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Holiday Gift Guide Review: “Here’s Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection”

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Here's EdieIn one of the many testimonials that enhance the booklet to the first-ever DVD release of Here’s Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection, Carl Reiner may have put it best and most succinctly: “Edie Adams…a combination of beauty, brains and talent…what else do you need?”  Based on the evidence in this thoroughly delightful 4-DVD, 12-hour, 21-episode set now available from MVD Visual (MVD 59200), you don’t need anything else.  Adams just about had it all, and showed it off for the 1962-1964 television variety show.  Here’s Edie aired on Thursday nights, alternating weeks with Sid Caesar’s program on ABC.  It was good company, indeed.

“Variety” was the emphasis of Adams’ sophisticated, unorthodox program.  Though entertainment was the primary objective, the trailblazing Adams also hoped that Here’s Edie would inform its audience.  Nobody stood in her way, not even from the network.  Rare for a female at the time who wasn’t Lucille Ball, Adams was given creative control of her show.  She produced it, owned it, and even designed her own wardrobe!  Jazz, classical and opera artists all got equal time alongside the expected pop stars.  A cursory glance at the guest stars featured on these DVDs reveals appearances by the illustrious likes of Duke Ellington, Andre Previn, Stan Getz, Laurindo Almeida, Charlie Byrd, Lionel Hampton, Nancy Wilson, and Lauritz Melchior, plus Sammy Davis, Jr., Bobby Darin, Johnny Mathis and John Raitt.

The singer-actress-comedienne was as much at home on television as she was on stage and on film.  She had appeared with her husband Ernie Kovacs on a variety of programs since the early days of television, and when Kovacs tragically perished in a car accident in 1962, Adams had no choice but to press forward.  Kovacs’ series Take a Good Look and ABC specials had been sponsored by Dutch Masters cigars; the brand’s parent, Consolidated Cigar, turned to Edie to become the spokeswoman for their Muriel brand.  Muriel sponsored Here’s Edie (renamed The Edie Adams Show in fall 1963) and the star’s association with Muriel would, remarkably, last till the 1990s.  The entertaining, musical Muriel spots are among the highlights of these discs.

We’ll look further after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 23, 2013 at 11:21

Holiday Gift Guide Review: The Comedy and Music of Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams

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Welcome to 2012’s Second Disc Holiday Gift Guide!  We’ll use these special reviews to highlight not only seasonally-themed releases, but box sets, deluxe reissues and other special titles that might make the perfect gifts under your tree this holiday season!

Groucho Marx once observed that “marriage is a wonderful institution,” before adding, “but who wants to live in an institution?”  A few lucky couples have not only thrived in that institution, however, but also in the world of comedy: Gracie Allen and George Burns, Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller, Edie Adams and Ernie Kovacs.  A renaissance man, Kovacs was a comedian, actor, author, clown, surrealist, and pioneer of the television camera, and even served as host of what’s widely acknowledged as television’s first “morning show,” broadcast out of Philadelphia over NBC.  His wife, Adams, was no second banana.  An accomplished actress and singer, the Juilliard and Columbia School of Drama graduate was crowned “Miss U.S. Television” in 1950, and appeared alongside Milton Berle and Arthur Godfrey prior to being spotted by the producer of Kovacs’ then-local show in Philadelphia. In one of his last interviews, Kovacs quipped, “I wish I could say I was the big shot that hired her, but it was my show in name only; the producer had all the say. Later on I did have something to say and I said it: Let’s get married.’” Kovacs and Adams tied the knot in 1954; their marriage was only cut short by Kovacs’ death in 1962.  (Adams remarried twice, and died in 2008, aged 81.)  Now, thanks to Omnivore Recordings and Shout! Factory, the beloved duo is in the spotlight once again on two delightful new releases.

The Edie Adams Christmas Album featuring Ernie Kovacs 1952 (OVCD-42) shows off both sides of the winsome, young Adams.  She’s as comfortable with a lovely, subtle reading of Mel Torme and Robert Wells’ “The Christmas Song” as she is with a tongue-in-cheek “Household Holiday Blues” in which she joshes around with her brash comic foil Kovacs.  The album’s fifteen tracks, in which Adams sings to piano accompaniment, are all derived from the month of December 1952 for the Kovacs Unlimited television program and make their first appearance on CD (or in any audio format) here.

