Dean Martin

September 10, 1957 – Jerry Lewis Solos at Ben Maksik’s Town and Country Club

Jerry Lewis (Not Nutty Yet)

On September 10, 1957, singer, dancer, and comedian extraordinaire Jerry Lewis gave a powerhouse solo performance at Ben Maksik’s Town and Country Club in Brooklyn, New York.  After years of second-billing behind Dean Martin doing successful comedy nightclub acts, radio and television programs, and films, Jerry was on his own before a live audience with his unique brand of slapstick comedy.  The duo’s breakup in July of 1956 ended a relationship that had become increasingly strained by Lewis’ dominance in popularity.  Each went on to success as solo performers.  Neither would ever comment on the split or consider a reunion.

In the Paramount film released in June of 1957, The Delicate Delinquent, Jerry became a major comedy star in his first solo role playing a juvenile delinquent mistaken for a gang member.  Officer Darren McGavin put Lewis through police training – compete with amusing “mishaps” – and young Jerry finally “reformed” and redeemed himself by graduating from the academy.

Later that summer, reviewer Robert W. Dana of the New York World Telegram and Sun covered Lewis’ act at the Town and Country Club for his column, “Tips on Tables”.  Dana admitted “I haven’t always been an ardent Lewis fan.  I am now after this performance.”  He continued, “Given the keynote at the outset by Ned Harvey’s crack band, the man with the shorty  haircut never let up.  He’s Mr. Rhythm with a voice.  He’s Mr. Hoofer, with a loose-jointed grace of a true showman.  And he’s Mr. Clown, who makes each line count for a laugh.”

Lewis, the son of a vaudeville entertainer father and a radio-station-piano-playing mother, spent part of his opening night kidding around with a Spanish dancer act, poking fun at rock and roll, crooning a “Danny Boy” spoof, and giving a side-splitting portrayal of “Tokyo’s foremost singing star”.  After initially bumbling about, he “caught on” and joined in a tap dance number.  And he gave serious and skillful renditions of “Shine on Your Shoes”, his top forty hit “Rock a Bye, My Baby”, “Come Rain or Come Shine”, and closed the evening with the somewhat poignant “I’ll Go My Way By Myself”, which Dana described as “a touching, straightforward conclusion”.  Lewis deeply appreciated Dana’s column, sending him a signed note on September 12th “to express my heartfelt thanks to you for your very, very nice column.  I more than appreciate your kind words, and my only hope is that I can live up to them.”

Jerry Lewis went on to great fortune and fame all over the world.  He received numerous rewards for his film and television work.  In spite of suffering nagging health concerns through much of his adult life, he maintained a full work schedule. Until stepping down in 2011, Lewis dedicated himself to his yearly Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, raising 2.6 billion dollars over the years for research and treatment of the crippling disease.

Image Credit: Public Domain Publicity Photo

October 18, 1957 – The Frank Sinatra Show Debuts on ABC

On October 18, 1957 (“It Was a Very Good Year“!), the first episode of The Frank Sinatra Show was aired on ABC.  Viewers could be excused a slight feeling of deja vu (“A Foggy Day“?), however.  An earlier television show starring Sinatra had appeared on CBS between 1950 and 1952 – also called The Frank Sinatra Show (“They Can’t Take That Away From Me“).  ABC’s sequel (“The Second Time Around“) was to include thirteen variety shows (“Let’s Face the Music and Dance“), thirteen dramas starring Frank, and ten dramas hosted by Frank, all taped in advance at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood (Not “My Kind of Town“?) and lasting a half-hour (“Come Rain or Come Shine“).  Sinatra would have total artistic control (“I Did It My Way“) and receive $3 million (“Nice Work if You Can Get It“) for the series.

Frank’s guests were a stellar bunch.  Bob Hope (“I’ve Got You Under My Skin“), Kim Novak (“The Girl Next Door“), and Peggy Lee helped Sinatra kick off the series opener, one of the variety offerings.  Other big names during the season included Dean Martin (“I Get a Kick Out of You“), Bing Crosby, Robert Mitchum, Sammy Davis, Jr., Eddie Fisher (“Love and Marriage“), Ethel Merman, Ella Fitzgerald, Natalie Wood, Van Johnson, Eydie Gorme, Dinah Shore, Shirley Jones, the McGuire Sisters (“Young At Heart“), Ann Bancroft, Lloyd Bridges, and his daughter, Nancy Sinatra (“Nancy“!).

Low ratings for the drama offerings led to schedule adjustments (“In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning“?).  ABC switched to more variety shows, and a majority of them ended up being live broadcasts (“The Way You Look Tonight“).  By the time the series ended in June of 1958, fourteen live variety shows had been broadcast, eight filmed varieties, four dramas starring Sinatra, and six dramas which Frank hosted.  Critics weren’t generous to Ol’ Blue Eyes (“Please Be Kind“!)- and Frank doesn’t seem to have put his all into making the show a success (“Fly Me to the Moon“!).  Reports were he hated to rehearse (“Don’cha Go ‘Way Mad“).  As a result, filming for eleven shows was shoehorned into fifteen days (“Luck Be a Lady“), with an understandable but unfortunate loss of quality (“The Best is Yet to Come“?).

Despite the series’ cancellation, Sinatra’s successful career would continue for decades (“Pocketful of Miracles“).  Frank always remained a great favorite with the American public (“Let’s Fall in Love“!)(“All the  Way“!)