Thursday, February 13, 2014

Rant #1,344: Another Great Leaves Us

Yesterday, we lost another of the great ones, another person who helped define an era.

Unlike Shirley Temple, I don't think too many young kids know who Sid Caesar was. Sure, they probably did not know who Temple was, either, but at least they knew the name.

I don't think the same could be said of Caesar, and that really is a crime.

If those same kids watch "Saturday Night Live," and laugh and howl at the stuff on that show, then they owe it to themselves to find out who Caesar was.

Caesar was one of TV's earliest stars, through his "Your Show of Shows," one of the medium's earliest variety hours.

Featuring mostly comedy, through that show, the likes of Carl Reiner, Woody Allen, Howard Morris, Mel Brooks and Neil Simon were unleashed on the world, guys that would shape comedy for the next several decades.

And that is not to forget Imogene Coca, who was often Caesar's female comic foil.

If there was a show that was a precursor to "Saturday Night Live," this was it.

I was a bit too young for that show, so my introduction to Caesar's comic talents came a couple of years later.

Caesar was one of the multitude of stars in my favorite movie of all time, one of the funniest films of all time, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." 

He played Melville Crump, and like the others in the cast, this normally mild mannered person threw that all out the window, hell-bent on the basic instinct of greed, during the course of the movie.

Playing off the beautiful Edie Adams as his wife, Monica, one of the funniest segments in the movie was when they systematically destroy a hardware store, which they get locked into after hours.

You can see his comic genius on display in that segment and throughout the film.

Just listen to him figuring out the division of shares in the clip below. You never thought numbers could be funny? Listen to this guy!

Caesar, who had his demons after his heyday, was pretty ubiquitous in film and television for the past 50 years or so, but like Milton Berle, he is almost a forgotten figure of early TV, especially when compared to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and the like from that period.

The problem is that his shows aren't rerun very often, and are thought to be relics of a different time. They are kinescopes--a film of a film--which means they are thought to be difficult to watch.


The shows are funny in any generation, and anybody who likes to laugh would enjoy these shows too.

And that goes for "Mad World" too, a movie which was just rereleased on DVD and Blu-ray.

I would search all of them out.

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