Silvers Gets Gold
Okay, this is the Phil Silvers recording I've been referring to. It's quite wonderful -- a famous number in Broadway lore -- and one of the best (and most unlikely) things you'll have heard Phil Silvers, one of the great comics in American popular culture, do.
This is the final number in the show, Do Re Mi. As I mentioned the other day, the musical, which has a score by Jule Styne and Comden & Green -- and one huge, famous number from it -- is about a very low-level, wheeler-dealer scam artist, Hubie Cram (played by Silvers) who is always looking for the Big Score, always trying to find something, anything, anyway to get ahead, whatever it takes. In many way, it's the ideal Phil Silvers role, not terribly far off from Sgt. Bilko, though a bit more on the seedy, conning side. The show is definitely a comedy, but edgyier slightly-darker.
In all Hubie's comic, but selfish efforts, the people around him are pieces to the puzzle, almost not mattering, with the result that he ends up pushing them away, including to his surprise his wife, played by Nancy Walker. And so, having hit the bottom, he finally has to face terms with what he's come to. There's no where else to turn. And that brings the show to what's referring to at its "11 o'clock number. A song titled, "All of My Life."
It's a wonderful, soul-searching song under any circumstance, whoever sings it. But when it's sung by -- indeed originated by -- the beloved comic legend who has made a career being the fast-talking con man, it takes on a far-richer impact. This is that very finger-snapping schemer now having those self-same schemes fall apart underneath him and forced to take a deep look at an empty life, And Silvers, to his great credit, doesn't waver a breath in softening the song. This comic performs it with full understanding, letting it build dramatically and powerfully. And when it comes to the end -- in fact, even more specifically the final three words (and keep in mind that this was in 1960, a much gentler time, particularly on Broadway), I still get chills.
Here then is Phil Silvers, the ultimate scam artist comic, as you likely haven't ever heard him, singing, "All of My Life."
But, hey, would I let you go out on that heartbreaking note? No, siree. Because in the end, in the very end, when Hubie is at the bottom, he finally understands what's important in his life -- in all of life. And for the finale, he reprises that aforementioned, really famous number from the show. One I'm pretty much certain most everyone will know.
Here's where it comes from.
11/6/2013 11:07:56 am
Wow. I wish there was film of this. So, if Silvers was capable of this (which doesn't surprise me), why didn't MGM do more with him? The made a movie star out of Red Skelton, for goodness sake! (I liked Red, but he was never this good; even doing Freddie) It would have been nice to see Nancy Walker too. Big Broadway star and she's best remembered for a couple of TV shows, Rosie the Waitress from the Bounty commercials and maybe by Murder by Death's fans.
11/6/2013 11:29:42 am
Yes, it is quite the "wow." I figured you'd love it. The song is really a legendary performance in Broadway lore, yet little known. I've probably listened to it two dozen times, and I meant it when I said I get chills over the last three words.
11/8/2013 02:01:26 am
Phil's memoir goes into his films a bit; but his métier was the stage and TV. His peers - Gleason, Berle - also never had great success before live TV.
11/8/2013 02:25:48 am
Thanks. True. Some did crack through early, but for whatever reason, many didn't. Gleason at least did have some notable success in film after. Never a huge film star, but a solid career.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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