In 1953, the Ford Motor Company celebrated the 50th anniversary of the company in a way no one had ever seen before. As neither NBC nor CBS reached all the households in the country, Ford purchased prime time on both to air 'The Ford 50th Anniversary Show" on June 15th. It was said to the first "Television Spectacular", with a star-studded list of guests. Among those appearing were two of the top Broadway stars, Mary Martin and Ethel Merman. The ladies commanded the television screen for over 13 minutes, singing a medley of great songs both from Broadway and from Pop music. Ethel started the fun with"There's No Business Like Show Business" from the Irving Berlin musical 'Annie Get Your Gun', which originally starred Merman. Then Mary stepped in with "I'm In Love With a Wonderful Guy" from South Pacific', the Broadway hit by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II that starred Mary Martin. Then it was back to Ethel with "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" with music by Gus Edwards and lyrics by Edward Madden. Mary came back with "Wait 'Till The Sun Shines, Nellie" with music by Harry Von Tilzer and lyrics by Andrew B. Sterling, followed by Ethel singing "Sheik of Araby" with music by Ted Snyder and lyrics by Harry B. Smith & Francis Wheeler. Both Mary and Ethel joined in on "When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along)" written by Harry M. Woods. Martin broke off with the classic "My Melancholy Baby" with music by Ernie Burnett and lyrics by George A. Norton. Ethel took her turn with "You Made Me Love You" with music by James V. Monaco and lyrics by Joseph McCarthy. Martin sang "Mississippi Mud" by Harry Barris & James Cavanaugh.
Then the pair decided to sing "I" songs, which included "I Cried for You", "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles", "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows", "I'm in the Mood For Love", "I Love a Parade", "I'd Climb the Highest Mountain (If I Knew I'd Find You)", "I'm Sitting on Top of the World", "I've Got a Feelin' You're Foolin'", "I Can't Give You Anything but Love", "I'll Get By", "You're Just in Love", and "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair".
As if that weren't enough, the ladies sang a couple of songs by the great Cole Porter, as Ethel sang "I Get A Kick Out of You". Mary added "I've Got You Under My Skin", and the flirty "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" by Cole Porter. Then Ethel added a classic of her own, with "I Got Rhythm" by George and Ira Gershwin.
In one of the nicest parts of a great duet, both ladies took on different songs at the same time, bringing it all together. The songs included "Indian Love Call" with music by Rudolf Friml and lyrics by Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II, "Tea For Two" with music by Vincent Youmans and lyrics by Irving Ceasar & Otto Harbach, "Stormy Weather" with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Ted Koehler, and "Isn't It Romantic" with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Lorenz Hart. In the end, they raised their voices together on a reprise of the great Irving Berlin song, "There's No Business Like Show Business".
In 1953, Ethel Merman and Mary Martin were Broadway royalty, having been performing since the 1930s. Martin was given the Tony Award for 'Best Actress in a Musical' in 1950 for playing Nellie Forbush in 'South Pacific', and Merman won her Tony in 1951 for playing Sally Adams in 'Call Me Madam'. These were only the fourth and fifth years the Tony Awards were given. With this performance, you can see why they earned their awards. Such gifted ladies.