From the Internet Archive copy of the December 14, 1952 episode of the Colgate Comedy Hour starring Abbott & Costello.

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, the Nicholas Brothers, began their careers at the Standard Theater in Philadelphia. Both parents were members of the house band, and the brothers grew up watching vaudeville acts come and go from front row seats.

Neither boy had formal training but were schooled by the many of the greatest African-American entertainers of their time. They performed regionally until 1932, when at the age of 11 and 18 years, they were hired to perform at the Cotton Club in Harlem alongside the likes of Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and tap legend Bill Robinson.

Throughout the thirties and into the forties the Nicholas brothers appeared in many Hollywood shorts, and had featured roles in several major movies. The peak of their film success came in the 1943 all-black film, Stormy Weather. Their performance in that film has been deemed, “the greatest dance number ever filmed” by Fred Astaire.

Although their dance genre is clearly linked to tap, the Nicholas brothers invented and perfected a dance form that combined classical tap, jazz, acrobatics and amazing athleticism. Mikhail Baryshnikov declared the Nicholas Brothers to be, “the most amazing dancers I have ever seen in my life — ever … Those guys are perfect examples of pure genius.”

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The Nicholas Brothers Dance!

Air Date: December 14, 1952

Notable Cast

Tap Dancing Legend, Bill Bailey, performs

Bill Bailey Moonwalks

The dancer who taught Michael Jackson to moonwalk in a rare film appearance! Tap dance pioneer Bill Bailey performs on the Harlem Variety Review in the early 1950’s and demonstrates the move he called, The Backslide,” later renamed “The Moonwalk,” by Michael Jackson.

Count Basie

Basie Back to Back

A rare classic TV appearance of Count Basie with a small 6-piece band in 1955 on the Harlem Variety Review. Basie and his group perform two short pieces.

Joel Grey

Joel Grey Entertains!

While performing with his father’s act, “Borscht Capades” at the Roosevelt Theatre in Florida, actor, singer, comedian Joel Grey was first noticed by Eddie Cantor. Cantor invited Grey, 19 years old, to perform with him on The Colgate Comedy Hour as a new upcoming talent. Grey appeared on April 1, 1951, his first classic television appearance.