Do you remember the show 'Stanley'?
Buddy Hackett and Carol Burnett starred in this short-lived 1950s sitcom.
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In 1956, pioneering television producer Max Liebman, who produced the early fifties sketch show Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and Carl Reiner, decided to move from the variety shows and television movies he had done previously to a weekly situation comedy. Broadcast live (from New York) like many shows of that time, the series only lasted 19 episodes but showcased the emerging talents of two future comedy stars – Buddy Hackett and Carol Burnett.
Hackett played the titular character in Stanley, the operator of a newsstand in the lobby of a posh hotel. His comedic misadventures with the many guests of the hotel provided the basis for each episode. Hackett would go on to star in The Music Man and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, among many others. His comedic antics were a favorite of many late-night TV hosts, particularly Johnny Carson. Hackett appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson more than 100 times.
Carol Burnett leaned into her physical comedy skills on Stanley, playing Stanley's awkward girlfriend, Celia. In her interview with the Archive of American Television, Burnett said the sitcom "was good training because it was live." However, Burnett was still focused on her stage career at the time and did not truly fall in love with television until she was cast as a regular performer on The Garry Moore Show.
Jane Connell also appeared on nine episodes of Stanley, playing Celia's friend. She went on to act in many stage and screen productions including both the Broadway and movie versions of Mame, playing Agnes Gooch. Only a few years after appearing with Burnett on Stanley, Connell played the role that Burnett originated on Broadway, Princess Winnifred, in Once Upon a Mattress while the musical was playing in London.
Other notable actors involved in Stanley include Diane Ladd, who was right at the beginning of a long career in both movies and television, and Paul Lynde, who voiced the owner of the hotel frequently heard over the PA system. Lynde appeared in many classic television shows like The Munsters and Bewitched and played Harry McAfee in the 1963 film version of Bye Bye Birdie.
The talent behind the camera for Stanley would also become well-known in the industry. Producer Max Leibman brought writers from Your Show of Shows to write on his new sitcom. One of those writers was Neil Simon. Years after writing an episode of Stanley, Simon created many comedy classics, most famously The Odd Couple, both the original play and film adaptation.
While mostly forgotten, Stanley brought together many burgeoning talents right on the cusp of making names for themselves in the entertainment industry. Not bad for only 19 episodes!