The Hollywood Palace, Etc.

"Music Hath Charms"

“Music Hath Charms”

Today, I have a whole bunch of Muppet variety show appearances from 1966-1967 to make up for my lack of this sort of footage for the previous decade, each of them fantastic in their own right, most of them musical, and two of them ending with Kermit being devoured by a monster (well, technically three, but as it turns out, one of these sketches was a recycling of a previous one), one of Jim’s signature sketch-ending touches.

 

We start out at The Hollywood Palace, a weekly show that was broadcast from the ABC Palace Theatre in Hollywood on Saturday nights. The Muppets appeared on the show twice, and I was lucky enough to be able to get both clips. The first was filmed on March 19, 1966, which feels fitting to me in particular because it happened on the day of the year that would be my birthday…15 years later, that is, in 1981. Introduced by the show’s host for the evening, Robert Goulet, this first sketch is entitled “Music Hath Charms,” and it’s about Kermit trying to use music to calm the hungers of various monsters who otherwise threaten to eat him. The first is the relatively small Snerf–who we saw in the Ideal Toys commercial the day before yesterday–who looks a bit like a very fuzzy tarantula, until his Jack-in-the-Box head pops up. Each successive monster is larger and larger, and yet each song Kermit chooses to play–including some classical music, “Tea for Two,” and others–eventually does the trick. Until, that, is he stops playing and, in a perfect Muppet switcheroo, the piano itself is revealed to have been a monster-in-hiding all along. And because Kermit has stopped playing, this savage beast is awakened once more, and he gobbles up our poor green guy. You can watch it here at about the 9:50 mark.

 

"Inchworm" on The Jack Paar Show

“Inchworm” on The Jack Paar Show

The next Hollywood Palace episode, hosted by Fred Astaire, is from just over a month later–April 30–and it’s pretty much an exact recreation of the “Glow Worm” sketch they did on The Jack Paar Program in December 1964. Kermit remains more froggy here than before in action yet still not physically, lacking both collar and flippers. You can watch it here.

 

And now we fast forward three more months to July 20, 1966 for The Mike Douglas Show. Jim and the Muppets actually appeared on the show for 4 days in a row, but I unfortunately was only able to find a few minutes of this one episode. In this segment, Florence Henderson, another guest on the episode, sings “My Funny Valentine” to Kermit (after being apparently startled out of her mind by him creeping up behind her), a sweet little moment that foreshadows many similar lovely musical moments between Kermit and a guest star on The Muppet Show–Kermit’s facial reactions throughout are particularly wonderful and expressive and demonstrate why celebs would come to love interacting with him so much. Florence even surprises him with a kiss on the lips. You can see the whole song here.

 

In that same episode, Jim also performed a Limbo the Floating Face sketch. Interestingly, although I couldn’t find footage of the full sketch, I found a Limbo-less version of the short film that was projected behind the puppet, along with Jim’s voiceover. In case you don’t recall, Limbo was arguably Jim’s most abstract puppet, composed only of eyes and a mouth made of string, and manipulated with invisible wires, and first premiered at the Food Fair in Germany. In this sketch, Jim would have operated Limbo in front of the following filmed background footage:

 

 

What I find particularly nifty about it is that it shows off Jim’s artsier side but at the same time is very accessible and funny–a really clever visualization of the struggle that all creative people go through when trying to come up with an idea. It’s also nifty to spot all the blink-and-you-miss-them “ideas” that pop up for split seconds, from JFK to Kermit and Yorick!

 

And now we jump forwards another two months to September 18th, when Jim and the Muppets made their first of what would be many appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show in a really impressive little piece in which Ed takes out a small box that he says Jim gave him before the show, telling him it was a “rock n’ roll band in a box”. He takes out a small bit of fur, which in a really neat, unfolding illusion, eventually grows into an abstract musical instrument that’s soon revealed to be in the hands of a monster, which keeps growing until it has three heads, many arms, and numerous instruments, lip-syncing to The Bruthers’ “Rock It to Me”. Eventually, it starts to shrink and fold up again, until it’s finally just a tiny piece of fur again. I don’t have a link to share for this one, sadly, but this is what the monster looks like:

 

"Rock n' Roll Monster"

“Rock n’ Roll Monster”

 

And the last sketch I watched for today aired on Ed Sullivan on January 15th of the next year, and, as I indicated before, it’s a repeat of “Music Hath Charms,” but with some interesting differences. For one, it’s a bit shorter and tighter. The sketch skips Snerf now and jumps right to the second monster. Also, Kermit has many more funny, seemingly ad-libbed interjections which make it even more entertaining. Although I have to admit, I do kind of miss Snerf. You can judge for yourself here.

 

And tomorrow, more commercials from 1967!

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