... when I was a kid. Carol Burnett's show was EVERYTHING! And Harvey Korman was an integral part of that magic. I don't know if it would be as funny now, but I don't think I'll try to find out. I'll just leave it in my memory. Every comedian should aspire to the freedom and comfort and courage that they performed with on that show. Beautiful
Rest in Peace Mr. Korman.
'Burnett Show' comic actor Harvey Korman dies
Friday, May 30, 2008
Comic character actor Harvey Korman, best known as part of the ensemble that made "The Carol Burnett Show" a huge ratings and Emmy winner for more than a decade, died Thursday at UCLA Medical Center from complications of a ruptured aortic artery. He was 81.
Although Mr. Korman's film roles were classic, including his turn as a sniveling Hedley Lamarr in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles," it was on the small screen that he found his enduring fame. For 10 seasons starting in 1967, Mr. Korman was part of Burnett's core group of performers. He was Rhett Butler to her drapery-wearing Scarlett O'Hara in the famous "Gone With the Wind" sketch, and he was Max the butler in the show's spoof of "Sunset Boulevard."
Burnett was the CBS show's star, but the ensemble, which also included Vicki Lawrence and Tim Conway, was what made the sketches work week after week. Yet, within that beautifully assembled group, Mr. Korman and Conway stood out as a perfect comic pairing on the level of Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, and Burns and Allen.
Mr. Korman, the taller of the pair, was the straight man who couldn't keep a straight face as Conway succeeded almost every week in finding some way to break his partner up with some bit of unrehearsed business. Much of the joy the audience felt toward the show came from those moments when Mr. Korman would fight every impulse to laugh as Conway droned on in some inspired comic rift, until, finally and predictably, Mr. Korman would double over in laughter.
Burnett was devastated by Mr. Korman's death, said her assistant, Angie Horejsi.
"She loved Harvey very much," she said.
"He was a brilliant comedian and a brilliant father," daughter Kate Korman said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. "He had a very good sense of humor in real life."
Harvey Herschel Korman was born in Chicago on Feb. 15, 1927, and left college to join the Navy. He later attended the Chicago Institute's Goodman School of Drama and moved to New York to try to catch a break in show business.
"For the next 13 years, I tried to get on Broadway, on off-Broadway, under or beside Broadway," he said in a 1971 interview.
Finding no luck getting hired for the stage, Mr. Korman tried a comedy act with a friend, but the two were fired on their opening night.
Next, Mr. Korman headed West to try his luck in films, but for his first three years in Hollywood the closest he got to the movie business was working as a doorman at a movie theater.
Finally, he was hired in 1964 by Danny Kaye to be part of the ensemble for his TV show and remained a part of the cast until the show was canceled in 1967.
He found guest spots in other shows from time to time, including "The Steve Allen Comedy Hour" and "The Untouchables," but he found a home with the launch of the Burnett show in 1967. The show earned him four Emmys.
He left the show early to try his own show in 1978, but "The Harvey Korman Show" only lasted a few episodes before it was canceled.
Looking back on his failed venture during a 1999 interview with The Chronicle's Sylvia Rubin, Mr. Korman knew why it didn't work:
"Everybody thinks they can do their own show," he said before appearing at a benefit with Conway for the San Francisco State University athletic scholarship fund. "But not everybody can. It didn't work because I'm not a star. There's a certain persona, a certain something you have to have. I ain't got it. I've got heartburn, indigestion, arthritis, but not star quality."
In addition to his "Blazing Saddles" role in 1974, Mr. Korman appeared in other Brooks films, including "High Anxiety," "History of the World: Part I" and "Dracula: Dead and Loving It."
"A world without Harvey Korman - it's a more serious world," Brooks said in an AP interview. "It was very dangerous for me to work with him because if our eyes met we'd crash to the floor in comic ecstasy. ... It was comedy heaven to make Harvey Korman laugh."
Mr. Korman's other films included "Gypsy," "Huckleberry Finn" and two "Pink Panther" movies.
Mr. Korman's 1960 marriage to Donna Elhart ended in divorce in 1977. In 1982, he married Debrah Fritz, who survives him along with two children from his first marriage and two from his second.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.
Chronicle news services contributed to this report. E-mail David Wiegand at email@example.com.