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Ed Sullivan and the 1950s
Transcript of Ed Sullivan and the 1950s
Yuxuan Gao TMA - 3
At a Glance
Ed Sullivan was the host to the famous 50s' TV series, "The Ed Sullivan Show". It was the longest- running variety program in TV history. The show ran for 23 years, and between 45 million to 50 million people watched it weekly on Sunday night.
The show was known for its wide range of acts. Suliivan provided a lot of the stars at that time the opportunity to perform and be broadcasted through TV. Sullivan presided over many “firsts” on American television. He introduced America to differnet types of "culture", such as ballet, opera, classical music, and Broadway shows. In a sense, he became the taste of America. Artists that made it to the "Ed Sullivan Show" were viewed to be at the peakpoint of their respective field.
Four time Tony Award winner, Gwen Verdon perfoming at the show
Canadian comedy duo, Wayne & Shuster. They performed a total of 58 times on the show.
With the uprising of the show, America stepped into the TV era and slowly abandoned radios. Families were no longer dependent on radio for news and entertainment, instead, they possessed technology that provided a screen for visional.
TVs were also at a affordable price. Mass production minimized the price per unit， and allowed an average- income American to purchase one.
TV became the fastest way to spread information among the public. TV commercials became extremely successful and popular.
Post World War II, Americans wanted to live a life of peace and calm. A typical American had simple disires such as, getting married, buy a house, and make children, etc. Their desire was fulfilled by William Levitt and his Levittown, a mass estate project to build simple houses catering a small family at a low price. America responded to this project well, and it was successful for Levitt in everyway.
The problem with Levittown was that it was too common. It offered what the people wanted, but at the same time imposed
onto the people. And because USA was a nation that thrived on being superior than others, Americans soon diverged from being "common" to each other. Americans, especially the teenagers, wanted to experience something more exciting, something different than before.
Literature and Its Effects
Portrait of Ed Sullivan
Ed Sullivan and the Beatles
Ed Sullivan Show Logo
Jim Henseon and his Muppet shows
Family listening to radio
Family watching TV
Advertisement for TV
On The Road, by Jack Kerouac
Neon Logo, Blues
Portrait of William Levitt
Inside design of a typical Levittown house
Levittown in the early 1950s
Americans' desire to be unqiue and special
The book, "On the Road", depicts a cross-America road trip story of author Jack Kerouac and his friend. The plot was adventurous and differed from the "standard", "boring" American life style at that time. The book was really popular, especially among the teenagers, because it triggered their desire to disobey their parents and live a life of uniqueness.
"On the Road" cover
Around the same time when
On the Road
was published, a new style of music got introduced into the mainstream American culture. People began to explore black blue music, and really liked the rythm and tune it offered. However, because it was in the 1950s, blues was not recognized officially due its connection with the black community. What America really was seeking is a artist who was white, but sang like a black man. This was also the reason why Elvis Presley became so successful in the Rock and Roll era.
Muddy Waters, early American blues singer
Little Richard, one of the pioneers who laid the foundation for Rock and Roll
Chuck Berry, also one of the pioneers to Rock and Roll
Elvis' first single, That's All Right
Dancing and shaking his inner thigh
Crowned as the "King of Rock and Roll", Elvis Presley was regarded as one of the most significant icons of the 20th century. He not only brought Rock and Roll into mainstream American culture, but also changed the so-called "American Dream”.
Elvis' on stage performance often include intense shaking of his inner thigh and legs, which was considered revolutionary at that time. His first 1954 hit, "Thats Alright", was a blast in the music industry-- people loved him, especially the girls. Later on in his career, female audience came to his show just to see him, rather than listening to the music. He became a icon of sexiness among the girls, and the ultimately representation of heteorosexuality. He encouraged teenagers to disobey their parents, and step into the "wonderland”.
Girls screaming at a Presley performance
Ed Sullivan actually did not like the way Elvis performed, with intense body movement, so he spurned down any request from the management to invite Elvis on stage. He was a strong antagonist against Elvis. However, because Elvis was so popular and so influential, the management had to force Ed to invite Elvis. Ed agreed, on the terms that the show will be filmed from waist up. Elvis performed at the "Ed Sullivan Show" a total of three times, each time attracting more than 80% TV owners.
Elvis on the "Ed Sullivan Show"
Elvis was essentially viewed as a white man singing black music, which was exactly who Americans wanted. His openness in body expressions and lyrics aroused American's desire to be unique and the concept of individuality, and he satisfied the needs of the American public. Moreover, his music aroused America's sexual desire. People no longer lived in the post war alertness, rather moved on to what they considered to be "cool" and mainstream.