Harvey Korman


Actor
Harvey Korman

About

Also Known As
Harvey Herschel Korman
Birth Place
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Born
February 15, 1927
Died
May 29, 2008
Cause of Death
Complications From An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Biography

A gifted comic performer with a dignified voice and appearance that belied his skill for outrageous characters, Harvey Korman was an award-winning actor, writer and director whose often under-appreciated career spanned more than 40 years. After a decade of struggling off-Broadway and in summer stock theater, Korman made small gains on film and television with appearances in "Living Venus...

Family & Companions

Donna Ehlert
Wife
Married on August 27, 1960; divorced in 1977.
Deborah Fritz
Wife
Married in September 1982.

Biography

A gifted comic performer with a dignified voice and appearance that belied his skill for outrageous characters, Harvey Korman was an award-winning actor, writer and director whose often under-appreciated career spanned more than 40 years. After a decade of struggling off-Broadway and in summer stock theater, Korman made small gains on film and television with appearances in "Living Venus" (1961) and on the comedy-variety program "The Danny Kaye Show" (CBS, 1963-67). Generations of cartoon fans would also remember his distinctive voice as the unctuous alien, the Great Gazoo on "The Flintstones" (ABC, 1960-66). It was, however, as a cast member on the beloved sketch-comedy series "The Carol Burnett Show" (CBS, 1967-1978) that Korman truly rose to prominence. The perfect foil for the chameleon-like Burnett - and later, paired to perfection with comic-actor Tim Conway - Korman's performances lent an understated, manic brilliance to the very best skits the long-running show had to offer. He portrayed several memorable characters on film, as well - perhaps the most frequently quoted being that of the dastardly Hedley Lamarr in Mel Brooks' classic Western parody "Blazing Saddles" (1974). As one of Brooks' favorite actors, he was invited back for choice roles in "High Anxiety" (1977), "History of the World: Part I" (1981) and "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" (1995). Whether playing the put-upon straight man or a hilariously over-the-top villain, Korman and his impeccable comic timing could always be counted on to deliver the laughs.

Born Harvey Herschel Korman in Chicago, IL on Feb. 15, 1927, he was the son of a salesman, Cyril Korman, and his wife Ellen. He developed an interest in acting while in grade school, later participating in extracurricular drama programs at the behest of his teachers and even working professionally at the age of 12 for a local radio station. After graduating high school, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and later returned to Chicago to attend the Goodman School of Drama at the Chicago Art Institute. There, he received an education in classical drama, and continued his studies with the renowned drama instructor Uta Hagen in New York City. For the next 10 years, Korman worked at a variety of odd jobs - including waiting tables, pumping gas and the nabbing an occasional bit part on stage - while working in summer stock in the Northeast and Midwest for several seasons in the late-1950s.

Korman made his film debut as a photographer for a Playboy-inspired men's magazine in the schlocky "Living Venus" (1961), an ultra-low-budget feature by cult director Herschell Gordon Lewis, who would also direct Korman in "Carving Magic!" (1961) an odd industrial short about the proper way to prepare a roast dinner. He would make several guest appearances on television programs before meeting the producers of "The Red Skelton Show" (NBC, 1951-1971) in Chicago, where they were casting a play. Korman's audition for them led to an appearance on the "Skelton" show in 1961, which later earned him a spot as a regular on "The Danny Kaye Show" (CBS, 1963-67). Kaye's program was driven by a blend of musical numbers and sketch comedy, which gave audiences their first taste of Korman's knack for playing both everyday characters and larger-than-life roles.

While starring on Kaye's show, Korman was remarkably active as a guest star on television sitcoms, where he played countless button-down types who came unglued in spectacular fashion, or broad ethnic personalities - especially strict German military men or eccentric scientists. Korman also turned up occasionally in features, most notably as the principal in George Axelrod's cult comedy "Lord Love a Duck" (1965). And he made his first entry into animation with the prime time hit "The Flintstones" (ABC, 1960-66), on which he voiced The Great Gazoo, an exiled alien who provided disastrous advice and cutting remarks for Fred and Barney. The character, though completely out of sync with the show's Stone Age setting, was nevertheless one of its most popular with audiences, thanks to Korman's delivery. He would enjoy an association with the series that lasted until the 1994 live-action film version, where he voiced the Gazoo-esque Dictabird, and the 2000 prequel, "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas," where he played Colonel Slaghoople, the stuffed-shirt father to Kristen Johnson's Wilma. Korman would later provide the voice of Gazoo for a final time in the video game "Flintstones Bedrock Bowling" (2000).

