May 30, 2008

Comedic Master Harvey Korman Dies

From Carol Burnett Show to Blazing Saddles to
The Flintstones
' Great Gazoo and More

Harvey Korman (right), pictured here with longtime collaborator Tim Conway in 2002, during their induction into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.

Actor Harvey Korman, best known for his enduring comedic work during his decade-long run with The Carol Burnett Show and for roles in several Mel Brooks films, has died. The Primetime Emmy-winner was 81.

Korman, who had been ailing for several months, died yesterday at UCLA Medical Center of complications from an abdominal aortic aneurysm that ruptured earlier this year.

A tall man with remarkable versatility as a performer, Korman was able to get laughs with silly accents or pratfalls, and to portray characters from the debonair to the overtly buffoonish. Often accompanied by his Carol Burnett Show costar, Tim Conway, he was responsible for some of the funniest, most memorable comedy sketches in television history.

Korman’s natural rapport with Conway was the source of such comedy gold that the duo continued to perform together years after The Carol Burnett Show, which debuted in 1967, left the air. Among other collaborations, they enjoyed great success touring the country with a two-man show.

From 1983 to 1985, he appeared in the NBC sitcom Mama’s Family, based on characters created on The Carol Burnett Show by Korman, Burnett and Vicki Lawrence.

In addition to his vast television resume, Korman appeared in more than 30 movies, including Gypsy and Curse of the Pink Panther, but he is best remembered for his work with Mel Brooks, who became aware of Korman when his wife, the late Anne Bancroft, saw Korman on The Carol Burnett Show.

In Korman’s first film with Brooks, the Western comedy Blazing Saddles, he played a pompous villain named Hedley Lamarr. He also appeared in Brooks’ High Anxiety, History of the World — Part 1 and Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

Harvey Herschel Korman was born February 15, 1927, in Chicago. He began performing as a child, and began working professionally at age 12, when a local radio station hired him.

During World War II he served in the U.S. Navy, after which he moved to New York to further his career. For several years he supported himself with such bill-paying jobs as a waiter and gas station attendant.

After relocating to California in the early 1960s, he enjoyed his first major success as a cast member for three years on The Danny Kaye Show. Then came The Carol Burnett Show.

In the ensuing years he remained busy, guest starring on numerous TV series, and remaining in high demand as a voice performer in dozens of animated series, a talent he demonstrated early in his career on The Flintstones as the voice of the space alien known as the Great Gazoo.

For his work on The Carol Burnett Show, Korman won three Primetime Emmy Awards and was nominated for three more. In 2002, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Hall of Fame.

Korman is survived by his wife, Deborah, four children and three grandchildren. Services will be private.

Archive of American Television talks with Harvey Korman

On April 20, 2004, the Archive of American Television interview Harvey Korman, along with longtime collaborator Tim Conway.

During the conversation, Korman spoke about studying under actress Uta Hagen and reflected on his earliest television roles. Having worked with several legendary comics, he shared stories about Danny Kaye, Lucille Ball and Jack Benny.

He and Conway delved into great detail about their years on The Carol Burnett Show, including descriptions of famous characters and sketches. Plus, they spoke of their work touring the country with their two-man stage show.

Korman went on to discuss his feature film collaborations with Mel Brooks and Blake Edwards, his experience headlining several short-lived television series, and his thoughts on being better suited as a supporting player.

He also spoke of his work as a voice actor, including his work as the beloved "Great Gazoo" on The Flintstones.

The complete interview is available for viewing at the AAT office, located on the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences plaza in North Hollywood. You may also view it view the entire interview here at Google Video. Contact the Television Archive at (818) 754-2800 for more information.

To learn more about this life and works of this American Archive of Television personality online, please visit the Archive of American Television Update blog.

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