Phil said of the character, "Louie the Louse makes Bilko look like a Sunday school teacher. He is Shylock, Captain Hook and the entire Medici family all rolled into one and operating on Broadway."
According to Nat Hiken, creator of the show, he is "the dirtiest rat who ever lived. Whereas Bilko could have probably bought Manhattan Island from the Indians for $19.95, Louie the Louse would have taken the island as security for a $2 loan."
In this comedy special, produced by Nat Hiken and costarring Betsy Palmer, Eddie Albert and Pert Kelton, Phil portrays a Broadway loan shark, an angler who keeps a stable of stumblebums under his thumb by means of exorbtant interest rates, blackmail and any other variety of dark schemes. When Louie reportedly drowns at sea, his clients ---- or victims ---- go into mass mourning and vow that his death will reform them. But it develops that the announcement was premature, and when Louie returns, he tries to undo the damage that has been done to his customers.
Phil Silvers realized it would be hard for the public to separate Ernie Bilko from any new character he tries and you see plenty of overtones of Bilko as he plays this role of Louie Cramfield.
This delightful show followed Phil's theory that variety programmes with the same old guest stars are dull, so here was an original musical show, with the cast chosen through their fitness for their roles.
The music is mostly comedy songs, and the situation is basically a funny one. There are some wonderful characters here ------ the shark's nephew, who keeps the books; the old beggar lady; the inveterate horse player; the ex-Pulitzer Prize winner who couldn't live with the honour and his sarcastic lady friend. All-in-all a show that was well worth watching.
Other specials were; The Slowest Gun in the West (with Jack Benny) Just Polly and Me (with Polly Bergen) and a variety show called The Phil Silvers Special 'Summer in New York'.
The Phil Silvers Special 'Summer in New York'
It's November 29 1960, Phil Silvers is preparing to appear at the Colonial Theatre, Boston in a 'try-out' for three weeks of the musical comedy, Do Re Mi. Asked why he was doing this show Phil replied; "I'm doing it for business reasons. It's good business to vary the diet. You're going to read a story where I say I'm doing it because it's a challenge. Nonesense; it's just good business."
Phil would play the part of Hubert Cram, a wheeler dealer who just can't make the big time. Pursuit of the American dream is the subject of Do Re Mi. Hubie Cram is a self-proclaimed dreamer and schemer who is always looking for that lucky break. His long suffering wife, Kay, loves him but can't help wondering what if. Hubie's latest scheme involves a bright new singer with the name Tilda Mullen. Hubie's surprising success with her leads him into the jukebox business and into trouble with the mob. It's Hubie's fate never to succeed, and he doesn't. But Tilda falls in love with hit record producer John Henry Wheeler, and Kay and Hubie are happily married.
Do Re Mi brochure
The music was by Phils old friend, Jule Styne, the lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and the script was by Garson Kanin, who also directed.
After the successful 'try-out' it was off to Broadway with the show, opening on 26th December 1960 at the St. James Theatre, New York.
Headlining the cast, along with the incomparable Phil, was Nancy Walker, a comic actresss/singer of great ability. Nancy would, later in her career, be best-known as Rhoda's mother on television. Here she shines when singing, "Waiting, Waiting" and "Take a Job". Phil, of course, was not new to playing a con man and here he lends his considerable comedic talent to "It's Legitimate" and "The Late, Late Show", and the two leads make a minor classic out of "Ambition". Incidentally, Phil is particularly good on "It's Legitimate" and he will undoubtably, have you in bits, with the number, "All of My Life".
The teaming of Phil and Nancy was inspired, especially as the script gave them something to bite on. Phil was the protagonist, no question, and Nancy did disappear for stretches whilst the bizarre plot worked its way through a satire on pop music. But two domestic scenes made the Crams alarming and irresistible. Act one brought us the alarming, in "Take a Job," when Nancy nagged at Phil to get into something secure while he plotted anf fumed: dueling monologues. Act two brought the irrisistible, in the couple's bedtime, each reading a newspaper. "Did a turtle bite a woman in Asbury Park in yours?" Nancy asked.
Sketch by William Auerbach-Levy
Phil admires the Casacabana girls!
Choreographing the whole performance were Marc Breaux and Deedee Wood. The scenic design was very well put together by Boris Aronson, who made the set look like a jukebox!
Interesting to note that the part of Fatso O'Rear was played by George Mathews - he who some years earlier, had starred alongside Phil, in the Bilko show playing Sergeant Quentin Q. Benton also known as the infamous Beast.
On December 25, 1961, the show moved to the 54th Street Theatre, until the curtain was finally brought down on 13th January 1962 after 400 performances.
