DURANTE TV APPEARANCES AS REGULAR HOST
The fall of 1950 saw a large number of radio stars moving to television with all its visual opportunities and challenges. For Durante this meant his greatest strength, his nightclub and vaudeville experience, could be put to good use, routines and charisma not limited to the spoken word. He could throw pieces of the piano at his drummer and strut with Eddie Jackson as in the old days. Lou Clayton, the third part of the vaudeville team of Clayton, Jackson and Durante had died just months before the television debut, and by early 1953 Durante took on a "junior partner," Sonny King. Although neither Eddie Jackson nor Sonny King appeared regularly on Durante's television show, when they did there was a special excitement as old material became new again. For more information see JIMMY DURANTE: HIS SHOW BUSINESS CAREER by David Bakish, Chapter 7 and Appendix D.
FOUR STAR REVUE
First telecast Oct. 4, 1950 on NBC, Wed. 8:00 (time given is always Eastern), 60 min. Jimmy Durante's debut as host was on Nov. 1, 1950. He hosted the show once a month, alternating with Ed Wynn, Danny Thomas, and Jack Carson. The season's initial sponsor was Motorola, joined later by Norge and Pet milk. Durante's guests for this first, 1950-51, season were Helen Traubel (twice), Luba Malina, Don Ameche, Carmen Miranda, Sophie Tucker, Fred Allen, and Eddie Cantor.
ALL STAR REVUE
The show FOUR STAR REVUE was retitled for the 1951- 52 season and moved to Sat. 8:00, 60 min. Durante's role as host continued once a month. Additional comedians hosted: Martha Raye, Olsen & Johnson, Spike Jones, Victor Borge, Bob Hope, the Ritz Brothers, and Paul Winchell. The season premiere, September 8, 1951 included a short segment with Durante on film. When he hosted, the guests included Helen Traubel (twice), Margaret Truman (twice), Ethel Barrymore, Mickey Rooney, Gloria Swanson, and Bette Davis.
ALL STAR REVUE
1952-53 season. Only Durante remained of the original hosts, with other performers starring in single programs: the Ritz Brothers, Dennis Day, Walter O'Keefe, Perry Como, Sonja Henie, and Ben Blue. Durante continued to do the show once a month. The sponsors now were Pet milk, Kellogg's, Del Monte Foods, Band-Aid Plastic Strips, Beacon Wax, and Studebaker. Durante's guests included Margaret Truman, Phil Harris, Lily Pons, Sophie Tucker, Linda Darnell, Vic Damone, Ezio Pinza, Fifi D'Orsay, Helen Traubel, Rose Marie, Gene Fowler.
THE COLGATE COMEDY HOUR
First telecast Sept. 10, 1950, the show lasted through Dec. 25, 1955. NBC, Sun. 8:00, 60 min. Durante was the principal host the 1953-54 season, doing the show once a month. Durante's guests included John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Ethel Merman, Paul Douglas, Eartha Kitt, Tallulah Bankhead, Carol Channing, Eddie Cantor, Robert Montgomery, and Patrice Munsel.
TEXACO STAR THEATER
(Had been hosted by Milton Berle, 1948-53, NBC,Tuesdays, 60 min.) Continued 1954-55 season, Sat. 9:30, 30 min., alternating between THE DONALD O'CONNOR SHOW and THE JIMMY DURANTE SHOW. Durante's first telecast Oct. 2, 1954, live and set in the recreated Club Durant. Durante's guests the 1954-55 season included Donald O'Connor (JD's first show), Jean Hagen and Rusty Hamer (from THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW), Vivian Blaine, Margaret Truman, Lauritz Melchior, George Raft, Marilyn Maxwell, Lisa Kirk, comedienne Pat Carroll, Peter Lawford, Patty Andrews (of the Andrews Sisters), George Jessel, Dorothy Lamour, Janet Blair, Barbara Whiting (sister of Margaret Whiting), and Cass Daley.
TEXACO STAR THEATER
1955-56 season. JD's show, but not Donald O'Connor's show, lasted a second season, through June 2, 1956. Durante now appeared weekly, still NBC, Sat. 9:30, 30 min. Durante's guests this season saw singer Toni Arden, ex-boxing champ Max Baer, Jose and Amparo Iturbi, Carmen Miranda (posthumously), opera star Marguerite Piazza, Jeannie Carson (English singer), Peter Lawford, Peggy Lee, Betty Hutton, Polly Bergen, Vivian Blaine, Jane Froman, George Raft, Tab Hunter, Liberace (twice), Milton Berle, Robert Mitchum, Esther Williams, Charles Laughton, Charles Boyer, Ernest Borgnine, George Jessel, opera star Patrice Munsel, Johnny Ray, Connie Russell, Marilyn Maxwell, and Lisa Kirk.
THE JIMMY DURANTE SHOW
CBS, Sat. 8:00, 30 min. When Durante completed his two-season run for Texaco he bought some or all of those programs, and the live shows preserved as kinescopes ran again June 29 through September 21, 1957, sponsored by Old Gold cigarettes on CBS, summer replacement for Jackie Gleason.
