|Petula Clark, if you like formality; Pet, if you care for the opposite, is a lovely talent. She is gracious, delightful, thoughtful, never pushy, always enjoyable and seen too few times during the course of a TV season. ABC remedied the last fact with an all too brief hour Wednesday evening with Petula, a simple title for a simply wonderful time.
The hour, produced by Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion, passed all too quickly. Marvelously directed by Hemion, Petula featured another rare talent, Peggy Lee. The two teamed for "I'm a Woman," "Wedding Bell Blues" and an extremely moving "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," performed as the two women stood dressed in pure white, rooted in mist and behind barbed wire. Hemion's camera set-ups, bleeds and fluidity of shot selection were at its peak at this point. It must have been one of those moments every discerning director waits for; the correct time and setting, three perfectionist cameramen on the floor (uncredited), and two performers of such excellence.
To make sure the hour remained relaxed there was Dean Martin singing "I Don't Know Why," accompanied on piano by the lovely host in a segment a la Martin's pianist Yarn Lane. From there the two of them mounted a horse helped along by some good gags by writers Herb Sargent and Bob Ellison and what appeared to be some extemporaneous lines from the master of relaxation.
A David Frost bit with Miss Clark on ecology was fun but a bit static, and the Everly Brothers trioed with Miss Clark on "Games People Play" and did a dragging "Let It Be Me."
It was most certainly a ladies' hour, though. Miss Clark performed a colorful production number of "Come Together" with choreography by Paddy Stone Her closer was a solo of "Fool on the Hill."
Watching Peggy Lee lying propped up in a brass bed, rain dropping from the windows and a man sleeping silently beside her as she sings "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life" is nothing short of truly beautiful. One doesn't even dare breathe loudly or even sigh. When professionalism like hers is put to use like this it is a joy. Miss Lee is a prime target for a high ranking special of her own.
Art director Bill McPherson's settings are colorful, mod and mad as in the case of Miss Clark's "Fool on the Hill" number with stylized passageways and a spinning backdrop. This last was too much, coming into competition with the performer instead of adding to the number itself. Fortunately the simplicity of the barbed wire and mist for "Johnny" and the warmth and realism of Miss Lee's solo offset this.
Jack Parnell and his orchestra well handled the musical numbers with the Les Sammes Singers backing. Les Cocks was associate producer.
December 16, 1970
The old Jimmie Lunceford specialty, "Tain't What You Do, It's the Way That You Do It" applies perfectly to the classy Petula special hour, packaged by Sir Lew Grade's ATV-ITC, combined as both a special and a series pilot for international singing star Petula Clark. It succeeded admirably on both scores, easily topping ABC's all-special night.
The London-based production (with only Dean Martin segments shot in Burbank) was a set designer's delight from the opening minute, when the star entered to the strains of "Beautiful Sounds," the only ordinary stanza on the full hour - which the eye-catching set salvaged to a degree. Miss Clark thereupon kicked off her shoes during an appealing monologue and was off to the races. Musically, she was doing everybody else's material but her own, a showmanly concept that worked very well - especially with Peggy Lee, her first guest. Duo was great on Miss Lee’s "I'm a Woman" interspersed with "Wedding Bell Blues" for fine uptempo start. Later, the pair contributed a mid-show "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" duet whose striking set, musicality and emotional impact was the hour's high-point, among many.
Miss Clark's lead-in to the Peggy Lee segment was cannily planned; the same applied to her Everly Brothers intro, which began with her solo on "Games People Play," joined en route by the crooners, who followed with an effective reading of "Let It Be Me." Later on, Dean Martin (with Miss Clark at the piano a la Ken Lane) did a most effective reading of the standard "I Don't Know Why" before joining her (would you believe on horseback?) for a medley of good country and western tunes. Martin's troubles getting on that nag made for a funny, spontaneous piece of horseplay. Otherwise, comedy was entrusted to David Frost, who did Romeo and Juliet (as told to David Frost) with the star, and a tongue-in-cheek ecology lecture with quick comedy flashes from Miss Clark. The singer revealed a good flair for comedy, presumably as part of the showcasing of her versatility, which was obviously part of the overall game plan.
Quite naturally, the hour revolves around Pet, who is one of the most programmed international songstresses. She performs with Peggy Lee for openers and goes on to song and comedy with Dean, David and the Everly boys. Watch for Peggy and Pet doing "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" as an antiwar song sung by two eternal waiting women.