At the 1961 Tony Awards® both lead acts, Phil and Nancy, were nominated for Best Actor Tonys, but lost to Richard Burton (Camelot) and Elizabeth Seal (Irma La Douce).
The musical itself was also nominated in the catagories: 'Best Musical', 'Best Musical Director' (Garson Kanin) and 'Featured Actress' (Nancy Dussault)
What the critics said:
'Do Re Mi is grand fun, it's delectable' - New York Tribune
'Fast, professional, tuneful, funny and delightful' - Post
'A bountiful and brassy blockbuster a sure fire hit' - American Journal
'Best evening in years' - NBC TV
'An all out smash hit musical comedy. First unqualified grand slam hit of the season' - Variety
'There is gold in Do Re Mi, it's money in the bank' - New York Times
'A great razzle-dazzle of a musical' - New York News
'A laugh, a frolic a smasheroo' - New York Mirror
Do Re Mi statistics:
Song List ................Sung By
Waiting, Waiting..............Kay Cram
All You Need Is a Quarter..........The Swingers
Take a Job..........Hubie and Kay Cram
It's Legitimate.........Hubie, Fatso O'Rear, Brains Berman, Skin Demopoulos and the Loaders
I Know About Love.........John Henry Wheeler
The Auditions.........Marsha, Lou and Gretchen
Cry Like the Wind..........Tilda Mullen
Ambition.........Hubie and Tilda Mullen
Success..........The Tilda Mullen Fans, Tilda Mullen, Hubie, Fatso O'Rear, Brains Berman and Skin Demopoulos
Fireworks.........Tilda Mullen and John Henry Wheeler
What's New at the Zoo..........Tilda Mullen and Animal Girls
Asking for You..........John Henry Wheeler
The Late, Late Show..........Hubie
Adventure..........Hubie and Kay Cram
Make Someone Happy..........John Henry Wheeler and Tilda Mullen
Don't Be Ashamed of a Teardrop..........Hubie, Fatso O'Rear, Brains Berman and Skin Demopoulos
V.I.P. ..........The Public and Hubie
All of My Life...........Hubie
Finale..........Hubie, Kay Cram and Company
Opening Night Production Credits:
Produced by David Merrick
Associate Producer: Jones Harris
Book by Garson Kanin
Music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Musical Director: Lehman Engel
Music orchestrated by Luther Henderson
Vocal arrangements and vocal direction by Buster Davis
Dance arrangements by David Baker
Directed by Garson Kanin
Choreographed by Marc Breaux and Deedee Wood
Associate Director: William Hammerstein
Scenic Design by Boris Aronson
Costume Design by Irene Sharaff
Coiffures by Michel Kazan
Assistant to Mr. Aronson
Ming Cho Lee and Lisa Jalowetz
Lighting Design by Al Alloy
Assistant to Miss Sharaff: Florence Klotz
Theatre sound and acoustical facilities engineered by Richard H. Ranger
General Manager: Jack Schlissel
Company Manager: Vince McKnight
Production Supervisor: Neil Hartley
General Stage Manager: Bernard Gersten
Stage Manager: May Muth
Assistant Stage Mgr: Bob McClure
Assistant to Mr. Hartley: Robert Schear
Assistant Conductor: John Passaretti
Head Copyist: Brick Fleagle
Music Contractor: Morris Stonzek
Press Representative: Bill Doll
Assistant to the Director: Joan Suny
Casting Director: Michael Shurtleff
Asst. to the Choreographer: Chad Block
Press Assistant: Jeanne Gilbert
Advertising: The Blaine Thompson Company and Fred Golden
Opening Night Cast:
Phil Silvers: Hubert Cram
Nancy Walker: Kay Cram
David Burns: Brains Berman
Nancy Dussault: Tilda Mullen
George Givot: Skin Demopoulos
George Mathews: Fatso O'Rear
John Reardon: John Henry Wheeler
Marilynn Allwyn: A Casa Girl, An Animal Girl, Member of the Public
Doria Avila: Member of the Public
Diane Ball: A Casa Girl, An Animal Girl, Member of the Public
Chad Block: James Russell Lowell, IV
Marilyn Child: Thelma Berman
Frank Derbas: A Waiter, Member of the Public
Sandra Devlin: A Casa Girl, An Animal Girl, Member of the Public
David Gold: The Interviewer, Member of the Public
Edward Grace: Senator Redfield, Member of the Public
Regina Groves: A Casa Girl, An Animal Girl, Member of the Public
Stuart Hodes: The Photographer, Member of the Public
Curtis Hood: Member of the Public
Daniel Jasinski: Member of the Public
Marc Jordan: The Headwaiter, Fatso's Lawyer, Member of the Public
Patti Karr: Dance Team, An Animal Girl, Member of the Public
Betty Kent: A Swinger, Gretchen, Member of the Public
Ray Kirchner: Dance Team, The Sumo Student, Member of the Public
Barbara Lang: Member of the Public
Josephine Lang: Member of the Public
