Dick Cavett Show (The): Hollywood Greats (TV)
R0 - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Jim Stanton & Noor Razzak (29th October 2006).
The Film

God I love old s**t. It is actually an addiction. I have so much junk and "treasure" that it spills from my curiosity shop-esque abode in a wave of yesteryear, with not an i-pod or blackberry in sight. So naturally I was always going to be in favour of 14 hours worth of vintage footage of "The Dick Cavett Show" featuring some of classic Hollywood most iconic stars. It was like I had stumbled into an orange carpeted, safari suit wearing nirvana. Oh the retro cool of the cravat, sunglasses on set and candid conversation with Dick Cavett in all his casual glory.
So many legends are rolled out, Bette Davis quietly freaking me out with rasping voice and bob, Fred Astaire looking as he did right to the end ( and not many can pull of a knotted purple scarf), Mel Brooks seems about due to take his Ritalin for the day and Dick Cavett quietly takes it all in.
Cavett was born in Nebraska to school teacher parents and seemed to move with steady momentum to his seat opposite these greats. When starting out, his access to the back hallways of the studios was only a token copy of some magazine hoping to give the impression that he had some journalistic purpose there. So illegally gained entrance turned out to his young advantage. Celebrities seemed to find his unhasty charm and laidback attitude a great vessel to pour their personal stories into, and so after a time working his way up he was first given the opportunity to interview on air. "The Dick Cavett Show" survived in a variety of forms from 1969-1996 until trends and fashion cancelled it for the last time. "The Dick Cavett Show: Hollywood Greats" set I had my clutter-loving hands on dealt with 12 episodes from 1970-1973 covering some big names in front of the camera, Katherine Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Groucho Marx, Kirk Douglas, Debbie Reynolds and more interestingly from behind the lens in Robert Altman ("M*A*S*H" (1970)), Perter Bogdanovich ("The Last Picture Show" (1971)), Mel Brooks ("The Producers" (1968)), Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra, and Orson Welles.
Cavett's skill as a tool to opening up his subjects is very apparent in his easy manner and for the most part he sits back and just lets them tell their own stories with only a few mild interjections. This is not to say he isn't an entertaining performer himself (he did go on to have a modest career in stand-up comedy) but unlike some chat show hosts of today it's mostly about whose there, not whose with Dick Cavett. I can hardly imagine Oprah Winfrey keeping her sassy woman act on the back burner for five minutes let alone a whole interview.
The insights these interviews provide are amazing. The glorious Katherine Hepburn offering to paint the set herself and bring in a rug to cover the carpet she pronounces ugly. The way Mel Brooks is off and running with gags and impressions before anyone is ready. Marlon Brando's complete lack of awareness of the gigantic fatty he will one day become.
To some more used to the slickly paced, scandal seeking questions of today the Cavett Show may move far to slowly. If its probing questions and thirty second sound bites you're looking for then stick to Diane Sawyer, "The Dick Cavett Show" is a time capsule to the early 70's and thus it gains its charm. Being politically correct is out the window and the personally read advertisements by Cavett before each break are very kitsch ("For the longest lashes ladies, try new Maybelline mascara for a sweeping look that he will love"). Being sued for defamation of character obviously not yet a problem as Perter Bogdanovich rants against another. Hepburn carelessly slumps into her chair her feet in socks and sandals up on the table; a thing unseen today in an industry so overridden by image. So many small moments of interest to enjoy in a great format added to by small snippets of Dick Cavett today and his remembrances of each interview. And no-one looks even the slightest bit interested in jumping up and down on the couch screaming "I just love her!" Thank God for small mercies of a gentler time.

The 12 episodes included in this collection feature interviews with Hollywood'd Legends and include:

- "Katherine Hepburn" October 2, 1973
- "Katherine Hepburn" October 3, 1973
- "Fred Astaire " November 10, 1970
- "Bette Davis" November 17, 1971
- "Groucho Marx, Debbie Reynolds et al" December 16, 1971
- "Kirk Douglas" June 29, 1971
- "Mel Brooks, Frank Capra, Robert Altman and Peter Bogdanovich" January 21, 1972
- "John Huston" February 21, 1972
- "Marlon Brando, et al" June 12, 1973
- "Robert Mitchum" April 29, 1971
- "Orson Welles" July 27, 1970
- "Alfred Hitchcock" June 8, 1972

Video

Presented in the show's original broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 these full screen transfers are about as good as they can possibly be. Taken from the original masters they look like they are taken from the 70's which means soft focus at times, colors are slightly faded and the image blows out when lights hit reflective surfaces and cause light streaks. But we have to be realistic here, we were never going to get some kick ass HD restored transfers here, in fact this video quality even has a certain kitsch appeal much like the show itself and is certainly watchable.

Audio

A single English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track is included for all these episodes, seeing as these are all interview shows the importance is that the dialogue is clear and distortion free, while there are minor audio peaks this is by no means a fault of the audio transfer but rather the live recording which was captured back when these episodes were taped. Despite this the sound is extremely far from being bad.
These episodes unfortunately do not include any subtitles.

