Call her Princess Carol - Carol Burnett is practically royalty

This Queen of Comedy started out as a princess!

Image: The Everett Collection

It's almost an affront that Carol Burnett can't add the official title of "princess" to her list of accomplishments. That's right, folks — our very own funny mistress earned a crown at the start of her career.

It all started with a pea, a mattress and Carol Burnett playing the original princess of the ponds. Or marshlands. 

Once Upon a Mattress is a Broadway musical that retells that story of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, "The Princess and the Pea." In this rendition, the kingdom is awaiting a princess to marry Prince Dauntless, but no young lady seems to measure up to Queen Aggravain's expectations. That is, until Princess Winnifred the Woebegone arrives from the northern marshlands to give it her best go. All she has to do is pass the Queen's test of feeling a tiny pea underneath twenty mattresses and a princess she will be.

While many have seen Burnett in the 1964 made-for-TV movie version of the musical, they often forget that Burnett is the originator of the role of Princess Winnifred.

The show opened on May 11, 1959, at the Phoenix Theatre, an Off-Broadway space that lived at E. 12th Street and Second Avenue in the East Village of New York City, New York. The show ran for just shy of a year before transferring to the Alvin Theatre (now known as the Neil Simon Theatre) on the official stretch of street known famously as Broadway. 

The Everett CollectionBurnett showing off her feat of strength during the number

Burnett wowed audiences with her physical comedy in the show; such feats include a number in which she performs a series of the prior tests that the Queen ordained, or making her first appearance before the court after swimming the castle moat. When this is paired with farcical hit songs such as "Shy" and "The Swamps of Home," it's no wonder that Burnett was up for her first Tony award in the category of Best Leading Actress.

Who would have known that of all of her accomplishments, this one would pop up yet again?

In 2007, The Wonderful World of Disney released another made-for-TV movie version of the show that boasted the talents of great performers like Matthew Morrison and Zoey Deschanel. The most notable name, however, was that of Burnett yet again. She received a royal upgrade and took over the role of Queen Aggravain, yielding her original role to the hilarious Tracy Ullman.

The next time you hear Burnett referred to as the "Queen of Comedy," remember that she started off just like any other princess — singing, dancing, and swimming across moats.

Watch The Carol Burnett Show on MeTV!

Weeknights at 11 PM
Sundays at 10:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
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waccooga 4 months ago
I'm in love with a girl named Fred. My Reasons must be clear. When you see how strong she is, you'll stand right up and Cheer!
teire waccooga 4 months ago
And she’s SHY-Y-Y-Y!
cperrynaples 4 months ago
Actually, most of us saw the '70's remake, which is where the Ken Berry photo came from. The 1964 version was B&W and may not even exist now!
teire cperrynaples 4 months ago
I remember the 1964 version and the one from the 70s. I've also seen several high school productions (including my own high school's), it's a great fun show.
The 1964 version does exist, it can be viewed on You Tube. {Along with the '70's remake.}
Speaking of Carol, have either you cperrynaples, or you teire read any of her books? I have both of her autobios. {one is a continuation of the other;} as well as the behind the scenes look of TCBS. I am in the process of going through them now. I read a bit from each one. These are really good. As you probably know, she had a hard life growing up, both of her parents were alcoholics. Her her grandmother {mom's mom?} raised her. These books are {like I said,} really well written. She's as good at being a teller of tales, as she is in making us laugh. So, if either of you, [or anyone] are on the hunt for some good reading, I recommend highly, Carol's books!
Thanks for the tip Stephanie.
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