The Ed Wynn Show
1949-1950

By Jim Davidson
Posted 5/29/2005

 



Ed's guest was Buster Keaton
in a December 1949 episode.

"A comedian is not a man who says funny things. A comedian is one who says things funny." So spoke Ed Wynn (1886-1966), the lovable old coot with the giggly laugh and a penchant for outlandish attire. By the late 1940s, with a successful 40-year career in vaudeville, Broadway, and radio behind him, the funny man known as "the perfect fool," was considered a has-been - a relic whose humor was too old-fashioned for a modern audience. But television helped reabilitate him, beginning with his 1949-1950 variety series.

The comedy on The Ed Wynn Show consisted mostly of old vaudeville schtick, with lots of corny jokes and silly sight gags. Each week, the show would end with Ed retiring to his bed, delivering quips as the credits rolled. Even though it was material Wynn was comfortable with, he found the technology of TV disconcerting. With technicians running around the stage, getting between him and the studio audience, it was hard for him to make a connection. As he reportedly commented at the time, "You just can't get laughs out of cameramen's asses." But despite the obstacles, the star's warmth shone through. Even in the commercials, Ed delivered his lines with such sincerity, it made you want to buy the product.

The show wasn't a success in terms of ratings. Despite several schedule changes over the course of its single season on the air (or maybe because of them), it never really found its audience. But it did win a couple of Emmy awards, one for Best Live Show and another for Wynn himself as Most Outstanding Personality. Variety gave the show good reviews, crediting it with "a high degree of soft humor rather than raucous comedy and its appeal lies largely in the upper IQ strata."

According to writer Hal Kantor, it was hard to find big name guest stars because most were terrified of going on a live show, where flubs were irretrievable. And at first Ed didn't want other comedians because, of course, he was the show's funny man. But after a while, he loosened up a bit and allowed the likes of Buster Keaton, The Three Stooges, Leon Errol, and Ben Blue. Other guest stars ran the gamut from older established stars like Gloria Swanson and Charles Laughton to up-and-coming youngsters like Dinah Shore. And when Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz appeared in a December 1949 episode, no one could guess that they would become two of TV's first superstars a couple of seasons later on I Love Lucy.

The Ed Wynn Show was the first network program to originate from Hollywood. At the time, it wasn't possible to transmit a live telecast simultaneously from coast-to-coast. The typical practice was to air a show live in New York, make a kinescope film of the broadcast, ship it across the country, and air the kinescope on the west coast at a later date. Wynn's show reversed the process, airing live in Los Angeles while east coast viewers saw a kinescope about two weeks later (though not necessarily on the same day of the week).

Wynn went on to host The All Star Revue (1950-52) on a rotating basis and starred in a sitcom (also called The Ed Wynn Show) during the 1958-59 season. But his big break came when he appeared in the 1956 Playhouse 90 production of Requiem for a Heavyweight, impressing critics by proving that he could excel in a dramatic role. His later years were busy ones, with guest appearances on The Twilight Zone and Bonanza, and character parts in films like The Diary of Anne Frank, Cinderfella, as well as Disney movies like The Absent Minded Professor, Babes in Toyland, and Mary Poppins. Not bad for an old coot!

The Episodes

For this episode guide, I've listed the live Los Angeles airdate, as well as the date that the show's kinescope aired in New York. This information was derived from TV listings and ads in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times. Because the Los Angeles Times listings don't always include guest stars, I've made an educated guess (indicated in red) for those dates, assuming that these few episodes aired in the same sequence as the ones in New York.

Los Angeles Broadcast History
KTTV, Channel 11
9/22/1949 - 12/15/1949 Thursdays 9:00-9:30 pm
12/24/1949 - 2/18/1950 Saturdays 8:00-8:30 pm
2/25/1950 - 4/22/1950 Saturdays 9:00-9:30 pm
4/27/1950 - 6/15/1950 Thursdays 7:00-7:30 pm
(Except 6/8/1950 Thursday 9:00-9:30 pm)

New York Broadcast History
WCBS-TV, Channel 2
10/6/1949 - 12/29/1949 Thursdays 9:00-9:30 pm
1/7/1950 - 3/25/1950 Saturdays 9:00-9:30 pm
4/4/1950 - 7/4/1950 Tuesdays 9:00-9:30 pm

Musical Director: Lud Gluskin
Announcer: Bob LeMond
Producer: Harlan Thompson
Director: Ralph Levy
Associate Director: Maurice Murphy
Writers: Hal Kanter, Leo Solomon, Seaman Jacobs
Engineer: Herbert Pangborn
Assistant Technical Supervisor: Edwin Miller
Camera Control Men: Robert Colvin, James Brady
Cameramen: A. J. Cunningham, Phil Callahan, Robert Fonarow
Lighting Supervisor: Gus Peterson
Stage Manager: John Goetz
Audio Mixer: Mel Noe
CBS Supervisor: Harry Ackerman
Network TV Manager: Hal Hudson
Sponsors: Speidel, Camel Cigarettes


