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Phil Silvers (1911)

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  Summary  

Phil Silvers (May 11, 1911 – November 1, 1985) was an American entertainer and comedy actor, known as "The King of Chutzpah." He is best known for starring in The Phil Silvers Show, a 1950s sitcom set on a U.S. Army post in which he played Sergeant Bilko.

  Biography  

 early life and career
Born Philip Silver on Thursday, May 11, 1911, in Brooklyn, New York, in the working-class Brownsville section, he was the eighth and youngest child of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Saul and Sarah (née Handler) Silver. His siblings were Lillian, Harry, Jack, Saul, Pearl, Michael, and Reuben Silver. His father, a sheet metal worker, helped build the early New York skyscrapers.

Silvers started entertaining at age 11, when he would sing in theaters when the projector broke down . By age 13 he was working as a singer in the Gus Edwards Revue, and then worked in vaudeville and as a burlesque comic.

Silvers next worked in short films for the Vitaphone studio, such as Ups and Downs , and on Broadway, where he made his debut in the short-lived show Yokel Boy in 1939. Critics raved about Silvers, who was hailed as the bright spot in the mediocre play. The Broadway revue High Kickers was based on his concept.

He made his feature film debut in Hit Parade of 1941 in 1940(his previous appearance as a 'pitch man' in Strike Up the Band was cut). Over the next two decades, he worked as a character actor for MGM, Columbia, and 20th Century Fox, in such films as Lady Be Good , Coney Island , Cover Girl , and Summer Stock .When the studio system began to decline, he returned to the stage.

Silvers wrote the lyrics for Frank Sinatra's "Nancy ". Although he was not a songwriter, he wrote the lyrics while visiting composer Jimmy Van Heusen. The two composed the song for Van Heusen's writing partner Johnny Burke, for his wife Bessie's birthday. Substituting Sinatra's little daughter's name Nancy at her birthday party, the trio impressed the singer to record it himself. The song became a popular hit in 1944 and was a staple in Sinatra's live performances.

Silvers scored a major triumph in Top Banana, a Broadway show of 1952. Silvers played Jerry Biffle, the egocentric, always-busy star of a major television show. Silvers dominated the show and won a Tony Award for his performance. He repeated the role in the 1954 film version that was originally released in 3-D.

According to the documentary on the DVD of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Silvers was not a traditional comedian: he was a comic actor. Silvers never did stand-up, and out of character, he was not known for cracking jokes.
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 personal life
Phil Silvers was married twice, to Evelyn Patrick and to Jo-Carroll Dennison. Both of his marriages ended in divorce. He had five daughters — Candace, Cathy, Laurie, Nancey, and Tracey Edythe — all by his second wife.

Silvers was a compulsive gambler and suffered from depression on and off over the years. While staying in Reno, Nevada, in the 1950s, he would often gamble all night. On one occasion, at the tiny Cal-Neva Lodge in nearby Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Silvers spent an entire night playing craps until he lost all his money, and then went through $1,000 in credit. A taxi was called to return him to Reno. It was "ne of the worst nights of my life', Silvers told the driver, adding, "Don't wait for any lights and don't wait for any tip . . . I left it at the Cal-Neva!"

His memoirs are titled This Laugh Is On Me.

 legacy
In 1996 TV Guide ranked him number 31 on its 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time list

In 2003, The Phil Silvers Show was voted Best Sitcomin the Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy. In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, Silvers was voted #42 on the list of the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. Dick Van Dyke, who made his TV debut on Bilko says he "was always fascinated with Phil's sense of timing. Incredible."

Voice actor Daws Butler employed an impression of Silvers as the voice of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Hokey Wolfand also used the same voice in numerous cartoons for Jay Ward. The premise of The Phil Silvers Show was the basis for the Hanna-Barbera cartoon Top Cat, for which Arnold Stang moderately imitated Silvers' voice for the title character. The 1993 cartoon series The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog featured a character called Wes Weasley, who had a very similar appearance and voice to Silvers.

The Playboy cartoon "Little Annie Fanny" featured the character of manager Solly Brass, who was based on Phil Silvers.

In The Simpsons episode "Homer the Vigilante" (Episode #1F09, 6 January 1994), Bart tricks Phil Silvers' character Otto Meyer from the 1963 film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World into driving into a river."

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Phil Silvers", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.