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  • mistermuse 12:00 am on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Borscht Belt, Buster Keaton, 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 9:04 am on February 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buster Keaton, , , George Pal, Hildegard, , , , , Puppetoons, , Victor Herbert   

    THE PASSING GAME 

    How do you do?  Glad to see you. It’s game day, guys and gals, so let’s get right to it. No, this isn’t about football (whatever gave you that idea?). This is a game about how many of the following ten names ring a bell, and what do they have in common (other than the fact that none were football players)?

    Victor Herbert, James P. Johnson, John Ford, Clark Gable, Langston Hughes, S. J. Perelman, Hildegard, George Pal, Muriel Spark, Boris Yeltsin.

    How did you do? You say there’s several you didn’t recognize? That will never do. There are no passes here, so before we proceed to what they have in common, here are the names again, followed by year of birth and claim to fame:

    1. VICTOR HERBERT, 1859, composer (father of the operetta style Broadway musical, including Babes in Toyland, Naughty Marietta and Sweethearts)

    2. JAMES P. JOHNSON, 1891, composer and jazz pianist (king of Harlem stride piano & composer of such standards as The Charleston, Old Fashioned Love and If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight)

    3. JOHN FORD, 1894, movie director (famous for westerns and winner of four Academy Awards for best director: The Informer, Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley and The Quiet Man, none of which were westerns)

    4. CLARK GABLE, 1901, actor (Frankly, my dear, I don’t think I need say more)

    5. LANGSTON HUGHES, 1902, poet, playwright and social activist (leader of the Harlem Renaissance and pioneer of literary art form known as jazz poetry)

    6. S. J. PERELMAN, 1904, humorist, screenwriter and playwright (credits include humor for the New Yorker, scripts for Marx Brothers films Monkey Business and Horse Feathers, and Academy Award for screenplay for Around the World in Eighty Days)

    7. HILDEGARD, 1906, American cabaret singer and most elegant, well-known female supper club entertainer of her time; #1 song Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup. Longest-lived (to age 99) of the ten.

    8. GEORGE PAL, 1908, film director, producer and innovator of stop-motion animation (Puppetoons); probably the least familiar name here, thus this 1994 biographical documentary (narrated by Pal’s widow Zsoka) should be both edifying and interesting:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlRyE4U-dDM

    9. MURIEL SPARK, 1918, novelist and writer (most famous work The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie)

    10. BORIS YELTSIN, 1931, Russian politician. First President of Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.

    OK, I’ll keep you in suspense no longer. What the above have in common is their birthday: February 1.

    But wait — there’s more! What do the following have in common?

    Rene Descartes, philosopher; Mary Shelley, novelist; Buster Keaton, comic actor; George Abbot, director; and Gian Carlo Menotti, composer.

    They all passed away on February 1.

    Today, on this notable day in history, The Observation Post has them coming and going. I hope you had a ball.

    Gotta run.

     
    • arekhill1 11:31 am on February 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Langston Hughes, at least, is noted elsewhere on the Net today–he’s in AOL’s Search Spotlight, where notables like Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber usually romp. Had no idea why, until you elucidated me. Happy Groundhog Day Eve!

      Like

    • mistermuse 1:13 pm on February 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Same to you, Ricardo, and may I recommend for tomorrow’s viewing pleasure the great Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day” (on AMC at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time). I predict you’ll dig it even if you’ve seen it before, which you probably have.

      Like

    • Don Frankel 11:14 am on February 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Good one Muse, quite a few smiles here. I knew six which is barely passing. But today is Groundhog Day and Staten Island Chuck is not coming out. He doesn’t want to sleep with the fishes.

      Like

    • mistermuse 11:36 am on February 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Don, I’m guessing the six you knew are 2,3,4,5,7 & 10. If I’m right, you owe me free advice from Dr. Don (I’ll let you know when I need it).

      Like

    • Michaeline Montezinos 2:31 pm on February 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Fine posting for Ground Hog Day. To avoid repeating myself like the Bill Murray film, I actually knew 9 of the 10 posted. Honestly, I guess it comes from what I’ve learned from watching Turner Classic Movies.

      Like

    • mistermuse 4:37 pm on February 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Congrats, Michaeline. I doubt if anyone will top your 90%. If I had to guess which one you didn’t know, it would be either #6 or #9. As for me, I “missed” #9 (the name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place her until I looked her up).

      Like

    • arekhill1 7:03 pm on February 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Have it on disc, Sr. Muse, so no need to let AMC interrupt it with commercials. When the security question is “What is your favorite movie?” that’s my answer. Although “The Wizard of Oz” is close.

      Like

      • mistermuse 9:53 pm on February 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        I have too many favorite movies to name one, but both of those would be on my list.

        Like

    • Michaeline Montezinos 8:27 pm on February 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Mr. Muse you were close since I missed #5, the one about Langston Hughes. My security answer involves an actor but I don’t think anyone would know that. The first question, arekhill!, is about my best friend from childhood. We were sent to different schools after a certain grade. So she is not in my yearbook either. I hope I didn’t blow my cover…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Michaeline Montezinos 2:47 am on February 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Since I am a night owl I want to wish everyone here a post Happy Ground Hog Day.
      February 3 is the night of the Full Moon so be forewarned and watch out for lunatics!

      Liked by 1 person

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