Posts Tagged ‘90th birthday’

Sid Caesar Turns 90!

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

He double talks, he pantomimes, and he plays a mean saxophone. Today, Mr. Sid Caesar, the man who gave us “The Professor,” “The German General,” and “From Here to Obscurity,” turns 90!

Born Isaac Sidney Caesar on September 8, 1922, Caesar grew up in Yonkers, New York. His father owned a restaurant, and one day brought home a saxophone a patron had left behind. He asked his son if he wanted to learn to play, and young Sid answered in the affirmative. Caesar soon mastered the instrument and began to play in local bands and shows. He spent summers playing at hotels in the Catskills, where he also started honing his comedic skills. Several comics on the circuit needed additional people to assist with sketches, and with his great sense of timing and talent for sound effects, Caesar fit right in.

Caesar served in the Coast Guard during World War II, largely performing in musical revues. He was a big believer in the power of shows and dances to boost troop morale:

During one of the Coast Guard revues, Caesar met civilian director Max Liebman, who selected Caesar to perform in the “Tars and Spars” production down in Florida. Caesar subsequently toured the country with the show and appeared in the film version. He began writing with Liebman and was soon performing in clubs like the Copacabana. He appeared on Broadway, and Liebman then suggested that Caesar work in television. In 1949, the pair met with NBC’s Pat Weaver and Caesar began starring in Admiral Broadway Revue, a live sketch show. The show was cancelled within the first season, but in 1950, Caesar headlined a live, ninety-minute sketch show with fellow performers Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, and Howard MorrisYour Show of Shows:

Writers Mel Brooks, Mel Tolkin, Larry Gelbart, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, and Lucille Kallen produced a plethora of material, and castmates perfected memorable sketches including “The Professor,” the ever-arguing couple,”The Hickenloopers,” and skits featuring double talk, movie satires, and pantomimes:

Here’s Caesar and Coca in one of their famous pantomimes:

Caesar won his first Emmy for Your Show of Shows in 1952. In 1954 he transitioned to yet another live, sketch comedy show, Caesar’s Hour, featuring Nanette Fabray, and pal Carl Reiner.

Videotaped shows soon begun to permeate the television landscape, and after nearly a decade of live television comedy, Caesar was exhausted. Caesar’s Hour ended in 1957, but Caesar re-teamed with Imogene Coca in 1958 for the short-lived TV series, Sid Caesar Invites You. Over the next decade he appeared on Broadway and starred in several films, including the 1963 comedy, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World alongside Milton Berle, Phil Silvers, Edie Adams, and Buddy Hackett.

In 1967, Caesar reunited with the Your Show of Shows gang for the Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca and Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special. Caesar made a memorable turn as “Coach Calhoun” in 1978’s Grease, and appeared in several film and made-for-television movies throughout the 1970s and ’80s, including Silent Movie, Found Money, and 1985’s Alice in Wonderland.

Caesar published an autobiography, Where Have I Been? in 1983, and was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1985. In 1997 he made a memorable guest appearance as “Uncle Harold” on Mad About You, and in 2004 published his second autobiography, Caesar’s Hours. Caesar was given the Pioneer Award at the 2006 TV Land Awards, where he performed double talk for roughly five minutes. In truth, Caesar speaks only English and Yiddish, but the man certainly makes you believe he speaks every language out there.

Happy 90th, Sid! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Sid Caesar’s full Archive Interview.

- by Adrienne Faillace

Happy 90th Birthday, Norman Lear!

Friday, July 27th, 2012

You may know that Norman Lear created All in the Family and The Jeffersons, but did you know that he also produced “Stand By Me” and “The Princess Bride?” Today the prolific writer/producer/director turns 90 and we take a look back at the career of the man who not only brought “Archie” and “Edith” to the small screen, but helped bring “Princess Buttercup” and “Westley” to the big screen, as well.

