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IMOGENE COCA - A LOOK BACK

 

When most people talk about Sid Caesar, they are compelled to mention Imogene Coca's name in the same breath. Their comedic teamwork on the "Admiral Broadway Revue," "Your Show of Shows," and numerous night club acts made them one of the most famous television couples that ever graced the small screen. From 1949 until 1954, almost everybody who owned a television in America reserved Saturday nights for Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca.

When Imogene Coca passed away recently, Hollywood lost one of the true legends who helped pioneer television comedy. On a more personal level, Sid Caesar lost the friend and actor with whom his career is forever linked. When Sid first learned of Imogene's death, he fondly remembered, "All the wonderful times we shared together meant the world to me. It was a pleasure working with her. I will miss her dearly." That was the official statement Sid released to the press.

We thought fans of Imogene Coca would like read some of the memories we gathered about her when we were interviewing Sid and his dream team of comedy for the Sid Caesar Collection and "Hail Sid Caesar! The Golden Age of Comedy."

Sid Caesar:
"When I first met Imogene Coca, it was up at NBC. We all got together to take a picture for the Admiral Broadway revue. I had never heard of her. I wasn't in show business that much and I'm not a show business person, but as soon as I started to talk to her and we started to talk about sketches she was right there. For some reason there was very little conversation between us. When we weren't working, we wouldn't say that much to each other. However, when we would rehearse, she would almost feel what I was going to do and I would feel what she was going to do.

"If I found something, she would stand there and let me go and if she found something I would stand there and let her adlib. We complimented each other. We weren't in competition and that was real."

"Imogene was a tiny lady. She must have weighed 85-90 pounds, she was about 4'5 or 6, she was very petite. She loved the musical theater and actresses like Helen Hayes. Imogene was something that was special and when we worked together it was just magic and you don't question the magic. There was no one like her back then. She was one of a kind. Imogene was one of the first female comediennes on television."

Carl Reiner:
"Imogene was the perfect foil for Sid Caesar. They never spoke, never conversed off camera but as soon as they were on camera they knew who they were, it was an incredible symbiotic thing that happened. I used to call Coca the strongest human being I ever met. She was a frail little thing. She could work longer and harder. While we did our sketches she was in most sketches we did, She was also doing dance numbers. The full chorus of dancers behind her and singing and never got tired. She was, is a phenomenon."


Danny Simon:
"Imogene was a true lady. Even though we all in the room would say anything that came to our minds, a lot of times it was language. She would never join in that language. However, when she got into character she could mix it up with Sid, Carl, and/or Howie. She was hysterical!"

Howard Morris:
"Imogene was wonderful. She was a lady who was a real pro. She had had three careers before she ever met up with us. She had been in films and on Broadway. Sid and her had instant chemistry. Whenever Sid and Imogene played the Hickenloopers, there was a chemical and personal involvement between them. They were both bringing their sadness about marriage to the screen with each other. There was a deep connection between them that audiences fell in love with."

Larry Gelbart:
"I can tell you that Imogene Coca was enormously talented, but I can also tell you I didn't work with her. I was a fan of her work with Sid on "Your Show of Shows." She was the Mary Pickford to his Douglas Fairbanks. They were ideally suited. The proof is in the kinescopes. The proof is in the tapes. What they did a half-century ago now still holds up. What they did is beautiful comedy teamwork."

Neil Simon:
"Imogene, as I recall, wasn't truly funny in the room. She was a great laugher and appreciated all the material. She shined once she got out on the stage. Give her a pantomime like a ballerina and she would do a classic ballerina with everything wrong. All the pantomimes, so many pantomimes she and Sid, they were brilliant in that. She was a classic."

Woody Allen:
"I saw Sid and Imogene at Michael's Pub, a place where I used to play the jazz clarinet, and they were doing a show. This was not that long ago, within the last ten years or something. They were both dazzling. Really hilarious."

Streaming Video

To choose a clip for the website, we ask Sid to pick his favorite sketch that he performed with Imogene. While he had so many favorites, he particularly loved performing pantomimes with her. The 1812 overture is probably their most famous pantomime. Sid and Imogene play the percussion section of an orchestra performing the Tchiakovsky epic. We hope you enjoy.

Real Video:
1812 Overture (high quality)
1812 Overture (low quality)