"Nat King Cole Show" available for download

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Clark Kauffman, Feb 17, 2011.

  1. Clark Kauffman

    Clark Kauffman Active Member Thread Starter

    Nat King Cole's 1950s TV show made available for digital download
    Los Angeles Times

    Posted: Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011

    LOS ANGELES - Nat King Cole fans, as well as those interested in the history of race relations in America, have reason to celebrate this week: His estate has begun posting episodes of his groundbreaking 1950s series "The Nat 'King' Cole Show" for digital downloading on iTunes.

    For a too-brief period in 1956-57, the always urbane and elegant singer-pianist hosted some of the most revered names in jazz and pop on his NBC series: Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Harry Belafonte, Johnny Mercer, Mel Torme and Peggy Lee, among others.

    The episodes have been remastered for the first time from the original black-and-white kinescopes, which sets them apart from a DVD release of series highlights released in 2002 without the cooperation of Cole's family.

    "It's about time," Cole's widow, Maria Hawkins Cole, 88, said by phone from her home in Florida. "I don't know what the first releases are - there's one he did with the Mills Brothers, and they were terrific. This many years later, you hear them and there still isn't a group around that sounds like them. Offhand, that's probably my favorite one.

    "I have to tell you, in those days I didn't realize how important some of those people were," she said. "But as time went by it became clear what geniuses they were."

    The same might be said of Cole himself. He often downplayed his abilities as a singer and as a pianist. But Maria Cole, who was a bit younger than her husband, recalls, "Nat would talk like he wasn't that good, but I did meet Art Tatum once. We weren't married then. He said, 'I hope you know (Nat) is a genius.' I met a few people with Nat. I met Billie Holiday like that."

    The Cole shows went up on iTunes on Tuesday, the 46th anniversary of his death at age 45 from cancer. The plan is to post four new episodes a month. Of the original 64 shows that Cole did, kinescopes of two dozen to three dozen have survived, and it's estimated that iTunes will make 25 to 30 of them available to the public, a spokesman for the Cole estate said.

    Maria Cole said the tapes were donated for preservation and restoration to the Paley Center for Media about a decade ago.

    Beyond the pure musical treasures it yielded, "The Nat 'King' Cole Show" was a historical milestone as the first network TV show to star an African American. Yet as popular as Cole was on the radio airwaves and in record stores at the time, advertisers balked at coming aboard. So NBC put the show on without national sponsors, a situation that led to its short lifespan.

    It's a facet of their life together that Maria Cole thinks successive generations aren't fully aware of.

    "I went to the hospital with a friend to visit her mother, who knew my background," she said. "She brought that up and her daughter was there with her mouth hanging open. She said, 'I just didn't know about the racial thing.'"

    The "racial thing" also included an attack on Cole by segregationists in Birmingham, Ala., in 1956, a campaign to prevent him from buying a house in a white neighborhood in L.A.'s Hancock Park neighborhood in 1949 and frequent troubles checking into hotels when he was on tour.

    "When we traveled on the road, a lot of it was by car, and when we went to hotels, he would never let me go in until he knew they had a room," she said. "They were afraid of being refused. So I never experienced that directly.

    "He was chastised a lot about the attack in Alabama because he didn't go crazy about it," she said. "But that wasn't his nature. He did it his way - he didn't yell and scream.

    "We were opposite in personalities," she added with a gentle laugh. "He was a very elegant man, and he's very sorely missed, by his family and by his fans, too. But I think we'll be seeing more and more of him with the release of the television shows, and other projects."


    I've downloaded the frst four shows from iTunes and they're pretty entertaining. The picture quality is rough, but watchable. I just wish they weren't on iTunes because I can't burn them straight to DVD and watch them on TV. I have to watch 'em on the computer, which is crazy. (I purchased a program that said it would convert the DRM-protected files so they could be burned to a disc, but even at $35 it's a lousy program. Very slow and I've only been able to convert two of the four files without big a lot of audio glitches...)
  2. -Alan

    -Alan Moderator Staff

    Connecticut, USA
    I'm hoping these will be released on DVD at some point.
  3. Raylinds

    Raylinds Forum Resident

    That would be fantastic.
  4. paulmock

    paulmock Forum Resident

    Hollywood, CA
    Me too! I remember watching them a few years ago when they were run on what I think was PBS. Splendid shows with (unfortunately) lots of twists and turns in the background re: race. Thye truly are a big slice of TV history!
  5. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Marysville, WA
    From Ebay, pictures of a ticket for a 1957 Nat King Cole NBC show:
    s-l1600-220.jpg s-l1600-221.jpg s-l1600-222.jpg s-l1600-223.jpg
  6. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    link please
    MikaelaArsenault likes this.

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