Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bewitched Bothered And Bewildered: Ella 1957

Ella sang this on the Nat King Cole show on 9/10/1957
from classic-tv
The show featured some of the era's biggest stars sharing the stage with Cole, who was himself one of the top talents of his day. But television executives, wary of a backlash from an America still deeply divided along racial lines, took pains to put distance between Cole and his white female guests.
While NBC was willing to keep the show going, Cole decided to call it quits after fourteen months on the air. Two factors influenced his decision. First, the network wanted to move the show from Tuesdays at 7:30 to Saturdays at 7:00. Nat felt the move wouldn't help his ratings, since in some areas, the program would air at 6:00 or even 5:00. The other reason was that he didn't feel comfortable asking his guest stars to work for practically nothing. "You can wear out your welcome," he commented. "People get tired if you never stop begging."
When the show folded, Cole and NBC expressed some optimism about reviving it if a national sponsor could be found, but that never happened. The next African American to try hosting a program was Sammy Davis Jr. in 1966, but low ratings forced him off the air after less than four months. It wasn't until The Flip Wilson Show came along in 1970 that a variety show hosted by a black entertainer became an unqualified success.
But Nat King Cole was the trail blazer. "I was the pioneer, the test case, the Negro first," he wrote. "I didn't plan it that way, but it was obvious to anyone with eyes to see that I was the only Negro on network television with his own show. On my show rode the hopes and fears and dreams of millions of people." It was a dream deferred, but one that eventually came true.

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