Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Comedy Legend Phil Silvers at the Races

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Comedy Legend Phil Silvers at the Races

Article excerpt

Dave Morton Remember When Editor HE was best-known as the fasttalking, wise-cracking, opportunistic Sgt Ernie Bilko - and on this day in 1985, Phil Silvers, the actor behind the popular character, died in California, aged 74.

The picture above was taken in our region on April 3, 1974, when much like his Bilko alterego, Silvers was engaged in another get-rich quick scheme - this time at Newcastle Racecourse.

Phil, who was starring in 'A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum' at Newcastle's Theatre Royal, backed Record Run in the 3.00 race. It stormed home but the bookie who paid out, Alec Lewis, was still smiling.

To British TV audiences, of course, the actor will always be best remembered as Sgt Bilko, the star of the Phil Silvers Show which ran from 1955-59.

Set on fictional US army camp, Camp Baxter, the bespectacled sergeant spent most of his time dreaming up schemes to make money through hilarious scams and swindles - or trying to get others to do his work for him.

The show was a huge hit in the States, running for 143 episodes across four series, and turning journeyman actor Silvers into a major star.

He said of his new-found fame: "I had adoration before - but it was limited-type. Now they adore me all out."

Most of the shows were performed before a live audience in a New York TV studio, leading to some bungled lines and awkward pauses.

The actor Paul Ford, who played the hapless Colonel Hall was notorious for forgetting his words, and Silvers would improvise to cover the gaffe on many occasions.

Guest stars on the show included Hollywood A-listers like Dean Martin, Mickey Rooney and Lucille Ball.

While Silvers was the undoubted star of the show, a memorable supporting cast included Pte Doberman, played by Maurice Gosfield, and Cpl Henshaw, played by Allan Melvin. …

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