July 26 1966, Harvey appeared at the Valley Music Hall, Utah in a musical production of Charles Dickens' immortal play Oliver Twist. This bouncing, rollicking musical show, simply called, Oliver! was written for the stage by Lionel Bart, tugged at the hearts, made people laugh and even hiss at the villains.
Two performances a day were given - one in the afternoon - the other commenced at 8.15pm - up until August 6, 1966.
Harvey was the villainous Fagin the London crook who teached the children how to pick a pocket or two. His main co-star was Bernice Massi, the star of the Broadway shows What Makes Sammy Run? and No Strings, who played the role of Nancy - the hapless admirer of Fagin's confederate, Bill Sykes.
The title role was played by 10 year old Jimmy Fox, a native of Woodland Hills, California. Interestingly the only English person in the cast was Cecily Walper who played the part of Mrs Corney. A chorus of enthusiastic young local-actors combined their talents with producer Billy Matthews, production manager Michael Price to produce a well-received show.
Fagin with Nancy (Bernice Massi)
Harvey was a menacing Fagin, director of a gang that taught young boys to become pickpockets. He was a raggedy gang leader for this musical, which depended mostly on the songs, staging and general enthusiasm of the cast for maximum effect. This it did very very well.He was so professional he even overcame trouble with the sound system on one occasion! Every word he spoke was distinct, and he held the audience every second with one ten minute number, 'Reviewing the Situation'.
This was one of the highlights. Another was Oliver's escape from a crowd whilst picking pockets. 'That's your Funeral' was sung in a sprightly way that made it very amusing. 'I Shall Scream' was just as lovely in melody and even funnier in its lyrics.
All in all there was melodies aplenty, and several supreme voices to sing them. One especially, made the show worth the $5 seat. That was the voice of Bernice Massi. The programme guide compared her "belting" qualities to that of Ethel Merman. It was a bad comparison. Miss Massi was better. She projected to the last row and had none of Ethel's harshness.
When Bernice sang 'It's a Fine Life' the audience could feel the umpth. 'Oom-Pah-Pah', which she sung with the entire cast fairly set the house to dance. And when she sang 'As Long as He Needs Me,' every word was projected like a bell. Not only could she sing but she could also act.
Harvey had a love affair with the audience right at the end of the show. He had them joining in with the cast in singing 'Consider Yourself,' Often he joked with the crowd saying things like "I've been Jewish for 43 years, but when I arrived in Salt Lake, I became a gentile for the first time."
Jimmy Fox (Oliver) showed great enthusiasm and had real stage presence for a ten year old youngster. Michael Brooks as Mr Sowerby, an undertaker whom Oliver became indentured, and Vicky Vale as his gruff wife, had some fine comedy moments. Other members of the cast included: Tamara Flower, Taggert Casey, Cicely Walper, Ron Gabriel, Jane Elder, Beckie Davidson, Jack Bitschel, Clifford Hagger, Jack Whitaker, Tony Geary and Kay Elliott.
The costumes and some of the elaborate staging made this musical one of the most colourful productions ever to enhance the Valley Music Hall, Utah.
Harvey would say this when the show finished "I prefer stage work to TV and movies because the response is immediate. The audience is there. In TV, there is none......In movies, there is too much standing around during production........Television is a grind."
1967, Apart from having a minor role as Captain Pederson in the Sid Caear comedy horror movie, The Spirit Is Willing, Harvey took a year off from films and television this year. The reason? He was now engaged in an arduous professional stint as an athletic Sancho Panza in Man Of La Mancha, a musical production at the newly opened, Ahmanson Theatre of the Music Center in Los Angeles.
Opening night, April 12, 1967.
