February 1955, joins the cast of The Goldbergs playing Harold the nephew of Molly Goldberg. The show went into syndication in 1956. In January 1949, after nearly 17 years of being at the top of the airwaves, this family comedy show was successfully converted from radio to television. The star, creator and writer of the programme was Gertrude Berg (Molly Goldberg).
May 23, back on the stage again this time at the Phoenix Theatre in the appropriately titled musicial revue, Phoenix '55. May 23, back on the stage again this time at the Phoenix Theatre in the appropriately titled musicial revue, Phoenix '55.
A spoof of the boom in arty ballets, co-star Nancy Walker was a "maiden seeking inner meaning who was engulfed by disreputable elements."
"Last year (1954) the public paid $47 million to attend professional baseball games. But in the same year they shelled out $89 million to attend theatre and ballet. Surprising stats like these were sprinkled throughout this musical revue which topped off the New York Phoenix Theatre's second off-Broadway season.
The whole drama was based on a recent economic extensive data gathering of the subject, in The Changing American Market, which was compiled by the editors of Fortune magazine. We know that this subject couldn't possibly inspire a funny song and dance show, but the fact was that it did and very successfully too. Phoenix '55 examined the shifting American economy from the current do-it-yourself craze to the soaring birth rate among the middle classes. Harvey gave his usual top notch performance, ably aided by the consistently hilarious Nancy Walker as the American female of 1955, bothered and bewildered but never unbowed. The show ran for 97 performances until July 17, 1955.
Phoenix '55 with Nancey Walker
Not long after Phoenix '55 ended Harvey got a call from master comedy scriptwriter, Nat Hiken to sound him out for a role on his new up-and-coming comedy show called You'll Never Get Rich. American character actor, Buddy Hackett had originally been earmarked for the part by Nat. But he had to say goodbye to the cast and crew when he was offered nearly a years work on Broadway in Lunatics & Lovers. Harvey was screen tested for the part of Corporal Rocco Barbella, Hiken loved what he was seeing and offered him the part.
In the audition show he was paired, as a kind of double act, with Corporal Steve Henshaw (Jack Warden), to act as henchmen for the shows main character, the inimitable, Sergeant Ernest G. Bilko, played by the legendary American funnyman, Phil Silvers.
The show was commissioned for a whole series. Jack Warden could not fulfil his part as Steve Henshaw - as like Buddy - he too was called to the Broadway stage to perform in a play called A View From the Bridge. Nat Hiken found the perfect replacement in the tall, blonde haired, man of many voices, Allan Melvin. He would become the perfect foil for Phil and Harvey to work off.
In its first season the Bilko show won Emmy after Emmy. The hugely successful series would keep Harvey in regular work up until the late 1950s. The show was cancelled by CBS executives, to maximise the syndication value, even though it was still at the peak of the ratings!
Sergeant Bilko hit the CBS TV Network on September 20th of 1955 and remained a staple diet until 1959. Its main feature was in giving the Army's enlisted men, non coms and officers foibles, equal to or far surpassing everyone in civilian life. In the fictional Kansas locale of Fort Baxter, the Motor Pool Platoon was run by con-man and old War War II Veteran, Master Sergeant Ernest G. Bilko (Phil Silvers). He ran the motor pool in whatever time he could squeeze-in between hatching whatever "get rich" schemes that his always grifting little head could conceive.
As time goes by comedies come and go, some stand up to the test of time and some do not. Both the British and the Americans have had their share of funny shows: Fawlty Towers, Frasier, Seinfeld, Only Fools and Horses, Dads Army, Curb Your Enthusiasm etc, but if one show deserved to be called the DADDY of all comedies then that was The Phil Silvers Show. A series that ran almost non-stop on British TV from the fifties up until the 1990s.
It has probably influenced more comedies than anything else. Plus this was made in the days when a real studio audience actually laughed long and hard and not substituted with canned laughter.
Over 140 shows of pure comedy were made and Harvey Lembeck appeared in just about every one of them!
"In Egypt where the series was popular, they didn't know Phil was Jewish." Harvey would say later about the show.
April 24 1957, New York City Center revived Rodgers and Hammerstein’s superlative musical, South Pacific. Harvey appeared in all 23 performances as an excellent Luther Billis.
March 19 1958, Harvey appeared as Ali Hakim in the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! This was at the New York Center for 15 shows under the choreography of Agnes de Mille, niece of Hollywood Director, Cecil B. DeMille.