Born Norman Milton Lear on July 22, 1922 in New Haven, Connecticut, Lear wanted to follow in his uncle’s footsteps and become a press agent. (Lear’s uncle worked at MCA and always seemed to have a quarter to spare, even during the lean Depression years.) At the end of his senior year of high school, Lear won the American Legion Oratory Contest, earning him a scholarship to Emerson College. He left Emerson in 1942 to become a gunner in the Air Force during World War II, then fulfilled his childhood dream and worked for George and Dorothy Ross as a press agent in New York. Now married with a baby on the way, he returned to Connecticut, but soon moved to California. Leaving the life of a press agent behind, Lear performed odd jobs to make a living, including starting a business to mail celebrity addresses out by request. He and friend Ed Simmons teamed up to dabble in writing, and Lear promptly fibbed his way to the big time. He pretended to be a reporter interviewing Danny Thomas, got Thomas’ phone number, and pitched him a routine about Yiddish words that had no English counterparts. The not-Jewish Thomas wound up using the sketch at Ciro’s nightclub, giving Lear and Simmons their big break:

Agent David Susskind (who happened to be Lear’s first cousin!) then recruited the pair to write for Jack Haley’s Four Star Revue back in New York. Shortly after, in 1950, Jerry Lewis lured the duo away to write for Martin and Lewis on The Colgate Comedy Hour, where a young Bud Yorkin worked as stage manager. Martin and Lewis had recently signed movie contracts in California, so the show and its writers relocated back to the West Coast. This time Lear would stay put in sunny California.

After three years writing for Martin and Lewis, Lear and Simmons moved on to writing for The Martha Raye Show in 1954, where Lear got his first taste of directing. He split with Simmons and became a junior writer on The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show from 1957-58, where Bud Yorkin was a producer and Lear’s boss. Lear and Yorkin soon decided to form a company together, Tandem Productions. The pair complemented each other – Yorkin had more experience as a producer/director, and Lear was by then an experienced writer. They made a deal with Paramount to executive produce variety shows and specials, including The Andy Williams Show, and specials for Carol Channing, Bobby Darren, and Danny Kaye (who Lear says cooked excellent Chinese food).

Lear dabbled in films, writing the 1963 movie “Come Blow Your Horn,” and soon read an article about the British sitcom ‘Til Death Do Us Part, which featured a father-son relationship that reminded Lear of his own relationship with his father. From this premise he created All in the Family in 1968 and sold the show to ABC. He shot a pilot with Carroll O’ Connor and Jean Stapleton, but not Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers, and the show didn’t make it air. Lear then made a second pilot (also without Reiner and Struthers), which CBS picked up when Bob Wood replaced Jim Aubrey as head of the network. Just as All in the Family was starting, Lear wrote and directed the 1971 film “Cold Turkey” and was offered a three picture deal with United Artists. He turned down the deal in order to focus on All in the Family, which premiered to rather poor ratings:

CBS re-ran the series that summer and the audience grew. Then the Emmys that year did a cold open with “the four principles of All in the Family,” putting the show squarely on the map.

All in the Family showcased Lear’s talent for intertwining social consciousness with humor. In his Archive interview he explains how he can find comedy in anything:

Lear and Yorkin soon created 1972’s Sanford and Son from the British program Steptoe and Son. Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson were tapped to play the leads:

The duo produced Maude in 1972, which famously aired an episode (“Maude’s Dilemma”) in which the title character decides to have an abortion. Lear describes how the episode initially aired without significant controversy, but caused a raucous when broadcast in reruns:

Lear became master of the spin-off, creating Good Times from Maude in 1974, and The Jeffersons from All in the Family in 1975 (Maude was already an All in the Family spin-off). In 1974 he started T. A. T. Productions with Jerry Perenchio (the name comes from the Yiddish expression “Tuchus Affen Tisch,” which in Lear’s words, roughly translates to, “enough with the talk, put your ass on the table.”) Lear continued creating hit shows with 1975’s  One Day at a Time, and the critically acclaimed, but short-lived syndicated show Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in 1976. At one point during the 1970s, Lear created/produced four of the five top shows on television. Those were the days.

