September 10, 2010

Four Complete Historic Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring the Beatles (1964) DVD

A great concept: The Beatles appeared four times on CBS' The Ed Sullivan Show, and while one is tempted to skip through this collection to watch only the Fab Four's 20 performances, there is historic value in seeing Sullivan's complete programs. With America reeling from the murder of a popular president, JFK, less than three months prior, the Beatles' Sullivan debut on February 9, 1964, ushered a renewing joy into the country's living rooms. The band kept it up another two weeks, sharing Sullivan's variety-show bills with the likes of impressionist Frank Gorshin, comedians Allen & Rossi, future Monkee Davy Jones (in a scene from Oliver!), and sundry unrepentant vaudevillians, magicians, and acrobats. Various problems with microphones and bad direction (one barely sees John Lennon on 2/9) couldn't stop the magic, and by the time the Beatles made a return trip in September 1965, the group's brilliance and wit outsized their television surroundings. --Tom Keogh
Product Description
An estimated 73 million Americans tuned in to watch the Ed Sullivan Show when the Beatles performed All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There and I Want To Hold Your Hand. And every one of these songs is included on this rockin' dvd! They are all part of 20 live performances and 7 number one hits!

DVD Product Details

* Actors: Ed Sullivan, Frank Shuster, Johnny Wayne, Jack Carter, Roberta Peters
* Directors: Kenneth Whelan
* Writers: Frank Shuster, Johnny Wayne, Jerry Bresler, Jerry Juhl, Lyn Duddy
* Producers: Chester Feldman
* Format: Black & White, DVD, Full Screen, NTSC
* Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
* Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
* Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
* Number of discs: 2
* Rated: Unrated
* Studio: SOFA Entertainment
* DVD Release Date: October 28, 2003
* Run Time: 240 minutes

* Format: Color, NTSC
* Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. )
* Number of discs: 1
* Rating:
* Studio: Ventura Home Entertainment
* DVD Release Date: November 23, 2004
* Run Time: 240 minutes
* Size: 7 1/2" x 5 1/4" x 1"

This 2 disc set provides a most wonderful glimpse of an important time in both music and television history. Most notably, it contains the three full length shows (along with commercials) that were integral in the Beatles' first visit to the United States. The Beatles perform their chart toppers in the U.S. including "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "She Loves You," "From Me To You," and "Please Please Me." The set also includes a most intriguing (and complete) 1965 show where you can clearly see the group's growth as songwriters. The 1965 song set consists of "I'm Down," "Ticket to Ride," and "Help." This is a long way in a relatively short time from "All My Loving" and "From Me To You." The first show is the one most treasured by fans, and it obviously is a must-see. Viewing the complete show allows you to better appreciate the magnitude and importance of the Beatles appearance in the U.S. However, ALL of the shows provide an amazing look at popular music during this time. Performances by Mitzi Gaynor, Cab Calloway, and the original brodway cast of Oliver (including Davy Jones who later became a member of the Monkees) are incredible and historical. Cilla Black (also managed by Brian Epstein) performs two enjoyable numbers.

One interesting note about the entire set is that you might get a feel for the generation gap that existed in America at that time and what impact the Beatles had on whom Ed Sullivan called "youngsters." Performances by Acker Bilk, Tessie O'Shea (from England), and Gordon & Sheila McCrae show us what most adults who tuned in to Sullivan were listening to. The Beatles clearly went against the grain. As one famous person noted, "Suddenly, there were the Beatles and everybody else. And everybody else just looked wrong." As you see the younger generation embrace the Beatles, references to Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and even Dave Barry's comedy routine (on disc 3) seem like something that only the "old folks" would be interested in and perhaps considered very "square." Suddenly, the younger generation has decided what they like and what they would listen to. Soon after the Beatles first visit, Sullivan would be sure to always include "something for the youngsters."

Historic and classic comedy routines by Allen & Rossi, Morcombe & Wise (also from England), and Soupy Sales are enjoyable to watch as well. The novelty acts are quaint and somewhat amusing, but nevertheless important because they were an integral part of Sullivan's shows. The real importance of these discs lies in the music and musical productions.

The only drawback to the set is that it leaves Beatle fans hungry for more in the sense that now we want "the story behind the story." Davy Jones mentioned his inability to leave the wings during the broadcast because he was so enraptured by the Beatles' performance and how he suddenly realized that he wanted a future in a band. McCall & Brill, who perform a comedy skit on the first show, have told of their experience that Sunday night. Ed Sullivan hated their skit and wanted them to switch to another routine just before they hit the air. They panicked and didn't know what to do. By chance, they met the Beatles backstage while John Lennon was looking for a Coca-Cola. All of the Beatles made them feel more at ease and they went ahead with the routine, but Sullivan was not pleased. You'll notice that he does not call them over to shake hands, which is what Sullivan usually did with the acts he truly liked. It would have been nice to see interviews with reflections from those involved in the production of the first show.

There are naturally some technical glitches once in a while but they are really not noticable. The shows are in glorious black and white and the audio is at its best. If you are a Beatle fan, this is definitely a must-buy. If you're not, but have a longing for musical variety programs once again, this set is still classic and enjoyable.