American Masters: Season 26, Episode 5

Johnny Carson: King of Late Night (14 May 2012)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary, Biography
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 421 users  
Reviews: 8 user | 3 critic

Chronological look at the life and career of Johnny Carson (1925-2005), with commentary from an ex-wife and more than 30 fellow comedians, friends, employees, and biographers. The biography... See full summary »


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Episode credited cast:
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Himself (archive footage)
Jack Bailey ...
Himself (archive footage)
Herself (archive footage)
Michael Barrie ...
Himself - Tonight Show Writer (as Mike Barrie)
Ginny Beauregard ...
Herself - Personal Assistant
Himself (archive footage)
Paul Block ...
Himself - Talent Coordinator
Himself (archive footage)
Vicki Budinger ...
Herself (archive footage) (as Miss Vicki)
Himself (archive footage)
Catherine Carson ...
Herself (archive footage) (as Katherine Carson)


Chronological look at the life and career of Johnny Carson (1925-2005), with commentary from an ex-wife and more than 30 fellow comedians, friends, employees, and biographers. The biography defines why Carson was an enduring star (his cool, his timing, his genuine laugh, his breadth of knowledge) and pursues his motivations and inner self (a loner with a drinking problem, a decent Midwesterner whose mother withheld approval, a quiet person who loved to entertain). The key to understanding him, argues the biography, is his love of magic. Written by <>

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Release Date:

14 May 2012 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


Johnny's yacht was named "Serengeti," which was prominently featured in the last fifteen minutes of the documentary, with many shots of him aboard the yacht, with the yacht name in several of the photographs. See more »


Features The Johnny Carson Show (1955) See more »


One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)
Written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer
Performed by Bette Midler
See more »

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User Reviews

Great Look at the Late Night King
17 May 2012 | by (Louisville, KY) – See all my reviews

American Masters: Johnny Carson: King of Late Night (2012)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Very good entry in the long-running series takes a look at the life and career of Johnny Carson. The two-hour documentary covers a wide range of topics including Caron's early work in magic, his Omaha, NE days, his moves to Los Angeles, a couple failed television shows, his game show and finally his thirty-year run as host of The Tonight Show. Through interviews and archival footage we're told the ups and downs of Carson's career. It's said that Carson was one of the most loved figures in television history and that certainly appears to be the case simply by how many people turned up to be interviewed for this. Jay Leno, David Letterman, Arsenio Hall, Conan O'Brien, Drew Carey, Jerry Seinfield, Angie Dickinson, Joan Rivers, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Steve Martin and Dick Cavett are just a few of the familiar faces who show up to talk about what Carson meant to them. It's really amazing that it took so long for American Masters to do a documentary on the legend but they really haven't let you down as the film is certainly well produced and director Peter Jones did a fantastic job at putting it together. What I really enjoyed is how we'd get the biography of Carson's life and then while we're told the stories we'd get a cut to a Tonight Show clip where he's joking about it. As someone who didn't grow up with Carson I found the clips to be incredibly funny and I think the film really got across what made him so special with so many people.

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