Directed by Alan Schneider. Deposited for distribution by Barney Rosset of Grove Press. National Telefilm Associates. Producer: Jack Kinney. Playwright: Samuel Beckett. With: Burgess Meredith, Zero Mostel, Kurt Kasznar, Alvin Epstein, Luke Halpin. 16mm, b/w, sound, 102 min.
'A key work in modern theater and acknowledged throughout the world as a classic, Beckett's most famous play is shown here in a definitive film version starring Zero Mostel and Burgess Meredith as the two remarkable tramps, Vladimir and Estragon. They wait for the perhaps mythical personage, Godot, and through their suffering, patience and often hilarious wit, transcend themselves to become a portrait of the suffering of mankind itself. This WAITING FOR GODOT is a remarkable performance of one of the most important plays of the twentieth century.' -BR
'Premiering in 1959 from WNTA-TV in New York, the ambitious television experiment Play Of The Week presented an eclectic mix of plays that, according to series producer Lewis Freedman, "no one else would touch." Produced on a modest budget of $45,000 per two-hour episode, notable stage actors including Dame Judith Anderson and Helen Heyes reportedly accepted scale to star in the sparse, videotaped productions that aesthetically resembled TV's once prolific anthology programs (such as Studio One and Goodyear Playhouse) that by the close of the 1950s had largely disappeared from the airwaves. Over the course of its acclaimed two-year broadcast run, Play Of The Week distinguished itself in the emerging TV wasteland by featuring top directorial talent, such as Sidney Lumet and Daniel Petrie tackling adaptations of significant works by the likes of Eugene O'Neill (The Iceman Cometh) and Anton Chekhov (The Cherry Orchard).
As an independently-produced and syndicated series, Play Of The Week was not subject to the same intensity of McCarthy-fed scrutiny as network television programs of the era. Thanks to progressive casting stances by producers such as David Susskind (and later, Worthington Minor), stage and screen actor Zero Mostel, who suffered years of unemployment for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1955, enjoyed something of a career breakthrough after being cast in Play Of The Week productions of The World of Sholom Aleichem (1959) and Samuel Beckett's absurdist masterpiece, Waiting for Godot (first staged in 1952). According to biographer Arthur Sainer, however, in reference to the direction of Godot by Beckett collaborator and confident Alan Schneider, Mostel reportedly humorously quipped that he "wished to be re-blacklisted." Mostel's playful critique aside, fifty years after first broadcast Play Of The Week's "Waiting for Godot" stands today as a significant example of the one of the last gasps of the "Golden Age" of television. From the production's evocative direction and stage design to the Broadway-caliber performances of the distinguished cast, Godot exemplifies the potential heights the small screen could reach as a legitimate venue for meaningful and challenging dramatic arts.' – Mark Quigley, UCLA Film and Television Archive