Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Episode 12 - The Smothers Brothers and Jack Cassidy

   On December 6th, 1972 ABC aired the 12th Episode of The Julie Andrews Hour. If there is one word to describe this show it’s fun, fun, fun!
The show opens with announcer Dick Tufeld:
“Your attention please! Now appearing in the center ring, Miss Julie Andrews!”

Julie appears totally at ease playing the ringmaster; she is full of smiles and in beautiful form, dressed a bright red ringmaster’s jacket, short black pants and high boots. She begins to sing “If I Could Talk to the Animals,” the popular song (lyrics by Bobby Darin) from the 1967 film, Dr. Doolittle, as dancers, dressed in various animal costumes, enter the ring and parade around to the music.

Guest star Jack Cassidy appears in a panther costume. As he removes his head, we see that he is holding a lit cigarette. It's smoking. The Smothers Brothers-Tom and Dick- appear as twin lions. Rich Little enters as a rooster and Alice Ghostly hops in dressed as a bunny. “I feel ludicrous,” she says, but it’s all in good fun, both for children and adults. One can’t help laughing when Dick Smothers pinches Alice Ghostley’s behind. The quips fly as everyone breaks up and has a good time.
Julie with the Crystal Tree
From the Ruth and Vannie Schaufelberger
Collection

This opening scene, so full of fun, is contrasted sharply by Julie Andrews’ performance of “If (a picture paints a thousand words)." She stands before the famous crystal tree for this rendition. It is a deep and lovely performance, one of Miss Andrews’ finest. The contrast of silliness and seriousness is a nice one. "If" is followed by another funny performance, this time by The Smothers Brothers. 

[Tom (February 2nd 1937) and Dick (November 20th, 1939) Smothers were born on Governors Island in New York Harbor where their father, a West Point graduate and U.S. Army officer was stationed. The boys’ father, who was a POW during WWII,  died while being transported to a Japanese camp.
Tommy and Dick Smothers
Tom and Dick were raised by their mother in Los Angeles, California. They made their first appearance as a duo in 1959 at The Purple Onion, a famous club in San Francisco. In 1961, they had their first major television appearance on The Jack Paar Show. From 1965-66, they appeared on their own television situation comedy series, The Smothers Brothers Show. Their next show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour pushed the boundaries of what was allowed on television at that time. Meanwhile, many wonderful musical artists appeared on this show. Through it, the Smothers Brothers became extremely well-known and popular.]
Along with being great comedians, the Smothers Brothers are also fine musicians and singers, which plays into their act. Tommy plays the “stupid” nonsensical brother, while Dick insists that things be right. He acts superior to Tommy, and like many brothers, their differences annoy one another and cause arguments. They take their arguments seriously, but for us, the audience, their disagreements are a cause for laughter.
In this scene, the brothers are dressed as madrigals from the 17th century. They begin singing and playing an old English love song. When Tommy starts to make chirping sounds, Dick becomes seriously annoyed. Their interchange is extremely funny. With the passage of time, it is clear that The Smothers Brothers comedy routines are timeless.

Next, Julie Andrews and Jack Cassidy appear dressed in tails and top hats for “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plans.” It is a wonderful classy number, where we learn that less can be more. Julie is in beautiful form, hitting the mark on each movement with true style and finesse. She and Jack work well together. Without a doubt, this piece is a treasure.

A short musical break in the program has Julie and the Smothers Brothers singing a cowboy song together. At the end, Julie says she has something to tell the guys and Tommy says he has something to confess to her as well. Julie tells them that before working with them she heard they were difficult to work with. Now, she says, after spending several days together she can see that what she heard is not true.

Tommy then tells Julie that he was “under the impression” that she was “cold, aloof and a goody-goody.” “And now?” asks Julie, waiting for his new opinion of her. “Oh, I just wanted to confess that,” says Tommy. The look Julie gives him is absolutely priceless.

In another sketch, Jack Cassidy plays a ne’er-do-well piano player and Julie Andrews plays a woman who has come to meet her husband at the piano bar/restaurant. It appears that she and her husband had a fight that morning and she hopes to make-up with him. Tommy Smothers is the drunken piano bar customer; he is hysterically funny in this role, and completely believable. Meanwhile, this very funny sketch, which you can’t help laughing at, has serious currents running through it. In the end, we discover that the man that Julie came there to meet (her husband) is the piano player.

A good portion of this episode is devoted to the 1920s. It’s a period that Julie Andrews (having appeared on Broadway in the 20s style musical, "The Boy Friend”) plays very well. Julie is one of the finest Charleston dancers and she seems to understand the mingling of old fashioned innocence and modern woman needed to play a 20s girl.

Every year of the 1920s decade is highlighted with a song and dance number. Rich Little adds to the quality of this piece by portraying some of the era's most famous persons, including: W. C. Fields (the makeup man did and incredible job for this portrayal), Jack Benny, Carol Channing as a baby, John Wayne and others. Alice Ghostley also does a fine job filling in on various other characters needed.

Some of the numbers Julie Andrews performs for this half of the show are:
  • “Japanese Sandman,” a lovely soft shoe with four male dancers,
  • “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” with Alice Ghostley
  • “Charleston” with The Tony Charmoli Dancers, and
  • You Can Dance with Any Girl” (for more on this, see my closed set blog)
In this number, Ms. Andrews, dressed in a stunning, white 1920s dress begins the number seated on a sofa with Jack Cassidy. The verse is quiet and sets the story. Then things liven up with the musical chorus. It’s great fun to watch Julie and Jack sing and dance this number; it's like a mini-trip to Broadway and the song from No, No Nannette  is one that stays with you.

The year 1929 has an interesting performance of “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime.” In it, Jack Cassidy plays a poor, ragged bum, shining shoes for whatever money he can make. Tommy Smothers plays the wealthy gentleman (or at least the well-dressed gentleman) having his shoes shined. Having seen this number taped without an audience, I am aware that the laugh track was added later, however, I think the number might be even more effective without it. This is a powerful performance.

In an interesting twist, one of the final numbers of the show, “Making Whoopee” is performed with Julie Andrews as the bride of Dick Smothers. It’s a cute number and these two are very interesting to watch together. It makes one wonder what a show with them as the leads might have been like.

Episode 12 of The Julie Andrews Hour closes with many smiles and much laughter. It is clear that Ms. Andrews enjoys working with Jack Cassidy. She is at ease and full of joy as he says his goodbyes to her. Then, as she turns to say goodbye to Tommy Smothers, he gives her a funny little speech. Though his final words are not clear, he makes Julie laugh. To see such talent, joy and laughter onstage is a treasure.

For more information on the Smothers Brothers, please visit their links:


Coming soon: Christmas with Julie!

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