Sid Caesar: A True Icon Of Television
This photo is from Caesar’s Hour, taken in 1956 at the Century Theater in New York.
Sid Caesar began his television career when he made an appearance on Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater in 1948. In early 1949, Sid and Max Lieberman met with Pat Weaver, president of television at NBC, which led to Caesar’s appearance in his first series, The Admiral Broadway Revue with Imogene Coca.
The Friday show, simultaneously broadcast on NBC and the DuMont network in order for the show to be carried on the only TV station then operating in Pittsburgh. It was an immediate success. However, its sponsor, Admiral, an appliance company, could not keep up with the demand for its new television sets, so the show was cancelled after 26 weeks on account of its runaway success. According to Caesar, an Admiral executive later told him the company had the choice of building a new factory or continuing their sponsorship of Revue for another season.
On February 23, 1950, Caesar appeared in the first episode of Your Show of Shows, a Saturday night 90-minute variety program produced by Max Lieberman (who had previously produced The Admiral Broadway Revue). The show launched Caesar into instant stardom and was a mix of scripted and improvised comedy, movie and television satires, Caesar’s inimitable double-talk monologues, top musical guests, and large production numbers.
The show ended after 160 episodes on June 5, 1954. Just a few months later, Sid Caesar returned with Caesar’s Hour, a one-hour sketch/variety show with Howard Morris, Carl Reiner, a young Bea Arthur, and much of the seasoned crew. Nanette Fabray replaced Imogene Coca who left to star in her own short-lived series. Ultimate creative and technical control was now totally in Caesar’s hands. The show moved to the larger Century Theater, which allowed longer, more sophisticated productions and the weekly budget doubled to $125,000. The premier on September 27, 1954 featured Gina Lollobrigida.