Saturday, February 03, 2007

The 12 Days Of Ernie Kovacs, Day 12

Kovacs was one of the great comedy creators - an actor/writer/director who utilized the small screen as a creative tool. His surviving shows (most of what's left remains the 1961 half-hour specials produced for ABC) reflect a restlessly inventive comic genius. Fortunately, Edie Adams worked tirelessly to preserve Ernie's legacy. One of the splendid products of this is the 2-DVD "Best Of Ernie Kovacs" set available from White Star Video.

Since I don't have a clip from Ernie's classic late-50's NBC specials, "Kovacs On Music" and "Eugene" (and alas, for the most part, kinescopes of Ernie's 1950's shows from Philadelphia and New York do not exist), not to mention the brilliant Dutch Masters commercials starring Ernie and Edie Adams - too bad - we'll finish this up with. . .

Kovacs facts (mostly from the best book on Ernie I've seen, Kovacsland by Diana Rico)

Born: January 23, 1919 in Trenton, NJ
Died: January 19, 1962 in Beverly Hills, CA

After very nearly dying of pneumonia at 19, Ernie lived the rest of his life at an absolute fever pitch, sleeping as little as possible.

Pallbearers at Ernie's funeral included Frank SInatra, Dean Martin and best friend Jack Lemmon.

Ernie's screen comedy hero: Jacques Tati.

Ernie's unrealized goal: produce, direct and write live-action films. It is said that he approached Sir Alec Guinness, whom he met on the Our Man In Havana shoot, with the idea of doing a "Eugene" feature.

Ernie's mother, Mary, was by all accounts one powerful woman, not to be messed with.

Ernie's daughters, Elizabeth and Kippie, were kidnapped by his estranged first wife, found many months later living in backwoods squalor in Cassia, Florida.

Ernie's signoff line: IT'S BEEN REAL.

Retrospectives: The Museum Of Broadcasting's "The Vision Of Ernie Kovacs" .

How did the innovative and groundbreaking 1961 Ernie Kovacs Show get its timeslot on ABC? Primarily because his programs did wonders for the sales of Dutch Masters cigars. . . and because Consolidated Cigar's Jack Mogulescu was a friend of Ernie's and Edie's.

Little known Kovacs gem: his superb and nuanced performance in Five Golden Hours, co-starring Cyd Charisse (the phenomenal and drop-dead gorgeous dancer from such MGM musicals as Singin In The Rain and The Band Wagon).

It's been real. Thanks, Ernie and Edie.


sattvicwarrior said...

never did understand Ernie Kovac. maybe cause I was to young at the time. but GREAT footage on your part.. he was brilliant

paul etcheverry said...

Probably the best sources of amazing Kovacs footage are UCLA Radio/Television Archives and The Museum Of Broadcasting.

Unfortunately, a lot of Ernie's historic 1950's shows - from the Philadelphia shows to the Dumont shows - just don't exist. They were taped over to save money and space. By comparison, a far greater percentage of Chaplin's and Keaton's legacies survived.

Just treasure and enjoy what we have.