When "The Danny Kaye Show" came to an end in 1967, Korman joined a new series tailored to the remarkable talents of another sketch comedy veteran, Carol Burnett. The former "Garry Moore Show" (CBS, 1958-1967) star found a perfect onscreen partner in Korman. He could be convincingly dashing or roguish, as in their acclaimed parody of "Gone with the Wind" (1939) in which he played Rhett Butler, or be loud and abrasive as the long-suffering husband to Burnett's frazzled Southern housewife in "Ed and Eunice," then convey the crotchety Roger in "Old Folks at Home" with equal dexterity. Korman was also unafraid to play over-the-top characters like the overbearing Jewish matron Mother Marcus or even a bell-happy Quasimodo. But he was perhaps best paired with comic Tim Conway, who joined the series in 1975 after serving as a longtime guest star. Their teaming, which frequently ended with Conway forcing Korman to break character and dissolve into peals of laughter, made for many of the audience's favorite sketches. Conway and Korman were such a popular comic duo that they revived many of their best "Burnett" show sketches for a live stage show, "Tim Conway and Harvey Korman: Together Again," that played to packed houses across the United States for most of the 1990s and into the new millennium.

Korman's versatility on "The Carol Burnett Show" earned him a large fan base, as well as three Emmys and a Golden Globe between 1969 and 1975. The acclaim he received on the iconic program allowed him to enjoy a modest movie career during the early 1970s, largely as a featured player for Mel Brooks, whose wife, actress Anne Bancroft, was a huge fan of Korman. In "Blazing Saddles" (1974), he was the conniving town mayor Hedley Lamarr, whose oily delivery and pencil mustache seemed to simultaneously pay tribute to and parody such Golden Age Hollywood heels as Zachary Scott. Brooks delighted in Korman's performance in the film - Korman later listed it as his favorite movie role - and cast him in several subsequent features, including "High Anxiety" (1977) as Brooks' rival Dr. Montague, who enjoys a spectacularly kinky relationship with Cloris Leachman's domineering Nurse Diesel, as the Count de Monet (mispronounced throughout the film as "Count de Money"). He also played haughty advisor to Brooks' King Louis in "History of the World: Part 1" (1981), and appeared as asylum head Dr. Seward in "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" (1995).

Korman also appeared opposite Peter Sellers in "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" (1976), and although his scenes were cut, he later reprised his role as Dr. Auguste Balls in 1982's dreadful "Trail of the Pink Panther" and 1983's "Curse of the Pink Panther." He also appeared as the river-rafting con man The King in a musical film adaptation of "Huckleberry Finn" (1974), and made a rare dramatic turn as comedian Bud Abbott opposite Buddy Hackett's Lou Costello in the TV-movie "Bud and Lou" (NBC, 1978). For the truly devoted sci-fi geeks, he also made an unfortunate appearance in the cult "Star Wars" TV special, "The Star Wars Holiday Special" (CBS, 1978) as Chef Gormaanda, an Amorphian instructor. Although "Star Wars" creator George Lucas later banned the hideously bad special, bootleg copies of Korman dressed in futuristic drag could still be seen on badly transferred copies years later.

The amount of work he was receiving outside of "The Carol Burnett Show" convinced him to strike out on his own, so he left the show in 1977, citing that at age 50, he had reached the now-or-never stage in regard to his own career. His departure devastated Burnett and hampered the show considerably. Even an established comic genius like Dick Van Dyke, who was hired to replace Korman in 1977, could not fill his shoes, and Burnett would bring the show to a close only a year later, still missing what her good friend had brought to the table.

