The way that gas prices are going up and as more people are trying to find ways to cuts costs I can’t help but think of the 1979 movie “Americathon.” The films premise is that sometime in the near future, the USA has run out of oil, and many Americans are literally living in their now stationary cars and either jog or ride bicycles to travel. The federal government, now moved to Marina del Rey, California, is near bankruptcy as the dollar is worthless. The President, played by John Ritter, hires celebrity Monty Rushmore (Harvey Korman) to host a telethon to raise money in gold. It seems that no matter how difficult situations became Americans refused to give up watching television. The movie starred not only John Ritter and Harvey Korman but Fred Willard, Peter Riegert, Nancy Morgan, Elvis Costello, Jay Leno, Meat Loaf, and Tommy Lasorda. (Don’t look for it on DVD since it never has been released.)
One of my favorite scenes is when Harvey Korman sings to the TV audience ” give us all your gold.. gold ..gold.” Proving that he could do both comedy, dance and sing. He was very talented.
I was shocked to see that Harvey Korman has taken his Final Taxi at the age of 81. He left a litany of characters behind but the one he will be most remembered for is that of Hedy.. sorry that’s Hedley Lamarr in Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles. He also spent 10 years on The Carol Burnett Show developing hundreds of personalities for the series. For these zany characterizations, Korman was nominated seven times for Emmys for his television work and won four. He also was nominated for four Golden Globe awards, winning one.
Harvey Herschel Korman was born in Chicago on February 15, 1927. He started acting in school plays in kindergarten was hire by a local radio station while in high school. Leaving college for service in the United States Navy, Korman later resumed his studies at the Goodman School of Drama at the Chicago Art Institute.
He moved to New York and could not find work “on Broadway, on off-Broadway, under or beside Broadway,” he told a reporter in 1971.
In the early 60’s, moving back to Chicago Korman worked as a movie theater doorman for three years before getting his show-business break with Danny Kaye. Relocationing to Hollywood and began working regularly on “The Danny Kaye Show” in 1964. He stayed with the show until its cancellation in 1967, the year that he joined the cast of The Carol Burnett Show in its first season. He worked along side Burnett as well as Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner. (Conway and he would have a friendship and partnership that lasted till Korman’s death.)
Korman also did voice-over work on commercials and cartoons like Tom and Jerry but animation fans will remember him as the Great Gazoo on The Flintstones. The October 29, 1965 episode of The Flintstones introduced a little helmeted spaceman from the future consigned to the Earth’s past in punishment for his crimes. The alien would show up in 10 shows and in the live action movies as well all with Korman as the voice.
Korman made more than 30 films, including four comedies directed by funnyman Mel Brooks, who first discovered him when his wife, the late Anne Bancroft, saw him on “The Carol Burnett Show” and said he was perfect for his upcoming movie 1974’s “Blazing Saddles.” It would be one of Korman’s best known roles in films as he played the leering mayor Hedley Lamarr — who couldn’t stand people calling him Hedy.
Other Brooks comedies included “High Anxiety”, “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” and “The History of the World Part I” where he played the evil Count de Monet.
He also appeared in the “Pink Panther” movies Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983).
As well, he was in the movies Gypsy, Huckleberry Finn (as the King) and Herbie Goes Bananas, and the TV-movie Bud and Lou (as Bud Abbott opposite Buddy Hackett’s Lou Costello).
Korman guest-starred in dozens of TV series, including The Donna Reed Show, Dr. Kildare, Perry Mason, Burke’s Law, The Wild Wild West, The Muppet Show, The Love Boat and The Roseanne Show.
For about the last eight years, until late last December, Harvey Korman teamed up with his old TV partner, Tim Conway and they toured the country in a stage show that, more than anything, was a homage to their years with Burnett. They performed about 120 shows a year.