Al Lewis: Moe Shtarker
Albert Linville: The Recording Engineer, Senator Rogers
Ken Malone: Member of the Public
Jim Marley: Member of the Public
Bob McClure: The Maitre D, A Commentator, Member of the Public
James Moore: Member of the Public
Al Nesor: Wolfie
Dawn Nickerson: Member of the Public
Ed Pfeiffer: Member of the Public
Carolyn Ragaini: Marsha, Member of the Public
Steve Roland: Lou, The Chief Counsel, Member of the Public
Donna Sanders: A Swinger, Member of the Public
Suzanne Shaw: A Swinger, Member of the Public
Carol Stevens: A Casa Girl, Wheeler's Secretary, An Animal Girl, Member of the Public
Allan Stevenson: A Commentator
Liza Stuart: Member of the Public
Dean Taliaferro: A Casa Girl,Wheeler's Secretary, An Animal Girl, Member of the Public
Pat Tolson: Brains' Lawyer, Member of the Public
Nancy Van Rijn: A Casa Girl, An Animal Girl, Member of the Public
Richard Young: Member of the Public
Standby: Bernie West (Hubert Cram)
Understudies: David Gold (James Russell Lowell, IV), Marc Jordan (Wolfie), Patti Karr (Kay Cram), Al Lewis (Fatso O'Rear), Jim Marley (Brains Berman, Moe Shtarker), Al Nesor (Skin Demopoulos), Dawn Nickerson (Tilda Mullen).
2nd June 1961: Phil and his lovely wife Evelyn, pose with their new twin daughters before leaving New York's Mt Sinai hospital. The girls, born at the hospital on May 27, are Candace Eva, held by Phil, and Catherine Sarah.
Phil was back in tinseltown making his long awaited movie comeback after acting in twenty three films between 1942 and 1945. Where he was usually cast as Blinky, the hero's good friend, who always told the girl in the last reel, usually Betty Grable, that the hero really loved her and not him.
Thanks to his stunning performances on Broadway in such shows as Top Banana, High Button Shoes and Do Re Mi and the unbelievable success of The Phil Silvers Show on television and mixed in with his occasional forays into night club spots, Everybody knew Phil as a very funny man and brilliant show man but he was also a good-natured talker as the following interview shows.
"When I was here before I was just as funny in people's homes. I was under contract to MGM for a year and I didn't do anything except entertain at Louis B. Mayer's home. I was a single man, the life of the party and I became a variety performer on the movie executive private party circuit."
"Now I'm changed, but Hollywood isn't. I'm secure within my work. I know what I am; I'm probably the most prolific musical comedy performer star there is. You know why? I get out and work. I jump, I sing, I fall down, I play the part."
"And I'm a father of four girls in five years. I'm a part of the communal life here. The group I move in is concerned with babies formulas and helping find us a home. The big excitement in Milton Berle's home used to be what he did. Now the big excitement is their kid. That's how it is with me."
"I guess I've gotten religious with working at it. I look at my children and take time out every morning to be grateful for them and these three things: I don't have to go to school, I don't have to go up in a plane, I don't have to play the Copacabana."
"It's a funny thing in Las Vegas; a guy drinks two bottles of booze and he sits like a gentleman. At the Copa he takes one sip out of a glass and he' an idiot. I'm a very careless fellow except when I'm ready to go on. You have to listen to me or I'm dead --- are you listening to me? If you are idiot enough to get in front of an audience, you've got to have them listening, but the Copa's like playing a snake pit."
"Sports is my real business. If there's anything going on, I'm betting on it. Only one thing bothers me, I'm not in action yet like I like to be. In New York I earned it; I finally got a carte blanche pass at the Yankee Stadium. I haven't arranged it here yet -- I have no priority at the Coliseum but it's coming."
"A happy home life is the secret to happiness. The first year Bilko won six awards. I had no one to show them to. Now I have a family. It's helped me to get attention off myself. If I ever get uppity at home the kids take me down. When Bilko comes on my youngsters say, 'Here's daddy and the silly men' and change the channel. What more balance could a man want from life? I'm finally living. There's a ball game today. I'm in a good movie and all's well at home. What more could a man want?"