Unfortunately, Korman could never find a worthwhile vehicle as a solo performer. His comedy series, a sitcom entitled "The Harvey Korman Show" (ABC, 1978), lasted just one season, and subsequent efforts, including "Snavely" (1978), an ABC pilot based on "Fawlty Towers" (BBC, 1975-79) with Korman in the John Cleese role, met with similar fates. Korman eventually parlayed his fame into a steady string of guest appearances on television series and in the occasional feature, though most - "Americathon" (1979) and "Herbie Goes Bananas" (1980) - were less than deserving of his talents. He reunited with Burnett for the Emmy-nominated 1982 TV movie "Eunice," which took a more dramatic look at the squabbling Southern couple they played on her TV series, and would reprise the role of Ed on episodes of the original network run of "Mama's Family" (NBC, 1983-85; syndicated, 1986-1990). He also doubled as the show's officious "host," Alastair Quince, in segments that aired before each episode. Korman also directed several episodes of the show, as well as "The New Dick Van Dyke Show" (CBS, 1971-74) and his own series. He later co-directed the Emmy-winning TV special, "Carol, Carl, Whoopi and Robin" (ABC, 1987), which partnered Burnett with the estimable talents of Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams.

Korman made two more attempts at starring in his own series in the 1980s - "Leo and Liz in Beverly Hills" (CBS, 1986), which starred Korman and Valerie Perrine as former New Jersey residents who struggle to fit in with the wealthy scene in Beverly Hills, and was created by comedian Steve Martin, while Mel Brooks' "The Nutt House" (NBC, 1988) saw Korman as the snooty head of a madcap hotel staff. Neither show lasted an entire season, and Korman returned to his frequent guest star turns on television shows, animated programs, and in the occasional feature, including "The Flintstones" films and the holiday-comedy "Jingle All the Way" (1996).

Korman joined Burnett and the rest of the original "Burnett Show" cast for "The Carol Burnett Show: A Reunion" (CBS, 1993), which aired some of the program's best skits along with their stories about the production. The success of these specials spurred considerable interest in Korman and Conway's live shows, and the duo earned their own direct-to-video release, "Tim and Harvey in the Great Outdoors" (1998). The reunion show's popularity eventually led to a second special, "The Carol Burnett Show: Show Stoppers" (CBS, 2001), which highlighted much of what audiences remembered so fondly about the show - Korman breaking down into hysterics mid-sketch over the antics of Conway. A third special, "Let's Bump Up the Lights!" (CBS, 2004), saw the cast answering questions about the show from a studio audience. Korman remained active in television and on stage until 2008, when an operation on a non-malignant brain tumor preceded a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. Given just a few hours to live, he underwent several operations and lingered on until May 29, 2008, when he died of complications from the aneurysm. His passing was mourned by Burnett, Brooks, and many of his fellow performers, who paid tribute to his comic talents in statements to the press, as well as by his numerous fans who had grown up watching and waiting for their favorite sketch performer to inevitably crack up in scenes.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

The Ruby Princess Runs Away (2000)
The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000)
Ricky Slaghoople
Baby Huey's Great Easter Adventure (1999)
Gideon (1998)
The Secret of NIMH II: Timmy to the Rescue (1998)
Jingle All the Way (1996)
Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
Radioland Murders (1994)
The Flintstones (1994)
Based on an Untrue Story (1993)
Dr Meir
Betrayal Of The Dove (1993)
Crash Course (1988)
Munchies (1987)
The Longshot (1986)
The Invisible Woman (1983)
Curse of the Pink Panther (1983)
Carpool (1983)
Wendell Brooks
Trail of the Pink Panther (1982)
History of the World Part I (1981)
Herbie Goes Bananas (1980)
First Family (1980)
Americathon (1979)
Bud and Lou (1978)
High Anxiety (1977)
The Love Boat (Pilot Movie) (1976)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Huckleberry Finn (1974)
Suddenly Single (1971)
Conrad
The April Fools (1969)
Benson
Don't Just Stand There! (1968)
Merriman Dudley
Three Bites of the Apple (1967)
Harvey Tomlinson
The Man Called Flintstone (1966)
Lord Love a Duck (1966)
Weldon Emmett
The Last of the Secret Agents? (1966)
German colonel
Gypsy (1962)
Phil
Living Venus (1961)
Ken [Carter]

