​Almanac: Sgt. Bilko

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: September 20th, 1955, 60 years ago today ... the day the Army sitcom "You'll Never Get Rich" debuted on CBS, starring Phil Silvers.

A Brooklyn-born comic, Silvers played Ernest G. Bilko, a brash Master Sergeant who mixed military duties with petty personal schemes.


Eventually renamed for its star, "The Phil Silvers Show" ran for just four years, but won EIGHT Emmys, including a Best Actor Award for Silvers in 1956.

When the show went off the air in 1959, Silvers went on to other roles.

Silvers and his wife, Evelyn, and two daughters welcomed Charles Collingwood into their home in a 1960 appearance on the CBS show, "Person to Person" ("Honey, never speak on daddy's lines!").

Collingwood: "In this room there must be many memories of Sergeant Bilko."
Silvers: "Oh yes, I'm surrounded by the good sergeant and his merry men!"

And more merriment was to come.

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Phil Silvers with Jonathan Winters in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."
United Artists

Silvers won a Tony nomination in 1961 for his leading role in the musical, "Do Re Mi," and he was part of the all-star cast of the 1963 film, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."

Though he'd turned down the lead in the Broadway musical "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," he had a supporting part in the 1966 movie version.

And he was back in its 1972 Broadway revival, in the lead role this time, for which he won a Tony.

Phil Silvers died in 1985. He was 74.

But thanks to re-runs and DVDs, Sergeant Bilko lives on.


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