Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! Today I’m sharing five fascinating things that have caught my attention these past few weeks — sitcom, musical, and otherwise.
1. The Fifth Season Premiere of The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show (1950-1958, CBS) in Color!
This television sitcom starred real-life husband and wife team, George Burns and Gracie Allen. Their act began in vaudeville in the early ’20s, and transitioned to radio in 1932, where they stayed for 18 years. Then in 1950, they made the move to television. Initially, Burns And Allen shot one LIVE episode every other week — producing 52 episodes in the first two seasons. For the last six years, they went to film and excised the live studio audience. At the height of the series’ popularity in 1954, Burns made the decision to shoot an episode in color. This exciting new technology (for television, anyway) was chosen for the fifth season premiere, “George Invites Critics Over To Watch First Show Of Season” (Aired: 10/04/54). Recently, some clips have popped up online and I’m delighted to share them with you. I’ve edited the three color clips into the glorious black-and-white copy I have of the episode.
2. Vivien Leigh in a 1959 TV Production of The Skin Of Our Teeth
In this 1959 ITV production of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin Of Our Teeth, our star of the month, Vivien Leigh (whose 100th birthday was yesterday!) recreated the role of Sabina, which she’d played on the London stage in 1945 and 1946. Only the first two acts are known to exist (it’s not certain if the third act was even played in this production), and I’m pleased to be sharing two clips of the production with you. Incidentally, “the play is a three-part allegory about the life of mankind, centering around the Antrobus family of the fictional town of Excelsior, New Jersey.” (Ms. Tallulah Bankhead originated Leigh’s role in the Original Broadway production.) Go to vivandlarry.com for access to the full episode.
3. A rare picture of Vivian Vance in the ensemble of Anything Goes (1934)
It is well known that Ms. Vance had a bit role in the original 1934 production of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes. It is also well known that she was Ethel Merman’s understudy — going on for her approximately twice. (Merman didn’t like to miss shows!) Here’s a cool picture of Vance in the ensemble. (Incidentally, Merman’s replacement was Benay Venuta, the star of Musical Theatre Monday’s show, By Jupiter. Vance stayed on as Venuta’s understudy too.)
4. The funniest contestant ever on Match Game
Game shows — especially the game shows with celebrities — are always good for a few laughs. But for three episodes that aired on January 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, 1974, the celebrities weren’t the funniest thing about the program. Meet Dorothy, the happiest, craziest, most enthusiastic contestant that I’ve ever seen on the program. Here is the majority of her run on the show, edited together.
5. “Last Night When We Were Young” performed by Judy Garland
This excellent Arlen/Harburg number was written in 1935 for a film called Metropolitan, but cut before the picture’s release. Arlen regarded it as one of his favorite songs, and I have to agree there’s something incredibly hypnotizing about its sound. Judy Garland performed the song a few times on television, including in the 22nd episode of The Judy Garland Show (1963-1964, CBS). This particular episode was taped on 02/14/64 and aired on 02/23/64. Here’s Ms. Garland singing “Last Night When We Were Young.”
Come back next Wednesday for a whole new Wildcard post! And tune in tomorrow as our Xena countdown brings us to my pick for the second best episode of the entire series!