Variety was the spice of TV
Annie Van Auken | Planet Earth | 04/25/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"CLASSIC VARIETY SHOWS is a fine sampling of 1950s television at its best and funniest.
There's over 13 hours worth of vintage kinescopes and film here, as well as some interesting bonus features.
(1950-1954) COLGATE COMEDY HOUR WITH DEAN MARTIN & JERRY LEWIS (4 hrs, 30 mins)
GUESTS: Burt Lancaster, Kitty Kallen, Jack Benny, Rosemary Clooney, Ray Malone, Sheldon Leonard
~~~~~In his 2005 autobiography DEAN AND ME, Jerry Lewis described the team's nightclub and live TV appearances as their very best work. In these settings, the duo had the freedom to ad lib, experiment or tear the house apart, which they often did, as these wonderful live TV examples show so well.
(includes: MARTIN & LEWIS RADIO BONUS)
(1950-1954) YOU BET YOUR LIFE with Groucho Marx (2 hrs, 24 mins)
EPISODES: Secret Word: Voice/Secret Word: Head/Secret Word: Door/Secret Word: Home/Secret Word: Chair
~~~~~Groucho Marx's first successful radio show (1947) eventually became a wildly popular TV program as well. At first done as a simulcast, Marx would soon abandon radio altogether and continue the TV broadcast for an 11 year run on the NBC network. Many of his jokes during contestant interview segments were scripted, but every once in a while Groucho would let fly one of his patented ad libs. The butt of many digs was often his announcer, the unflappable George Fenneman.
(BONUS FEATURE: Groucho Marx bio)
(1953-1955) LIBERACE (2 hrs)
EPISODES: American Composers, Great Personalities, Liberace Sings and Plays with Bonnie Baker, Tribute to the Great Ladies of Theater, Tribute to Hawaii
~~~~~The always flamboyant, perfectly coiffed and dressed Wladziu Liberace hosted a musical program in the 1950s that at one point got higher ratings than I LOVE LUCY. His brother George led the backup orchestra, but the focus was really on the man, the piano, the candelabrum, and Liberace's virtuoso playing. These 5 episodes remain as charming as they were over 50 years ago.
(1953) THE MILTON BERLE SHOW (4 hrs, 35 mins)
GUESTS: Zsa Zsa Gabor, Peter Lawford, Carol Channing, Danny Thomas, Jackie Cooper, Vic Damone, Gertrude Berg, Andrews Sisters
~~~~~The BUICK BERLE SHOW was the second incarnation of Uncle Miltie's TV program, which was originally sponsored by TEXACO. When these episodes aired, Berle's formula was already well-established, and so were America's Tuesday night viewing habits. Milton Berle was the master of slapstick humor and sight gags-- the giant powder puff in the face, the double take and bizarre costumes (including several outlandish dresses). Mr. Television was a one-of-a-kind free spirit, and we are most fortunate to have these vintage documents from his greatest era.
(BONUS FEATURE: Milton Berle bio)"
A Mixed Bag
Jerry Warriner | United States | 12/02/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Groucho/Liberace disc alone is worth the price of this three-disc collection. Groucho, as always, is hilarious and often outrageous. After the movie Production Code went into full effect in 1934, Marx Brothers films were often a target of chief censor Joseph Breen. On TV, the censors kept Groucho in check. Even so, a censored Groucho is still far better than most of the uncensored "humor" I find on cable TV.
I didn't watch Liberace as a boy, so -- surprise -- I found his portion of the disc to be very entertaining and relaxing.
In contrast, Milton Berle was a favorite of mine and I rarely missed one of his shows (those sponsored by Texaco or Buick). Today, the best I can say is that his shows seem mildly entertaining. Few real yucks, though.
For me, the most memorable episodes of the Colgate Comedy Hour were hosted by Abbott and Costello. I don't remember those hosted by Martin and Lewis. Although I'm ashamed to admit it now, at the time I considered Jerry Lewis funny. When Martin and Lewis ended their partnership, it was, as I recall, widely thought that Martin's career would take a nosedive.
Fortunately, it was Dean Martin's star that rose. If you, like, me, can't stomach Jerry Lewis, keep your finger on your remote control's mute button so you can suppress Lewis' grating, whiny voice.
It's a mixed bag but, in my opinion, worth the price"