DURANTE TV SPECIALS
AN EVENING WITH DURANTE
Sept. 25, 1959. NBC, Fri. 8:30, 60 min., color. Guests: Lawrence Welk, Sal Mineo, Gisele MacKenzie, Bobby Darin, Ginny Tiu (five-year-old pianist from Hong Kong).
GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROADWAY
Part of NBC's SUNDAY SHOWCASE. Dec. 6, 1959. Sun. 8:00, 60 min., color. Starring Jimmy Durante, with guests Jane Powell, Jimmie Rodgers, Eddie Hodges, Ray Bolger.
THE JIMMY DURANTE SHOW: THE EVOLUTION OF THE AMERICAN HUSBAND
Aug. 9, 1961. NBC, Wed. 10:00, 60 min. Guests: Bob Hope, Garry Moore, Janis Rule.
JIMMY DURANTE MEETS THE LIVELY ARTS
Oct. 30, 1965. ABC, Sat. 9:30, 60 min., color. JD's first TV special in four years. Guests: Max Showalter on Sandy Warlock (painting), Robert Vaughn (drama), Rudolf Nureyev and Lynn Seymour (ballet), The Shindogs (music).
In addition to these Durante specials, an effort was made to do a sitcom, THE JIMMY DURANTE SHOW. A CBS pilot in 1964 failed and was aired as part of a series of failed pilot shows, SUMMER PLAYHOUSE. This episode starring Durante and child star Eddie Hodges was shown on July 18, 1964, CBS, Sat. 9:30, 30 min. The show failed to attract an audience rating or sponsors and was not inserted into that Fall's lineup.
JIMMY DURANTE PRESENTS THE LENNON SISTERS HOUR.
A new weekly musical variety show premiered on ABC, Sept. 26, 1969, Fri. 10:00, 60 min., color. What set this show up was an ABC special on May 6, 1969, THE LENNON SISTERS SHOW, Tues. 10:00, 60 min., color. This preview highlighted the singing talents of the four sisters—Dianne, Peggy, Kathy, and Janet—who had been so popular on THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW, and showed their compatibility with a grandfatherly figure, Jimmy Durante. When the ratings were not as high as hoped for, the show was moved in February 1970 to Saturdays at 9:30, running immediately after Lawrence Welk. The move did not help enough and the show was cancelled at the end of its first and only season. JIMMY DURANTE PRESENTS THE LENNON SISTERS HOUR was a delightful, uplifting and cheerful show that should have succeeded. On the premiere show Jack Benny joined with Durante for their first time together in their long careers. Benny would appear again on the show of Feb. 14, 1970. The many other fine guests during the season included Noel Harrison and Jimmy Dean (both on the premiere show, Dean again on one later show), Glen Campbell, Arte Johnson (twice, from LAUGH-IN), The Lettermen, Joey Bishop, O.C. Smith, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Martha Raye, Buddy Ebsen, Bobby Goldsboro, Bob Hope, Andy Williams, The Osmond Brothers, Danny Thomas, Jimmie Rodgers, Fess Parker, John Byner, Hines Hines and Dad (twice), George Burns, John Gary, Sonny James and his Southern Gentlemen, Kate Smith, Louis Nye, Rosie Grier, Don Ho, Merle Haggard, comic Corbett Monica, Milton Berle, pianist Jo Ann Castle (twice), singer John Stewart, Mike Douglas, Norm Crosby, the folk-singing Stoney Mountain Cloggers (from the Grand Ole Opry). Singled out for special mention: the Christmas show of Dec. 19, 1969. Guests, aside from Lorne Greene, included Jimmy Durante's eight-year-old daughter CeCe, and 25 members of the Lennon family. Also noteworthy was the show the following week that featured Eddie Jackson and Sonny King, as well as Raymond Burr and Al Martino. Adding to the list of guest stars were Mel Torme, Kay Ballard, Monty Hall (whoe LET'S MAKE A DEAL series takes a ribbing), Ed Ames, impressionist David Frye, duo pianists Ferrante & Teicher, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dinah Shore, Walter Brennan, Watts Community Choir, Wayne Newton, Tony Randall, ventriloquist Senor Wences, Leslie Uggams, Vic Damone, Jerry Lewis, Jack Jones, Desi Arnaz, Bobby Goldsboro, Perry Como, John Hartford, comic Charlie Callas, impressionist Rich Little. Reruns of JIMMY DURANTE PRESENTS THE LENNON SISTERS HOUR began April 11, 1970 and ended July 4, 1970.
In addition to all the shows Jimmy Durante hosted on a regular basis he irregularly hosted many others, most notable THE HOLLYWOOD PALACE, ABC'S effort to recapture the feeling of vaudeville as it existed at the famous Palace on Broadway. That program was less successful than CBS' ED SULLIVAN SHOW, on which Durante appeared with his inimitable style and energy, often stealing the show.