Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Web Page 780
FIRST PICTURE: SGT ERNIE BILKO
SECOND PICTURE: THE LONG FORGOTTEN MINIATURE TRAIN AT HILSEA.
BILKO OR THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW ‘YOU’LL NEVER GET RICH’.
The Phil Silvers Show (originally entitled You'll Never Get Rich) was one of the most popular American comedy television series which ran from 1955 to 1959 for a total of 143 episodes (including a 1959 special).The series starred Phil Silvers as Master Sergeant Ernest G. Bilko of the United States Army. The series was created and written by Nat Hiken and won three consecutive Emmy Awards for Best Comedy Series. The show is sometimes titled Sergeant Bilko or simply Bilko in reruns. The show's success transformed Phil Silvers from a jobbing comedian into a major star.
By 1955, most American television had moved to Los Angeles, but Nat Hiken insisted on filming the series in New York City. Early episodes were filmed at Dumont's television centre in New York (with later episodes shot at the CBS Studios in the Chelsea, Manhattan. Most of the series was made to simulate a live performance. The actors memorized their lines, as in a play, and performed the scenes in sequence before a studio audience. Thus, there are occasional awkward pauses. This method of filming changed when Mike Todd made a guest appearance and refused to memorize the script. He insisted on the episode being filmed like a Hollywood movie, one scene at a time, and out of sequence. It was found that Todd's way was faster, cheaper, and was less demanding for the actors, so the series changed production methods. The finished films were screened for a live audience, whose response was recorded and added to the soundtracks.
Bilko's right-hand men were Cpl. Rocco Barbella and Cpl. Steve Henshaw. The large supporting cast included Private Sam Fender, the slovenly Private Duane Doberman and Private Dino Paparelli. Some episodes gave Bilko a romantic interest (with Sgt. Joan Hogan). Paul Ford (Col. Hall) was notorious for forgetting his lines and when he would get a blank expression on his face, the cast knew that they had to do something. They would then say something to the effect of "Oh you remember Colonel, the top brass is coming." At that point, Ford would pick up where he left off and the audience would respond by laughing.
The series was originally set in Fort Baxter, a sleepy U.S. Army base in the fictional town of Roseville, Kansas. Master Sergeant Ernest G. Bilko trying to wheedle money through various get-rich-quick scams usually behind the back of Col. Hall with his soldiers regularly helping him. Through it all, the platoon was fiercely loyal to Bilko and would depend on him to get them out of any military misfortune.
The show's setting changed with the fourth season, when the men of Fort Baxter were reassigned to Camp Fremont in California. This mass transfer was explained as being the inadvertent result of a Bilko con gone wrong. In reality, creator Hiken had left and it was an excuse to move the production to California and fill the episodes with guest appearances from nearby Hollywood.
In the series finale, Bilko discovers a cook who is the exact double of Colonel Hall. Bilko hires him to impersonate the colonel, so he can cheat the other officers in a bogus charity effort. The real Colonel Hall learns of the scam, and Bilko, Henshaw, and Barbella end up being locked in the guardhouse. As Colonel Hall looks at his prisoners on a closed-circuit TV he says "It's a wonderful show, and as long as I'm the sponsor, it will never be cancelled." The camera cuts to Bilko finally behind bars who waves to the camera and says, "Th-th-that's all, folks!" So ended the series.
Phil Silvers was born Philip Silversmith in Brooklyn the youngest of eight children in a Russian Jewish family. His father was one of the workers on the early New York skyscrapers. He started entertaining at age 11, when he would sing in theatres when the projector broke down. Two years later, he left school to sing professionally, before appearing in vaudeville as a stooge. He worked in short films for the Vitaphone studio and on Broadway. He made his major film debut in ‘Hit Parade of 1941’. Over the next two decades, he appeared in films for MGM, Columbia, and 20th Century Fox, in such films as ‘Lady Be Good’, ‘Coney Island’, ‘Cover Girl’, and ‘Summer Stock’.
A little known fact is that Phil Silvers wrote the lyrics for Frank Sinatra's "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)". Although he was not a songwriter, he wrote the lyrics on a whim while visiting Sinatra's home with composer Jimmy Van Heusen and meeting Sinatrs’s daughter.
He became a household name in 1955 when he starred as Sergeant Ernest G. Bilko in The Phil Silvers Show. Throughout the 1960s he appeared in films such as ‘It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’ and ‘40 Pounds of Trouble’. He was featured in Marilyn Monroe's last film, the unfinished ‘Something's Got to Give’. In 1967 he starred in ‘Carry On, Follow That Camel’. He also appeared as a guest on The Beverly Hillbillies, The Carol Burnett Show, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, and The Dean Martin Show.
In 1972, he suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered. Despite his poor health, he continued working into the early 1980s including an appearance on Happy Days as the father of "Jenny Piccolo" (played by his real-life daughter Cathy Silvers). He died on November 1, 1985 in Century City, California at the age of 74. The cause of death was a heart attack. He was interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.
A few years ago a remake of Sgt Bolko was made staring Steve Martin but this was a poor shadow of the original.
Hi Peter, reading your blog and the announcement of the upcoming solid silver 60s tour and P.J.Proby, reminded me of a conversation I had with a second hand record shop owner in Evesham some years back.
According to this chap P.J.Proby lives or did live in Evesham and the Man himself used to frequent his emporium occasionally.
The shop owner also ran the Billie Davis fan club and had met her a few times and She was currently (back then)touring with Jet Harris the ex and original bass player in The Shadows.
I was taking this info at face value only unless.....someone out there knows better?
NEWS AND VIEWS:
Elvis Presley's 17 year-old grandson, Benjamin, has been offered a $5 million, five-album deal by Universal Music. "The music will be nothing like Elvis, nothing like him at all," said the teenager.
ON THIS DAY 24TH OCTOBER 1960-1965
On 24/10/1960 the number one single was Only the Lonely - Roy Orbison and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Take Your Pick (AR) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 24/10/1961 the number one single was Walkin' Back to Happiness - Helen Shapiro and the number one album was Black & White Minstrel Show - George Mitchell Minstrels. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.The big news story of the day was Britain grants Malta autonomy.
On 24/10/1962 the number one single was Telstar - The Tornadoes and the number one album was Best of Ball Barber & Bilk. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was Cuban Missile Crisis. Very scary at the time.
On 24/10/1963 the number one single was Do You Love Me? - Brian Poole & the Tremoloes and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 24/10/1964 the number one single was (There's) Always Something There to Remind Me - Sandy Shaw and the number one album was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 24/10/1965 the number one single was Tears - Ken Dodd and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.