Dean Martin's contract stipulated that he was only required to work on Sundays. This necessitated that blocking the camera setups and rehearsals be done on Saturdays. It also meant that guest stars rehearse with Lee Hale standing in for Martin. On Sundays, Martin would usually work less than four hours and leave the set before taping was wrapped. See more »
One Take Dino is what the man was known as. I'm surprised it took him so long to find his proper niche as host and lead performer of one of the last and most popular variety shows ever. If Dean Martin wanted it and was still with us today, he'd probably still have that variety show which morphed into the roasts. He was that popular.
Martin was legendary for doing everything in one take and whether he missed the lines on the cue cards, he just kept on going and grinning. It was part of the charm of the show. But Dean wanted to get out on the links for some golf or a little serious imbibing. What was important in life.
The Dean Martin Show was one of the last television variety shows and one of the best. That format is gone now, performing nowadays just doesn't lend itself to that kind of format and that's a pity. The only time you really see it is on those telethons that Jerry Lewis, Dean's erstwhile partner is the master of. Lewis had a variety show also, but it never got the popularity of Dino's.
The best talent in the world appeared on that show. Where else could you have a variety show that would first feature Orson Welles doing a speech from Falstaff and then a trio number with Dean Martin and James Stewart? Those are priceless moments.
Back in the day Dean's equivalent would be Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall on radio. Bing had the first hour long variety show when Kraft Music Hall debuted in 1936. Stars from film and the legitimate stage as well as musical performers all vied to appear on Kraft. Like Dino on television, Bing was so relaxed and informal he put them all at ease and they performed some really silly skits quite charmingly.
On the liner notes to one of his albums Bing said of Dean Martin that while he had the reputation of being a relaxed and natural performer, this lasagna lover from Steubenville made him look like a Prussian drillmaster. Truer words were never written and with such affection.
When the variety show morphed into the roasts I remember the critics were savage in their condemnation. The humor was juvenile, puerile, in bad taste and terribly politically incorrect. Yet the best in show business continued to appear on them. Today DVDs and VHSs of them are big sellers.
I do miss variety shows like we had back when I was a lad. But we'd have to have people like Dean Martin to host them and perform. They're not common things we find now.
But if you want it to happen, keep those cards and letters coming in. Somewhere Dean Martin will appreciate it.
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