“The Thin White Line” Premiered 58 Years Ago Tonight

By Steve Vertlieb: The “Golden Age Of Television” lasted from the late 1940s until the early 1960s where it thrived and flourished, presenting mostly “live” dramatic and musical presentations that captured the exhilaration and essence of fresh theatrical Broadway productions, staged and created expressly for the newly experimental format of the small home tv screen.

Television was a brand new medium, daring in its provocative concepts and artistic explorations, while revolutionary in its groundbreaking originality. Everything was fresh and new, as this voracious, visionary monolith consumed original productions as rapidly as they could be produced. Into this ravenous mix, and at the tail end of the medium’s legendary golden age, came a weekly television series produced by CBS (the famed Murrow “Tiffany” network) concerning two friends (played by Martin Milner and George Maharis) from the often cruel streets of New York, seeking meaning, value, and definition in their ongoing dramatic sojourn across the highways of America.

 Route 66 launched nationally on Friday night, October 7, 1960, taking the country by storm. Filming on location in virtually every state of the union until its final episode on March 20, 1964, the powerful series introduced some of the finest anthology drama that television has ever witnessed, while showcasing stunning conceptual poetry by principal writer Stirling Silliphant, original music by composer Nelson Riddle, and ensemble guest performances by many of the finest actors and actresses in Hollywood, and from the New York stage.

The weekly series effectively changed the course and direction of my life when the program filmed two episodes in Philadelphia in the Fall of 1961. I was there on location with my brother Erwin, along with George Maharis and Marty Milner, as a seminal episode of the beloved series was filmed atop The Ben Franklin Bridge. “The Thin White Line” made its debut over the CBS Television Network on Friday evening, December 8th, 1961, at 8:30 in the evening. This is the bittersweet story of the cultural evolution and significance of the iconic series, as well as its profound, transformative effect upon my own life, direction, and career.

Read Steve Vertlieb’s extended tribute to the show at The Thunder Child: “Two For The Road: Traveling Route 66”,


“Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing” premiered over the CBS television Network on Friday evening, October 26th, 1962. Featuring guest stars Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney, Jr., this beloved episode of the classic television series “Route 66” starring George Maharis and Martin Milner would be the last time that Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr. would ever reprise their signature performances as Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolf Man.

George Maharis and Marty Milner with Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney, Jr. posing for publicity shots for “Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing,” their memorable Halloween episode of Route 66.

George and Marty from a publicity still from Route 66. My favorite episode of my favorite television series aired tonight … 58 years ago.

1 thought on ““The Thin White Line” Premiered 58 Years Ago Tonight

  1. And it was the only time Lon Chaney Jr put on make up as the Hunchback.

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