Set Designs for The
GarRy Moore Show
Set Designs for The Garry Moore Show
20 ¼ x 15 in.; 51.4 x 38.1 cm.
Gift of Charles Lisanby
These set designs were made around 1958 for Charles’ first long-term position at CBS as set designer for The Garry Moore Show. Moore had recently ended his daytime variety show, but CBS was eager for him to return with a hour-long weekly evening series as part of their fall lineup. Charles was enlisted to design sets for this new iteration alongside another young man named Gary Smith. Their designs would prove to be the only bright spot in an otherwise ill-received pilot. In fact, when CBS decided to fire the crew and reconceive the show, Charles was the only man retained.
Charles quickly became well-known and greatly respected for his innovative and insightful designs, as well as his rigorous work ethic. During his eight year tenure, in which he designed sets for 234 episodes, Charles was known for regularly attending the meetings of the show’s writers, which included Woody Allen and Neil Simon. Believing that great sets should flow seamlessly with the persons and actions with which they are surrounded, Charles worked to gain an intimate knowledge of every aspect of the specific episode and the intentions of its producer. “You have to find out what the show is about — who’s starring, what is the script or sketches,” Charles says, “You really have to service the show, figure out what it needs to say, what it has to say. People have to look at something, and if what they’re looking at bores them, they’re not going to watch”. Fortunately, Garry Moore quickly took a liking to Charles, allowing him ample input into future show themes and a great deal of artistic freedom. In fact, sometimes if Garry particularly liked one of Charles’ designs he would plan a whole show to complement it—the show being based on the set rather than vice-versa, as was traditionally done. Charles remembers one particularly ambitious opening that he persuaded Moore to use. “I wanted one opening number”, he chuckles, “where the girls were dressed like butterflies with wings and the boys were butterfly catchers with the helmets and nets that they could capture girls in, all because I wanted the guests to come in on the backs of fluttering butterflies”.
While working at The Garry Moore Show Charles had a significant role in igniting the career of famed comedienne Carol Burnett. While working for CBS, Charles would often have lunch at the nearby Susan Palmer Teashop in Rockefeller Center. One day when he went in the shop, the hostess introduced him to Carol, who was working as the hat check girl at the time, saying that she was going to be a television star one day. Two weeks later, Carol was cast in the Garry Moore Show as an extra and quickly became a recurring member of the cast after Charles suggested they ask her to return. Impressed by her work here, CBS soon cast Carol in some more ambitious productions including Once Upon a Mattress, Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, and Calamity Jane. Eventually, Carol convinced CBS to allow her to do her own variety show, The Carol Burnett Show, which became immensely successful and for which she is best known today.