Sunday, January 18, 2015

Speaking of the Marx Brothers...

TONIGHT: America After Dark (NBC, Jan-July 1957) is pretty much regarded as one of television's great disasters.  After Steve Allen and Ernie Kovacs gave up their respective hosting duties of the original TONIGHT! at the end of 1956, NBC's Pat Weaver tried turning it into a nocturnal TODAY show, with news, interviews and on-the-spot reporting of the country's night life, from coast-to-coast.  Unfortunately, most of America had little interest in seeing what celebrities were up to while the rest of us working stiffs prepared to turn in.  Ratings plummeted, and the network opted to get back to the original format of variety and talk, tapping Jack Paar to host.  America After Dark went to that cathode ray graveyard where few have mourned it since.

One segment, however, is hotly desired by classic comedy fans.  Chico Marx of the Marx Brothers had been touring in a play, Sylvia Regan's The Fifth Season, and he and the stock company would appear in Los Angeles beginning Monday evening, February 18.  His four younger brothers, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo, would be in the audience, and NBC arranged for cameras and one of their emcees to be in Chico's dressing room for an informal post-performance reunion.

To date, a kinescope has failed to turn up; all that exists are these five photographs taken during the course of the segment (or perhaps just before/after its telecast).  Considering its plugging by newspaper TV columnists, who ordinarily had no interest in this show, it's entirely possible that someone, somewhere has a reel of audiotape with the soundtrack.  Check your archives, folks!