Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ed Sullivan

Sullivan in 1955
Edward Vincent "Ed" Sullivan (September 28, 1901 – October 13, 1974) was an American entertainment writer and television host, best known as the presenter of the TV variety show The Ed Sullivan Show. The show was broadcast from 1948 to 1971 (a total of 23 years), which made it one of the longest-running variety shows in U.S. broadcast history.
In 1948, the CBS network hired Sullivan to do a weekly Sunday night TV variety show, Toast of the Town, which later became The Ed Sullivan Show. Debuting in June 1948, the show was broadcast from CBS Studio 50, at 1697 Broadway (at 53rd Street) in New York City, which in 1967 was renamed the Ed Sullivan Theater (and is now the home of The Late Show with David Letterman).
Television critics gave the new show and its host poor reviews. Harriet Van Horne alleged that "he got where he is not by having a personality, but by having no personality." (The host wrote to the critic, "Dear Miss Van Horne: You bitch. Sincerely, Ed Sullivan.") Sullivan had little acting ability; in 1967, 20 years after his show's debut, Time magazine asked "What exactly is Ed Sullivan's talent?" His mannerisms on camera were so awkward that some viewers believed the host suffered from Bell's palsy. Time in 1955 stated that Sullivan resembled
a cigar-store Indian, the Cardiff Giant and a stone-faced monument just off the boat from Easter Island. He moves like a sleepwalker; his smile is that of a man sucking a lemon; his speech is frequently lost in a thicket of syntax; his eyes pop from their sockets or sink so deep in their bags that they seem to be peering up at the camera from the bottom of twin wells.
The magazine concluded, however, that "Yet, instead of frightening children, Ed Sullivan charms the whole family." Sullivan appeared to the audience as an average guy who brought the great acts of show business to their home televisions. ("Ed Sullivan will last", comedian Fred Allen said, "as long as someone else has talent", and frequent guest Alan King said "Ed does nothing, but he does it better than anyone else in television.") He had a newspaperman's instinct for what the public wanted, and programmed his variety hours with remarkable balance. There was something for everyone. A typical show would feature a vaudeville act (acrobats, jugglers, magicians, etc.), one or two popular comedians, a singing star, a hot jukebox favorite, a figure from the legitimate theater, and for the kids, a visit with puppet "Topo Gigio, the little Italian mouse." The bill was often international in scope, with many European performers augmenting the American artists.
Sullivan had a healthy sense of humor about himself and permitted—even encouraged—impersonators such as John Byner, Frank Gorshin, Rich Little and especially Will Jordan to imitate him on his show. Johnny Carson also did a fair impression, and even Joan Rivers imitated Sullivan's unique posture. The impressionists exaggerated his stiffness, raised shoulders, and nasal tenor phrasing, along with some of his commonly used introductions, such as "And now, right here on our stage...", "For all you youngsters out there...", and "a really big shew" (his pronunciation of the word "show"). Will Jordan portrayed Sullivan in the films I Wanna Hold Your Hand, The Buddy Holly Story, The Doors, Mr. Saturday Night, Down with Love, and in the 1979 TV movie Elvis.

“I drew manure this forenoon and got it all out.  Spread manure this afternoon.  No rain today.  Pleasant day.”
Leesah

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