Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 4

More recaps and reviews of The Carol Burnett Show based on clips, segments, etc. from the previously unavailable first five seasons. 

Season Three:
Jan. 10, 1970: Nanette Fabray, Nancy Wilson
Carol and Nancy Wilson
Venerated jazz singer Nancy Wilson appeared on several episodes and I believe she was a regular on a short-lived, now-forgotten summer comedy series called Comedy Tonight which starred Robert Klein, Peter Boyle and Madeline Kahn. She and Carol are great together in a duet of that 1960s song "Come on People Now" (I think that's what it's called). Nancy cracks up during As the Stomach Turns with Nanette as a kleptomaniac, Harvey as a prissy theater person (again!) and Vicki as Marion's missing daughter showing up with a baby which Nanette steals and dumps in her shopping bag instead of Carol dumping it in the umbrella stand (as usual). For the finale, Carol, Nanette and Nancy don hippie outfits and pretend to be young girls singing about being hip mothers smoking, drinking, and doping with their babies. 

Season Four: 
Nov. 30, 1970: Debbie Reynolds, John Davidson
Briefly found on YouTube but now it's gone. I didn't even have a chance to look at the whole show before this one disappeared. Of course it contained what appeared to be a classic movie take-off So Proudly We Heal, based on So Proudly We Hail (1943) starring Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard and Veronica Lake as nurses on the frontlines.

Dec. 14, 1970: Steve Lawrence, Durward Kirby, Julie Budd
Found on YouTube, but I have a feeling whoever posted it has taken it down because I can't find it anymore, the same as the Debbie Reynolds show (it's the same poster). Since this is a holiday show, instead of opening the show with a Q&A, the chorus boys come out as Santa Clauses and perform a 
The chorus boys as Santas
comic number to "Elegance" from Hello, Dolly! Durward plays Harvey's clumsy boss staying at the couple's house in a Carol and Sis sketch. Julie Budd beautifully sings "Where Is Love" from Oliver. The highlight, as usual, is a movie parody. Goldman's Boy satirizes boxing pictures like Golden Boy and Body and Soul with corny Odets-like dialogue such as "Joey, you think you're on a rocket to the moon, but you're on a merry-go-round to nowhere." The sketch pokes fun at the cliches by not even giving names to most of the characters. Carol is Girl Next Door, Durward is Sleazy Fight Promoter, and Vicki is Bored Society Girl. Steve imitates John Garfield as Joey, the kid conflicted over becoming a prize fighter or a violinist. Harvey is his heavily-accented Italian papa. The downloaded version I found was only 42 minutes and was missing the finale. We do get the goodbyes with the cast dressed in Dickensian winter outfits and there is a snow-covered London set so presumably there was some caroling involved.

Jan. 25, 1971: Edward Villella, Violette Verdy, Martha Raye

Edward Villella supports Carol on the Australia Show.
Another segment you would never seen on today's broadcast TV is a ballet duet in the middle of a variety series. For that matter, you'd never see a variety series. Edward Villella was the American answer to Nureyev, a hot, sexy ballet dancer who was touted as a masculine, athletic ideal when male dancers were stereotyped as swishy. (He would definitely have told that Lara person on Good Morning America where to get off for making fun of the Prince George taking ballet.) Since there were only three television networks, you could include some high culture amid the lowbrow stuff. Just as Ed Sullivan included classical artists, Carol occasionally had on ballet and opera stars. In today's niche marketing, audiences are never exposed to these arts and therefore will not likely develop a taste or appreciation for them. Likewise with the old movies Carol parodied and loved. In those days, local stations ran reruns of vintage films after prime time programming on their Late, Late Shows or on weekend afternoons, so we were all familiar with the sterling likes of The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and Double Indemnity. Nowadays, young kids have no idea about any of these films because you have to seek them out in the back alleys of the cable world or streaming services (There are only couple of films made before 1960 on Netflix.) My high school students haven't heard of any old movie stars except Marilyn Monroe. 

Edward Villella: Ballet is definitely for boys. 
But I digress. Villella and ballerina Violette Verdy perform a pas de deux from Don Quixote and later headline a Swan Lake dream sequence with Carol's charwoman. After a strenuous dance performance and the dancers vanish into thin air, Carol sits on her bucket and pours out an emotional ballad, "Where Do I Go from Here?" You see she's sweating from the production number. It's clear they did not cut but went right into the song. She isn't out of breath and doesn't miss a beat. (The segment was repeated on the show taped in Sydney, Australia a few seasons later.)