Extras

Shout! Factory has released this series with a selection of extras that includes a series of episode introductions, promo spots, a featurette, an uncut episode plus some bonus trailers and a booklet, below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:

First up is a video introduction from Cavett himself on the 1st Katherine Hepburn episode which runs for 1 minute 46 seconds. Cavett comments on his favorite guest and doesn't quite know how to answer that question and comments on how they got the elusive Hepburn to appear on his show.

Next is a video introduction from Cavett on the 2nd Katherine Hepburn episode which runs for 2 minutes. Cavett comments on Hepburn's appeal and response to her appearance on his show from fans and general public.

Another video introduction is also included on the Fred Astaire episode which runs for 2 minutes 27 seconds. Cavett tells a story about Fred's musicianship.

Also included on this disc is "Katherine Hepburn Uncut" this is basically all the prep and lead up to the taping of an episode and runs for 24 minutes 27 seconds. This behind-the-scenes footage has Hepburn and Cavett working out their questions and making small talk as the crew checks microphones, make-up and other production tasks. This is an interesting curiosity and we can see a more casual side of Hepburn that isn't often portrayed in interviews.

Rounding out the extras on this disc is a series of bonus trailers for:

- "The Dick Cavett Show: Comedy Legends" which runs for 1 minute 26 seconds.
- "The Jack Paar Collection" which runs for 1 minute 5 seconds.
- "The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons, Ray Charles and John and Yoko Collections" which runs for 1 minute 15 seconds.

DISC TWO:

First up is an introduction to the Bette Davis episode which runs for 1 minute 30 seconds. Cavett talks about actor's privacy as he comments on a question he posed to Davis that seemed to have caused an uproar.

Another introduction is included to the Groucho Marx, Debbie Reynolds et al episode which runs for 1 minute 59 seconds. Cavett comments on what having Groucho on his show meant to him and also talks about an incident that occurred at a restaurant with a reporter.

The final introduction on this disc is for the Kirk Douglas episode which runs for 1 minute 19 seconds. Cavett talks about his most vivid memory from that interview with Douglas.

Ths disc also includes promos, which are essentially teasers for that particular episode, included here are ones for the Bette Davis episode which runs for 31 seconds and also one for the Groucho Marx, Debbie Reynolds et al" episode and runs for 30 seconds.

DISC THREE:

The disc includes an introduction to the Mel Brooks, Frank Capra, Robert Altman and Peter Bogdanovich episode which runs for 2 minutes 2 seconds. Cavett comments on Brooks' appearance on the show and his personality as well as his thoughts on the other guests featured in this episode.

Next is an introduction to the John Huston episode which runs for 1 minute 47 seconds. Cavett shares his thoughts on smoking and how much people used to smoke on television back in those days, he was particularly distracted by Huston's cigars.

The final introduction on this disc is featured on the Marlon Brando, et al episode which runs for 2 minutes 49 seconds. Cavett comments on the difficulty in getting Brando to come on any talk show and hiw he managed to get him to appear, as it turns out Brando was quite a fan of Cavett's show and was also allowed to appear with his Native American friends.

Rounding out the extras on this disc are promos for the Mel Brooks, Frank Capra, Robert Altman and Peter Bogdanovich episode which runs for 30 seconds and also one for the John Huston episode which also runs for 30 seconds.

DISC FOUR:

This disc includes an introduction to the Robert Mitchum episode which runs for 1 minute 48 seconds. Cavett candidly talks of his envy of Mitchum and how he was such a surprising guest.

Next is an introduction to the Orson Welles episode which runs for 3 minutes 3 seconds. Cavett comments about Welles as a child and also talks of Welles' hatred for being called a genius.

The final introduction on this set, is for the final episode, the Alfred Hitchcock episode and runs for 1 minute 3 seconds. Cavett talks about this episode as being one of the most requested episodes and also shares his surprise at how brilliant Hitchcock's sense of humor was.

A promo is also included for the Alfred Hitchcock episode and runs for 30 seconds.

The disc also includes "Seeing Stars with Dick Cavett and Robert Osborne" which is a featurette that runs for 37 minutes 30 seconds. In this clip, Osbrone interviews Cavett about the show concept and how it differs from talk shows of today. Cavett also talks about his start in talk shows, the influence Jack Paar had on him as well as his relationships with the various guests he had on the show as well as shares stories and his memories of the guest featured on this DVD collection. This is a fantastic interview that is done in very much the same style that Cavett performed his own show as he shares some very interesting stories.

Rounding out the extras is a 16-page booklet that features a message from Cavett as well as film historian Robert Osborne. Finally an episode synopsis is also included.

Packaging

This 4-disc collection is packaged in a digi-pack case that is housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: A Video: B- Audio: B- Extras: B+ Overall: B+

 


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