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Of Thee I Sing (1972)

CBS' updated version of the classic Gershwin musical, cast largely with stars who were all appearing in then-current CBS television series.


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Credited cast:
... John P. Wintergreen
... Mary Turner
... Alexander Throttlebottom
... Diana Devereaux
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
... Senator Robert F. Lyons
... Francis X. Gilhooley
Bob Duggan ... Senate Clerk
... Louis Lippman
Paul Hartman ... Chief Justice
Shirley Kirkes ... Miss Benson
Garrett Lewis ... Sam Jenkins
... Hotel Chambermaid
... Matthew Fulton
Ted Zeigler ... White House Guide


CBS' updated version of the classic Gershwin musical, cast largely with stars who were all appearing in then-current CBS television series.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Musical





Release Date:

24 October 1972 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The musical play was actually written for the The Marx Brothers, but they had to bow out because at the time the musical was running on Broadway (1932), they were reaching the peak of their motion picture success. See more »


References Mary Tyler Moore (1970) See more »

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User Reviews

Pleasant, but could have been better...
9 January 2004 | by See all my reviews

The 1931 Broadway musical 'Of Thee I Sing' was a landmark in the American theatre. The songs (by the Gershwin brothers) were fully integrated into the script by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, advancing the plot rather than interrupting it. Whereas most other musicals of the 1930s offered frothy escapism, 'Of Thee I Sing' drew bitter satire from the Depression and America's political situation at the time: this was only one of several reasons why 'Of Thee I Sing' was the first musical ever to win the Pulitzer Prize. The original Broadway production featured some vicious humour at the expense of the American political system, such as a chorus line of Supreme Court justices singing "We're the A.K.s who give the O.K.s" ('A.K.' being a Yiddish epithet). It can be argued that 'Of Thee I Sing' is anti-American in its spirit; in fact, author Kaufman refused to sanction a revival of this musical during World War Two, believing that the U.S. government should not be satirised in wartime. Remarkably, the same team that created 'Of Thee I Sing' created a sequel, "Let 'Em Eat Cake", which is even more vicious in its satire ... a musical 'comedy' in which the United States is overthrown by a fascist dictatorship.

Bizarrely, much of the plot in 'Of Thee I Sing' anticipates the shenanigans of the Clinton administration. The President of the United States has a sexual tryst with a Southern woman, who then sues him. Meanwhile, the White House bedrooms are full of people who have made financial contributions to the party in power. There is debate as to whether the First Lady should be politically active, or whether she should stay home and bake muffins...

For various arcane reasons, Hollywood never produced a film version of the original Broadway production of 'Of Thee I Sing'. This 1972 special, aired on CBS television, is therefore extremely important as the nearest thing (by distant default) to a filmed record of the original production.

Carroll O'Connor stars as John P. Wintergreen, a Presidential candidate who campaigns with the slogan 'Wintergreen: The Flavour Lasts'. After the election, he and his wife Mary settle into the White House. O'Connor's singing voice is well-suited to the material, and he clearly relishes this opportunity to demonstrate that his acting range doesn't stop with Archie Bunker. Jack Gilford is perfectly cast as Alexander Throttlebottom, the Vice President who is such a non-entity that he can only get into the White House by joining a guided tour.

This tv special heavily abridges the original Broadway libretto, cutting out most of the pointed satire about 1930s politics, and retaining only the most generic gags about politicians. A few new jokes have been inserted, but they add no wit or hilarity to the proceedings. For example, when Gilford takes a roll call of the Senate, the senator from Alaska hugs himself as if he is freezing. (If he's this cold in Washington DC, how will he feel back in his home state?)

The biggest flaw in this tv special was some network executive's stupid decision to load the cast with cameo appearances by several actors who were in the casts of programmes running on CBS-TV at this time. Their presence adds absolutely nothing to this special, and they distract from the subject matter.

In some alternate universe, a video company is selling copies of the 1933 movie version of 'Of Thee I Sing', starring William Gaxton and Victor Moore in their Broadway roles. Unfortunately, in *our* universe, that movie was never made. This 1972 tv version is small comfort indeed, but it's all we've got. I'll rate this so-so special 6 points out of 10, mostly for the historical significance of its source material.

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