Also in 1958, one of Broadway's all-time greatest musicals, Kiss me Kate was immaculately produced, for the small screen, by the Hallmark Hall of Fame. They reunited the original Broadway stars - Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison, whose continual operatic study had improved her voice fantastically.
Supporting these big guns was Julie Wilson (she would go on to play Monica Malamar on the Bilko show called Bilko's Hollywood Romance) who made a gorgeous Bianca; Bill Hayes who took the two-pronged roles of Bill Calhoun and Lucentio; Jack Klugman as a Mobster and Harvey as the Chief Mobster. A very young Jack and Harvey turned in a fine rendition of 'Brush up your Shakespeare' singing and dancing like the seasoned professionals that they was.
Brush up your Shakespeare
The result was a production that many say was a thing of beauty. The music, of course was lovely, although three tunes from the original score were dropped to squeeze into the 90 minute schedule (missing were the songs 'Too Darn Hot', 'Bianca' and 'Were Thine that Special Face'). This was a must see for anyone who loved musicals - or any good music for that matter. This remarkable tour-de-force was the first Hallmark Hall of Fame show ever broadcast on videotape, and in colour. It was never broadcast live.
November 1959, back to Boadway for Harvey. He had to learn the full script, verbatim, for the part of Fiorello LaGuardia, for the musical Fiorello. Which was based around the life of the former New York City Mayor.
Harvey was standby actor for the main role - just in case Tom Bosley ever had to drop out due to illness or some other unforseen reason.
Set shortly before World War One and ten years later, the show ran at the Broadhurst Theatre for 795 performances.
And guess what ... of all those shows Tom never missed a single appearance! Harvey Lembeck never got to go on stage, in front of a live audience, in all the time he was waiting in the wings.
This was Tom Bosley's debut Broadway musical performance and he was simply awesome as Fiorello LaGuardia. His performances were recognized by winning the 1960 Tony Award® in the category, Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
Indestructable Tom Bosley
After the Bilko show had ended Harvey kept himself busy by appearing as a host of different characters on many TV shows and feature films. These included Dan Raven (TV), The Donna Reed Show (TV), The Last Time I Saw Archie (here Harvey and Robert Strauss, aided by Robert Mitchum and Don Knotts, try to smash a spy ring), Sail a Crooked Ship, Vu du Pont (aka A View From The Bridge), The Defenders (TV) and Route 66 (TV).
April 1961, He appeared with comic legend, Jackie Gleason in The Million Dollar Incident. A ninety minute comedy special with Jackie playing himself. Based on an original Gleason story, the fictitious plot dealt with the kidnapping of The Honeymooners legend. His kidnapper demanded a $1 million ransom. What the network decided to do about it --- and what happened next -- made up the suspense and comedy in this tongue-in-cheek tale. Also this year Harvey appeared as Duty Sgt. Malcolm Greenbriar in the Robert Mitchum headlining comedy movie, The Last Time I Saw Archie. Late 1961, Harvey went on a theatre tour when he appeared on stage, alongside Salome Jens, in the Ernest Hemingway penned play A Short Happy Life.
October, Harvey played Jerry Roper, a theatrical agent, in the ABC television sitcom The Hathaways, starring Peggy Cass and Jack Weston as "parents" to the performing Marquis Chimps. You would have thought Harvey would have never acted with monkeys again after his experience with Harry Speakup on the Bilko show. Peggy Cass had earlier acted alongside Harvey on the Bilko comedy army show - when she played Wac Polly Porter in Bilko's Sharpshooter.
April 11 1962, two actors who were generally thought of as comedians, played dramatic parts on CBS TV's Armstrong Circle Theater. These two were Harvey and Frank Aletter, the star of the old Bringing up Buddy series. Here they featured in Patterns of Hope: A Study of Cancer Control, the story of a man who underwent 10 cancer operations and was cured. Harvey played the role of the victim and by all critical reviews he turned in an excellent performance. At the end of this moving programme a panel of experts discussed the latest developments in cancer control.
