Playhouse 90: Season 1, Episode 20

The Comedian (14 Feb. 1957)

TV Episode  -   -  Comedy | Crime | Drama
8.3
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Sammy Hogarth, a vaudeville comedian who now has his own TV show, is a ruthless egomaniac who demands instant obedience from his staff and heaps abuse on those in lesser positions than he ... See full summary »

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Title: The Comedian (14 Feb 1957)

The Comedian (14 Feb 1957) on IMDb 8.3/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
Richard Joy ...
Himself - Announcer (as Dick Joy)
...
...
...
...
Constance Ford ...
...
King Donovan ...
Eddie Ryder ...
...
Michael Ross ...
Masseur (as Mike Ross)
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Storyline

Sammy Hogarth, a vaudeville comedian who now has his own TV show, is a ruthless egomaniac who demands instant obedience from his staff and heaps abuse on those in lesser positions than he is. His most vituperative behavior, however, is reserved for his weak-willed brother, Lester, who Sammy has hired as his assistant but who really uses him as his whipping boy. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

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14 February 1957 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

According to a behind the scenes documentary on the production, one day, Jack Benny wandered into a rehearsal of a scene where Mickey Rooney has to belittle costar Mel Tormé. Benny actually tried to break up the "argument", not knowing they were just reciting dialog. See more »

Connections

Referenced in A Decade Under the Influence (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

Hard-hitting drama with brilliant performances
28 June 2001 | by (Clifton, Virginia) – See all my reviews

A searing behind-the-scenes look at a larger than life television personality, which still packs a punch today in spite of its many imitators. Written by "The Twilight Zone"'s Rod Serling as a "Playhouse 90" televised drama, it contains an explosive performance by Mickey Rooney that stands unparalleled in his body of work, prior to or since.

Rooney plays Sammy Hogarth, an egomaniacal comedian who demands perfection from everyone around him. His main target is his weak brother, Lester (singer Mel Torme), whose job description basically consists of taking Sammy's round-the-clock abuse, doing his dirty work, and pretending to worship the ground he walks on. Another outlet for Sammy's wrath is his head writer (Edmond O'Brien), who has lost his edge and who, in his desperation to please Sammy, has stolen material from a dead comic. Lester's wife (Kim Hunter) is fed up with her husband's role as Sammy's whipping post, and threatens to leave him if he doesn't rectify the situation. His opportunity to do so comes when he catches wind of the plagiarism, and he threatens to expose Sammy to an acidic columnist unless he cuts a monologue which savagely ridicules Lester.

All of the events in the story lead up to a 90-minute telecast which Sammy believes will be the highlight of his career, and must therefore be flawless. That means no last-minute cuts the day before the show, especially the monologue. O'Brien is forced to be the go-between amongst Sammy, Lester, and the columnist, navigating his way with carefully chosen words and ego-stroking. The film is told largely from O'Brien's point of view, and the audience can honestly feel for him as he digs himself into an ever-deeper hole. However, Serling's screenplay is too smart to portray Sammy as a one-dimensional hothead. Actually, he's not at all predictable. In a lesser film, upon discovering the theft of material he would simply explode, screaming his lungs out at everyone in sight. Watch the finesse with which he handles the situation here, and you will witness a marriage of great writing and direction (by John Frankenheimer).

That's not to say that Sammy isn't a hothead. As played by Rooney, in a grand, scenery-chewing performance, he is a man so determined to win the undying love of all his fans that he will go to any extreme in achieving that end. Torme demonstrates great acting potential in the role of the spineless brother. His final on-camera breakdown is amazing. O'Brien has perhaps the film's most difficult role, walking a very narrow tightrope and pulling it off marvelously. The most amazing part of the production is the fact that it was filmed live, with no second chances. The actors were obviously comfortable with their assignments, as they were able to move past plain remembrance of lines and create expressions, gestures, etc. "The Comedian" stands as a testament to the capability of television to tell stories in an equally compelling manner as theatrical films.


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