The song selection is wonderfully varied, from familiar secular tunes (“The Christmas Song,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!”) to spiritual selections ( “I Wonder as I Wander”) and lesser-known songs (Al Stillman and Victor Young’s “It’s Christmas Time,” also recorded by artists including Carpenters).  Adams’ pristine and expressive soprano is engaging on both the ballads and the up-tempo cuts, including the jazzy “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Let It Snow.”  As on “Household Holiday Blues,” Adams is joined by Kovacs on the former.  Ernie’s most expressive turn, however, is on the Jay Livingston/Ray Evans classic “Silver Bells.”  Although Kovacs was no Bing Crosby, he holds his own with Adams, and their heartfelt duet is one of the album’s highlights.

Some comedy features on the disc, of course.  A very brief rendition of “A Marshmallow World” has Adams engaging in some goofing mid-song, and Ernie’s patter leads into “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”  Adams adopts an Irish brogue for “Christmas in Killarney,” most famously recorded by Crosby just a year earlier at Decca.  But music takes the center stage.  Wartime standard “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is poignant in Adams’ rendition.  Another treat is Adams singing the seldom-recorded verse to Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s “Let It Snow!”  She also throws in a bit of Frank Loesser’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” on that song, and does justice to the composer/lyricist’s torchy perennial, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.”

There’s plenty of heart in this sweet, vintage holiday fest.  Due to the age and origin of the recordings, there are audio imperfections that are difficult to ignore.  But the “pops, ticks and general surface noise” truthfully acknowledged in the notes hardly detract from the warm and nostalgic performances.  Reuben Cohen and Gavin Lurssen have remastered the audio to as best a quality as is possible.  Edie Adams’ son, Josh Mills, contributes his personal reminisces about his mom.  His touching recollections about his mom’s holiday fervor and the celebrity friends that populated his childhood (including both halves of the onscreen Odd Couple, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau) add up to an essential part of the album, attractively designed with retro flavor by Greg Allen.

After the jump: there’s much more on Edie and Ernie as we look at Shout! Factory’s exciting new DVD release from these legends of television! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 9, 2012 at 14:04

Let It Snow! Omnivore Celebrates Christmas with Comedienne, Actress and Singer Edie Adams

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Let it snow!  It may only be August, but the annual spate of holiday-themed releases is just around the corner.  And we’re pleased as punch (or egg nog!)  to inaugurate our coverage of this year’s crop with the announcement of the all-new, yet all-vintage, Edie Adams Christmas Album!  It’s arriving on October 9 from our busy friends at Omnivore Recordings, the label fresh off the first-time release of Ernie Kovacs’ Percy Dovetonsils Thpeaks!  Kovacs, of course, was Adams’ co-star and husband until his tragic death in 1962, and all of the tracks on the new Christmas collection have been derived from early- to mid-1950s broadcasts of the Kovacs Unlimited television program.

Far from being a second banana to the pioneering comedian, however, Edie Adams was an accomplished actress and singer in her own right, and a presence from the earliest days of television.  The Juilliard and Columbia School of Drama graduate was crowned “Miss U.S. Television” in 1950, and appeared alongside Milton Berle and Arthur Godfrey prior to being spotted by the producer of Ernie Kovacs’ then-local show in Philadelphia.  In one of his last interviews, Kovacs quipped, “I wish I could say I was the big shot that hired her, but it was my show in name only; the producer had all the say. Later on I did have something to say and I said it: Let’s get married.’”  (They did so in 1954.)  Kovacs and Adams’ talents were too large simply for a regional audience, and soon they received a national network berth.  Adams also made pivotal appearances on the Broadway stage.  She introduced “Ohio” with Rosalind Russell as one of the sisters of Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Leonard Bernstein’s 1953 Wonderful Town, for which she received a Theatre World Award, and portrayed Daisy Mae opposite Peter Palmer’s Li’l Abner in the 1956 musical of the same name.  The adaptation by Norman Panama, Melvin Frank, Johnny Mercer and Gene DePaul of the Al Capp comic strip netted Adams a Tony Award.  When Rodgers and Hammerstein produced their first television musical version of Cinderella starring Julie Andrews, Adams was the “Impossible?  It’s possible!” Fairy Godmother.

Hit the jump and you’ll find much more on Edie Adams, including the full track listing and pre-order link for this future holiday classic! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 8, 2012 at 11:44