"Your Show of Shows" won Emmys for best variety show in 1952 and '53. At the end of its fourth season, however, NBC decided to drop the program and give Caesar and co-star Coca their own shows.

"The Imogene Coca Show" was canceled after a single season. But "Caesar's Hour," with Nanette Fabray replacing Coca, and Reiner and Morris returning as regulars, was a success.

The new show earned Caesar another Emmy in 1957, the same year the program was canceled.

In 1958, Caesar was reunited with Coca on the short-lived "Sid Caesar Invites You," a live, half-hour comedy-variety series on ABC, and he went on to do a number of hourlong TV specials.

He starred on Broadway in 1962 in "Little Me," playing seven characters. And he was one of the big names in director Stanley Kramer's star-studded 1963 comedy film "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."

But Caesar's return to weekly television the same year was a bust: "The Sid Caesar Show," a half-hour comedy-variety show on ABC that ended after five months.

Over the next few decades, Caesar continued to perform on stage and make occasional guest appearances on TV series and in movies such as Brooks' "Silent Movie" and "History of the World: Part 1," and "Grease."

But for much of that time, his drinking and pill-taking continued to dramatically affect his life. During the first four months of 1978, he never left his house and rarely even got out of bed.

While starring in a dinner theater production in Canada that May, Caesar had trouble remembering his lines and wasn't even sure where he was supposed to stand or sit.

It was then, while back in his dressing room, that he realized he had to decide whether he wanted to live or die.

He chose, he wrote in "Where Have I Been?" to live.

He checked into a hospital and went off booze and pills cold turkey, the first step in recovering from what he described as his own personal 20-year Great Depression.

"I survived it all — blackouts, wipeouts, falling down, disaster, disaster, disaster, because of my wife, my beautiful, steadfast wife. And my kids," Caesar told the Boston Globe in 1992. "I'm a happy man now. Contented."

Caesar's wife of 67 years, Florence, died in 2010. He is survived by his daughters Michele Glad and Karen Caesar, son Richard and two grandsons.


McLellan is a former Times staff writer. Times staff writer Steve Chawkins contributed to this report.