Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show: Part 28: Paley Center for Media Visit One

Carol at the Paley Center for Media
Now that it's the summer, I have more free time to complete my life's work of piecing together the missing Carol Burnett Show episodes from the first five seasons. Amazon has made available several complete masters of shows which have been chopped up for half-hour segments in syndication (see Part 26 and 27, and future blogs). But there are still incomplete episodes with missing material. About eight or nine of these are available for viewing at the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Broadcasting) in Manhattan. My fellow Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle member Jane Klain who works there, helped me to take a look recently. I spent a lovely summer afternoon filling in the blanks on several episodes, some were in black and white, many contained the original commercials. 

Season One:
Sept. 18, 1967: Sid Caesar, Liza Minnelli

(Previously seen on MeTV/Amazon/ShoutFactory and YouTube and reviewed in Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Parts 9 and 15: VIP sketch Lucy Brains; Liza sings "The Debutante Ball"; Sid first time father monologue; "Who's Afraid of Virginia Robot" sketch; Liza and Carol in Time medley; Carol and Sis--sleeping pill Sketch with Reta Shaw)
The only new pieces of material from this second-ever broadcast episode were the opening number, a brief commercial spoof and the finale. The opening features Carol singing the title song from Cabaret (funny to think it was brand new at the time). For some reason, we are in a giant kitchen with the chorus boys dressed as chefs (look closely and you will see future Tony nominee Lee Roy Reams) and the girls as waitresses. Carol sings the number while the chorus balances trays and glasses, finally setting up a table with a bucket of champagne for Carol and she promptly drops her tray and breaks the glasses. The short commercial spoof has a disappointed Carol coming home from a date. She's down because her fellow offered a handshake at the door instead of a kiss. Her roommate suggests using a new mouthwash. "I'll try it, maybe it'll work," Carol moans. Then we cut to a few weeks later, Carol enters with her clothes half-ripped-off, her hair disheveled and she cries happily, "IT WORKED!" So in 1967, the goal of every young woman was to have fresh breath and be sexually assaulted?

The finale involves Carol as a clumsy chorine lousing up Sid's big number in a Ziegfeld Follies type extravaganza. She manages to rip his sleeve off, get her bracelet stuck on his costume, and her feather boa attached to his back. 

Dec. 25, 1967: Sid Caesar, Ella Fitzgerald, Jonathan Winters (cameo)
(Previously seen on MeTV/Amazon/ShoutFactory and reviewed in Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 8): Audience Q&A with Jonathan Winters cameo; Carol with Sid as the Professor in Self-Defense Sketch; Metro-Goldwyn-Mouth Movie Parody: Fiddler on the Forum.

Sid returns for this Christmas show which is available in its entirety in black and white at the Paley Center including commercials (a very young Paul Dooley appears pitching a cleaner called Cinch). In one of the yuletide-themed sketches, Carol and Sid play a couple who traditionally get into a fight every December 25, which is kind of ironic because Sid, like a lot of TV's top comedians, was Jewish and made no direct reference to his religion in his humor. The pair bicker over Sid's overbearing, clueless mother who doesn't even realize her son is married, when to take down the Christmas tree, and returning gifts.

In another holiday-themed segment, Carol, dressed as a little girl, warbles "The Bare Necessities" from Disney's The Jungle Book with four of the dancers got up in cartoon costumes as creatures from the film--a bear, orangoutang, and elephant (This one takes two people.) Ella Fitzgerald, the greatest singer of the 20th century, is magnificent in her rendition of the Gershwins' A Foggy Day and Cole Porter's Always True to You in My Fashion. She returns later for a medley duet of break-up songs with Carol including "Down with Love," "The Gentleman Is a Dope," and "Mack the Knife." Previously seen in the cut-up MeTV segment is a riotous take-off on Roman spectacle films called Fiddler on the Forum with Carol as Empress Passionata, Harvey as Emperor Lascivious, and Sid as Sydney, the rebel slave. There's plenty of gyrating bare flesh and muscles in a wild orgy scene with everybody boogeying down.

The hour ends with Carol's charwoman singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and a commercial for Pall Mall cigarettes.

Feb. 26, 1968: Garry Moore, Durward Kirby, John Gary
(Previously seen on MeTV/Amazon/ShoutFactory and reviewed in Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 16): Science Fiction Playhouse; Carol and Sis with Carol drunk.
Carol, Garry Moore, and Durward Kirby in
the Science Fiction Playhouse sketch

Another black and white episode in the Paley Center's collection. During the Q&A an audience member congratulates Carol on the show's recent Golden Globe win. Carol then introduces her former co-stars Garry Moore and Durward Kirby from the Garry Moore Show where she became a star and some singer named John Gary who evidently had a summer variety show. Gary warbles "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" and imitates then-popular crooners Frankie Laine and Johnny Ray. The Science Fiction sketch (seen on MeTV) is a clever spoof with Carol and Durward as Martians disguised as Earthlings. Garry plays himself as a neighbor. The funniest set-up is the premise that Martians' sexual organs are in their elbows which leads to hilarious results when Garry bumps into Carol. The other sketch including in the MeTV edited version is a familiar Carol and Sis bit with Carol drunk just when Crissy's math teacher is scheduled to visit. They did variations on that one many times.

Later Lyle and Durward debate over who is the most handsome. (I would have to give that award to a chorus boy who appears in the finale. More on that later.) 

