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Don Crichton: Lead Ernie Flatt Dancer on The Carol Burnett Show

Vickie Lawrence and Don Crichton

Vickie Lawrence and Don Crichton

A familiar face on The Carol Burnette Show

The Carol Burnette Show ran from September 1967 until April 1978 on CBS and now can be seen weeknights on MeTV from 11-11:30 PM. The regulars on the variety show with Burnette were Harvey Korman, (1967-1977) Vickie Lawrence,(The entire 11 years) Lyle Wagoner (1967-1975 ), and Tim Conway,.who replaced Wagoner and remained until the end of the series run. There was someone else working with Burnette for a decade whose face you may recognize but you may never have heard his name. From 1968-to 1978 Don Crichton made 10 appearances on the weekly variety series although he was uncredited. Crichton was the lead dancer with the Ernie Fatt Dancers and was in many memorable skits including "Went with the Wind" where he portrayed a Yankee soldier who came to the front door.

Vickie Lawrence and Crichton in Went with the wind.

Vickie Lawrence and Crichton in Went with the wind.

The backbone of the Carol Burnette Show

Those in charge of the Burnette show did not have the name of Crichton or any other Ernie Flatt Dancers names in the credits but they were the backbone of the variety show. It's true that Carol and her main cast could hold their own without assistance but the skits with the "Ghost Extra's were very memorable. A Ghost Extra is a cast member who remains in the background and does not speak. There were a number of these individuals on the sitcom Hogans Heroes who just stood around and never took part in the main plot. Don Crichton and others were somewhere in the middle as they often had lines and worked with the main cast. I recently caught the ending of an episode of The Carol Burnette Show on Thursday night March 3 where Carol had guests signing her autograph book and was kissing them. It looked as if Crichton was the man standing on the far left but I could not be certain. If so he probably was flattered to obtain that type of recognition although his name never rolled with the credits. I also do not recall ever hearing Burnette give any credit to those in the background who at times were the backbone of specific episodes.

Don Crichton (third from left)with Bernadette Peters and the Ernie Flatt Dancerws

Don Crichton (third from left)with Bernadette Peters and the Ernie Flatt Dancerws

Often during the first run of a television series, the viewers can miss a lot of detail. Thanks to retro and streaming services, favorite episodes can be viewed multiple times and 50 years later fans can have "Ah-ha" moments and catch things they did not pay attention to before. Although Crichton is said to have been in only 10 episodes of Burnette's variety show he was in many different skits and it seemed as if he had more air time than he really did. The actor/dancer grew up in Enfield, Connecticut and graduated from Enfield High School in 1952 where he was considered "Best Dressed Boy" and "Best Boy Dancer." Don taught dance classes in his hometown for several years before beginning a career in entertainment. He began on Broadway and ended up on Burnette's show which was "the highest-rated television variety program of its time"According to Enfiled resident Karen Thibodeau, not only did Crichton teach dance lessons but he also designed the dance costumes for recitals.

Crichton and Lucile Ball.

Crichton and Lucile Ball.

Don Crichton and Carol Burnette

Crichton was born on September 3, 1934, and made his Broadway debut in1953. where he performed with some of the great stars like Carol Channing and Rita Moreno. His first television role was in Garry Moore's variety show, where he met a young Carol Burnett. In time he found himself in Hollywood, as one of the Ernie Flatt Dancers, and later became the lead dancer on Burnett's show. Vicki Lawrence, says that she has "wonderful memories" of Crichton during the time they worked together. In a 2020 telephone interview with Patch, Lawrence said. that she was talking to Burnette on the first day of rehearsal when a "gorgeous, handsome" man wearing tap shoes, came over to them and Carol, was delighted to see Don again. Lawrence says she was young at the time and Crichton was very supportive and helpful to her regarding the dance sequences. She added he was always polite and always had a smile on his face. While working on the Burnett show,

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Don Crichton today

Don Crichton today

Additional projects

Crichton appeared on several other television series including "The Red Skelton Show", "Here's Lucy" and "The Bob Hope Show." After Carol's show went off the air Crichton choreographed episodes of many television series, which include Silver Spoons, Mama's Family, The Colby's Three's Company, "Alice," and "The Tim Conway Show," He was also a judge in the 40th Miss American Pageant in 1991. In 2010 he directed Viagara Falls, a comedy by Lou Cutell and Joao Machado, that played at the Little Shubert Theatre and starred Florence Henderson and Teresa Ganzel.

Crichton with Florence Henderson and Teresa Ganzel.

Crichton with Florence Henderson and Teresa Ganzel.

Don Crichton today

Patch tried reaching out to Crichton for the interview but were unable to contact him. In addition to the credits that have already been listed in this Hub, Turner Classic Movies reveal the actor/dancer/ choreographer appeared as a dancer in Star in 1952 and The Girl Rush in 1955. He was also in Chu Chu and the Philly Flash in 1981 and choreographed Bob Hope The First 90 Years in 1993. There is no record of whether or not this versatile entertainer ever married or had children but he has given the entertainment industry a lasting legacy. If you are a fan of The Carol Burnette Show be sure to tune in to MeTV and look for Don Crichton and his infectious smile.

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Cheryl E Preston

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