Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

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telical
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Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by telical » Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:44 am

I have been watching Dick Cavett lately and i grew up on watching him quite a bit. I was wondering what others thought about him. One thing I noticed is how jibing he is and how often. It seems a good 30% of interviews have frequent little insulting jokes. I know he got his start as a comedy writer. He's one of the only interviewers that can hold his own with intellectuals and the basic showbiz personalities that don't have any aspirations that direction. I am wondering if he was the start of the current climate where celebrities are treated so poorly. He does it mostly to the showbiz crowd but occasionally seems to do also to the intellectuals/authors/etc.
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Frame Rate
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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by Frame Rate » Wed Sep 19, 2018 12:12 pm

telical wrote:
Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:44 am
It seems a good 30% of interviews have frequent little insulting jokes. I know he got his start as a comedy writer. He's one of the only interviewers that can hold his own with intellectuals and the basic showbiz personalities that don't have any aspirations that direction.
In his era Cavett was, IMHO, the absolute opposite of the grating, superficial and ill-informed Larry King, the preening, silly and self-absorbed Tom Snyder, and the too-often bored, oleaginously slick and by-the-numbers Johnny Carson. I never found Cavett to be mean-spirited, only gently probing (albeit with a witty edge) and usually motivated by a genuine curiosity, rather than just "faking it," in accordance with the bullet points of some PR agent's pre-show "deal," worked out with the show's booker -- to get major celebrities to appear for union scale.

And that reminds me how the years have flown. I was in the audience for a taping of the Cavett show on the very afternoon that the cops were busting heads outside the Democratic convention back in Chicago.

Fifty years ago! :roll:
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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by wich2 » Thu Sep 20, 2018 10:34 am

I always found Cavett to be much too self-centered to be a really great interviewer:

"Well, Lord Olivier, when I was playing in PLAZA SUITE in Connecticut, this is how I approached acting..."

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Rick Lanham
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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by Rick Lanham » Thu Sep 20, 2018 11:27 am

I enjoyed Mr. Cavett back in the day, but for some reason I find the TCM/MGM promo featuring his voice a litteral turn-off. In that, I turn it off, or change the channel, etc. His voice is smarmy/unctuous to me in that promo.

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Harlowgold
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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by Harlowgold » Thu Sep 20, 2018 2:57 pm

wich2 wrote:
Thu Sep 20, 2018 10:34 am
I always found Cavett to be much too self-centered to be a really great interviewer:

"Well, Lord Olivier, when I was playing in PLAZA SUITE in Connecticut, this is how I approached acting..."
I agree, I've always felt Cavett's main fault was he constantly had to add memories of his own experiences and opinions as if he had to let the guest know he was important too! He did get a higher caliber of Hollywood guest stars than most talk show hosts, and he did know their careers well and gave them their proper due but he also clearly loved the sound of his own (nasal and unpleasant) voice.

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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by Ken Viewer » Thu Sep 20, 2018 3:22 pm

My first exposure (that I still recall) to late-night TV comedy/interview shows was Jack Paar's version of The Tonight Show, which went live on the Manhattan-based NBC network flagship station WNBC-TV at 11:15 PM Mondays through Fridays. (The evening news was local and only 15 minutes long back then.)

The show paused (beyond regular commercials) for a second introduction at 11:30 PM to pick up network affiliates and paused again at midnight Eastern time to pick up still more. That meant a 105-minute entertainment-event was done live from a theater on 44th Street in New York, by the time the show wrapped at 1 AM Eastern time. By then, I was usually fast asleep, but I found Paar's guests and interviews more informative than school back then.

Ernie Kovacs had a shot at the show either before Paar got his break or as a fill-in. Steve Allen had apparently originated the show. Paar and his producers/writers recognized they would need intriguing and compelling guests and that included all manner of characters who were supposedly amateurs but naturally funny, including a painter/professional-drug-addict who became a best-selling author when he wrote "Mine Enemy Grows Older," -- Alexander King, and some of Paar's own comedy writers, including Jack Douglas and his wife. Oscar Levant was perhaps the humorist I enjoyed the most. I wonder if Levant would have gotten along with Cavett?

By the time Cavett came along, he was different than the others, and I don't at-all mean gay, not that it mattered then or now. He was... delicate almost -- also, I don't mean Ivy League, though he was -- high-strung, cranky, snarky, occupied with mental-preening, with a demeanor and voice that reminds me of Katherine Hepburn, but did listen to his guests and often respond to what they'd said rather than his next prepared-question. In a way his presentation is embalmed.

He and/or his staff did seem to be keeping the questioning well-informed at-times, but in the end, he was boring... no spontaneous excitement, no sense of the ridiculous comment. He may have though he was Chaplin, but he wasn't. He still isn't.

The observations made by the posters above are all on-the-mark. And I've added my penny's' worth. I stopped watching him early-on in his career as a host and never returned. Johnny Carson I found to be boring and...not having a brilliant bone in his body. For me, Carson and Cavett were both too boring to watch. Paar had it all, and in the end, walked away.