September 23 1962, portrayed Seaman Gabby Di Julio in the new NBC military comedy, Ensign O'Toole. This show starred a most ingratiating young man, Dean Jones in the title role. In manner and sometimes speech he reminded one of a young Jimmy Stewart. He played a young trouble-prone Navy officer with an encyclopedic mind and total recall. The show was based on All the Ships at Sea and Ensign O'Toole and Me, two books by William Lederer, who served as a consultant on the series. The cast included such luminaries as Jack Albertson, Beau Bridges, Jack Mullaney, Jay C. Flippen, John McGiver and Robert Sorrells - yet after just one series aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Appleby, roaming the Pacific Ocean, the show was inexplicably cancelled by the TV big shots. NBC put this hopeful young series on the television at 7pm on Sundays, opposite the hugely successful doggie show, Lassie. Dean Jones said at the time "That was the kids time in control of the sets. Even in my house, the children run the set at that time on Sunday. And you just know the kids want to see Lassie." Most people who watched the show liked it, but somehow the viewing habit wasn't strong enough at 7pm on a Sunday evening. The show was dropped after its first year..
In 1964 ABC bought 25 of the Ensign O'Toole shows and put it on against tough opposition - in the shape of Dr Kildare and Perry Mason - but this time it was on at an adults-in-control-of-the-television-knob time of day. And you know what ..........Ensign O'Toole beat both the Doctor and the Attorney in viewing figures!
Ensign O'Toole was cancelled despite high ratings - Harvey said this "The sponsors wanted a later time slot, but the network did not, so the series was cancelled ...... To show what a worthy series it was, everyone in the cast and production went immediately into something else. I went into a series of Beach movies. Ratings are like being reviewed, not by a fair segment of the population, however. There are only 1,000 families involved in deciding what the country should see. They almost doomed the Danny Thomas series, which finished low the first season. Then it switched networks and went on to win awards as well as good ratings."
Between 1963 and 1966, Harvey appeared in an unusual role as a motorcyclist in a series of six Beach Movies - These films were firstly; Beach Party, then Bikini Beach, followed by Pajama Party, then we had Beach Blanket Bingo, which inturn led to, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini and finally we had the well named, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini. When he was hired to appear as Eric Von Zipper he was one of the oldest cast members at the age of 40.
Each beach movie had running gags that sometimes ran right on from one movie to the next. The recurrent "heavy" was an inept motorcycle lout named Eric Von Zimmer a sworn enemy of surfers.
Von Zipper, Harvey's bumbling motorcycle gang leader character, was the leader of the Ratz and Mice, the standing arch-enemies of the surfing kids (or, as described by Von Zipper, "dem no good soifing bums.") Suffice to say, Zipper and his "bikers" never presented any real threat to the beach gang, given the Ratz and Mice in essence represented the Hell's Angels as executed by the Three Stooges. The core of the latter was Harvey's classic characterization of Von Zipper, which was basically a blatant -- and riotously funny -- parody of "Johnny Strabler," Marlon Brando's cycle gang leader character from the 1953 film, The Wild One. In almost every scene in which the gang appears, this fantastic drawling imitation of a brain-dead gearhead immediately set the stage:
Von Zipper and his Rat Pack, including a henchman named J.D. roared onto the screen in a tumult of dust, goggles and black leather. Von Zipper alighted, but his bike zoomed off screen without him. You could hear plate-glass windows shatter, auto brakes screech, a house crumbles, screams, more broken glass, the tumbling of a motorcycle down a cliff, a splash of water, and then the unexplained tinkle of a wine glass breaking. But you couldn't see any of this havoc on the screen, just the aghast faces of Von Zipper and Ratz. Von Zipper was the first to speak: "You stupids! FIX IT!."
Co-starring in the franchise was Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. And in addition to Harvey, four other players made up the core Ratz and Mice cast: Bob Harvey, Andy Romano, Jerry Brutsche, and Alberta Nelson all appeared with Harvey in the six films containing the motorcycle gang characters.
These films were really updated versions of Mack Sennett's bathing beauty silents -- which is one reason why Buster Keaton has turned up in some of them. The great silent star turns up as a deranged Indian named Chief Rotten Eagle in Pajama Party, a tipsy Tahitian witch doctor in How to Stuff a Wild Bikini and as himself in Beach Blanket Bingo.
The script for a beach picture was usually one-third to one-half the length of the finished movie. The rest was left to improvisation and imagination. Buster Keaton's slapstick was filmed at random and inserted when Director, William Asher (husband of Elizabeth Montgomery of B*witched fame) found spots for them.
Harvey Lembeck was delighted with his new role: "I'm doing real, delicious, slapstick farce. The kind you can only see in drive-ins and at the Museum of Modern Art film library. These pictures are good for me. I enjoy them and they pay well and reach a tremendous audience. And my association with this company is the most pleasant I've ever had. In fact, there is a possibility that I may start a dramatic school for the younger American actors."
