Original Script for The Sacco-Vanzetti Story, Vanzetti’s Copy (1960)

Original Script for The Sacco-Vanzetti Story, Vanzetti’s Copy (1960)

Rose, Reginald.Sunday Showcase: The Sacco-Vanzetti Story. Typescript for the NBC drama. Third Revision, 5/9/60. 2 parts in 1 volume, 192 leaves (rectos only). Camera Rehearsal Schedule tipped in. Bound in an Elbe spring binder stamped in gold. About 50 pages bound at the end have extensive revisions and annotations in pencil.

From the library of Steven Hill (1922-2016), the actor who played Vanzetti.

     Aired in two parts, on June 3 and June 10, 1960, from 8:30 to 9:30 pm, NBC’s production of the Sacco-Vanzetti story boasted an all-star lineup. 

     The screenwriter Reginald Rose (1920-2002), best known for Twelve Angry Men, was known for addressing controversial and political issues, as was the director Sidney Lumet (1924-2011). A cast of 175 was led by Martin Balsam (Nicola Sacco) and Steven Hill (Bartolomeo Vanzetti). Balsam, Hill, and Lumet had all been part of the maiden cohort of the Actor's Studio.

     Coming so soon after the McCarthy hearings, the two-hour series had a powerful impact. As historian Moshik Temkin writes:

The once-radical idea that Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent men who had fallen victim to the class warfare, ethnic intolerance, and political repression of the first Red Scare was now showcased on a medium that, in the wake of the second Red Scare, had captured the national imagination, and, more than any work of historical scholarship could ever do, sparked renewed public interest in the case.

     Conservative pundits were enraged by the production. Columnist Westbrook Pegler charged that CBS (which devoted an episode of Camera Three to the case) and NBC “give moral aid and comfort to the enemy, and … exalt murderers as pathetic victims of persecution.” Massachusetts papers complained about a show that showed the governor in a bad light. (“Sacco-Vanzetti Story Slanted, NBC Admits” read a headline in the New Bedford Standard Times). In Washington, Senator Benjamin A. Smith II denounced the show (see the Congressional Record, vol 106, pt. 11, p. 14712 et seq.). 

     Despite the thunder from the right, The Sacco-Vanzetti Story earned accolades from the critics and Emmy nominations for Reginald Rose, Sidney Lumet, Steven Hill, and executive producer Robert Alan Aurthur. Buoyed by their success, Aurthur considered adapting the NBC production for Broadway, but fear of competition from a proposed opera by Mark Blitzstein led him to abandon the idea. For his part, Rose would revisit the Sacco & Vanzetti story in his play This Agony, This Triumph (1972).


     Born Solomon Krakovsky to Russian Jewish parents, Steven Hill served in the Navy before moving to New York to pursue an acting career. He was among the inaugural members of the Actor’s Studio. In the early years of television he was one of the luminaries. “When I first became an actor, there were two young actors in New York,” recalled Martin Landau, “Marlon Brando and Steven Hill. … A lot of people said that Steven would be the one, not Marlon. He was legendary. Nuts, volatile, mad, and his work was exciting.” 

     Hill’s Judaism proved a stumbling block, however. He was Orthodox and would not work on the Sabbath, which caused difficulties with the demanding production schedule of Mission Impossible. A member of the original cast, Hill was replaced after the first season, and was blackballed for ten years. He returned to acting in the 1977. In 1990, he joined the original cast of Law & Order, where he played Adam Schiff from 1990 to 2000.


     Accompanying the script is an issue of the Congressional Record reprinting an address by Pennsylvania supreme Court Justice Michael A. Musmanno on the case (Steven Hill's copy) and an original press photograph to promote the production (supplied). A crucial record of this important and influential popular representation of the Sacco and Vanzetti case, and a wonderful relic of the first golden age of television. No copies in Worldcat. 


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    Original Script for The Sacco-Vanzetti Story, Vanzetti’s Copy (1960)