He had some flops, as well. 1977’s syndicated Fernwood Tonight (aka Fernwood 2-Night) about a local talk show host, All That Glitters about male/female role reversals, and Hot L Baltimore about two prostitutes in The Hotel Baltimore, (the “E” had fallen off the sign, hence Hot L Baltimore), didn’t last beyond one season.

Lear decided to end All in the Family in 1979 (he was not involved with Archie Bunker’s Place) to dedicate more of his time to causes in which he believed – he formed the advocacy group People for the American Way in 1980. He was a member of the first group of inductees into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1984, along with honorees William Paley, Lucille Ball, Edward R. Murrow, David Sarnoff, and Milton Berle. Lear also became active in movie production, buying Embassy Studios (T. A. T. became Embassy Communications), and soon selling it to Coca Cola. Lear then formed (and currently serves as chairman of) Act III Communications, which produced 1986’s “Stand By Me,” 1987’s “The Princess Bride,” and 1991’s “Fried Green Tomatoes,” among others.

Lear remained active in television throughout the 1990s, producing Sunday Dinner in 1991, and 704 Hauser in 1994. More recently he’s produced several movies, including 2000’s “Way Past Cool,” and the 2011 short, “The Photographs of Your Junk (Will Be Publicized!).” We can’t wait to see what he’ll come up with next.

Happy 90th, Norman! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Norman Lear’s full Archive interview.

- by Adrienne Faillace

Happy 90th Birthday, Jack Klugman!

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Jack Klugman celebrates his 90th birthday today! Klugman has made over 400 television appearances — in comedies, dramas, and even in a game show (well, sort of – remember the “Password”episode of The Odd Couple?) He’s played a blacklisted actor, a medical examiner, and perhaps most famously, sportswriter “Oscar Madison” opposite Tony Randall’s “Felix Unger” in the 1970’s sitcom The Odd Couple. One roommate was a neat-freak, one was sloppy and sarcastic: Klugman played the messy one.

Born April 27, 1922 in South Philadelphia, Klugman got his start in acting in the drama department of the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon). Klugman soon moved to New York to pursue theater, securing roles in several off-Broadway plays and getting his big break in the 1948 Broadway production of “Mr. Roberts.” From there, Klugman began dabbling in the new medium of television, making appearances in the early 1950s on Actors Studio, (where he was directed by Yul Brynner), and on anthology dramas Studio One, Playhouse 90, and the 1955 Producers’ Showcase production of “The Petrified Forest,” opposite Bogey and Bacall. Klugman also wrote several scripts for Kraft Television Theatre in the late 1950s:

Klugman wasn’t restricted to theater and television, though. He appeared as “Juror #5″ in the 1957 film Twelve Angry Men, and continued to do theater, television, and film projects throughout his career. He was back on-stage in 1959’s “Gypsy” with Ethel Merman, and on TV again in the 1960s for four appearances on Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. In 1964, Klugman had a memorable role in “The Blacklist” episode of The Defenders, for which he won an Emmy:

Also in 1964, Klugman starred as the superintendent of a movie studio in his first sitcom, the short-lived Harris Against the World. Then in 1966, Klugman made his first appearance in Neil Simon’s stage play, “The Odd Couple:”

Garry Marshall was looking to make a television series of the play, which Klugman agreed to do after some initial resistance. He resumed his stage role of “Oscar Madison” for the sitcom, which ran from 1970-75:

CBS’ Fred Silverman tried to sell Klugman on a few other series after The Odd Couple ended, but it wasn’t until the chance to play muckraking medical examiner Quincy, M.E. came along in 1976 that Klugman agreed to helm another TV show. Quincy lasted eight seasons, through 1983:

Klugman appeared in the 1987 film I’m Not Rappaport with Ossie Davis and Walter Matthau, but was suffering from throat cancer and soon underwent surgery to remove his right vocal cord. His voice was quieted to just above a whisper, and Klugman worked hard to train his remaining cord to pick up the slack. He returned to acting at the urging of friend Tony Randall for a one-time stage performance of “The Odd Couple” in New York in 1991. The production was a huge success, leading to Klugman and Randall teaming up for productions of “Three Men On a Horse,” and “Sunshine Boys” on Broadway throughout the 1990s.

