One hundred years ago on this date in New York, NY—the town so nice they named it twice—Philip Silver was born to Saul and Sarah Silver, making him the eighth and youngest of their brood. Later on in his career, he’d add an “s” to the end of his surname and shorten the first part of his handle to a friendlier “Phil”…and in doing so became one of the funniest men to have ever set foot on this earth.
On my list of favorite sitcoms, The Phil Silvers Show—his landmark series that may not have been a rating monster during its time on the air (1955-59) but made out like a bandit at the Emmys—usually ranks in the top three, alongside the titular laugh fests of Dick Van Dyke and Andy Griffith. Oddly enough, I didn’t get to see the show until it appeared on Comedy Central in its salad days because it then moved to the once-proud TVLand at a time when my cable system didn’t carry the channel. (One of the reasons why I got a satellite dish at the time, if confession is good for the soul.) Nowadays, of course, finding repeats of what was originally known as You’ll Never Get Rich is rarer than a steak cooked on the backyard grill of the Double K Ranch—Mike “Mr. Television” Doran will probably interject here to let me know that it does get shown on Sunday nights on MeTV, so I thought I’d save him the trouble. (By the way, Mike buddy…because you get MeTV I hate you with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns.)
But before I got to know and admire Silvers I had to make do with his many imitators as a kid, namely Top Cat (with Arnold Stang as the indisputable leader of the gang) and Hokey Wolf (the great Daws Butler). Since that time, I’ve been lucky to catch up with Phil in many of the classic films he made memorable appearances in—one of my favorites being A Thousand and One Nights (1945), which TCM can’t rerun soon enough for me. I volunteered to scribble down some thoughts on the highlights of his incredible career at Edward Copeland on Film…and More, and if you should happen to be in his neighborhood you’d be doing me a favor if you left him some words of encouragement because he experienced an inconvenient stay in the hospital this past weekend and it would certainly lift his spirits.
Happy centennial birthday to you, Mr. Silvers. And yes…I’m always glad to see ya.