This all came about when I was writing a friend about a revival of the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum that played in Chicago around 1971. It starred Phil Silvers as 'Pseudolus', and he was tremendous. (If I recall correctly, Larry Gelbart -- who co-wrote the book with his then-partner Burt Shevelove -- told me that Silvers had been one of the first choices for the original production, but he turned it down. When they made the movie, Zero Mostel recreated his starring Broadway role, but Silvers joined the cast as the procurer Marcus Lycus. And then things came full circle, when he took on the lead role in the revival.)
The revival was originally intended to play only in Los Angeles, but thanks to Larry Blyden -- who played the sidekick, Hysterium and was also, I think, one of the producers -- he pushed the show to tour the country, where I saw it in Chicago, and then it went to Broadway. Where Phil Silvers won the Tony Award as Best Leading Actor in a Musical.
(Don't worry, I'll get around to Happy Days -- but not yet.)
What's infuriating is that the production is the only one of the show's three on Broadway that didn't get a cast album. Not only does that mean Phil Silvers' performance wasn't captured on record, they also didn't have a recording of the wonderful "The Echo Song" which was added to that production, and then dropped from later productions. (I absolutely loved the song, but could never find a recording of it. About 15-20 years later, I had become friends with Larry Gelbart and off-handedly asked him if he know whether there was a recording of the song. He didn't know but said he'd ask Steve the next time they spoke. I figured that that was his assistant -- but I then realized he meant the show's composer, Stephen Sondheim. I thought that that was wonderfully nice of him, but didn't expect anything to come of it. Even though Larry and I were friendly, it was only over email at that point. We hadn't ever even met -- that was to come later. But a week after, he wrote me back, "Steve says it was done in a little revue and has a copy. He's sending it to me, and I'll get it to you. What's your address?" As the expression goes, that it is high cotton. And shows what a wonderful guy Larry Gelbart was.
Anyway, during the run of Forum Phil Silvers had a stroke. Happily, he recovered enough to continue performing in some small things for the movies and TV.
At which point we'll now change gears and bring up...yes, Happy Days. At the time, one of the characters in the show was named 'Jennie Piccalo," a friend of 'Joanie Cunningham. She was played by an actress named Cathy Silvers, who is the daughter of Phil Silvers. I was aware of that, though at that point in the series' life I didn't watch it much. And so I had no idea that they wrote an episode where Phil Silvers appeared and played the father of his real-life daughter.
And this is that scene.
He's clearly not in the best of health, but is nonetheless wonderful in the scene. And there's even what is clearly a very-intentional touch of 'Sgt. Bilko' at the very end.