Thursday, February 05, 2009

ED WYNN: Piano Bike (10/27/1949)


Dinah Shore with Ed and his piano bike on The Ed Wynn Show.

4 comments:

Elmo Gibb said...

How ironic--I just finoished reading the chapter on Ed (The Perfect Fool)Wynn in "The Great Clowns of Broadway" by Stanley Green (Oxford University Press, 1984). Find the book in the library, there are also chapters on Fanny Brice, Jimmy Durante, Bert Lahr, Beatrice Lily and W.C.Fields.

I remember Ed Wynn's visits to the Ed Sullivan Show when I was a kid. From the moment he appeared you just expected real silliness. His voice was silly, his face incredibly animated and silly, and he always had silly things to do or say.

You kids who were born too late missed out on the Ed Sullivan Show. He had been a viscious gossip columnist who somehow got selected to host a Sunday night variety show and often blackmailed big stars into appearing for next to nothing. He usually had a circus act, a vaudeville or Burlesque comic, a singer, some Hollywood name, dancers, ballet, opera, stand-up comics (Lenny Bruce, anyone?) and whatever was hot in the pop world. It was on his show that Elvis made his first national appearance (from the waist up!) and the Beatles made their first live American TV appearance (they were shown on film a year earlier on Jack Paar's "Tonight Show"). Durante, Lily, Sophie Tucker, George Jessel, Eddie Cantor, Judy Garland and anyone who was a great performer came into our living rooms from time to time. Great clowns like George Carl, Linon, Fatini on his swaypole, Bora the pickpocket and all the great magicians of the time were guests at one time or another.

We also had Don Ameche's "International Showtime," which featured circuses, ice shows and variety shows from around the world. We saw all the name European clown acts, especially the classic trios.

Several times a year we had live Broadway show performances and great live theatre presented by Hallmark. I remember Ethel Merman doing "Annie Get Your Gun," Mary Martin in "Peter Pan" with the incredible Cyril Ritchard's unsurpassed Captain Hook, Carol Burnette in "Once Upon a Mattress," Lee J. Cobb as King Lear and George C. Scott in "The Crucible." TV presented us with a sampling of the best entertainment that was out there and made people want to go spend their money to see these great performers in person. It also inspired a great many of us to decide we had something to offer and enter the world of entertainment as well.

Elmo

Peppo the Clown said...

"The Great Clowns of Broadway" is a great book, no doubt, and the chapters on Ed Wynn, Bobby Clark and Joe Cook are especially interesting for clowns. There is great material on Ed Wynn in "The Great Comedians talk about Comedy", by Larry Wilde (Citadel Press, 1968), a MUST for any serious clown. Good material on Ed Wynn in George Burns' "All my Best Friends" too(cannot find it now to see the publishers and date). Here is the question: does anybody know if there is any biography of Ed Wynn?. I think there is not, and I can't understand why, his character was really unique and his life story has all the pathetic touches as to make a great film... Trivia: it is said that Wynn had about 400 crazy looking coats (mostly women's, as the one he is wearing in this clip) and about 600 hats, but only one pair of slap shoes, which were repaired so many times through the years that very little, if any, of the original leather remained. Wynn's first act was a chapeaugraphy routine, "The Boy in the Funny Hats", and it is said that he started fooling around with hats to make people laugh as a child at his father's store...

Mike Naughton said...

Elmo,

Our generation was exposed to the BEST because of the mass production of television which made the sets affordable for all of the United States.

In order to entice the people to sit in front of a box and do nothing, the producers needed "something" very special. It was live entertainment.

Ed Sullivan's column was "Toast of the Town" I recall.

An act that worked the Sullivan Show told me that he was very gracious backstage and Mr. Sullivan had flowers in their dressing room on their multiple appearances.

I am going to look online for that book -- it sounds worthy enough to be in the collection.

Anonymous said...

Ed Wynn certainly deserves a thorough, honest bio; after all, the man was a headliner for almost 60 years and a real crowd pleaser!

Also, he was an extremely good ad-libber--he had to be. Apparently, he had a lifelong difficulty in remembering his lines, so he developed a great talent for the "quick save"....

Wynn once guest-hosted a wonderful show, "Hollywood Palace", and he was doing this very same Piano Bike routine with Edie Gorme perched atop the piano.

In the middle of the routine, Wynn and Gorme fell into an awkward silence, broken only by Wynn idly playing an aimless tune on the piano.

I can recall the look of concern on Edie Gorme's face as, prompting him, she leaned across the piano and said softly, "Ed..."

As if nothing were amiss, Wynn played a chord loudly on the piano, looked at the audience and said, "a lot of elephants died in vain..." Gorme broke up as loudly as the audience...although I think her burst of laughter was relief as much as appreciation...

One more: During a severe career lull in the 1950's, Wynn was accosted by a woman on a Los Angeles street. "Aren't you Ed. Wynn?" the woman asked. "Yes," he replied. "Ed Wynn!" exclaimed the woman, "I thought you were dead!"
"I am," said Wynn. "Welcome"

--Michael Karp