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Sid Caesar has died

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Yet another death. Sid Caesar has died at the age of 91. :( A true TV pioneer.
 

Sid Caesar, one of the first stars created by television via his weekly live comedy program “Your Show of Shows,” has died at 91. TV host Larry King announced the news on Twitter.
Caesar, partnered with Imogene Coca, is credited with breaking ripe comedic ground with the 90-minute live program: It didn’t rely on vaudeville or standup-inspired material but rather on long skits and sketches written by an impressive roster of comedy writers including Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart, Lucille Kallen and Mel Tolkin.
“Your Show of Shows” was “different from other programs of its time because its humor was aimed at truth,” Simon once observed. “Other television shows would present situations with farcical characters; we would put real-life people into identifiable situations.”
Following Caesar’s Camelot-days in the ’50s, however, he made a precipitous decline into alcoholism and barbiturates, a self-described “20 year blackout” from which Caesar finally recovered and subsequently related in his 1982 autobiography “Where Have I Been. “At my worst, I had been downing eight Tuinals and a quart of Scotch a day,” Caesar recalled of his darkest days. “When I was awake I’d think of nothing but ‘I must do it faster, kill myself faster. I’d get up to take pills just to go back to sleep. I had no friends. My life was over.”
Sidney Caesar was born of immigrant parents in Yonkers, N.Y. As a youth he aspired to a musical career and practiced the saxophone, which he later studied formally for a brief time (along with the clarinet) at Juilliard. He worked for several orchestras including those of Charlie Spivak, Claude Thornhill and Shep Fields.
After enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard prior to WWII, he wrote sketches for “Six On, Twelve Off,” a Coast Guard musical revue. Then Coast Guard officer Vernon Duke heard Caesar perform one of his foreign-language double-talk monologues (a later Caesar trademark) for the amusement of his fellow mates and hired him for a comic role in another Coast Guard musical, “Tars and Spars.”
It was while performing this show that he befriended producer Max Liebman, who cast him in the Columbia Pictures film version of the musical. After Caesar’s discharge from the armed forces, Col hired him at $500 a week but used him only in one film, “The Guilt of Janet Ames.”
After a year of working in Hollywood, he returned to New York and made his first nightclub appearance at the Copacabana. Joseph Hyman hired him for the Broadway revue “Make Mine Manhattan,” for which he received raves (he was “the most original item on the program,” wrote the New York Times reviewer). And he received a percentage of the show’s profits — almost unknown for a young performer. He won the 1948 Donaldson Award for the musical.
The following year Caesar made his television debut in Liebman’s “Admiral Broadway Revue,” where he met comedienne Coca. He was hailed as the find of the year and earned a princely $900 a week. But the show lasted only 19 weeks, shuttered because of high production costs.
But on Feb. 24, 1950, NBC launched “Your Show of Shows,” a revue of comedy sketches, ballet, modern dance, popular music and operatic selections. Directed and produced by Liebman, the program was broadcast live in front of an audience. Coca co-starred with Caesar, who was then receiving $4,000 a week for his services.
The show was an immediate success and was to become one of the most influential programs in TV’s golden era, launching the careers of Carl Reiner and Howard Morris, as well as the enviable team of writers including Simon, Brooks and Gelbart.
In 1954, when the ratings began to slip, the program was trimmed and renamed “Caesar’s Hour.” Coca was replaced by Nanette Fabray. The change enabled Caesar to last another three years on television. He was nominated for Emmys every year from 1951 to 1958 and won two.
The pressures of a live weekly TV show took its toll on Caesar, however. Success came so fast, he recalled, that “I lived in dread that some night onstage… I would be found out.”
“I know of no other comedian, including Chaplin, who could have done nearly 10 years of live television,” said Brooks. “Nobody’s talent was ever more used up than Sid’s.” Over the years, “Television ground him into sausages…until finally there was little of the muse left.”
For the next few years, Caesar continued to make club appearances, starred in the Broadway musical “Little Me” and toured with Neil Simon’s “Last of the Red Hot Lovers.” His movies included “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World” and Brooks’ “Silent Movie.”
But his addiction took its toll, and until he came out of it in the late ’70s, Caesar gradually disappeared from the scene. In the early ’80s, he hosted “Saturday Night Live” and toured with Coca in a stage show recalling some of the better “Show of Shows” material.
He also did a considerable amount of work in supporting and guest turns on film and TV. He was in “Grease” and “The Cheap Detective” in 1978, in Brooks’ “History of the World: Part I” in 1981 and he made two appearances on “Love Boat,” to name just a few of his credits from the period.
In 1995 he drew an Emmy nomination for his appearance on Diane English sitcom “Love and War.” He had quite a year in 1997, at age 75: He appeared on “Life With Louie” and “Mad About You” on TV, drawing an Emmy nom for the latter, and in the film “Vegas Vacation,” and he joined fellow TV icons Bob Hope and Milton Berle at the 50th anniversary Primetime Emmy Awards, where the three drew a long standing ovation.
On a 2001 episode of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” he reprised his famous foreign dub skit, receiving an extended standing ovation by the crowd as well as a surprise birthday cake from the cast and crew.
In 1985 he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. In 2011 he received a lifetime achievement award from the Television Critics Assn.
Caesar’s second autobiography, “Caesar’s Hours,” was published in 2004.
His reign as the star of “Your Show of Shows” has been fictionally chronicled in the film “My Favorite Year” as well as in Simon’s Broadway comedy “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” and explored in the 2001 documentary “Hail Sid Caesar! The Golden Age of Comedy.”
As Coca once observed, “I’m tired of talking about ‘Your Show of Shows.’ But deep inside, I know I’ve done nothing as good since.”
In 1943, Caesar married the former Florence Levy, by whom he had two daughters and a son.