Martha Raye is only other TV female comedienne to match Carol in prominence at the time. I only knew her then for playing a wacky villainess named Benita Bizarre on a kids' show called The Bugaloos. She always struck me as too broad. Here she mugs her way through a Carol and Sis sketch as a drunken Irish housekeeper, but gives a dazzling vocal performance in a medley with Carol.

Season Five
Nov. 3, 1971: Paul Lynde, Bing Crosby
Bing appears briefly in this Me TV segment in As the Stomach Turns as a combination priest-
Carol as Marion and Harvey as Mother Marcus
after the notorious door-slam on As the Stomach Turns.
policeman. His musical numbers and a scene where he plays himself opposite Carol as an annoying, starstruck waitress are cut out (Bob Hope made a surprise appearance in the latter so it's surprising this was left out.) Bing looks bored and just going through the motions in As the Stomach Turns. The real screams are provided by Paul Lynde as Mel Torment, Canoga Falls' resident masochist and Harvey in drag as Mother Marcus. His first entrance as the towering, big-bosomed Jewish yenta was one of the funniest in the history of the series. I think this was his first time as the character and Carol had not seen him in costume during rehearsal. She opens the door, the audience dies laughing and, barely able to contain her giggles, she slams the door on him. When she opens the door again, Harvey is rubbing his fake breasts as if the door had banged into them. The only other segment on the 30-min. Me TV segment is an Old Folks sketch with Paul as an elderly army buddy of Harvey. In the final goodbye clip, right after signing Carol's book, Bing appears to be telling Carol he's got to run and makes to leave. She seems to be saying, "No, all the guests wait until the credits roll and we wave to the audience. Then you can leave." 

Since watching that MeTV edited version, I found a full-length edition of this segment on YouTube. The poster zoomed in on the frame and speeded up the action so they would avoid being accused of copyright infringement. Despite these distortions, it was worth watching because it included the musical finale: The Drunkard's Daughter, a send-up of old-fashioned melodramas with Carol as the
Paul Lynde provided the voice of the Hooded Claw
innocent heroine, Bing as her alcoholic dad, Paul and Harvey as twin villains (Harvey imitating Paul's trademark mannerisms), Lyle as the manly, stiff Mountie hero, and Vicki as the saloon painted woman, or P.W. as Paul calls her. This presages Paul's stint as the voice of the Hooded Claw, a cartoon villain on the Penelope Pitstop Show.

Nov. 10, 1971: Bernadette Peters, Cass Elliot
Cut up on MeTV. A pretty good As the Stomach Turns with Cass as overweight fashion model Suzie Shrimpton (parodying Jean Shrimpton), Bernadette as tap-dancing nun Sister Ruby, and Harvey as underground filmmaker Randy Wahoo (instead of Andy Warhol). 

Nov. 17, 1971: Nanette Fabray, Mel Torme
MeTV has to sell so many insurance policies and MedAlert bracelets, they even cut out a part of 43rd Street, the sublime satire of 42nd Street, one of the show's best movie parodies. I distinctly remember watching this one when it originally aired. Carol is a riot in the Ruby Keeler role of the unknown chorus girl who goes on for the ailing star, Nanette. Mel is the Dick Powell tenor, Harvey the neurotic director, Lyle his assistant and Vicki the tough-talking pal of Ruby. The writers even included references to Ruby Keeler's club-footed tap dancing and big feet. The production numbers were incredibly clever with the dancers bursting out of a giant suitcase in their underwear and overhead shots imitating Busby Berkely's signature over-the-top style. MeTV cut an Asian-themed number part of the show-within-a-show, probably based on the Shanghai Lil number from Footlight Parade, perhaps for fear it might offend.

March 1, 1972: Tim Conway, Eydie Gorme
Carol as Passion Plenty and Tim as James Blonde
On Amazon Prime as part of the Lost Episodes package. I will go out on a limb here and say I am not as huge a fan of Tim Conway as the rest of the civilized world. He could be very funny, but a little for me goes a long way. The main comic bit of this show has Tim in women's clothes as an undercover cop. It just drags after a while (forgive the pun). For me, the highlight of this segment is a James Bond spoof with Harvey as archvillain Dr. Nose. As Bond girl Passion Plenty, Carol twists Harvey's elongated nose, which is really a gun, into his ear and he blows his brains out. Now that was funny!


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  2. If you get PLUTO TV on your ROKU or other tv device, there is a dedicated Carol Burnett channel for her show. MeTV showed in 30 min segments, PLUTO does an hour, but sometimes not, but I have seen tons of skits I never saw before.

  3. Thanks so much. I will take a look.