FOCUS | CAROL BURNETT
WentWith theWind Season 10—Episode 8 This parody of Gone With the Wind featured Burnett as “Starlet O’Hara,” who ends up wearing a dress designed from a curtain rod and drapes. “I will never forget when we first read the script for this, and the only thing the writ- ers had said was that I come down the stairs with draperies just hanging on me. Then Bob came up with the idea to use a curtain rod. He said, ‘I have an idea. Come here!’ I followed him into the dressing room and there it was! I almost fell on the floor from laughing as soon as I saw it. I knew right then it was going to be one of the greatest sight gags ever. That dress is in the Smithsonian now. Sometimes I’ll get fan mail with a photo of someone who decided to make their own version and wear it on Halloween. “What comes back to me about this one is when I had to run up the stairs and get into that outfit. I had to escape up the stairs to get backstage, where Bob Mackie was waiting. He’d set up a little wooden platform along with my dresser, and nobody else could get up there. It was very heavy! Bob had to make sure it was quick to get into because the change had to be done while Vicki and Harvey were doing their little scene below. “I remember coming out with the whole thing on and hearing laughter that sounded like a clap of thunder when the audience saw what I was wearing. I have to admit, I almost cracked up myself. You know when you see me coming down the stairs? I was actually biting the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing. My charac- ter couldn’t laugh at that point. She had to take herself seriously. Harvey was great in that moment. It was the first time he’d seen the out- fit. Even the camera crew hadn’t seen it, because I hadn’t worn it in our regular rehearsal.”
The Family Multiple Episodes
L-R: Lawrence (as Mama), Conway (as Mickey), and Burnett (as Eunice), 1977.
The recurring series of sketches, which would eventually become a series of its own, revolved around a blue-collar Southern family that included a strong-willed daughter, Eunice (Bur- nett), and her cantankerous Mama (Lawrence). “I loved getting to play Eunice. It was funny to me that I was 16 years older than Vicki, but she played my mama. Originally they wrote that I would do Mama and a guest star would do Eunice. We honestly never thought we’d keep doing those characters. Eunice really spoke to me, so I said I’d rather do her and get an older woman to play Mama. Bob had the idea to put Vicki in the wig and fat suit. “The characters spoke in that accent because I’m from Texas and my family is from Arkansas. When we ran through it, I automatically started in that accent. We did run-throughs with the writers, and they were very upset. They thought, ‘We’re going to alienate the entire South.’ They were never happy until we did it on air and started getting all this enthusiastic fan mail.”
“It was funny to me that I was 16 years older than Vicki, but she played my mama.”
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