Director (Special)

A Carol Burnett Special... Carol, Carl, Whoopi & Robin (1987)
Director
The Cracker Brothers (1984)
Director
Eunice (1982)
Director

Cast (Special)

The Carol Burnett Show: Let's Bump Up The Lights (2004)
Host
The 26th Annual Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (2003)
CBS at 75: A Primetime Celebration (2003)
Laugh Out Loud: TV's 15 Greatest Comedians (2002)
The Carol Burnett Show: Show Stoppers (2001)
Tim Conway: Just Clowning Around (1999)
1998 Creative Arts Emmy Awards (1998)
Presenter
67th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade (1998)
American Comedy Honors (1997)
Performer
Carol Burnett: Just to Have a Laugh (1996)
The Carol Burnett Show: A Reunion (1993)
Dorf's Family Stump (1991)
The 3rd Annual American Comedy Awards (1989)
Performer
The Thirteenth Annual Circus of the Stars (1988)
The 1st Annual American Comedy Awards (1987)
Performer
The 12th Annual People's Choice Awards (1986)
Performer
Rodney Dangerfield: Exposed (1985)
The Cracker Brothers (1984)
Eunice (1982)
Editor Higgins
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope For President (1980)
The Celebrity Football Classic (1979)
How to Survive the '70s and Maybe Even Bump Into Happiness (1978)
Snavely (1978)
Henry Snavely
The Mad Mad Mad Mad World of the Super Bowl (1977)
The Harvey Korman Show (1977)
Francis Kavanaugh
The Carpenters at Christmas (1977)
Don Rickles -- Alive and Kicking (1972)

Producer (Special)

The Carol Burnett Show: A Reunion (1993)
Co-Executive Producer

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

The Flintstones 25th Anniversary Celebration (1986)
Flintstones 25th Anniversary Special (1986)
Alice in Wonderland (1985)
The Man Called Flintstone (Do Not Use) (1966)
Chief Mountmore

Life Events

1945

Served with the US Naval Reserve

1963

First big break, featured performer on "The Danny Kaye Show" (CBS)

1965

Voiced a recurring character, the Great Gazoo, on the popular ABC animated sitcom, "The Flintstones"

1966

Feature debut, "The Last of the Secret Agents?"

1967

Co-starred as part of the company of regulars on the CBS comedy-variety series, "The Carol Burnett Show"

1967

Staged comedy sketches for "The Steve Allen Comedy Hour"

1969

TV-movie debut, "Three's a Crowd" (ABC)

1970

Appeared as a guest on "The Tim Conway Special"

1974

Played most noteworthy feature role, Hedley Lamarr, in Mel Brooks's "Blazing Saddles"

1978

Co-starred (with Buddy Hackett) as comic Bud Abbott in the NBC TV-movie, "Bud and Lou"

1978

Starred as an aging acting teacher in ABC's short-lived series, "The Harvey Korman Show"

1979

First lead in a feature, "Americathon"

1980

Appeared as a regular on the failed CBS variety series, "The Tim Conway Show"

1982

Reprised role of Ed Higgins, husband of Burnett's Eunice (based on a series of sketches from "The Carol Burnett Show") for the comedy special "Eunice"

1983

Reprised the role of Ed Higgins for the sitcom spin-off "Mama's Family" (NBC), also directed some episodes

1985

First appeared as Leo Green in an installment of "George Burns Comedy Week"

1986

Once again starred as Leo Green in the short-lived CBS sitcom, "Leo & Liz in Beverly Hills"; created by Steve Martin (also wrote and produced)

1987

Co-directed the CBS Carol Burnett Special, "Carol, Carl, Whoopi and Robin"

1987

Starred in the horror film, "Munchies"

1988

Hosted "Comedy After Hours," a series featuring veteran stand-up comics broadcast on the Playboy Channel