The bulk of the episode is taken up with a salute to 1937. This was a recreation of "That Wonderful Year," a standard bit on Garry's show where songs and sketches associated with a particular year were showcased. Similar themed sequences on Carol's show would include segments devoted to movie studios, signs of the Zodiac, and mini-musicals built around the work of a particular songwriter.The segment begins with Garry narrating newsreel footage of FDR beginning his second term and King George VI being coronated. There follows a series of short sketches and songs related to 1937 including parodies of morning radio shows, the movies Golden Boy, Lost Horizon, and South Seas Island epics typically starring Dorothy Lamour. 

In the morning radio sketch, it seems Lyle and Carol are the husband and wife doing the radio show from their home, but then grouchy Harvey comes in and it's clear Lyle is the announcer Carol has been fooling around with. The Lost Horizon sketch is sorta fun with Garry as Ronald Coleman and Durward as the High Llama. Garry asks why the residents of Shangra-La are so happy. Durward replies they drink and have sex all the time. "You've made a religion of sex?" "You should try it. We have very few atheists here." In Golden Boy, Lyle is a punch drunk fighter who stupidly knocks out the ref instead of his opponent (There would be a full-length parody of Golden Boy in a later episode, also with Durward). 

The entire cast joins in a medley of tunes from the year and the finale has Carol as Dorothy Lamour being rescued from being thrown in a volcano by Garry and Durward. Then a hurricane strikes and blows her wig off. During this sequence the dancers appear as islanders in hula skirts and sarongs. One incredibly gorgeous bearded chorus boy appears bearing fruit while Carol is about to be sacrificed. He is even more handsome and muscular than Lyle.

Season Three:
Nov. 10, 1969: Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, Bob Hope (cameo)
(Previously seen on MeTV/Amazon/ShoutFactory and reviewed in Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 10): Carol as Alice Portnoy, Rowan and Martin, Harvey and Lyle as bank robbers; Bing Crosby restaurant sketch with Bob Hope cameo; Loss of Memory sketch with Carol, Dick and Dan.

Carol with two of the greatest singers ever, 
Bing and Ella.
Most of the shows had two guests. This was one of the rare instances with four--if you count the team of Rowan and Martin as two--plus a special cameo by Bob Hope. This star-packed episode would get my vote as one of the best of Carol's entire series. It has two of the greatest singers in American history as well as the stars of another popular variety series (Dan and Dick) and that cameo by Hope. The hour starts with Ella stepping into R&B territory with Get Ready, a huge hit for The Temptations. She handles the fast tempo and different styling with her usual brilliance and is backed up by four African-American male dancers, one of whom I recognized as a regular among the Ernie Flatt troupe. Then Rowan and Martin join the cast as dimwitted bank robbers foiled by the every-annoying girl scout Alice Portnoy (seen on the MeTV version). Bing joins Carol for a duet and soft shoe, then the Brown Derby restaurant sketch where Carol is star-crazed waitress serving Bing and Harvey as Bing's agent. Hope pops in as a surprise at the end and ad libs, playing off their partnership in the Road movie, but Bing winds up getting the biggest laughs (This is the second sketch seen in the MeTV edition).

Carol and Ella collaborate on I'll Never Fall in Love Again by Burt Bacharach and Hal David from the then-current Broadway show, Promises, Promises. The short bad-memory sketch follows with Dick as a husband constantly forgetting everything even his wife's name and how many kids they have. 

The show is wrapped up with a salute to Paramount Pictures (I should keep track of the movie studios saluted. Another gimmick to springboard the finales was signs of the Zodiac.) Carol impersonates Marlene Dietrich and puts her foot through the famous chair the German chanteuse would straddle. Lyle and Vicki do a brief parody of Samson and Delilah. A bare-chested Lyle passes out from Vicki's drugged drink. He's behind a chaise lounge or something so we can't see him. Vicki kneels down to cut off his wig and a skinny guy gets up in Lyle's place. 

Paramount was the home of the Hope-Crosby Road pictures. Carol and Bing are sitting in directors' chair and Bing relates a long story about filming one of the Road pictures in England wherein Bob got his toenails painted. Right afterwards, the two played golf. When Bob revealed his painted toenails in the locker room, a tweedy Brit said to Bing, "I say, Crosby, is your friend with the ballet?"

Carol switches costumes and Bing introduces a sketch spoofing the sleeping-bag love scene from For Whom the Bell Tolls with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman. Carol and Dan Rowan are in the sleeping bag. The punch line comes when Dick Martin emerges from inside the bag and says, "Will you two shut up. I'm trying to get some sleep." 

Bing remains in his chair and is joined by Ella for a medley of Oscar-winning Paramount songs including Moon River, Buttons and Bows, and Swinging on a Star. This moment is really a classic with two magnificent singers blending in perfection. There follows a really lame take-off of the scene in A Place in the Sun when Montgomery Clift tries to drown Shelley Winters. Harvey is Monty and Carol does her nasal Zelda character as Shelley. Harvey finally drowns himself rather than listen to her talk another minute.

The show concludes with a musical salute to the Marx Brothers with Harvey as Chico, Carol as Groucho and Vicki as Harpo. 

There are five more complete episodes with previously unseen material in the Paley Collection, plus more from the newly-released masters collection in Amazon and FreeVee. But there are still several incomplete shows out there. Where can they be?


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