The late actor, comedian, writer and musician Sid Caesar was a comic Renaissance man. Though best known for the TV series “Your Show of Shows,” he was also a regular presence on the stage and the big screen. Here’s a look at five of his most memorable movie roles.
“Tars and Spars.” Caesar’s first movie came out of his time in the Coast Guard, where he wrote and performed sketches for the service’s musical revues. After playing a comic supporting role in the musical “Tars and Spars,” about a would-be sailor who falls for a singer and woos her under the pretense he is a hero, Caesar was cast in the 1946 Columbia Pictures film adaptation.
“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” In 1963, Caesar starred in this Stanley Kramer comedy, the first of a number of big-screen ensemble movies Caesar would take part in over the course of his career. In the film, Caesar plays Melville Crump, a dentist chasing $350,000 in stolen cash alongside his wife (played by Edie Adams) and a colorful collection of fellow treasure hunters.
“Ten From Your Show of Shows.” In 1973, this feature-film compilation of 10 sketches from Caesar’s landmark variety TV program introduced the show to a whole new audience and inspired nostalgia among fans who had seen it the first time around. “Your Show of Shows” also inspired another feature film: Richard Benjamin’s 1982 comedy “My Favorite Year,” which stars Joseph Bologna as King Kaiser, a Caesar analog.
“Silent Movie.” Caesar runited with Mel Brooks, with whom he worked on “Your Show of Shows,” for this 1976 parody of the silent film genre. Brooks plays a down-on-his-luck director pitching a new movie to the chief — that would be Caesar — of the embattled Big Picture Studios. (Five years later, Caesar would play a different kind of chief for Brooks: the leader of the cavemen in “History of the World, Part 1.”)
“Grease” Caesar was one of several veterans of 1950s television (along with Frankie Avalon, Alice Ghostley and other notable names) to play a supporting role in “Grease,” the classic 1978 musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as sweethearts in a ‘50s high school. Caesar plays Coach Calhoun, who ceaselessly tries to find an appropriate sport for Travolta’s uncoordinated bad boy. He also reprised his role in the 1982 sequel, “Grease 2.”