On the Peculiar Historical Phenomenon of Donny and Marie


Alright now, this morning we’ve had posts on Redd Foxx, Tim Moore and Uncle Remus…Now to shift all the way to the other end of the color spectrum. For today is Donny Osmond’s birthday (b.1957). And while I cringe to observe it, I suppose there is a point in mentioning here the variety show Osmond had in the late 70s with his sister Marie, television variety being a necessary chapter in the history of vaudeville.

Donny and Marie aired from 1976 to 1979. My sister and I (being a brother and a sister) were quite into the show, at least when it started. I rapidly grew out of it, though. By the time I hit 12 or so, I was growing by leaps and bounds and fare like Donny and Marie began to seem pretty silly and embarrassing to me.

It’s weird to go back and watch these shows now; my perspective has shifted yet again. The Donny and Marie of the 70s are now young enough to be my children, so I don’t feel the same degree of revulsion that I would have had a couple of decades ago. Their bag, of course, was that they were Mormon and clean-cut, part of the Nixon and post-Nixon era backlash against the counterculture that formed one of the threads of American society at the time. I recall in one sketch, the big joke was that Donny as Rhett Butler said to Marie, “Frankly, Scarlet I don’t give a …darn.” (Because Mormons aren’t supposed to swear). Ugh. Paul Lynde, a regular on the show reportedly hated the gig because “he didn’t like children”. I suspect that it was because he didn’t like these children.

At any rate, theirs was one of the very last of the true prime-time television variety shows. It bears investigation if only on that score.

To find out more about show biz past and present (including television variety like “Donny and Marie”)consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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