Klugman has continued to act in small roles here and there, most recently as “Sam” in the 2010 horror film Camera Obscura. He’s a proven success in film, television, and theater, and his perseverance in resurrecting his voice after surgery is about as inspirational as it gets. Happy 90th birthday, Jack! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Jack Klugman’s full Archive interview.

- by Adrienne Faillace

He’s Catching Up to The 2000 Year Old Man: Carl Reiner Turns 90!

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

He’s a boy from the Bronx who’s had a hand in some of film and television’s most memorable moments. Carl Reiner turns 90 years young today, and he’s spent over 80 of those years entertaining people in one medium or another, from stage plays, to radio, to the small screen and the large.

Born Carl Reiner on March 20, 1922, Reiner caught the acting bug early in life. After performing in school plays throughout his elementary and high school years, Reiner’s older brother encouraged him to take an acting class sponsored by the Public Works Administration during the Depression years. He enjoyed honing the craft and began acting in off-Broadway plays straight out of high school; performed in summer theater in Rochester, NY; toured with a Shakespeare company; and wrote and performed plays as part of the Special Services Unit during World War II.

After his discharge from the Army in 1946, Reiner performed in the famed Borscht Belt circuit, and began his career in television in 1948 with a spot on Maggi McNellis Crystal Room, and appearances on The Fashion Story and The Fifty-fourth Street Revue. Reiner continued to do stage work, when producer Max Liebman caught one of his performances and approached Reiner about joining the cast of a new sketch variety show he was putting together with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, Your Show of Shows. Reiner became a cast member in the 1950-51 season, memorably starring in the recurring “Professor” sketch with Caesar, and often displaying his double talk skills, mimicking foreign languages or delivering Shakespeare-esque dialogue. In his 1998 Archive Interview, Reiner discusses working with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca:

Reiner soon began writing for Your Show of Shows, alongside writers Neil Simon, Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, and Mel Brooks, and stayed on to become a part of Sid Caesar’s next show, Caesar’s Hour, where he won his first Emmy:

Reiner and Brooks struck up an immediate friendship, which in turn led to the creation of some fantastic comedy. The pair dreamed up the now infamous “2000 Year Old Man” (which became both a record/radio and TV hit) in Max Liebman’s office in the early 1950s:

After Caesar’s Hour Reiner hosted the game show Celebrity Game, and secured dramatic parts in several Golden Age dramas including Playhouse 90, and Kraft Television Theatre. He tried his hand at writing novels and penned Enter Laughing, and even took a stab at writing a television series. He wrote what he knew, and in 1958 created thirteen episodes of Head of the Family, a show about a family man who commutes into the big city to write for a television show. Reiner starred in the pilot, which failed to get picked up, until Sheldon Leonard saw it, convinced Reiner to step out of the spotlight, re-cast Dick Van Dyke in the lead and Mary Tyler Moore as his wife, and renamed the program The Dick Van Dyke Show:

The Dick Van Dyke Show enjoyed five seasons on air (1961-66), with Reiner as creator, producer, writer, and actor on the show — on-screen he stepped out of the lead role and into that of the star’s boss, “Alan Brady”. Reiner’s movie career revved up in the 1960’s, as he starred in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. He soon began directing, too – he directed the film version of Enter Laughing in 1967, and wrote the pilot for and directed several episodes of 1971’s The New Dick Van Dyke Show. He directed Steve Martin in four films, including 1979’s The Jerk and 1984’s All of Me, and also directed 1987’s Summer School.

