Four Sid Caesar Classics: 1954-55

Friday, 21 February 2014 06:36 AM Written by 

Figure it this way: Sid Caesar and Your Show Of Shows (1950-1954) was a fountainhead of American TV comedy. Who were the talents who emerged from it?  The obvious: Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Imogene Coca and Howie Morris. All except Coca (who got her own short-lived program after Show of Shows ended in 1954) worked on Caesar's next show: Caesar's Hour (1954-1957) along with the late Larry Gelbart, known today for his work on film comedies incljuding Tootsie and MASH (the film and TV series)plus up-and-coming writer Neil Simon and his  older brother Danny Simon along with Aaron Ruben, who became a producer of The Andy Griffith Show and a key director on Sanford and Son.

Oh, and bear in mind, this was live TV. Not tape.  And there were no cue cards.  They memorized it.

March 5, 1954:   "From Here To Obscurity" From Your Show of Shows.

A barbed and detailed parody of the 1953 film From Here to Eternity in two parts. The melody Caesar's character, "Montgomery Bugle," based on the film's bugle-playing Private Prewitt played by Montgomery Clift plays, quotes the Harry James solo on his 40's hit version of "You Made Me Love You." 

Part 2:

Yes, Sid and Imogene are breaking up during the beach scene that begins Part 2. In his memoir Caesar's Hours, he explained that as the beach scene began, the stagehands were supposed to throw buckets of warm water on them to simulate the surf in the movie, pausing so they could say their lines. The water had cooled.  And the stagehands didn't pause as planned.  This was the result. 

April 3, 1954: "This Is Your Story" from Your Show of Shows.

A barbed parody of the popular This Is Your Life with Reiner imitating Ralph Edwards. "Uncle Goopy" is, of course, Howard Morris, later immortal as the hyperactive rural wacko Ernest T. Bass on the Andy Griffith Show. The New Yorker's David Margolick (writing a book on the program) cited this as the show's high point in a recent essay.

For those of you who loved SCTV's TV spoofs as I did, Caesar was the first to hone these to a fine art, adding levels of detail that only enhaced the satire.  Those of you who rmember the original show will notice these things, just as they added details from the film to the Here To Obscurity spoof.

September 26, 1954: "The German General" from Caesar's Hour

April 25, 1955: "The Three Haircuts" from Caesar's Hour

An early, nasty putdown of the nascent form known as rock and roll, spoofing the Crew Cuts and various R&B groups gaining notice at the time. Caesar, a former sax player who'd worked with the Shep Fields, Claude Thornhill and Charlie Spivak orchestras in the early 40's,  knew his way around music. He proves it here with Reiner and Morris. In his memoir, he remembered the inspiration for the sketch coming from a vocal trio he heard as an opening act at a New York jazz club (he was there to hear pianist George Shearing). He created another character, "Progress Hornsby," who spoofed  modern jazz musicians whose personalities were "out there."

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