First, a follow-up on the passing of Shirley Temple Black. I received a very nice and informative email from Lisl Magboo, who included some wonderful clips from interviews with some of the key people involved with the production of Shirley Temple's Storybook, conducted for the Archive of American Television. The Archive is a product of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences* Foundation, and over the years they've accumulated a phenomenal collection of interviews with the early trailblazers of television.
*In other words, the people who put on the Emmys, among many other activities.
At the Archive's page on Shirley Temple's Storybook are interviews with costume designer Ray Aghayan; directors William Asher and Kirk Browning, who discuss what it was like working on the show; and actor Robert Culp, who recalls working on Storybook the day of JFK's assassination. I don't think too many people remember Shirley Temple for her work on television (they're probably much more familiar with her film work, which will play on TV forever), and it's good to see a place where Shirley Temple's Storybook is remembered with its proper due.
Also from Lisl is the Archive's remembrance of Sid Caesar, the brilliant comedian who died yesterday at 91. It's such a cliche to say something like "Sid Caesar was a pioneer of television comedy." Yes, but it's also true. What else can you say when the words mean exactly what you want them to mean? Your Show of Shows was a milestone in early sketch comedy - clever, innovative, sophisticated. Its pace might seem a bit slow today, in an era when anything lasting longer than eight or so seconds is an eternity, but back when people had actual attention spans - long enough for comedy bits to develop and blossom, long enough for people to appreciate them - one could sit back and let the situation grow until - bam! - the payoff. And then the laughter would wash over them and everyone else, only they probably wouldn't be aware of it because they were laughing too.
I was going to add that Caesar's passing marked the death of one of the last of the television pioneers, except that two of his colleagues from Your Show of Shows - Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks - still live. Cherish them while you can, and appreciate their legacy.
Enough from me - here's Sid Caesar in his own words, from the Archive's interview series. Here he talks about his early career:
His advice for aspiring performers:
Here he recounts a time on Your Show of Shows when things didn't quite go right...
Speaking of Reiner and Brooks, Caesar discusses his famed writing staff:
Caesar had a legendary temper, which he discusses here:
As with Shirley Temple, you can see more of these great archive interviews at the Archive's blog here, or by visiting their website. And my thanks once again to Lisl for providing these links, and to the Archive for keeping alive the ghostly memories of television's past, and making sure they don't disappear into the mists for good.