Today we are going to go back . . . waaaay back.
To Easter Sunday, 1950 and the national debut of Bob Hope on NBC in a 90 minute variety extravaganza called The Star Spangled Review.
Note: Bob Hope had appeared on a 1947 West Coast broadcast, but this was to be his first national television appearance.
This early foray into TV variety programming was a ratings success, and Hope agreed to become the regular host of Star Spangled Revue. Broadcast out of New York every two weeks, the show was much like Hope’s radio show . . . a mixture of monologue, skits, and musical guest stars.
The show was eventually renamed the Bob Hope Special, and would continue as a staple of the NBC network (albeit far less frequently in later years) until 1997.
This first entry runs 90 minutes, and is available on The Internet Archive.
Guests include Beatrice Lilly, Douglas Fairbanks, Dinah Shore, the Mexico City Boys Choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus, Carl Reiner, and the Look Magazine Cover Girls.
Given that this show is more than 60 years old, the recording isn’t too bad. There are times when the lighting is too light or too dark, and the camera work is pretty static.
But this was 1950, after all.
It, like most of the variety shows of that era, plays like a Vaudeville show, with specialty acts like Maurice Rocco – the world’s only `standup boogie-woogie piano player’.
And dig those crazy embedded Frigidaire Refrigerator commercials.
Some of Hope’s monologue will mystify younger viewers, since much of it is `topical’ and mentions political figures and incidents of the day that are pretty obscure today.
But don’t let that dissuade you. Most of this show translates well to today. Particularly if you have a fond spot in your heart for old TV variety shows.