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  • mistermuse 12:00 am on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: autobiographies, Borscht Belt, , Carl Reiner, , , Dancing In The Dark, , Howard Dietz, , Imogene Coca, Isaac Newton, , , , Sid Caesar, television, , , Your Show of Shows   

    A LAUGH AND A SONG AND DANCE 

    If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. –Sir Isaac Newton

    Comedian Sid Caesar, in his autobiography, CAESAR’S HOURS, quotes the above and adds, “I too stand on the shoulders of giants. Nobody does anything alone.”

    To me, to call Sid Caesar (born 9/8/22) a comedian is akin to calling Newton a physicist — accurate, yes, but hardly adequate. In a down-to-earth way, I might even say that what Newton was to gravity in the 1680s, Caesar was to levity in the 1950s. The bottom line is, I was in my teens then (the 1950s, not the 1680s), and still reasonably sentient at the time; thus I can bear witness to the comic genius that I, as a geezer, still see in Caesar.

    And just who were those giants on whose shoulders Caesar stood? He tells us in his book: “I always wanted to be Charlie Chaplin. He was one of my earliest comedic heroes, along with Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and W.C. Fields. Most of their comedy came from their character. They each believed in what they did, and I believed them.”

    Caesar was an up-and-coming comic performing mainly in the so-called Borscht Belt in New York’s Catskill Mountains when this opportunity arose in the infancy of network TV:

    It was called YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, and what an innovative show it was. It premiered live on 2/25/50 with writers like Mel Brooks, Max Liebman (who also produced) and (later) Woody Allen. Said Caesar: “For nine years, I presided over what was arguably the best collection of comedy writers ever assembled in the history of television, and possibly in the history of the written word — unless you think the U.S. Constitution is funny.”

    Add co-stars Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner and Howard Morris, and the show was both a commercial and artistic success from Hour One. Here, they show you why:

    Again quoting Caesar: “Until that time, the only big things on television were bowling, wrestling and Charlie Chan. [Max Liebman] wasn’t interested in the American public’s lowest common denominator. He wasn’t going to dumb down. His goal was that the quality of the show would drive its popularity and ultimately elevate taste.”

    As Charlie Chan might say: Noble goal like chasing rainbow — beautiful while it lasts.

    • * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Originally, I came to this post with the idea of making it a birthday (9/8/1896) tribute to Howard Dietz, one of my favorite lyricists, whose autobiography (titled DANCING IN THE DARK) I also commend. Then I learned that Sept. 8 is the birthday of Sid Caesar as well as Howard Dietz, and I thought I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN.

    Hold on — it wouldn’t be right not to dance with the dude what brung me, so rather than ditch Dietz, I’ll sing his praises here too….starting with his first big hit (above), then an excerpt from early in the book, closing with a realization of the song which titles his story.

    The following is quoted from the book’s forward by Alan Jay Lerner: As for that quality of life known as charm, I can only shrug sadly and chalk it up as another victim of that creeping nastiness called modern civilization. I think about the man whose reminiscences are contained in this book. They come to mind because of that special gift of charm that is so characteristic of his lyrics. Howard [Dietz]  is the Fred Astaire, the Chevalier, the Molnar, the Lubitsch of lyric writers.

    Dancing in the dark
    Till the tune ends
    We’re dancing in the dark
    And it soon ends
    We’re waltzing in the wonder
    Of why we’re here
    Time hurries by we’re here
    And gone

     
    • scifihammy 2:41 am on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t know Sid Caesar too well but I have seen that hilarious clock clip. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Ricardo 9:44 am on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Your talent for bringing back things I barely remember from childhood continues unabated, Sr. Muse. My dad was a big fan of “Show of Shows.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 4:31 pm on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        I can still remember seeing that Bavarian Clock piece when they first did it in the early 1950s. It made such an impression on me that I still think it ranks as one of the most original and funniest skits ever done on TV….especially when you consider how ‘primitive’ television was back then.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Jay 12:17 pm on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Hardly adequate: you’ve got that right.

      Liked by 2 people

    • mistermuse 4:39 pm on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      That makes it absolutely certain, because two rights can’t make a wrong. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

    • linnetmoss 8:40 am on September 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      I was a little too young for that show and then it didn’t get syndicated, or at least we didn’t see it where I lived. I only heard about Sid Caesar later, but of course I knew of Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. Speaking of Mel Brooks, I just watched “Young Frankenstein” last night and could not stop laughing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 10:19 am on September 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        In his autobiography, Sid Caesar has some very interesting and funny things to say about Mel Brooks when Brooks was a 20-something year old CHARACTER (that’s character with a capital CHARACTER) working for YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS. I have a feeling you would enjoy the autobio (CAESAR’S HOURS) tremendously if you have time to read it (Amazon has it in both hardcover and paperback).

        Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Scheel 10:05 pm on September 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Muse,

      Wow! That takes me back all right. You’ve got a great talent for bringing back the blast from the past! Thanks for the memories.

      Mark

      Liked by 2 people

    • Don Frankel 5:17 pm on September 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Muse most people are familiar with Sinatra’s upbeat version of Dancing in the Dark but he also sang it like this from time to time a little slower and more poignant.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 10:40 pm on September 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Don — I hadn’t heard this version before, and must say I prefer it to the upbeat version. I usually prefer Frank’s older & more mature voice, but in this case, I think he’s more in tune with the way the song should be sung and no doubt the way the songwriters (Dietz and Arthur Schwartz) envisioned it.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Jadi Campbell 3:02 am on September 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for a grreat post! I had the incredible good luck to see Sid Cesar and Imogene Coca together on stage. They did a piece without any words and it was amazing. I knew I was watching legends at the height of their gifts. Still shake my head at the memory, all these years later.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 7:31 am on September 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        That was indeed incredible good luck, Jadi — and it was an incredible pleasure to do this post, bringing back such recollections as the “Bavarian Clock” sketch which I hadn’t seen in decades.

