Ernie Kovacs, Edie Adams Archives Acquired by Library of Congress

AP Images
Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams on TV in 1961.

Kinescopes, videotapes and home movies featuring the groundbreaking comic and his singer-actress wife were purchased from her son.

The Library of Congress, in its latest step to preserve the work of great entertainers, has acquired a collection of kinescopes, videotapes and home movies featuring comedian Ernie Kovacs and his wife, singer-actress Edie Adams, it was announced Thursday.

The library purchased the comprehensive collection, which includes more than 1,200 audiovisual items, from Josh Mills, the president of Ediad Productions and Adams’ son. The price was not disclosed.

Kovacs was renowned for his innovative, surrealistic and out-of-the-box television comedy, while Adams had a successful career on the big and small screens and on Broadway and was memorable in a series of sultry cigar commercials (“Why don’t you pick one up and smoke it sometime?”). They often worked together.

Kovacs, 42, died on Jan. 13, 1962, in a car crash on Santa Monica Boulevard on his way home from a party in Beverly Hills. Adams, 81, died of cancer on Oct. 15, 2008.

The Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams Collection includes videotape masters of all eight of Kovacs’ 1961-62 monthly ABC specials and 35 episodes of Take a Good Look, his 1959-61 ABC quiz show; 35mm kinescopes of 74 episodes of Kovacs’ 1956 NBC morning show; original 16mm elements of Kovacs’ silent-movie spoof, “The Mysterious Knockwurst,” made in 1953 for his CBS morning show; and videotape masters of all 21 episodes of Here’s Edie, Adams’ 1962-64 ABC sketch-comedy show.

In 1997, the Library of Congress released the first comprehensive study on the state of American television and video preservation, which uncovered a “cultural legacy at risk.” A year earlier, Adams spoke at a public hearing about how videotapes and kinescopes of her husband’s programs were loaded onto a boat and dumped in the water in the early 1970s.

The library already houses archives from other comic legends, such as Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Danny Kaye, Johnny Carson and Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz.

“It’s immensely gratifying that Edie’s dedication to preserving the history of Ernie’s pioneering genius in television will ensure that both of their work will live on for generations to enjoy,” Mills said in a statement.

The Kovacs and Adams material will be available to researchers in the library’s Motion Picture and Television Reading Room in Washington. Processing of the collection continues, but much of it is now available to researchers, the library said.

Meanwhile, Shout! Factory announced it has extended its deal with Ediad to distribute Kovacs video from the 1950s and early '60s for five years through 2020. 

Twitter: @mikebarnes4

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