In the staging, the play director, Albert Marre depended heavily on illusion. Set in a big bare barn on the Ahmanson Theatre stage - with almost no scenery, no curtain and none of the facilities for make-believe. The empty stage was supposed to represent the dungeon where Cervantes was imprisoned. (Cervantes, was in fact, sent to jail by the church in 1587, and it was whilst there that he started to write Don Quixote.) The show really got started when Cervantes began to enact Quixote for his fellow prisoners
The author played the title role himself, and handed out the other parts to all kinds of jailbirds, usually there was rags and the odd bit of junk for costumes and scenery. Celebrated actor, Richard Kiley, made a fine and moving Cervantes/Quixote and along with the rest of the cast he sang loud enough to bring down the dungeon walls! The music actually veered towards the banal, but the illusion made it sound better and better
Man of La Mancha with his veteran award
In adapting Don Quixote for the stage, the long sprawling tale was simplified, but aside from turning Sancho Panza (Harvey), the faithful sidekick of the Don, into a mug vaudeville comic, the writers kept in what was important and emphasized it brilliantly. Every time Don Quixote reached for a star he slipped on a banana skin -- the skin was real but never the star. His goddess of purity, whose honour he defended with his life, was the prostitute, Aldonza, whom he poetically called Dulcinea.
Like all blind idealists, Don Quixote soon became an acute embarrassment to his friends and family. Even Dulcinea felt she became undeservedly revered, so she cried out with a song: So please torture me now - With your 'Sweet Dulcineas' no more. - I am no one! I'm nothing! - I'm only Aldonza the whore. Then the undefeatable Don was jolted by the family physician dressed up as the Knight of the Mirrors. "Thou art no knight, but a foolish pretender," sneered his own reflection. "Look in the mirror of reality and behold things as they truly are. What doust thou see?" Nought but an ageing fool?
His self delusion was finally shattered, Quixote fell to the floor and lapsed into a fatal illness. Even as he lay on his death bed, Sancho Panza (Harvey) reminded him of his old faith and he arose long enough to burst into song with the old credo. To dream the impossible dream - To fight the unbeatable foe.....
Now the audience was growing tearful. And when he finally succumbs to death but not defeat there was audible sobbing all around the auditorium. The audience's tears testified to how good the performances were. By the time the whole drama finished, the whole theatre was in a happy mood, sure that they had been entertained by the season's most outstanding musical - a metaphysical smasheroo of a show!
Harvey regarded La Mancha as his toughest theatrical workout since he began his career as a dancer at the New York World's Fair. He relaxed between stage performances at his Beverly Hills home.........when asked, at the time, why playing Sancho was so taxing he said, "I'm on stage almost two hours during the show. There's no intermission. I present a more physical Panza than does Irving Jacobson in the New York company. Richard Kiley, who plays Don Quixote, and I take lots of falls and I catch him at various points in the play. Which means we have to stay in good condition."
From now on Harvey would make his home in Southern California permanent. "This is the centre of show business now," he said, "especially since the three theatres have opened in The Music Center, which tops the Lincoln Center in New York in my opinion. I understand several producers are planning to open their new plays here, then take them east. For instance, Albert Marre, our La Mancha director will break in his The Sorrows of Frederick in the Mark Taper Forum."
As well as acting, Harvey has now taken up writing scripts. He completed one, Adventures of Alfonso Callahan that he hoped would turn into a television comedy. He thought of casting himself and Jose Ferrer as the stars taking the pair across the wild west, one being a Shakesperean actor.
In his "spare" time he liked nothing better than to indulge in his two fave hobbies. One was playing Baseball with a team made up of theatrical people (including Jerry Lewis) the other was his Comedy Workshop which was now thriving. As he was tied up with La Mancha, Dick Erdman was now running the Workshop. At this point he was very happy with the way it was going "I make no money out of it, young talent is sadly neglected here, I'm happy with the project. I'm not in the millionaire class but I do all right moneywise. Besides keeping busy, my TV residuals keep the pot boiling."
ie: At this time Harvey would get $110 every time any one of the Bilko shows was repeated.
1968, television appearances included: It Takes a Thief as Gino in the episode called A Sour Note. The Name of the Game as Jack Stephens in the episode called Lola in Lipstick
1969, Harvey makes an appearance as a Sergeant in charge of Sonar on the sci-fi comedy film, Hello Down There (aka Sub-A-Dub-Dub). Also in the cast was Tony Randall, Jim Backus (voice of Mr Magoo), Roddy McDowall, Janet Leigh, Arnold Stang (voice of Top Cat), Charlotte Rae and a young Richard Dreyfuss. Lots of kids class this movie as an all-time classic! It was was an incredible fantasy about a family living underwater in The Green Onion. The sea scenes, especially the ones with the dolphins, were fun to watch. A bright musical with catchy tunes that stuck in your head. like 'Hey Little Goldfish', 'Hello Down There', 'I Can Love You', 'Just One More Chance' and 'Glub, Glub'. A great fun movie for ALL the family!!
