Gertrude Berg, 1947.
Gertrude Berg, pictured in 1947, won Best Lead Actress in a Series in 1951 for The Gertrude Berg Show. In the early years, the Emmys did not give out separate awards for dramas and comedies.Al Fenn—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Gertrude Berg, 1947.
Alan Young, 1951
Red Skeleton, 1960
Imogene Coca, 1951
Sid Caesar, 1948
Jimmy Durante, 1949
Lucille Ball, 1951
Donald O'Connor, 1953
Eve Arden, 1946
Loretta Young, 1946
Nanette Fabray, 1948
Robert Young, 1949
Jane Wyatt, 1947
Jack Benny, 1947
Robert Stack, 1960
Barbara Stanwyck, 1948
Shirley Booth, 1948
Jack Klugman, with Humphrey Bogart, 1955
Don Adams, 1965
Hope Lange, 1953
Hal Holbrook, 1959
Carroll O'Connor, 1971
Peter Falk, 1972
Tony Randall, 1957
James Garner, 1957
Gertrude Berg, pictured in 1947, won Best Lead Actress in a Series in 1951 for The Gertrude Berg Show. In the early year
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Al Fenn—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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25 Classic Photos of Emmy-Winning Actors and Actresses

Updated: Sep 17, 2015 11:07 AM ET

Correction appended, Sept. 17. 2015.

The last 15 years or so—at least since the world met Tony Soprano in 1999—are often described as a new Golden Age of Television. There are more shows than ever before, and movie actors who once graduated from TV to the big screen are flocking back to the small one for coveted roles. With the 2015 Primetime Emmy Awards coming up on Sunday night, LIFE.com looks back at the stars of the original Golden Age of Television—which began around the time the first Emmys were awarded, in the late 1940s—and the decades that followed.

From the 1950s era of Red Skelton and Lucille Ball to the ubiquity of Carroll O'Connor (All in the Family) and Peter Falk (Colombo) in the 1970s, Emmy's leading men and women benefited from the stunning portraiture of LIFE's photographers, who documented television history as it unfolded.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the name of the TV show for which Carroll O'Connor won four Emmys. O'Connor starred in All in the Family.

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