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65 million watched Schindler's List on NBC 25 years ago tonight as part of an unedited commercial-free presentation

  • More than one-third of all U.S. homes viewing television on Feb. 23, 1997 tuned in to the broadcast debut of Steven Spielberg's 1993 Oscar Best Picture-winning film on the Holocaust. “It was a staggering audience response for that subject matter and a black-and-white film,” says Warren Littlefield, then president of NBC Entertainment. The film ran unedited to the objections of the Congressional Family Caucus co-chair Tom Coburn, then Republican of Oklahoma, who said: “I cringe when I realize that there were children all across this nation watching this program. They were exposed to the violence of multiple gunshot head wounds, vile language, full-frontal nudity and irresponsible sexual activity.” Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, Republican from New York, countered, “to equate the nudity of the Holocaust victims in the concentration camp with any sexual connotations is outrageous and offensive.” Littlefield recalls Ford Motor Company stepping in to pay for the presentation at a cost of upwards of $10 million, agreeing to run two low-key 60-second ads before and after the film. "It was an interesting experiment," says Littlefield. "We didn’t know how many eyeballs we could attract.” He adds: “I do remember that New York management thought, when they saw the numbers (afterward), ‘Maybe we undersold it!’” As The Hollywood Reporter notes, "Ford was a notable sponsor, given that founder Henry Ford, a believer in the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, was perhaps his era’s most high-profile and efficacious anti-Semite, who among other efforts used his newspaper The Dearborn Independent to attack Jewish control of the film industry."

    TOPICS: Steven Spielberg, NBC, Warren Littlefield, Schindler's Lisdt