Ken

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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by bobfells » Mon Sep 24, 2018 1:01 pm

To me, Cavett was a smart preppy type who couldn't tell a simple anecdote without name-dropping. He did have a talent for calling out a guest on some absurd statement without being confrontational. For example, there's a clip on YT of Frank Capra telling Cavett the story of how LOST HORIZON had a disaster in its sneak preview with the audience laughing at all the serious scenes. He claimed he solved the problem by simply lopping off the first two reels. There is some truth to this tale - a lengthy prologue was cut although Colman had it added back in his 1941 Radio version. The problem with this anecdote is that Capra insisted on claiming, as he did in his autobio, that he threw the two reels into a furnace and burned them. Cavett replied, "Oh my, if you did that you would have blown up half of Los Angeles." Capra just smiled and they cut to a commercial. I admired Cavett for saying that.
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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by telical » Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:01 pm

Sounds like you guys just can't get enough of him. Here is the current man:

Last edited by silentfilm on Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Embedd YouTube link
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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by bobfells » Tue Sep 25, 2018 8:18 am

telical wrote:
Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:01 pm
Sounds like you guys just can't get enough of him. Here is the current man:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eZ6UkKVTsk
Ha, ha. There’s no denying he has a camera presence and is smart. He’s been somebody I’d watch but only depending on who his guests are. YT has clips of some good interviews with Doug Fairbanks Jr, and Gloria Swanson teamed with Janis Joplin!

Bob
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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by wich2 » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:26 am

The Wife worked backstage on a show with Cavett a few months back. She found him decent - but a little... strange.

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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by greta de groat » Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:02 am

bobfells wrote:
Tue Sep 25, 2018 8:18 am
telical wrote:
Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:01 pm
Sounds like you guys just can't get enough of him. Here is the current man:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eZ6UkKVTsk
Ha, ha. There’s no denying he has a camera presence and is smart. He’s been somebody I’d watch but only depending on who his guests are. YT has clips of some good interviews with Doug Fairbanks Jr, and Gloria Swanson teamed with Janis Joplin!

Bob
Sadly, i thought Janis Joplin behaved very boorishly on this show.

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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by Ray Faiola » Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:29 pm

I think Cavett was genuinely interested in his guests, often admiring of them, sometimes in awe, and did his best to have interesting but still entertaining interviews. He was a comedy writer way back and a student of comedy as well. A few years ago I ran my Joe E. Lewis film (a 50 minute reel of Lewis doing his entire, unexpurgated act at El Rancho in Vegas) at the Friars' in New York. Cavett was hypnotized and was thrilled to see a legendary comedian who was nearing the end of his career but still holding his audience. I always admire talent who can admire other talent.
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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by brendangcarroll » Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:44 pm

Although Cavett was occasionally irritating, I will forever be grateful to him for conducting the very best interview with Bette Davis that she ever gave on TV. A priceless evening with a great star where I think one genuinely sees the REAL Bette Davis - witty, intelligent, mildly self-deprecating and totally in command of the stage.
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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by Jim Roots » Tue Sep 25, 2018 1:53 pm

Has Cavett died? Is that why you're all talking about him in the past tense?

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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by William D. Ferry » Tue Sep 25, 2018 2:00 pm

My take on Dick Cavett is that early on, he was pegged by tv critics as a breath of fresh air, as the "intellectual" talk show host. Unfortunately, I think he believed the reviewers, and consequently took himself way too seriously. He's always struck me as the guy who knows he's smart and feels he must prove it to you and to his guests.
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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by Dean Thompson » Tue Sep 25, 2018 2:43 pm

Cavett could be irritating for reasons already mentioned, but--I'm echoing brendangcarroll here--he sometimes had the grace to step back and give truly extraordinary guests free rein, as he did during the legendary 1970 episode with Noel Coward, Alfred Lunt, and Lynn Fontanne. And he could be properly appreciative of perfectly timed wit. Early on in the Coward interview there's this exchange when Cavett gets a bit flustered:

Cavett: You, you're, uh--what is the word for when one has terrific, prolific qualities?

Coward: Talent.

The audience screams, and Cavett laughs the hardest of anyone.

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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by Smari1989 » Wed Sep 26, 2018 1:02 pm

I didn't grow up watching Cavett in his heyday (being both too young and living in the wrong part of the world) but I've watched several of his 70s programs retrospectively. My own impression is that he's a very bright and talented interviewer -- but, perhaps more so than certain other talkshow hosts, he truly needs to have chemistry with his guest(s). I love his interviews with Jack Benny and Groucho Marx, but he seems rather nervous when in the presence of Orson Welles, Robert Mitchum and Marlon Brando (not that I blame him!).

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Re: Thoughts on Dick Cavett?

Unread post by Ken Viewer » Tue Oct 02, 2018 7:48 pm

Katherine Hepburn's first appearance on The Dick Cavett Show -- one hour's worth without an audience and unexpected, according to Cavett, who would have been caught off-guard by her decision to go ahead with the show. The interview starts at the two-minute mark. Reputedly Hepburn's first television-show performance/appearance. The copyright is someone-or-company else's so I won't do an embed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y631paPoPA

Ken

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