Reiner won several Emmys for The Dick Van Dyke Show, and added another to his mantle when he revisited his Dick Van Dyke Show character, “Alan Brady”, for a memorable guest appearance on a 1995 episode of Mad About You. Throughout the ’90s and 2000s Reiner continued to stay active in both film and television, with roles on the 1999 series Family Law, 2002’s Life With Bonnie, and as the voice of “Sarmoti” in 2004’s Father of the Pride. He also starred alongside George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon in the 2001 hit film, Ocean’s Eleven, and reprised his role of “Saul Bloom” for 2004’s Ocean’s Twelve and 2007’s Ocean’s Thirteen. He currently has recurring roles on two popular television shows: TVLand’s Hot in Cleveland and FOX’s The Cleveland Show.

A few additional Carl Reiner trivia tidbits: he has appeared on all major versions of The Tonight Show – with hosts Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and even Conan O’Brien; he’s the father of another quite famous actor/writer/producer/director – Rob Reiner; and much like Carol Burnett, when he was starring on a variety show, he used a secret signal to communicate with family members. Son Rob shared what that signal was in his 2004 Archive Interview:

Happy 90th birthday, Carl! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks do their “2000 Year Old Man” sketch:

Reiner was honored by the Television Academy in October of 2011, and several of his colleagues and friends were in attendance to pay tribute to the TV legend. You can watch the webcast of “An Evening Honoring Carl Reiner” here, and check out our full Archive interview with Reiner here.

- by Adrienne Faillace

Golden Girl Betty White Turns 90!

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Betty White celebrates her 90th birthday today! The Hot in Cleveland star is hot all over the globe these days, hosting Saturday Night Live, making memorable appearances on Community, and stealing scenes from Sandra Bullock in The Proposal. She’s a consummate comedienne with a quick wit that keeps audiences wanting more.

Born January 17, 1922 in Oak Park, Illinois, White got her start in television when the medium first emerged onto the American landscape back in 1939, appearing in a closed circuit presentation of “The Merry Widow” in the Los Angeles Packard Building. A natural from the start, she loved the rush of live television, and when regular programming began she was quickly tapped to be Al Jarvis’ right-hand woman on 1949’s Hollywood on Television, a 5.5 hour/day broadcast for KCLA TV that was largely a televised version of Jarvis’ radio program. White and Jarvis ad-libbed for over 30 hours of airtime/week:

In 1951 she starred in the first of what would be three Betty White Shows – this one a short-lived, half hour daytime program. She soon moved on to producing and starring in the 1952 sitcom Life with Elizabeth, and to hosting the second Betty White Show in 1954, a national network show for NBC that aired at noon.

From there, White hosted her first of 20 Rose Parades in 1955. She also spent 10 years hosting the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with Lorne Greene.

In 1955 White began appearing on television game shows, a pastime dear to her heart. A lover of games since childhood, she enjoyed playing What’s My Line?, Make the Connection, and many other Goodson/Todman games. As fate would have it, she made quite the connection when she appeared on Password and met future husband Allen Ludden, who hosted the program:

The third Betty White Show came along in 1957, a short-lived sitcom produced by and starring White, and in the 1960’s White made over 70 appearances on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar – one of her favorite programs. She then got to showcase her love of animals on The Pet Set, a 1971 show in which she interviewed celebrities and their pets. She appeared on The Carol Burnett Show in the mid-1970s (which led to her later role as “Ellen Harper Jackson” on Mama’s Family) and in 1973, got a call from casting director Ethel Winant to play the role of “Sue Ann Nivens,” the “neighborhood nymphomaniac” on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. White won two Emmys for the role and reminisced about the show’s famous series finale in her 1997 Archive interview:

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was both a critical and popular darling, and yet another hit comedy was in White’s future. She was up for the role of “Blanche Devereaux” on a new series called Golden Girls, which would make its debut in 1985. White explains how director Jay Sandrich (who directed many episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show) was instrumental in her winning the role of “Rose Nylund” instead:

White was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1995, and continues to bring laughter to millions as an ensemble player in projects for both the big and small screen. You can currently catch Betty White on TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland Wednesday nights at 10pm.

Happy birthday, Betty! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Betty White’s full Archive interview here.

- by Adrienne Faillace