American Masters (1985– )
9 user 3 critic

Johnny Carson: King of Late Night 

Chronological look at the life and career of Johnny Carson (1925-2005), with commentary from an ex-wife and more than 30 fellow comedians, friends, employees, and biographers. The biography... See full summary »


Mark A. Catalena (as Mark Catalena), Peter Jones


Peter Jones




Episode credited cast:
Kevin Spacey ... Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Steve Allen ... Himself (archive footage)
Jack Bailey Jack Bailey ... Himself (archive footage)
Roseanne Barr ... Herself (archive footage)
Michael Barrie Michael Barrie ... Himself - Tonight Show Writer (as Mike Barrie)
Ginny Beauregard Ginny Beauregard ... Herself - Personal Assistant
Richard Benjamin ... Himself
Jack Benny ... Himself (archive footage)
Paul Block Paul Block ... Himself - Talent Coordinator
Mel Brooks ... Himself
William F. Buckley ... Himself (archive footage)
Vicki Budinger Vicki Budinger ... Herself (archive footage) (as Miss Vicki)
Truman Capote ... Himself (archive footage)
Drew Carey ... Himself
Catharine Carson Catharine Carson ... Herself (archive footage) (as Katherine Carson)


Chronological look at the life and career of Johnny Carson (1925-2005), with commentary from an ex-wife and more than 30 fellow comedians, friends, employees, and biographers. The biography defines why Carson was an enduring star (his cool, his timing, his genuine laugh, his breadth of knowledge) and pursues his motivations and inner self (a loner with a drinking problem, a decent Midwesterner whose mother withheld approval, a quiet person who loved to entertain). The key to understanding him, argues the biography, is his love of magic. Written by <>

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Not Rated






Release Date:

14 May 2012 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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Did You Know?


Jeff Sotzing was credited on screen in two different ways, first as "Himself - Producer, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," and second as "Nephew." See more »


Don Rickles: He had the kind of personality that when the light went on, he could do it all. When the light went off, a lot of times he wanted to put the covers over his head and go to bed.
See more »


Features Johnny Goes Home (1982) See more »


One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)
Written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer
Performed by Bette Midler
See more »

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User Reviews

I was surprised I liked this film so much.
8 January 2015 | by runamokprodsSee all my reviews

While I grew up enjoying Johnny Carson, he wasn't somebody I felt driven to know more about. But this almost 2 hour documentary does a terrific job of dovetailing both the public and private sides of the man to give a portrait of a tremendous talent who could handle anything on his show with amazing spontaneous grace and humor, but had a much harder time dealing with people, love and family out in the real world. A complete extrovert on-stage, he was a true introvert away from the lights, struggling with drinking, anger and extra-martial affairs. Yet while the film doesn't flinch in looking at his sad and dark sides, it does so with compassion and never feels like a hit job. It balances these darker, sometimes very moving sections with great clips from "The Tonight Show" that remind one just how damn funny the guy could be, in spite of his troubled personal life.

For a film I wasn't sure I even wanted to see, it did an excellent job of hooking me in and riveting me in telling the story of a great entertainer who was far more complicated than I imagined.

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