http://variety.com/2014/tv/news/sid-caesar-master-of-tv-comedy-dies-at-91-1201100019/

I've been thinking about Sid a lot this week. Over the weekend I saw a marvelous production of Little Me starring Christian Borle in Sid's roles and a never better Rachel York. The show was actually at New York's City Center where Your Show of Shows was recorded.

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:( I'm glad Carl Reiner is still with us. Just saw Sid's appearance on Who's Line is It Anyway. Did Edie Adams play his wife in Mad Mad Mad Mad World?

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Speaking of MMMMW, apparently they've just released a stunning version of this film on Blu....

Joe Bob says check it out. :)

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:( I'm glad Carl Reiner is still with us. Just saw Sid's appearance on Who's Line is It Anyway. Did Edie Adams play his wife in Mad Mad Mad Mad World?

She did! Sid's role was originally supposed to be played by Ernie Kovacs, but he died before filming began.

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Last time I saw Sid was on that great Emmy tribute which showed him and Hope and someone else, but they never got to say a word.  Shame he's mostly forgotten being one of the first superstars of the medium.  He was great with Lucy. 

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Very sad news -- outside of his own performing, one thing I really liked about him was that unlike some other comedians who shall remain nameless, he wasn't afraid to say that, yes, women could be funny, and had a very big appreciation for the comediennes he worked with.

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Besides being 50s TV icons simultaneously and appearing together in the 1968 Lucy Show, the major thing Lucy and Sid had in common was that they were the stars of the only two Broadway musicals written by the team of Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, a pairing cut short way too soon, because I don't think either did as well with other collaborators.  Little Me was a better show and probably a *slightly* better score but they're both great.   Evidently Carolyn was hard to get along and Cy severed ties with her and teamed up with Dorothy Fields for his next two musicals "Sweet Charity" and "Seesaw".  Nothing wrong with Dorothy's lyrics but Carolyn belongs up there with the masters:  her lyrics are superb, flowing and clever.  And poetic without being pretentious.

 

I saw Sid LIVE around 1980 when he toured with Ginger Rogers in "Anything Goes" playing the Moonface part.  Ginger had Ethel Merman's role of course.  Both were crowd pleasers.

I was in San Francisco in the late 80s or early 90s and swear I saw a poster for an upcoming stage show with Sid and Imogene reprising their Your Show sketches.  Imogene would have been over 80 at the time.

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Anybody else see Lucy and Sid doing that great musical number the minute we heard the news, PARDON ME MISS, BUT I'VE NEVER DONE THIS, WITH A REAL LIVE GIRL,  . . . . . . . .

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More Little Me/Lucy connections: Paula Stewart actually appeared in both Coleman/Leigh shows. Paula starred in the tour of Little Me opposite Donald O'Connor. Both Sid and Donald serenaded Lucy with "Real Live Girl." Patrick Dennis has the distinction of being a character in two musicals: Mame and Little Me.

 

Like Lucy and Wildcat, Sid Caesar collapsed onstage during a performance and, although he returned to the show, the show closed quickly thereafter.

 

Little Me's book (by Neil Simon) is a huge, huge improvement over Wildcat's. It is an uproariously funny show. Wildcat isn't exactly a laugh riot on paper, but Lucy undoubtedly made it so.

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Hate to bring up something bad here but wasn't Sid an alcoholic for many years a la Dick Van Dyke?  Although BOTH seem to have surmounted the addiction and lived long and very full lives.

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Hate to bring up something bad here but wasn't Sid an alcoholic for many years a la Dick Van Dyke? Although BOTH seem to have surmounted the addiction and lived long and very full lives.

Yes, it is discussed in the obit above. Unlike Dick Van Dyke, however, Sid's addictions did affect his work.

