Sunday, October 10, 2021

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show: Part 18: Season 8 Movie Parodies

The Paley Center still has not reopened since the COVID pandemic, so I have not been able to view missing portions of pre-season 6 Carol Burnett Show episodes. However, I have found some interesting segments from Season 8 on Amazon and The show was really at its near height of hilarity at this point. In two of these episodes, the only regular was Harvey Korman. Lyle Waggoner had left to star as Steve Trevor on Wonder Woman. I believe Vicki Lawrence may have been having a baby (?). Tim Conway was not yet a regular. But Harvey alone is a strong enough supporting actor to carry the burden. Many of these shows featured priceless movie parodies.

Season Eight: March 8, 1975: Buddy Ebsen, Wayne Rogers
Wayne Rogers with Carol
in West Dakota County Fair
Both guest stars were headlining CBS series--Ebsen had gone from The Beverly Hillbillies to Barnaby Jones and Rogers was starring opposite Alan Alda on MASH. For some reason, the version of this episode available on Amazon and runs for 40-odd minutes while all the other segments only run 22 minutes and are part of the Carol Burnett and Friends chopped-up syndication package. Maybe none of the segments fit into the short segments and only now have they released a near complete version on the various streaming platforms. But there are still pieces missing. At one point Carol introduces a sketch wearing a 1940s outfit with blonde hair. But the scene with her in that costume is nowhere to be found.

The show starts with Carol introducing Wayne to the studio audience. A giggly girl asks to kiss him and gaining permission from his wife in the audience, the lucky young woman plants one on Wayne's cheek. He was very hot at the time because of MASH. We then get a rather routine vignette with Carol repeating her accident-prone schtick as she and Harvey prepare for a night out. It's all physical humor as Carol slams her fingers in a door, burns her mouth on a cigarette, smashes her hand through a TV screen, sits down on a light bulb, and inflicts other injuries on herself. Then, the Old Folks get trotted out for more prune juice and geriatric sex jokes. After these tired tropes are played out, we finally get some fun movie stuff.
Carol then introduces a parody of Bridge on the River Kwai (This is where she is in 1940s gear,) and then there's an extended film spoof called War Is Heck. This must have been part of a series of sketches parodying war flicks. The Bridge scene is brief and features Harvey in offensive Asian make-up at Sessue Hayakawa and Wayne as the Alec Guinness character. War Is Heck features Carol as Mimi, a Parisian resistance worker aiding American soldiers to escape Nazi-occupied France. Wayne is a cartoon German officer who says things like "Ach! Cheese und crackers!" Buddy is a Yank private and Harvey is his wimpy commanding officer. The sketch ends with Mimi getting shot and dying nobly as Buddy, Harvey and the chorus boys tap out the intelligence about Nazi forces in Morse Code to the allies.

Next is another movie spoof! West Dakota County Fair ribs State Fair, the only Rodgers and Hammerstein musical to begin life as a movie. This extended sketch including musical numbers parodying "It Might as Well Be Spring," "State Fair," and from Oklahoma, "People Will Say We're in Love." The story of an Iowa family and their adventures at the titular event (romance, pie contests, etc.) was originally a non-musical 1933 film, and then adapted by R&H in 1945, then remade in 1962 (with Pat Boone and Ann-Margret!). A Broadway stage version was mounted in 1996. 

Carol is Patsy, whose biggest problem appears to be whether she can beat snotty Mrs. Nose-in-the-Air in the mincemeat contest. She has everything a girl could wish for including a dull boyfriend (Harvey) she will be trapped with in marriage. Buddy is her loving father whose only sorrow is his wife died from disappointment at losing the same mincemeat competition for years. At the fair, Patsy meets handsome reporter Scoop (Wayne Rogers) who seduces her and promises to take her away from rural West Dakota for world capitals like Paris, London and Vienna. "I can't go with you, Scoop," Patsy dramatically intones. "Those places aren't real. This is real where a nobody like me can become the Queen of the Mincemeat Contest." Scoop agrees to quit his glamorous newspaper job, learn plowing, forget his grammar, and marry Patsy. Big finish!

March 21, 1975: Sally Struthers, Steve Lawrence
Carol persuades drunk Dick Patterson
to listen to her life story in
The Boring Twenties.
We're back to the chopped-up 22-minute versions with this one. Once again Harvey is the sole supporting regular. The only sketch in this shortened edition is The Boring Twenties, a take-off on The Roaring Twenties, a Warner Brothers gangster shoot-'em-up starring both James Cagney AND Humphrey Bogart. Steve Lawrence brilliantly mimics both movie icons. He plays Eddie Scarlett, the Cagney role. Carol as saloon singer Havana Jones asks him how his meeting with Bogie went and does both parts hilariously. Sally Struthers is Priscilla, the high-class dame Eddie falls for. Struthers was starring on All in the Family and does a very funny bad rendition of Melancholy Baby as Priscilla tries out for the headliner spot in Havana's nightclub, financed by Eddie. Harvey plays Eddie's lawyer pal who eventually steals Priscilla from him and betrays him to Bogie. There are pictures online of Sally in hillbilly attire in what was probably her big musical number, but it, along with everything else from this episode, was cut to fit into the syndicated format. There are even edits in The Boring Twenties, so we don't even get the complete version of this riotous spoof. 

(More movie parodies from Season 8 in the next part of our series on Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show.)

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