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Hail, Caesar: His finest hours

Long-unavailable delights from 'Your Show of Shows' and 'Caesar's Hour' show off the comic talents of Sid and company.

June 27, 2004|Susan King

The Sid Caesar Collection -- The Buried Treasures

Creative Light, $50

The stars: Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, Nanette Fabray.

Make 'em laugh: Comedy fans speak with a combination of reverence and fanaticism about "Your Show of Shows," a live, 90-minute musical variety show that featured big-name guest stars, musical numbers and even ballet and opera. Most memorable: the clever, sophisticated and riotously funny comedy sketches -- starring Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner and Howard Morris (who joined the cast in 1951) -- that kept people tuning in on Saturday nights between 1950 and 1954.

After Caesar and Coca went their separate ways in 1954, Caesar, Morris, Reiner and Nanette Fabray continued the craziness on NBC's "Caesar's Hour," from 1954 to '57.

The creative ferment of the collaboration left a lasting impact on theater, television and the movies. The crazy life of the writers working with the brilliant but volatile Caesar spawned the 1982 feature film comedy "My Favorite Year" and the Neil Simon Broadway play "Laughter on the 23rd Floor." Simon, Larry Gelbart and Mel Brooks all worked for Caesar, as did Woody Allen early in his career.

The DVDs

Though very few classic series from the 1950s have come out on DVD, Creative Light has been working with Caesar, now 81, to release the great sketches from "Your Show of Shows" and "Caesar's Hour."

This latest three-disc collection features some of Caesar's best bits, which haven't been seen since their first telecast. Caesar is featured in a few of the "Professor" sketches, but no less terrific is the Italian movie spoof "La Bicycletta," as well as the "Health Food Restaurant," "At the Movies," "The Commuters" and "Toy Band."

The extras

Each disc includes an extra sketch and interviews with Caesar, his co-stars and writers.

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On the Web

To see scenes from the Sid Caesar TV show, visit www.calendarlive.com/Caesar.

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-- Susan King

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