1970, Comedy Workshop update: Would-be actor, Al Molinaro decided to offer his face for any TV commercial. Firstly he got a live spot selling frying pans, result he was fired and tossed out of the studio. His second ad was another disaster, yet some bright spark of a producer thought it was funny, so the commercial got repeated for two years. Which earned Al repeat fee after repeat fee. After several years of this he thought he'd reinvest his "hard earned" cash and have acting lessons. He was spotted by Harvey and asked to join the Workshop: "You're a funny guy, but I don't think you know what you are doing," Harvey told Al. He didn't, but he would learn with Harvey. "That was the turning point for me, I really found out what it was all about. Harvey runs it as a labour of love, yet anybody who has spent time in the group not only learns his craft but is seen by producers," Al remarked.
Penny Marshall, sister of Garry of Laverne and Shirley fame, was in the class. One day brother Garry came to pick up his sister and watched the final improv of the day by Molinaro. It was a stormer, and Garry came up to congratulate Al: "You are terrific. I'll keep you in mind for a TV series," said Garry.
Al thought the producer was just another actor, but he then heard that Garry Marshall was actually in charge of The Odd Couple. And at this time they were looking for actors to play the role of poker players on the hit TV show. Al called to remind Mr Marshall about their first meeting, but he couldn't get past the front office switchboard. So he sent him photo after photo note after note until finally, he got through, and got the part of Officer Murray Greshler. The chemistry he formed with his regular co-stars, Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, was recognized and he was signed on as a regular until 1975.
1974, starred as older George in the Golden Bear nominated film, There Is No 13. Curiously this independently produced movie didn't get an American release until 1977. Probably because the story concerned the ongoing Vietnam War.
Back on the television, between 1971 and 1975, Harvey appeared in The Partridge Family as Marino in the episode called To Play or Not to Play - Night Gallery as Joe Casey in the episode called The Dear Departed - Insight show called The System - All in the Family as Sam Galinksi in the episode called Class Reunion - Hawkins show called Murder on the Thirteenth Floor - Big Eddie as Boom Boom in the episode called Alone Together.
Also during 1975 Harvey appeared alongside his son, Michael in a television production of It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman -- broadcast under ABC's Wide World of Entertainment banner -- this was a re-staging of the 1966 Broadway show, with a new cast. This was a musical special, done on a criminally low budget. The entire production is filmed on a cramped sound stage. Harvey played a gangster and Michael played Joe. At least everyone on screen appeared to be having a great time, especially Loretta Swit who stole the show with two great musical numbers.
Between 1976 and 1982, these are some of the many on screen appearances of Harvey: Chico and the Man as Officer Harroway in the show called Too Many Crooks - Raid on Entebbe TV film where he played a hostage called appropriately, Mr. Harvey - CHiPs as a Truck Driver in the shows called Aweigh We Go & Surf's Up - All in the Family as Wally in the show called Archie's Other Wife - Vega$ as Mike in the show called Second Stanza - Mother, Juggs, and Speed (pilot) as Harry Fishbine - Flying High as a Clerk in Ladies of the Night - 240-Robert as Morey Allen in the show called Out of Sight - The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo as Hank in the show called Buttercup, Birdie and Buried Buck - Nobody's Perfect as Stumpy in the show called What's on Third? - The Love Boat as Tom Lauck in the show called Friends and Lovers/Sergeant Bull/Miss Mother - Mork and Mindy as Ovits in the shows called P.S. 2001 & Pajama Game - A Lily Tomlin special called Lily: Sold Out starring as stand-up comedian, Mickey Gold an entertainer who stuck straws up his nose for the delight of amused bystanders. - The Gong Show Movie was the final film appearance of Mr Lembeck, as a man in a steam room.
Harvey died from a heart attack at home on January 5, 1982 aged just 58.
Mission Hills January 7, 1982, Harvey Lembeck must have been a very very popular man......................... at his funeral more than eight hundred, of his Comedy Workshop students, fellow actors and friends attended.
