Sullivan for the first time. Below on a different appearance, we see the a Houston Fearless crane mounted Mark IV getting such a close shot of Ringo that there are shadows on John's face. If you would like to know where the cameras that were in the Ed Sullivan Theatre wound up, please visit the GALLERY and see the ''Marconi Surprise' feature. In the final photo (bottom) from this sequence, here is a Beatles rehearsal image taken from the balcony. In the foreground is the unmanned crane camera and under it, a ped mounted Mark IV that seems to be taping a promo perhaps.
Photos courtesy CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: CBS Photo Archive. This image cannot be archived, sold, leased or shared.

Mickey Rooney with Judy on the 6/24/1963 broadcast of The Judy Garland Show. Marconi Mark IV mounted on a Chapman crane takes the shot at Television City even though from its inception, the show had been planned to produce in NY. Up against powerhouse Bonanza, the show only lasted one season with 26 episodes.
Photo courtesy of CBS Photo Archives. Copyright ©1963 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This image may not be archived, leased, copied or shared.

Shot for insertion into the 12th Annual Grammy Awards in 1970, The Fifth Dimension tape "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" at J.F.K. Airport…it was the Song Of The Year. From left to right, a new Marconi Mark VII color camera from New York's famous Tele Tape Productions, Billy Davis Jr., Marilyn McCoo, and Lamonte McLemore.
Photo courtesy NBCU Photo Bank.com. All Rights Reserved. This image may not be archived, leased, copied or shared.

Tele Tape Productions Mark VIIs again in use on the Sesame Street set for this crew shot sometime before the 1973 switch to RCA TK44s. One of the cameras in this photo is now in my collection and can be seen by clicking here.
Photo courtesy Joe LaRe'

On my birthday in 1965, The Ed Sullivan Show broadcast live in color for the first time from Studio 50, now known as The Ed Sullivan Theatre. That was October 31, 1965 and Norelco PC60s were the cameras, but just three short years later, in 1968, they switched from Norelco to Marconi and here from 1969 is a Marconi Mark VII shooting The Band on Sullivan. This and the two photos below are the only pictures I've ever seen of Mark VIIs at CBS.
Photo courtesy CBS Photo Archives. All Rights Reserved. This image cannot be archived, sold, leased or shared.

I had originally thought the photo above was taken at Television City, but now know that it, and the one below, are from the Ed Sullivan Theatre. In the summer of 1971, just after the final Sullivan show aired on June 6th of that year, CBS taped a summer special there called ‘Model Of The Year’ hosted by Hugh O’Brien. Thanks to Bob Franklin at ABC for setting me straight on this and for letting me know that the Mark VIIs came to Studio 50 in 1968. Also, thanks to Gady Reinhold for the pictures and his recollections of his days there.
Photos courtesy CBS Retirees Website. All Rights Reserved. This image cannot be archived, sold, leased or shared.

Above is a Marconi Mark IV black and white camera at work for ABC at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria with a Varotal Mark III lens.
Photo courtesy of Marvin Parker.

Bob Dylan on Ed Sullivan, circa 1965.
Photo courtesy of CBS Photo Archives. All Rights Reserved. This image cannot be archived, sold, leased or shared.

There is something VERY, VERY, VERY special about these 3 Marconi Mark IV cameras being used at WCNY in Syracuse New York. To find out what, visit The Gallery section and look for the WCNY Surprise Story but here is your first clue…studio 50. Photo courtesy of Mike Clark.

In the these 3 photos (one above, two below) you'll see these WCNY Marconi cameras at work on Christmas and PBS fund raising specials. You won't believe the history these cameras have, but here is another clue….beatles. Photos courtesy of Mike Clark.



Mark IV in use at CBS circa 1964
Courtesy Life Magazine

These are yet two more very special Marconi Mark IV cameras, or, one in the same. On November 24, 1963, this WFAA (ABC) camera was one of only 3 that were in the garage of Dallas police headquarters. Soon after this image was snapped, the world saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald. KRLD/CBS had a GE PC 12 there operated by John English, and WBAP/NBC had a TK 30 there operated by Homer Venso. When the shooting occurred, only the WBAP camera was feeding live to a network (NBC) as the other two cameras images were going to tape. In videos of the incident, you may remember that one of the cameras racked (changed lenses to a medium shot) just seconds before Ruby shot Oswald…that camera was the WBAP TK30 shot. Homer Venso told me that his director told him to change lenses, even though they were feeding NBC live. Homer managed to rack and focus just in time. Above is the WFAA Marconi on that fateful Sunday in Dallas. Below we see either this exact camera today, or one of it's two sisters from the WFAA mobile unit. This historic camera and the WFAA Telecruiser are part of the Chuck Conrad Collection and can be seen here.

Why are half these men are sitting down? The ''sitters' were probably the ones that put these 18 Marconi Mark VIII cameras on this three level platform…quite a job at over 400 pounds per camera and ped. In the early 1970s, the CBC moved to a new 8 studio building in Montreal, and the two cameras considered were the RCA TK44 and the Mark VIII. The ones standing were probably ''supervisors'.
Photo courtesy of Serge Bordeleau.


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The photos and facts below are from email messages shared with me by my flesh friend Paul Beck, and my virtual friend Dicky Howett in the UK. Both know more about television than almost anyone else I know. They are discussing these exchanged images of the early Marconi color camera, the BD-848, also called ''the British version of the TK41'. To be clear, these are all BD 848 cameras, the difference being…the camera body stayed the same but the viewfinder configurations changed. The early versions had the TK41 rounded viewfinders, but were later made (and modified) with a newer style tilting viewfinder version.

This is the early (circa 1961) version of the Marconi BD 848.

Above and below, two great shots from front and rear of the BD 848s at the BBC. The camera below is from an experimental BBC color show in 1965 at Studio H, Lime Grove and is mounted on a 1956 vintage Vinten HP 419 ped, steered by a tiller. Bet that was a heavy going!




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