Christmas Day 1963, saw the release of a movie where Harvey played opposite one of the golden greats of Hollywood, that icon was Steve McQueen. The film was called Love With the Proper Stranger. Here Steve McQueen would be taking a detour in his acting career from the road of action movies to this fine love story that combines comedy, romance, and drama. It was the story of Angie Rossini (Natalie Wood), a sales clerk at Macy's department store who finds herself pregnant after a brief affair with musician Rocky Papasano. Steve McQueen played the womanising musician who got an unpleasant and life altering shock when the young and naive girl who he can barely remember arrives in his life and tells him she is going to have his baby.
Harvey in 'Love With the Proper Stranger'
Natalie Wood & Steve McQueen
Deeply distressed at his response, and realising that she was just one of many one night stands, she falls into a state of despair and asks him to help her have an abortion. Together they form an unpleasant partnership as they set out to arrange an illegal and dangerous 'back yard' style abortion. She does not expect him to marry her; all she wants is enough money to pay for an abortion. Meanwhile, Angie was being pressured by her older brothers, played by Herschel Bernardi and Harvey, to marry the unappealing cook Anthony (Tom Bosley in his first movie role). One of the best comedy-drama movies that you'd wish to see from the makers of To Kill a Mockingbird, producer Alan J Pakula and director Robert Mulligan. This romance with substance was nominated for five Academy Awards, but sadly won none.
1964 proved to be a very momentous year in the life of Harvey. Firstly he had a role as Polak in the movie The Unsinkable Molly Brown. This jolly musical had Debbie Reynolds giving us everything, as Molly, in her rousing Oscar nominated performance for best actress of 1964.
Plenty of singing and dancing all the way from the simple countryside, to the big city, and over to the even bigger city life of Europe. Debbie plays a tomboy country girl who can't wait to leave the outback and live the high life in Denver. On the way to this better life she crosses paths with a prospector who changes her life and not always for her betterment as far as she is concerned.
She finds that her dreams of wealth and a place in high society are not necessarily what will make her happy in the real world. This was a delightful musical film with lots of beautiful scenery, props, and great performances by the entire cast.
There was about two minutes of the Titanic's sinking, all the rest of the movie is about Molly's life before and after that fateful event in history. This movie version of Molly Brown's story received six Academy Award nominations, and was adapted from the very successful Broadway stage production that ran for 532 performances.
In 1964, Jack Kosslyn of the Mercury Theatre asked Harvey to take over his actors workshop. Harvey said, "Yes, but I want to teach comedy not drama." He then took the opportunity to create his very own comedy workshop.
Initially he began working with comedy scripts and as a tool commenced creating situations for comedy improvisations. He realized that the improvisational method of training was one of the best ways to develop one’s comedy instincts and found that the improv method was also a wonderful tool to teach and exercise comedy. At this time, the improv method was alien to anyone.
"You can’t teach an actor to be funny," Harvey would explain. "If the humor is innately there, we will give him the tools and nourish his own abilities to grow."
The improvisational method, was to become the accepted teaching method and was one of the best ways to develop actors' comedy instincts.
The workshop was based originally at Columbia, then in 1967 it was relocated to Beverly Hills before finally settling on a new location at Paramount Studios, Los Angeles. When it started there were twenty five professional actors and a waiting list of over two hundred.
While the Workshop’s students learned to increase their performing abilities, taking part in a minimum of three exercises per class, the audience would fill up with casting directors, agents, producers, managers and directors as the Workshop’s reputation ... and that of its students ... began to grow........More on the workshop will appear later in the bio.
1964-66, as well as the Beach (Eric Von Zipper) films, Harvey also made appearances in these movies and television shows.
Mr. Novak as Vic Rizzo in the episode called Let's Dig a Little Grammar (TV)
My Favorite Martian as Rembrandt Jones in the episode called Portrait in Brown (TV)
Ben Casey as Sammy Brewer in the episode called Pas De Deux (TV)
Sergeant Dead Head as Airman McEvoy
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as Tiger Ed in the episode called The Discotheque Affair (TV)
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine as a motorcycle thug in a dungeon
The Wild Weird World of Dr. Goldfoot as Hugo (TV)
The Farmer's Daughter in the episode called Glen a Gogh-Gogh (TV)
Batman as Eagle-Eye in the episodes Not Yet, He Ain't and The Penguin Goes Straight (TV)