This was for a man who appeared on the small screen with such luminaries as: Gene Barry, Charles Bronson, Leo G. Carroll, Peggy Cass, Alfred Drake, Peter Falk, Peter Finch, Paul Ford, Jackie Gleason, Dean Jones, Jack Klugman, Burgess Meredith, Patricia Morison, Carroll O'Connor, Donna Reed, Phil Silvers, Robert Stack, Ed Sullivan, Danny Thomas, Lily Tomlin, Robert Vaughn, Burt Ward, Adam West, Jack Weston, Robin Williams, Julie Wilson
And appeared on the silver screen with legends like: Dana Andrews, Frankie Avalon, Jim Backus, Chuck Barriss, Richard Basehart, Ed Begley, Barbara Bel Geddes, Sid Caesar, Gary Cooper, Richard Dreyfuss, Buddy Ebsen, Jack Elam, Linda Evans, Tom Ewell, Fabian, Henry Fonda, Frank Gorshin, William Holden, Boris Karloff, Buster Keaton, Grace Kelly, Don Knotts, Janet Leigh, Roddy McDowall, Steve McQueen, Robert Mitchum, Maureen O'Sullivan, Otto Preminger, Vincent Price, Tony Randall, Basil Rathbone, Debbie Reynolds, Don Rickles, Cesar Romero, Ann Sheridan, Nancy Sinatra, Robert Wagner, Richard Widmark, Chill Wills, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Wood
He also trod the stages of Broadway with: Tom Bosley, Henry Fonda, Anthony Franciosa, Lee Grant, Robert Strauss, Nancy Walker
Harvey Lembeck excelled himself in all three of these genders. But his greatest achievement wasn't the movie Stalag 17, or the television comedy, The Phil Silvers Show, nor was it the smash Broadway hit, Mister Roberts. None of these come close...... his legacy, for the World to enjoy, started way back in 1964 when he took over the Actor's Workshop from Jack Kosslyn. Renaming it the Harvey Lembeck Comedy Workshop, the acting school has gone from strength to strength ever since. Even nowadays over 25 years after Harvey left us, the comedy improv workshop continues to be a wonderful place to exercise comedy muscles. Run by Harvey's siblings, Helaine and Michael, it is the place where up-and-coming actors can perfect their techniques.
Many well known faces have been through training at the Workshop, including:
Leslie Ackerman, Mary Kay Adams, Kip Adotta, Stella Adler , Frank Alesia, Jr., Jeff Altman, Alison Arngrim, Margaret Avery, Fran Bennett, Nat Bernstein, Joey Bishop, Greta Blackburn, Timothy Blake, Elayne Boosler, Tracey E. Bregman, Julie Brown, Jean Carol, Randall Carver, George Chakiris, William Christopher, Lenny Clark, Lynne Colatrella, Rick Dees, Donna Dixon, Robert Donner, Jenna Elfman, Jane Elliot, Denny Evans, Martin Ferrero, Dorothy Fielding, Phil Foster, Winnie Freedman, Mark Ganzel, Trish Garland , Larry Gelman, Cal Gibson, Rod Gist, Joyce Gittlin, Grant Goodeve, Lynda Goodfriend, Laurie Guzda, Jennilee Harrison, Stan Hart, Fred Holliday, Gary Hudson, Diana Hyland, Danny Jacobson, Mitchell Katlin, Sally Kirkland, James Kyson Lee, Milt Kogan, Nancy Lane, Helaine Lembeck, Michael Lembeck, Kim Lankford, David Leisure, Chris Lemmon, Greg Lewis, Paul Linke, Coleen Maloney, Melissa Manchester, Dee Marcus, Penny Marshall, Andy Masset, Mitzi McCall, Kit McDonough, Ted McGinley, Al Molinaro, Louisa Moritz, Phil Morris, Wayne Morton, Lois Nettleton, Todd Newton, Julie Parrish, Lorna Patterson, Brian Phelps, Mary Kay Place, Donna Ponterrato, Deborah Pratt, Alan Rachins, Roxanne Reese, Paul Regina, Jeff Richman, Victor Rivers, Andy Romano, Stanley Ralph Ross, Maggie Roswell, Sonia Satra, Larry Siegal, Rita Taggart, Brian Robert Taylor, Charlene Tilton, Judy Uggams, Patrick Wayne, Jack Wells, Jill Whelan, Cindy Williams, Mary Woronov, Judith Wright, Barrie Youngfellow, Moon Unit Zappa