Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show
50 Years Ago

Today is the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. That evening 74 million Americans tuned in, about 60% of all TVs in the U.S. Time Entertainment has an interesting article about the event.

To commemorate the event, Ed Sullivan Theater (where the David Letterman show is taped) has a replica of the sign outside the theater that evening. I stopped by and took a few photos. Post production, I thought that black and white was most appropriate and I used Topaz B&W Effects software. The software has a number of nice features such as film grain replication to make the digital print look like it came from a film negative. I used Kodak Tri-X, my favorite film in the 1970s. Beatles-Ed-Sullivan-Show-2-14


Sullivan’s show ran from 1949-1971. My parents, like may households in the U.S., had the TV tuned in to his show on Sunday nights. I remember watching his show as a kid in Topeka, Kansas; I thought he had strange mannerisms and looked very uncomfortable in front of a camera. However, what he lacked in charisma, he made up with his ability to spot upcoming talent. From Wikipedia:

“Sullivan appeared to the audience as an average guy who brought the great acts of show business to their home televisions. “Ed Sullivan will last”, comedian Fred Allen said, “as long as someone else has talent”, and frequent guest Alan King said “Ed does nothing, but he does it better than anyone else in television.” He had a newspaperman’s instinct for what the public wanted, and programmed his variety hours with remarkable balance. There was something for everyone.”

Those were the days of three choices on TV (four including PBS) and Sullivan had immense power. “He was regarded as a kingmaker, and performers considered an appearance on his program as a guarantee of stardom,” according to Wikipedia.

Virtually every type of performer appeared on the show from opera singers, comedians, circus acts, dramatic actors. Sullivan also featured ballet, allowing the art form to enter millions of homes. I went on YouTube and found several examples. The first is Fonteyn and Nureyev performing Swan Lake in 1965; the second is Natalia Makarova and Ted Kivitt of ABT performing a very abbreviated version from Swan Lake in 1970; the third is The Joffrey Ballet in Viva Vivaldi.