1989

Cast as Reginald J. Tarkington on the short-lived NBC sitcom, "The Nutt House"; produced by Mel Brooks (also wrote)

1993

Co-executive produced (also performed) the CBS special retrospective, "The Carol Burnett Show: A Reunion"

1994

Provided the voice of the Dictabird for the live-action feature of "The Flintstones"

1994

Co-starred in the ensemble comedy feature, "Radioland Murders"; story by George Lucas

1995

Re-teamed with Mel Brooks for the comedy feature, "Dracula: Dead And Loving It"

2000

Voiced Colonel Slaghoople in the live-action prequel "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas"

Photo Collections

Herbie Goes Bananas - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Disney's Herbie Goes Bananas (1980). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8 (Later Disney sets came in 9 cards). As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

High Anxiety (1977) - Dedicated To The Master Writer, director and star Mel Brooks establishes from the start that his film is meant as a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, then gets busy on the airplane, then accosted after landing at LAX by a guy in a trenchcoat (Bob Ridgely), in High Anxiety, 1977.
Blazing Saddles (1974) - Where Would I Find Such A Man? Crooked Attorney General “Hedley Lamarr” (Harvey Korman) needs an idea to deliver an incompetent new sheriff to Rock Ridge, so he snags Bart (Cleavon Little) from the medieval hangman, then visits the governor (writer-director Mel Brooks), who’s easily led, in Blazing Saddles, 1974.
Blazing Saddles (1974) - In My Dwessing Woom Wrapping up her Dietrich-roasting anachronistic saloon number (an original by writer-director Mel Brooks), Lili Von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn) has been hired to seduce the resourceful new sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little), now running with “The Waco Kid,” rude business, in Blazing Saddles, 1974.
Blazing Saddles (1974) - I Wouldn't Do That One of the best gags, the nasty for-hire cowboys (led by Slim Pickens) don’t know what they’re getting into when the threaten the black sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little), now aided by his sobered up gunfighter pal “The Waco Kid,” (Gene Wilder), in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles< 1974.
First Family (1980) - Not Fit To Suck On My Hat Very much a set piece, in the first scene for Harvey Korman as the American U.N. Ambassador, Maurice Sherbanee the Arab delegate, Bruce Kimmel the translator, writer-director Buck Henry romping, in his little-noticed political comedy First Family, 1980.
Lord Love A Duck - I Get Chills Ambitious student Barbara Anne (Tuesday Weld) in an altogether prurient job interview with unhinged principal Weldon Emmett (Harvey Korman) in George Axelrod's Lord Love A Duck, 1966.
Lord Love A Duck - Our New School Harvey Korman (as principal "Weldon Emmett") assumes what must be the voice of writer-director George Axelrod, then receives odd-ball student Alan (Roddy McDowall), in Lord Love A Duck, 1966.
Lord Love A Duck - Just Tell Mollymauk Vandalizing their new high school, miscreant Alan (Roddy McDowall) explains his nickname to Barbara Ann (Tuesday Weld) who offers her depraved ambition, in George Axelrod's Lord Love A Duck, 1966.
Lord Love A Duck - Opening, Alan Happening title tune performed by "The Wild Ones" and fleshy teenage video, followed by hero Alan (Roddy McDowall) pursued by cops, opening George Axelrod's outlandish Lord Love A Duck, 1966.
Herbie Goes Bananas - Captain Elythe Herbie "The Love Bug" has escaped below decks with Paco (Joaquin Garay III) aboard to the alarm of Armando (Vito Scotti) and the outrage of Captain Elythe (Harvey Korman) in Herbie Goes Bananas, 1980.

Trailer

Family

Cyril Raymond Korman
Father
Ellen Korman
Mother
Maria Ellen Korman
Daughter
Christopher Peter Korman
Son
Mother, Donna Ehlert.
Katrherine Korman
Daughter
Mother, Deborah Fritz.

Companions

Donna Ehlert
Wife
Married on August 27, 1960; divorced in 1977.
Deborah Fritz
Wife
Married in September 1982.

Bibliography