The unique record of a historic event, Mary Martin and Ethel Merman's appearance on The Ford 50th Anniversary Show
on June 15, 1953, united two of the 20th century's greatest musical stars, both of whom are underrepresented on film. Merman stars things off with "Alexander's Ragtime Band" in front of a combo and sings "Mademoiselle from Armentières" (best known for the line "Hinky dinky parlez-vous") among a line of World War I Doughboys. Martin appears in a fashion-show pantomime comedy sketch, then both together lip-synch to an old Vaudeville number "Your Folks and My Folks." The last line of that song is the first time Martin utters a sound. The pièce de resistance is the closing 13-minute medley with the stars side by side. They begin with solo renditions of two signature numbers ("There's No Business Like Show Business" and "A Wonderful Guy") before trading off snippets of older songs such as "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" and "Wait 'Til the Sun Shines, Nellie." More compelling is their series of "I" songs, which leads to more signature numbers ("I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair" and "I Get a Kick Out of You"). From there, the medley closes in a rush, with the women singing in counterpoint then together on a reprise of "There's No Business Like Show Business." The stars have very different styles, of course, but appear to be enjoying their time together. It would have been nice to have more than 27 minutes of the two-hour show (which included, among others, Marian Anderson, Rudy Vallee, and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie), but Merman and Martin were clearly the most interesting segment, and their duet takes its place among the historic TV musical events such as the duet between Judy Garland and a young Barbra Streisand 11 years later. --David Horiuchi
The famed June 15, 1953 television special brought together two of the greatest leading ladies Broadway has ever known. The highlight of the program is Merman and Martin's 13-minute duet medley, where they sing the songs that made them famous, plus much more. On their own, Merman sings two numbers and Martin performs a brilliant comedy routine about changes in fashion over the first half of the 20th century. 27 min.