Judge P.S. Colbert wants to come back as a mid-sixties TV variety show host—in black and white.
"Liberated From The Vaults For The First Time Since Broadcast."
History has cruelly relegated Edie Adams to footnote status—that is, when she's mentioned at all.
Despite being drop-dead gorgeous and a brilliant coloratura soprano (two factors that no doubt contributed to success on Broadway (she won a 1957 Tony Award for playing Daisy Mae in "Li'l Abner"), working for some of the finest directors in cinema (Billy Wilder, Stanley Kramer, and Joseph L. Mankiewicz, among them), and earning a hat trick of Emmy nominations for her television work, Edie's achievements have been allowed to recede into the mists of time, and as a result, she's largely remembered for two things: being the (widowed) wife of innovative comic genius and TV pioneer Ernie Kovacs, and her seductively irresistible pitch to Muriel Cigar smokers:
"Why don't you pick one up and smoke it sometime?"
Here's Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection redresses that wrong by presenting the beautiful and multi-talented performer in full flower: singing, dancing, clowning, and of course, extolling the pleasures of Coronas, Magnums, Straights, Senators, Coronellas, Air Tips and what-have-you—Smoke 'em if you got 'em.
Though a fixture on the ABC schedule from 1962 to 1964, the variety (half) hour amassed a scant twenty-one episodes, as a result of its bizarre run. The first "season" consisted of eight specials, each titled Here's Edie, and appearing roughly once a month (in different slots) from October of 1962 through June of 1963.
Each episode was based on a theme ("Love," "Bossa Nova," "Western") or a location—New York, London, Las Vegas—and custom-fitted with musical numbers and skits to fit the occasion. The season closed with a tribute to guest star Bob Hope, on hand to celebrate his latest film, Call Me Bwana, co-starring a certain drop dead gorgeous coloratura soprano and television variety show hostess.
Also passing through this first batch of shows were comedians Dick Shawn, Don Rickles, Buddy Hackett, and future Laugh-In hosts Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, while musical guests included legends on the order of Duke Ellington, Charlie Barnett, Lionel Hampton, Stan Getz, Andre Previn, and Hoagy Carmichael.
Season Two, officially retitled The Edie Adams Show, ran fortnightly on Thursdays, starting in the fall of 1963, when ABC paired it with The Sid Caesar Show, taking over the slot on alternate weeks. Both shows were sponsored by the Consolidated Cigar Corporation, makers of Muriel and Dutch Masters (Caesar's brand—he can be seen hawking them in some witty commercial breaks). The whole shebang opened with an hour-long special co-hosted by Sid and Edie, which unfortunately isn't included here, though some promotional spots they did together are among the many extras in this four disc set.
The second season shows placed a bit more emphasis on comedy than the first, and if you've come to regard Edie simply as the wife of a comedic genius, this series will put you wise: Ernie Kovacs was also married to a comic genius! True, many of the topical references have long since surpassed their expiration date as rib-tickling punchlines, but they do open a one-of-a-kind window on the world from days gone bye. As its new title and semi-regular time slot indicates, the show itself became somewhat more conventional during its second go 'round. Edie was joined by a revolving repertory company of supporting players, including Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall (a husband and wife comedy team, who'd go on to suffer the ignominy of following the Beatles' Ed Sullivan Show debut on February 9, 1964), future Sondheim collaborator George Furth (purveyor of the perfectly prissy fussbudget type—Google him; you'll recognize him immediately), Peter Hanley (a Kovacs show alumnus), and Don Chastain, a Broadway veteran and leading-man type, doing double-duty as musical partner and comic foil.
And the guest stars kept on coming; a cavalcade of the finest musicians and funny people the 1963-64 season had to offer, including: Sammy Davis, Jr., Bobby Darin, Nancy Wilson, Al Hirt, Count Basie, Lauritz Melchior, Pete Fountain, Johnny Mathis, Woody Herman, John Raitt, Charlie Byrd, Jon Hendricks, Jack Sheldon, Spike Jones, Soupy Sales, Alan Sues, Louis Nye, Allan Sherman, Cliff Norton, Terry-Thomas, the United Nations Children's Choir, and even Zsa Zsa Gabor, adding a pinch of Hungarian Va-Voom! to the festivities.
According to the informative and photo-filled booklet that accompanies the discs, "until they were transferred for this release, the masters had been sitting for more than 50 years in a temperature-controlled facility…waiting to be revealed as the documents of trailblazing TV that they are." And while that trail hasn't grown cold, it has gotten mighty dusty along the way, as evidenced by some considerable dirt and debris on the full-frame, black and white episodes. There are intermittent spells of hum and drop-out on the accompanying audio track as well. Considering the rarity and the quality (content-wise) of these shows, I'd say the damage is negligible, but it is noticeable. On the other hand, quite a lot of it looks and sounds great.
But wait, there's more! MVD has generously piled extras onto three of the four discs. Aside from the aforementioned booklet and promos with Caesar, there's a nifty little promotional film produced by Muriel Cigars in 1965, detailing Edie's duties as world ambassador for the smokes. Within ten minutes, the starlet goes from Nashville (where she's in the Cotton Festival parade) to Hollywood (to record an LP of Broadway show tunes for a Muriel-sponsored giveaway), and finally, to Rome, where she's handing out free stogies to passersby in St. Peter's Square—including Santa Claus!
Finally, there are nineteen clips—culled from various Kovacs shows—of Edie singing various show tunes and standards, including a killer version of "The Ballad Of Davy Crockett," performed in the guise of Marilyn Monroe; quite a mimic, was our Edie!
If you're one of those who feel historical artifacts are best left to history, Here's Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection might not be the thing. On the other hand, if you're looking for unique and top-flight entertainment value—no matter what time it takes place—your party has arrived.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
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