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.
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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