        Thank you for sharing your memories.

        Liked by 1 person

    • restlessjo 4:38 am on September 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      LOVE a song and dance man 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 9:28 am on September 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        Song and dance men don’t come any better than Fred Astaire!
        I especially love the DANCING IN THE DARK dance with Cyd Charisse — so sensual, so effortless, so perfect.

        Liked by 1 person

    • moorezart 11:43 am on September 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Reblogged this on From 1 Blogger 2 Another.

      Liked by 2 people

  • mistermuse 9:56 am on July 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: autobiographies, biographies, , , , Westerns   

    BEHIND THE SCENES 

    Candice Bergen’s book, KNOCK WOOD (reviewed in my last post), was one of too many biographies/autobiographies I’ve been reading lately. I read them because I’m into trying to get a handle on the “real” human being beneath the public persona of past legendary creative/performing artists I’ve “known.”

    Take JOHN FORD, director of such classic Westerns as Stagecoach, Fort Apache, My Darling Clementine, Rio Grande and The Searchers. Did I really need to find out (in a book titled COMPANY OF HEROES) that he was a real horse’s ass in the way he treated others — not just the actors and subordinates he “treated like children” and often directed like a sadistic drill sergeant, but in his personal life? Well, some might say that Hollywood filmmaking was a cutthroat industry and Westerns are violent by their very nature, so it goes with the territory.

    But Ford wasn’t always thoughtless, nor did he direct only shoot ’em ups. His 50 year directorial career included such (relatively) non-violent gems as Judge Priest (Will Rogers’ finest film), The Grapes Of Wrath, Young Mr. Lincoln, How Green Was My Valley, The Quiet Man (in which fists flew, but not bullets) and Mister Roberts. Go figure. A complex fellow, Mister Ford. 

    And then there’s JOHN HUSTON, who made only a few Westerns, but, like Ford, was an egoist, womanizer and “larger-than-life” figure. In his book JOHN HUSTON: COURAGE AND ART, author Jeffrey Meyers paints a picture of a man who was an “extraordinary director, writer, actor, and bon vivant who made such iconic films as The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [in which his father, Walter Huston, co-starred], The Asphalt Jungle and The African Queen.” He also directed Anjelica Huston, his daughter by the fourth of his five wives.

    John Ford. John Huston. Orson Welles. Billy Wilder. Vincente Minnelli. Woody Allen. And more. Too many biographies/autobiographies? I plead guilty. But I can’t stop. They’re addictive.

     

     
    • arekhill1 12:43 pm on July 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Just as the winners write history, Sr. Muse, survivors write biographies. Not that being a horse’s ass is a tough benchmark to achieve, but perhaps the guy you think is being a jerk thinks he’s just following his habit of not suffering fools gladly, which is a flaw of my own, I’m sorry to say.

      Like

    • mistermuse 4:17 pm on July 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Actually, the author of COMPANY OF HEROES, Harry “Dobe” Carey Jr. (a member of Ford’s stock company of actors in nine Ford Westerns), mostly praises Ford, calling him both his “nemesis and hero. There were times when I was not an admirer – but when the day’s work was done – I loved him.” Others were less forgiving of Ford’s bullying and sometimes sadistic behavior.

      As for not suffering fools gladly, I wouldn’t call it so much a flaw, as an exercise in futility – or should I say, FOOLTILITY (if that word catches on, you heard it here first).

      Like

    • Michaeline Montezinos 9:40 am on August 1, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Thankx for the info on the directors. No matter how eccentric they were, I have seen all of their films and enjoyed them all. We must have similar taste, mistermuse.

      Like

    • mistermuse 1:06 pm on August 1, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I remember remarking some time ago (regarding Frank Sinatra) that regardless of what one thinks of his personal life, he was a great singer. I think the same thing goes for directors and actors – if they’re gifted at what they do, their personal shortcomings shouldn’t detract from our judgment of their talent (which raises the question: if Adolph Hitler hadn’t failed as an artist and had become a great painter, would he have become “The Great Dictator” (the title of Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 Hitler-satire).

      Like

    • Don Frankel 6:20 am on August 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Be a little careful with Biographies. They are usually well researched but the Author has definitely come to some kind of an opinion. They’re not very objective pro or con.

      I don’t know much about John Ford but the same actors appear in movie after movie of his so he had to have been more than just a meanie.

      Like

    • mistermuse 7:57 am on August 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      You’re right about the same actors appearing in Ford movie after Ford movie (the sub-title of the book I mention in my post & 7/29 comment, COMPANY OF HEROES, is “My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company”). These “same actors” included John Wayne, Ward Bond, Maureen O’Hara and, of course, the book’s author, Harry Carey Jr.

      I think you’d love this book, Don – in fact, I’d be pleased to mail it to you as a “get well” gift (assuming you ARE geting well after your hip operation!) – just email me your address and the book is yours.

      Like

    • Don Frankel 8:15 am on August 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      You sure about that Muse?
      Okay it’s
      Don Frankel
      3725 Henry Hudson Pkwy.
      Apt. 6C
      Riverdale NY 10463

      Like

    • mistermuse 12:29 pm on August 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Don, the check – I mean, the book – is in the mail (expected delivery date 8/11). It’s paperback, so it’s not like it’s an expensive gift. Enjoy!

      Like

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