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Crosby and Sinatra on the Road to Morroco!

Air Date: October 13, 1957

Notable Cast

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Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Bob hope were among the biggest stars of classic TV, film and radio in 1957. They appear here on “The Edsel Show” on CBS on October 13, 1957

In this classic TV clip from “The Edsel Show” on October 13, 1957, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra team to sing the theme from the 1942 Bing Crosby/Bob Hope film, The Road to Morocco. Part of a longer song and dance skit pairing Sinatra and Crosby, this final vignette gets interrupted by Hope, the show’s “Special Guest.”

The classic video clip establishes a format that all three entertainers would use on television specials throughout the next 25 years. Early television, like the clip above, often was performed live. Like radio, the new medium of television brought stars into people’s living rooms. These performers recognized that this sense of ease and familiarity would serve them well with audiences.

The celebrities trade topical patter focused on current pop-culture events. Unlike the films they starred in, early television allowed them this kind of immediacy in their scripts and improvisations. It takes a sharp ear and a sense of 1957 current events to understand the jokes.

Bob Hope begins by complaining that Sinatra has taken over his role from the picture and says, “Dean wouldn’t do this to Jerry.” Many people can reach back into their memories and recall that the remark relates to the break-up of the comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis that had taken place in 1956.

Few, however, can understand the public shock and celebrity gossip that resulted from that break-up at that time. Martin and Lewis had starred in 16 films from 1949-56, all of them successful. They were among the first comedy acts to find comfort in the medium of television, and their “Colgate Comedy Hour” was a huge ratings success from 1950-55.

Later, Crosby jokes that Hope was not invited because he assumed that Hope went on “the Russian Moon.” It is only later that it becomes clear that the joke refers to the launch of the Russian satellite, Sputnik a little over a week before the show was taped. The Russians had succeeded in putting the first manmade artificial satellite in earth orbit. The event was a very sobering moment for the U.S. as America feared falling technologically behind their Communist rivals. That single event helped propel the U.S. space program forward and gave it greater urgency in the minds of Americans. This simple joke helped dispel public anxiety over this recent frightening news.

The three celebrities quickly lighten the mood by making a reference to “Marlon’s recent wedding.” This reference points to the wedding of Marlon Brando and Anna Kashfi, which had taken place just two days earlier. Again, it is hard for the modern viewer to truly grasp the pop-culture shockwaves that this marriage caused. The couple had married secretly in Brando’s aunt’s living room on October 11, 1957. The bride claimed to be the daughter of a well-known Indian architect named Devi Kashfi. Brando was one of America’s biggest movie stars in 1957 and considered by some to be its greatest actor. After being nominated in for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1952 (A Streetcar Named Desire), ’53 (Viva Zapata!) and ’54 (Julius Caesar), Brando finally won the award in 1955 (On the Waterfront).

One day after the marriage, William and Phoebe O’Callaghan claimed that Anna Kashfi was their daughter, and that she had been raised in India by them until Anna was 13. They had then moved to Cardiff, Wales where she was raised. Documents backed up their account, but Anna claimed the couple were her stepparents, and that she was the product of an illicit affair between Devi Kashi and a woman named Selma Ghose. To this day, Anna Kashfi’s background has never been resolved, and in the long run it mattered little as the couple separated just 11 months later.

Of course, Sinatra, Hope and Crosby all plug other upcoming projects, a valuable opportunity for the stars. This early, groundbreaking show set the template for many shows to follow and lead to Crosby signing a contract for several other specials in the coming years. Classic TV video clips like this show how early TV found its footing, and why these stars dominated the airwaves for the next 20 years.

Additional Resources

King of the Road

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