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Marvin Hamlisch: In and on TV

Composer Marvin Hamlisch plays the piano in a

Composer Marvin Hamlisch plays the piano in a Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel room. (Sept. 6, 1996) Credit: AP

Marvin Hamlisch, the brilliant composer who died yesterday at age 68, was a constant presence on television over the last forty years -- though rarely seen, often heard. His songbook is vast, and the music has appeared on hundreds of shows, often (usually) uncredited. So that leads me to these two clips -- Hamlisch in the flesh.

The first was on “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” back in 1976. (Hamlisch also appeared on “Letterman” a couple of times.) This clip's interesting because it features Bing Crosby and Ray Bolger doing a soft-shoe from “The Entertainer” -- a 1976 musical for NBC that starred Jack Lemmon, Bolger and the very fine Broadway actress Sada Thompson (who died last year).

Why is Crosby in this clip? Who knows! But it's priceless, and closes with an equally priceless Carson punch line. ("The Entertainer” was a Hamlisch musical adaptation of the famed John Osborne play that had earlier been adapted to screen, in a version starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright. It was a bitter dark look at show biz, though lost to time and the NBC archives is the answer to whether Hamlisch's “Entertainer” was.)

The next clip: A terrific one from Charlie Rose. Hamlisch was on the stump for one of his favorite -- and most urgent -- issues: Supporting the arts in public education. Take a look.

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