One of the funniest routines of the TV season, and perhaps an all time scream, is Pet and Dino singing from the bare back of a horse.
This is Pet's third U.S. special and she's never done a series here, but she has a carload of credits from BBC and European television. She had a series on BBC and a special of hers won the British equivalent of the Emmy.
Her fame as a singer and recording artist reaches around the world. Her introduction, of course, was the record of "Downtown," a true goodie. Pet made two big films here, Finian's Rainbow and Goodbye Mr. Chips. Surprisingly, .she has made more than 25 films in England.
Pet had the courage to have the nation's TV press corps in for a visit to preview the upcoming special. The hardheads and soft sat around in a special room at Caesar's Palace in Vegas and watched the show. Why all of this, Pet?
"I still feel that people in the U.S. don't know me," she said. "My husband, who is also my manager, has listened to many performing offers...lV series, concert tours and club engagements.
"In all of this, we still get the idea that the great mass of people aren't too familiar with me. We therefore decided to go all the way with this special and then sit back and make a decision on future direction when all the reaction is available."
Pet agrees that she likes a live audience most of all, but admits that television is the quickest way to reach the most people and touch every area.
The most attractive young lady speaks in the smallest of voices as she discusses her work. She lights up when she mentions her two daughters.
Onstage or performing anywhere, Miss Clark is a contradiction. She belts out a song in a booming voice and glides to the ballad with the smoothest of sound. She is a most engaging performer.
After her special airs, pet of yours, too.
by Phil Strassberg
Tune in tonight at eight for a delightful musical variety hour with Petula. A special it is.
Assisting in the scintillating 60 minutes are the greatest swinger of them all, Dean Martin; one of the greatest singers, Peggy Lee; and that great verbal stinger, David Frost. Petula fairly jumps out of the tube into the viewer's presence.
It is an interesting example of a good performer, Petula Clark, becoming a great star because of extensive care in enhancing production values, special emphasis on script, songs and the best possible camera angles.
I would not be at all surprised if, as the rumors persist, this pilot becomes the launching pad for a weekly Petula Clark show next fall.
There are too few female performers of an un-comedic bent around with star-power enough to sustain in the TV medium. Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball essentially are clowning comediennes. Marlo Thomas, after a successful five-year run in That Girl, is clever enough not to push her luck and she will quit after this season.
Doris Day and Diahann Carroll, originally singers, head up shows which are situation comedies, occasionally dramatic. But no femme singer is around to head up a variety series. So the market is ripe for a super song and variety format with a frail out front. That frail ought to be Miss Clark.
She brings much meaning to lyrics, as she does tonight in the intriguing production opener, "Beautiful Sounds." She wrote the lyrics herself. Psychedelic swirls of light and color bathe it in added beauty.
Following on the heels of it is Peggy Lee, who dazzles, especially in a somber, poignant antiwar duet, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." Their vocal sparks on this one are chilling.
David Frost's monologue on ecology, with Pet demonstrating pollution's ills, is a highlight of his appearance. Writers Herb Sargent and Bob Ellison wrote some smart lines here as well as in the sequence where he gets cagey being interviewed by Miss Clark.
Of course, Dean Martin is irascible and lovable as ever as he and Pet duet atop a horse. Petula's big production number, "Come Together," is another dazzler with the Paddy Stone Dancers and the Mike Sammes Singers adding zest to it.
The one detracting feature of the program is the Everly Brothers, whose "Let It Be Me" rendition is lackluster.
Petula looks like a name which may very well be a household one for TV watchers next season.
with David Frost
by Larry Rummel
It's no secret that the ABC special with Petula Clark which aired last night was really a pilot for a proposed series. If the special is any indication, the idea is a sound one.
For some reason or another, television has never taken kindly to having a variety series hosted by a lady. It seems to follow the thinking that it is all right to have a lady as a guest, but you wouldn't want one hosting the show.
Miss Clark should dispel such an attitude. She seemed perfectly at home in her role as host last evening. And even though she had some very talented people on the program as guests, there was never any doubt that Petula was as talented as anyone.
She did a marvelous duet with Peggy Lee, easily showed that she could do comedy in a biting ecology sequence with David Frost, and participated in some good-natured nonsense with Dean Martin.
Everything considered, it was an agreeable special, spotlighting the charming presence of one of the major talents in show business. This writer, for one, would welcome a regular series with Petula Clark.