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Fred, Fred, oh Fred!  How can you say that?  In the pic above, he looks EXACTLY the same, except he's older, unless you mean recently, well, he died at NINETY FRICKEN ONE FOR CORN SAKES, what do you SPECT?  LOL!  Said only as I too am an old man who looks nothing like he used to, but the basic features never really change.

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More Little Me/Lucy connections: Paula Stewart actually appeared in both Coleman/Leigh shows. Paula starred in the tour of Little Me opposite Donald O'Connor. Both Sid and Donald serenaded Lucy with "Real Live Girl." Patrick Dennis has the distinction of being a character in two musicals: Mame and Little Me.

 

Like Lucy and Wildcat, Sid Caesar collapsed onstage during a performance and, although he returned to the show, the show closed quickly thereafter.

 

Little Me's book (by Neil Simon) is a huge, huge improvement over Wildcat's. It is an uproariously funny show. Wildcat isn't exactly a laugh riot on paper, but Lucy undoubtedly made it so.

AND Swen Swenson was prominently featured in both.  In "Little Me" he got a great solo spot complete with dance and it was the one hit song from the show "I've Got Your Number".  ("Real Live Girl" is great but other than the show and Lucy, I haven't heard it recorded or performed).  Sid discusses his condition during Little Me quite frankly in his auto-bio and said the attention Swen got made him so jealous he started acting like an a-hole.

 

You're right about Wildcat.  Seeing it performed, albeit by a community theater type troop, I was surprised how UNfunny it was, even bordering on dark.

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I watched "Lucy and Sid" .  Forgot it was so late in the run: the next to last episode.

Sid wrote extensively about his alcohol problems in the 60s. I've never read anything about how Lucy and Sid got along, but Lucy had just had her go-round with Joan Crawford.   In this episode he really doesn't know his lines.  Other than Van Johnson In "Guess Who Owes Lucy..", I don't remember a guest actor relying on cue cards as much.

The celebrity-lookalike-criminal plot is a familiar one.   Besides Van Johnson one and Allen Funt,  aren't there others?

"Lucy and Sid" is funnier than I remember, but the ending is so ridiculous.  "Freddie the Forger" turns himself in just so he go off Sid Caesar's diet and gorge on food.   Couldn't he just stop forging instead?

 

Like a lot of 50s TV icons, Sid's calling-the-shots reign was over by the 60s (like Arthur Godfrey, Milton Berle, Wally Cox, George Gobel, Red Buttons to name a few).  After "Your Show of Shows" and "Caesar's Hour", a total of 7 years, the only series I know of that he had was "As Caesar Sees It" on ABC, a half-hour that may have been a series of specials.  I know it wasn't on every week.  Didn't it alternate with "Here's Edie"?--his Mad Mad World wife.  I think it ran over 2 season 62 to 64.   I didn't know Ernie Kovacs was supposed to have had Sid's role in "mad".  Of the cast, is only 93 year old Mickey Rooney left? ("Mad Mad" is one of my all-time favorite movies.  May prompt be to buy a Blu Ray. )

The list of people who retained their power over decades is a short one: Cary Grant, John Wayne,Tracy and Hepburn.  From TV, only Lucy and maybe Gleason.

There are those who wanted to keep working but were reduced to seedier and seedier vehicles: Crawford in "Berserk" and "Trog" and Bette Davis's list of atrocities.  So glad Lucy never did one of those.

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And she was happy she never HAD to do those crappy women in peril movies, she said so once, she kept being offered those but always turned them down.  I thought Lady in a Cage was one she refused, went to Olivia De Havilland.  I think even her friend Ann Sothern did one.

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I looked up Sid's Your Show of Shows (1950-54) and the follow up Caesar's Hour (54-57) and was surprised the ratings weren't better.  YSoS was in the top 10 its first two years, but after that neither it or Caesar's Hour made the year-end top 30. No explanation for YourShow's ratings decline, because there was no competition to speak of.  Caesar's Hour aired Mondays at 8 opposite Burns and Allen/Arthur Godfrey its first two years.

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His death seems to have gotten him lots of front pages around the world, BUT, it's always a shame when they pass away more or less forgotten by their public.

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That new CENTURY book I got has a great story on Sid.  Seems he was very busy rehearsing for a show when his secretary announced he had a call from Albert Einstein.  He did not believe her and she had a tough time convincing him that Mr Einstein's secretary was indeed on the phone and the great scientist did indeed want to talk to him.  Seems Mr Einstein adored his Professor character and thought he was a buffoon.  Sid was flattered but wondered what the heck he'd talk about with him.  He never did get together with the great man of science as he died a while later,  but at another event shortly thereafter, he met another scientist, Mr Oppenheimer, creator of the atom bomb who told him Albert loved him so and talked about him all the time.  The professor was the character Sid did brilliantly on the Variety Clubs All Star Tribute to Lucy.  When I first saw it, I thought "how corny and old style", but now it's one of my favorite parts of that great special. 

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