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The Golden Age of Comedy Collection in October

Time Life have announced the UK DVD release of The Golden Age of Comedy Collection for 17th October 2005 priced at £29.99. Time Life transports you back to the golden age of television with the release of a gift set comprising a 5xDVD collection of classic TV comedy sketches, a 15 track CD album of hit songs of the era and a 16 page colour reference guide to the shows and the stars

The Golden Age of Comedy collection chronicles the formative years of live television, a time when a host of comedic talents transferred their craft from the vaudeville stage to become television's first stars. From the wealth of variety shows that dominated the US TV schedules in the '50s sprung an entire generation of comedians who hosted and guest starred in them. Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Burns & Alien, Martin & Lewis, Abbott & Costello, Milton Berle, Sid Caeser, Red Skelton, The Three Stooges, Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz, Phil Silvers and many others conquered the new medium and became television royalty.

Many of the top programmes were broadcast on UK TV and became as popular in Britain as they were at home. Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Burns & Alien, Abbot & Costello, Red Skelton and Phil Silvers found fame on both sides of the pond, with Bob Hope and Sid Caesar even recording shows for the UK's own ITV and BBC networks.

The legacy of these performers and the recordings that survive them continue to inspire comedians and delight audiences of today, the world over. For many they remain the greatest comedy heroes of all time. Now, Time Life has scoured the US television archives to track down these classic recordings and restore them for the new 'DVD generation'. With over 8 hours of highlights from thirteen different shows, the Golden Age of Comedy forms one of the most unique and comprehensive compilations of television's earliest and best comic moments.

The bonus audio CD included with the DVD collection is from Time Life's hugely popular Fabulous Fifties series and features 15 hits from top artists from the year 1954. It includes original recordings from Perry Como (Papa Loves Mambo), Alma Cogan (Bell Bottom Blues), Doris Day (If I Give My Heart To You), Billy Eckstine (No one But You) and Nat King Coie with the evergreen classic Smile; a fitting soundtrack to the DVD series.

Vol.1 The Secret Word Is Jack (80 min)
Jack Benny welcomes Groucho Marx in a 1955 episode of Benny's hit CBS show. The long time friends really tear it up as they recreate Groucho's own popular NBC show, You Bet Your Life: Jack tries to win some money, while Groucho's ad libs keep him in stitches. The two legends had worked together in radio a few times, but this would be their only television appearance together. Also on The Jack Benny Show, Humphrey Bogart makes a rare television appearance in 1953 and gets interrogated by Jack in a hilarious gangster spoof. When Bob Hope joins Jack for a 1954 episode, the two poke fun at Bob's successful "road" movies and are surprised by a couple of other comics along the way

The Jack Benny Show featuring Groucho Marx, 3rd April 1955
The Jack Benny Show featuring Humphrey Bogart, 25th October 1953
The Jack Benny Show featuring Bob Hope, 25th May 1954

Vol.2 Bob Loves Lucy (75 min)
In 1956, Bob Hope imagines what life would have been like if he had married Lucy, as Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley join Bob in an 1 Love Lucy sketch. (Desi is hilarious as Fred Mertz!). Bob and Lucy had made two films together by this time, and would go on to make two more, but the sight of the two of them sharing the stage on live television at a time when they both had top rated shows is pure magic. Bob also welcomes James Cagney, who sheds his tough guy image for a vaudeville¬style song and dance routine in one of his rare television appearances. Finally, in his first television appearance (from 1949), silent film star Buster Keaton joins Ed Wynn in a recreation of one of Keaton's famous film routines. The Ed Wynn Show was the first CBS variety show to be broadcast from Hollywood, at a time when almost all network television originated in New York. But being a pioneer was nothing new for Ed Wynn; he had started his career in vaudeville in 1904 and first went on radio in 1922.

The Bob Hope Chevy Show featuring Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz, 21st October 1956
The Ed Wynn Show featuring Buster Keaton, 9th December 1949

Vol.3 Slowly I Turn ... (90 min)

  • Fred Alien and Jack Benny bring their famous radio feud to television, as Fred tries to steal Jack's show. Eddie Cantor gets in on the fun too. Fred Alien was one of radio's biggest stars and by all accounts one of the funniest men in show business. He once said, Waudeville is dead, and television is the box they buried it in." Although he never caught on with his own show he was always a great featured guest on numerous shows in the early days of television.
  • Ed Wynn is pestered by three network executives who bear a striking resemblance to the Three Stooges. Their movie contract prevented the Stooges from starring in their own television series, but they were allowed to make guest appearances on other shows. This 1950 Camel Comedy Caravan show is the earliest surviving example of Moe, Larry and Shemp on television.
  • Abbott & Costello's movie contract had no restrictions with regard to television, and they used their numerous appearances on The Colgate Comedy Hour to promote their movies and personal appearances. Here they recreate their classic "Niagara Falls" routine with movie idol Errol Flynn.

    The Jack Benny Show featuring Fred Allen, 9th April 1952
    The Camel Comedy Caravan with Ed Wynn featuring The Three Stooges, 11th March 1950
    The Colgate Comedy Hour with Abbott & Costello featuring Errol Flynn, 13th Jan 1952

    Vol.4 Clubhouse Comedy (80 min)
  • After a four year run as Sergeant Ernie Bilko on The Phil Silvers Show, Phi] Silvers starred in a series of specials in which he returned to his musical comedy roots. His 1960 special Just Polly & Me, featuring Polly Bergen, provides a rare glimpse of Silvers in sketch comedy.
  • Ernie Kovacs was a true television innovator. Inspired by a nearly non existent budget, he developed the idea of a television show as an informal clubhouse. A 1956 episode of his daytime show features Kovacs's experiments with trick photography and a reading from his oddball poet character, Percy Dovetonsils. Kovacs's influence on subsequent television comedians is immeasurable. David Letterman is clearly a disciple. In fact, Bill Wendell, the young announcer on the Kovacs show, served in that capacity with Letterman years later.
  • Another purveyor of the television show as clubhouse format was Soupy Sales. Sales starred in a series of children's shows that weren't always made for children. He is seen here in a silent sketch from a 1962 episode of The Soupy Sales Show.

    The Phil Silvers Special featuring Polly Bergen, 8th October 1960
    The Ernie Kovacs Show featuring Edie Adams, May 1956
    Bonus Segment featuring Soupy Sales

    Vol.5 A Really Big Show (75 min)
  • The Colgate Comedy Hour featured a rotating array of hosts, and among the most popular were Abbott & Costello and Martin & Lewis. First up, Abbott & Costello star as Lou Costello gives Bud Abbott a very complicated maths lesson. Then Lou takes an unusual singing lesson.
  • Next, Martin & Lewis parody Ed Sullivan's Toast of The Town, with Jerry Lewis's devastatingly funny impersonation of Sullivan. (Sullivan's show just happened to air at the same time as The Colgate Comedy Hour). Watch for audience cameos by Jimmy Durante, George Raft, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, as a befuddled Dean Martin impersonates Cary Grant, Groucho Marx and Clark Gable.
  • In the early days The Colgate Comedy Hour was the clear ratings winner over Toast of the Town. But as the Sullivan audience grew in the mid '50s, Colgate pulled its sponsorship from the Comedy Hour. The show briefly carried on as The NBC Comedy Hour but was off the air by 1956, the same year that Martin & Lewis split up. The Ed Sullivan Show would continue until 1971.

    The Colgate Comedy Hour with Abbott & Costello featuring Vera Zorina, 4th May 1952
    The Colgate Comedy Hour with Martin & Lewis feat Ed Sullivan parody, 8th May 1955

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