"The Toast of the Town" was not only the name of the original show, but it could aptly describe the man himself. The beloved image of TV variety from 1948 to 1971 on CBS, Ed Sullivan, born on September 28, 1901, originally made his name as a newspaper sportswriter, radio broadcaster and theater columnist for the New York Daily News. His column focused primarily on Broadway shows and juicy items about its stars.
Hired in 1932 by the CBS network as a rival of radio commentator Walter Winchell, future radio stars introduced on Sullivan's program included Jack Benny. Sullivan made his film debut as himself in Mr. Broadway (1933), which he also wrote. His subsequent screenplay and story involvements included the screwy comedy There Goes My Heart (1938) and the Universal musical Ma! He's Making Eyes at Me (1940).
So successful was he on radio that CBS hired him to do "The Ed Sullivan Show" (1948) also called "The Toast of the Town", just as TV sets were becoming a home staple. The show, which balanced amazing novelty acts with singing and comedy talents, both legendary and up-and-coming, was broadcast from CBS Studio 50 on Broadway in New York City. In 1967 the studio was aptly renamed the Ed Sullivan Theater. As of this writing, it is the home for David Letterman's late-night show.
Although Sullivan himself had zilch stage or camera presence and had an unlikely habit of forgetting performers' names as he was about to present them, audiences were taken by his charming idiosyncrasies and mellow, almost funereal approach. He and the show became a resounding success. Moreover, Sullivan had a knack for identifying talent, and his Sunday night variety platform became a springboard for a number of stars, including comics Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis and singers Elvis Presley and The Beatles. He also was color blind when it came to talent, generously promoting a number of black crossover acts, such as The Supremes and other Motown artists, when few other TV shows would.
Sullivan appeared as himself in such films as Bye Bye Birdie (1963), The Patsy (1964) and The Singing Nun (1966), among others. The irrepressibly stiff, hunch-shouldered emcee was unmercifully parodied by a parade of impressionists over the decades, including Will Jordan, John Byner and David Frye.
Sullivan died in his beloved New York of esophageal cancer in 1974, three years after the cancellation of his series. (Thanks to: Gary Brumburgh / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Some tributes to Ed Sullivan and his famous show...
And now...a walk down Memory Lane...
Be sure to visit the page dedicated to Ed Sullivan. (Link)
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