Episode #
LA Airdate
NY Airdate
Guests
001

9/22/1949
Thu 9:00 pm

10/6/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
Gertrude Niesen, The Szonys (Francois and Giselle)
Buy this episode - The Ed Wynn Show/The Alan Young Show [VHS](1949) VHS
002
9/29/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
10/13/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
Carmen Miranda, Walter Long
003
10/6/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
10/20/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
Mel Tormé, Belita, Sam Hearn
004
10/13/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
10/27/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
Dinah Shore, Miriam LaVelle
005
10/20/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
11/3/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
Victor Moore
Buy this episode - The Ed Wynn Show (The Three Stooges) [VHS] VHS
006
10/27/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
11/10/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
Peggy Lee
007
11/3/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
11/17/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Kay Starr
008
11/10/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
11/24/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
Diana Lynn
009

11/17/1949
Thu 9:00 pm

12/1/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
Eve Arden
010
11/24/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
12/8/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
Celeste Holm
011
12/1/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
12/15/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
Ben Blue, John Raitt
012
12/8/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
12/22/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
Buster Keaton, Virginia O'Brien
Buy this episode -
The Ed Wynn Show [VHS] VHS
013
12/15/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
12/29/1949
Thu 9:00 pm
Hattie McDaniel, Buddy Ebsen
Buy this episode - The Ed Wynn Show/The Beulah Show [VHS] VHS
014
12/24/1949
Sat 8:00 pm
1/7/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz
015
12/31/1949
Sat 8:00 pm
1/14/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
Dick Haymes, Leo and Jane Mahoney
016
1/7/1950
Sat 8:00 pm
1/21/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
Howard Duff, Olga San Juan
017
1/14/1950
Sat 8:00 pm
1/28/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
Gloria DeHaven, dancers Shaw and Lee
018
1/21/1950
Sat 8:00 pm
2/4/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
Garry Moore, Lita Baron
019
1/28/1950
Sat 8:00 pm
2/11/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
Ann Sheridan, Robert Clary
020
2/4/1950
Sat 8:00 pm
2/18/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
Leon Errol, The Modernaires
021
2/11/1950
Sat 8:00 pm
2/25/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
Mitzi Green, William Farnum
022
2/18/1950
Sat 8:00 pm
3/4/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
Gloria Swanson, Gale Robbins, Bill Shirley
023
2/25/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
3/11/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
Elsa Lanchester, Reginald Gardiner
Buy this episode - The Ed Wynn Show [VHS] VHS
024
3/4/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
3/18/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
Ella Logan
025
3/11/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
3/25/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
The Three Stooges, Helen Forrest, cameo by William Frawley
Buy this episode on DVD
026
3/18/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
4/4/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
Joe E. Brown, Ilona Massey, William Frawley
027
3/25/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
5/2/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
Charles Laughton, Beverly Tyler
028
4/1/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
4/11/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
Ella Raines, Richard Arlen, Firehouse Five Plus 2
029
4/8/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
4/18/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
Andy Devine, Andy and Della Russell
030
4/15/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
4/25/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
Vera Vague, John Charles Thomas
031
4/22/1950
Sat 9:00 pm
5/9/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
Cesar Romero, Allan Jones, Irene Hervey
032
4/27/1950
Thu 7:00 pm
5/23/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
James Barton, Frank Fontaine
Note: The Los Angeles Times lists Joan Leslie and Preston Foster for this episode, but The New York Times does not. Both list Frank Fontaine.
033
5/4/1950
Thu 7:00 pm
5/16/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
Marie Wilson, Jack Holt
034
5/11/1950
Thu 7:00 pm
5/30/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
Cass Daley, The Charlivels
035
5/18/1950
Thu 7:00 pm
6/6/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
Frances Langford, Fred Sanborn
036
5/25/1950
Thu 7:00 pm
6/13/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
Billie Burke
037
6/1/1950
Thu 7:00 pm
6/20/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
Mitzi Green, El Brendel, Frank Fontaine
038
6/8/1950
Thu 9:00 pm
6/27/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
Dinah Shore, Ben Wrigley
039
6/15/1950
Thu 7:00 pm
7/4/1950
Tue 9:00 pm
Georgia Gibbs, The Keystone Kops

Copyright 2005 by Jim Davidson. All Rights Reserved.