The first host of The Tonight Show , as well as an actor, radio personality and star in his own right, Jack Paar was an early TV pioneer who brought Americans many of the century's most fascinating guests: President John F. Kennedy, Judy Garland, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen and other entertainers and public figures who graced his stage. 3 DVDs. 1957-1965/color-b&w/6 hrs., 40 min/NR/fullscreen.
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Jack Parr kept a low public profile after turning over the reigns of The Tonight Show to Johnny Carson in 1962. Thus, his passing in January 2004, did not receive nearly the attention it deserved. The Jack Paar Collection restores the legacy of the talk-show pioneer who brought the art of conversation to the barren landscape of late-night television. But, I kid you not, it is an indispensable time capsule that preserves appearances and performances by politicians, personalities, and entertainers who shaped the 20th century. And Robert Goulet, too. Disc 1 of this three-disc set is an appreciation of Paar that combines vintage clips with reminiscences and insights from the likes of Regis Philbin, Hugh Downs, who served as Paar's announcer, Dick Cavett, one of his writers, and the Smothers Brothers, who were among the legendary performers who made their earliest TV appearances on the Tonight Show stage (there are hilarious clips featuring Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, and, from 1964, Kermit the Frog, then just a tadpole in local television).
As Paar demonstrated when he quit The Tonight Show after one of his jokes was censored, anything could happen. In one hilarious clip, he fouls up a Goulet-Judy Garland duet by mixing up their cue cards. Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales observes that, unlike predecessor Steve Allen and successors Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, Jack Parr's Tonight Show combined "the edge of journalism and sparkle of showbiz." Then-Sen. John F. Kennedy was one of the first politicians who ventured into this more informal, unpredictable setting. There is amazing footage of guest Richard M. Nixon playing piano. Discs 2 and 3 present the master at work. Disc 2 contains complete monologues and guest interviews with Nixon, the boxer formerly known as Cassius Clay, Liberace, Billy Graham, and Robert Kennedy. Disc 3 offers three complete broadcasts, including a 1964 program with Cosby and Richard Burton (an added bonus is an embedded clip of Burton's towering performance as Hamlet). Forgive the obvious pun, but to watch Jack in his prime is to see why today's hosts are just not up to Paar. --Donald LiebensonAbout the Actor:
Television and radio pioneer Jack Par has been called the most imitated personality in broadcasting. He virtually created the late-night talk show format as the host of The Tonight Show , one of television's longest continuously running programs. The Washington Post said, "Jack Paar was genuine, and the footprints he left on the loony moonscape of television are enormous; they will be there forever."
As the stars of stage and screen were rising around him, Paar was becoming an icon himself, on television sets in the homes of millions of Americans across the country. During the Golden Age of television, Paar was its golden boy, charming guests and viewers alike.
From 1957 to 1962, Paar was the king of late-night television as host of The Tonight Show, which NBC eventually renamed The Jack Paar Show. He turned it from a typical variety format into something very different. With a rare combination of intelligence, irreverence and intuition, he invented a new genre of programming that would become ubiquitous to television.
Paar helped launch the careers of such performers as Carol Burnett, Woody Allen and Liza Minnelli, but his guests weren't limited to the glitterati. He discussed religion with Billy Graham, visited Albert Schweitzer in Africa, and talked politics with Richard Nixon, all before the transfixed eyes of the American television audience.
Paar's career was not without turbulence and controversy. He was criticized for his interview with Fidel Castro in Cuba, and he caused an international incident when he broadcast his show from Berlin as the Wall went up.
He had countless feuds with columnists like Walter Winchell and Dorothy Kilgallen. He even quit the show briefly in 1960 as a matter of principle, after NBC edited out a joke that used the term "water closet." Almost in tears and clearly angry, Paar looked into the camera and said, "I am leaving The Tonight Show . There must be a better way of making a living than this." That famous "walk-off" and Paar's triumphant return a few weeks later had the country abuzz.
In 1962, Paar left the show permanently. After five successful years, he'd become weary of the grind of nightly television and sniping by the press, and he wanted to travel, spend more time with his wife and daughter, and branch out into other areas. From 1962 to 1965, Paar hosted a weekly primetime variety show. In the late 1960s, he reappeared once again, this time as a producer of primetime documentaries, introducing Americans to the interesting curiosities and cultures of Japan, Africa, Asia, Europe, and more.
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