The Ed Sullivan Show (1948–1971)
"Toast of the Town" (original title)

TV Series  -   -  Comedy | Music
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The classic prime time variety show most famous for its vaudeville acts and its rock music performances.

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Title: The Ed Sullivan Show (1948–1971)

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Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Series cast summary:
 Himself - Host / ... (1,054 episodes, 1948-1971)


Ed Sullivan's show was straight out of old vaudeville; brief acts of every description, from slapstick comedy to operatic arias. At least once, he showed a film, the only known film of Anna Pavlova (doing her Swan Dance). The Muppets' first TV appearance was on Ed Sullivan. Stiff and expressionless, with a peculiar voice and a talent for mispronunciation, Sullivan was at least as recognizable as Cronkite to early 60's viewers. Written by Molly Malloy <>

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Comedy | Music


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Release Date:

20 June 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Ed Sullivan Show  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


(1965-1971)| (1948-1965)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Cancelled in 1971 by CBS. The decision was a controversial one, since it was made at the end of the 1970-71 season and did not give Sullivan the opportunity to mount a farewell show after more than 20 years on the air. Sullivan would return for a few specials over the next year, however. The Canadian comedy duo of Johnny Wayne & Frank Shuster appeared on the show more often than any other act - nearly 80 appearances. See more »


[Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby are singing "Road to Morocco", when Frank spots Bob Hope walking down the stairs at the back of the stage]
Frank: Run for the hills.
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Referenced in What's My Line?: Episode dated 13 March 1955 (1955) See more »


Mahna Mahna
Written by Piero Umiliani
Performed by The Muppets
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User Reviews

One word to describe it......Standardized Classic
23 March 2005 | by (Durham,North Carolina) – See all my reviews

"THE TOAST OF THE TOWN"-aka-"THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW"-Produced by CBS-TV. First Telecast of the Series: June 20, 1948; Last Telecast of the Series: June 6, 1971 The Black and White Episodes: 1948-1965; The Color Episodes(Telecast): 1965-1971. *** This was television's longest-running variety show that was in fact a Sunday Night institution for the 23 years that it ran for the CBS Television Network. This was a hugely successful variety program that really put the spotlight on some of the greatest entertainment acts of the 20th Century. In other words,the ultimate variety show and this was the show that set the standard for other variety-oriented shows that were to follow,and to put it bluntly,Ed Sullivan was one of the founding forefathers of the variety show concept,and he was not only the master of his craft,but a living legend in the history of television. This was the program that was the family get-together every Sunday evening and this was a show that had it all....where you saw a mixture of variety acts which consisted of comedy,music,drama,and animal acts and not to mention poetry,all in one brilliant hour-long show. From its premiere episode on June 20,1948,Ed Sullivan's first television program consisted a headliner-which featured the comedy duo of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin(making their television debut)along with composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The format for the show was soon established and it would set the standard for his show for the next three decades. Sullivan would tried to present something to please everyone each week. Thus a typical evening's fare might include an "acrobatic act","a couple of comics","a recording star","an aria by an operatic performer",and "the best of Broadway" not to mention ballet and folk tunes from other countries.

In perspective,Ed Sullivan knew talent when he saw it and did his best to promote it that is if you made a big impression and if you did that,he would have you on his own show. From some of the thousands of performers who would make their mark on his show that would appear from time to time,ranging from Bob Hope to Frank Sinatra to Albert Schweitzer and other notables making their television debuts on The Ed Sullivan Show were Irving Berlin,Cab Calloway,Louis Armstrong,Nat King Cole, Victor Borge,Hedy Lamarr,Walt Disney,Fred Astaire and Jane Powell not to mention Hollywood greats like Peter O'Toole,Clark Gable,and John Wayne. Two acts however,deserve special attention,for they attracted some of the largest television audiences of the time:Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Elvis Presley made three appearances on Ed Sullivan's show and the ratings were the highest ever recorded for a weekly variety show in the history of television. His first appearance on September 9,1956,featured Presley singing the hits,"Don't Be Cruel","Love Me Tender",and "Hound Dog". He appeared again in two more shows on October 28,1956 and his last appearance on the show was January 6, 1957. Also it should be noted that Ed Sullivan was the first television host to feature African-American performers on his program,which at a time when network programming would not allow. It was during the decade of the 1950's and throughout the 1960's that Ed Sullivan introduced a lot of African-American talent on his show,especially during the early years of his show where he brought on such greats as Louis Armstrong,Cab Calloway,Nat King Cole,and such great rock and roll legends as Fats Domino,Little Richard,Chuck Berry,and not to mention some of the greatest groups of all time like The Five Satins, The Platters featuring Tony Williams,and newcomers at the time like Sam Cooke,Jackie("Mr. Excitement")Wilson,and Frankie Lymon. But the most famous of all of the talented African-American groups came from Motown,and Ed Sullivan during the 1960's had a lot of them on his show. The most successful of the Motown groups of the era consisted of Diana Ross and The Supremes,whom by the way made four appearances on Ed's show not to mention others like The Temptations,Stevie Wonder,The Jackson Five,The Four Tops,Martha and The Vandellas,The Miracles featuring Smokey Robinson,Marvin Gaye,and so much more. And lets not forget some famous performers that became famous almost overnight,thanks to Ed Sullivan. Other talented African-American performers included Della Reese,Ray Charles,James Brown,Pearl Bailey,opera singer Leontyne Price,and other groups like The Fifth Dimension and along with Broadway sensation Leslie Uggams,and singers Dionne Warwick,Aretha Franklin,Gladys Knight and so many more.

The biggest event of The Ed Sullivan Show came on February 9,1964. On that magical night,73 million viewers,and the ratings soared overnight,the highest ratings ever recorded in the history of the program and to the executives over at CBS,saw one of the breathtaking events ever presented in the history of television. On the magical night audiences saw for the first time four young individuals from Liverpool, England change the course of music history. On the television sets,audiences were tuned in when Ed Sullivan utter these words:

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN..................THE BEATLES!!!!!!!!!!!!"

The rest they say is history. However,The Beatles would make three appearances on Ed's show from their first appearance in February of 1964 to the last appearance in March of 1965. This was the start of the British Invasion,and his show had them all....From The Rolling Stones, Garry and the Pacemakers,The Zombies,The Animals,The Kinks,to legends like Tom Jones and Dusty Springfield were making their mark on the Ed Sullivan Show,and it opened the floodgates for more British rock groups,and more important,rock acts became a regular feature of the show for the remainder of its run. This was also the setting for its non-British acts too like The Girl Groups like The Ronettes,to Lesley Gore and not to mention others like The Beach Boys and country music singers was added in some of the segments. There was also some controversial groups as well that appear on the show. In 1967,Jim Morrison's The Doors make an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and the censors and studio executives at CBS were watching. In 1971,due to low ratings,The Ed Sullivan Show was cancelled.

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