Phil Silvers..............Mr. Applegate
Jim Backus..............Benny Van Buren
Jerry Lanning..........Joe Hardy
Ray Middleton.........Joe Boyd
Fran Allison.............Meg Boyd
Linda Lavin..............Gloria Thorpe
Directed by.............Kirk Browning
Written by..............George Abbott and Douglass Wallop
Produced by............Alvin Cooperman
Costume Design......Noel Taylor
Musical Director......Harold Hastings
Music & Lyrics.........Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
An NBC-TV Production
Sponsored by General Electric
Running Time.........100 minutes
Damn Yankees was a hugely popular 1950's musical comedy written by George Abbott and Douglas Wallop. Abbott was a prolific director, writer, producer and screen writer with a track record of hit musicals to his name, including High Button Shoes (featuring Phil Silvers), Pal Joey and On The Town. Wallop had written the popular novel The Year The Yankees Lost The Pennant upon which Damn Yankees was based.
The story was a modern re-imagining of the Faust legend, set during the 1950s in Washington, DC at the time when the New York Yankees baseball team were dominating the American baseball leagues, and sees Washington Senators fan Joe Boyd make a pact with a certain Mr. Applegate to help his baseball team win the league pennant. Mr. Applegate just so happens to be the Devil.
Damn Yankees opened on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre on May 5, 1955. It ran for total of 1,019 performances in its original 1955 Broadway production. The role of Mr. Applegate was played by Ray Walston, who later achievd fame in TV's My Favourite Martian with Bill Bixby.
On March 28th, 1957 a production of Damn Yankees, with Bill Kerr, who at the time was a regular on the radio series of Hancock's Half Hour, as Mr. Applegate, opened in London's West End at the London Coliseum for a total of 258 performances.
In 1958 Abbott, along with Stanley Donen, directed a big screen version of Damn Yankees. The film featured virtually the whole of the original Broadway cast, including Ray Walston once again as Mr. Applegate. Tab Hunter was brought in to play the role of Joe Hardy (the alter-ego of Joe Boyd).
In the mid-1970s,Vincent Price starred as Mr. Applegate in numerous summer stock productions of the show. In the late 1970s and early 1980s film actor veteran actor Van Johnson played Mr. Applegate in various productions throughout America.
1994 saw a Broadway revival at the Marquis Theatre which ran for a total of 718 performances. The production featured Victor Garber as Mr. Applegate. Jerry Lewis made his Broadway debut, on March 12, 1995, when he took over the role from Garber. Lewis eventually went on a national tour with the show.
The show was revived once again in a production which opened in London's West End at the Adelphi Theatre on June 4, 1997. Jerry Lewis once again appeared as Mr. Applegate.
In 1967 Abbott agreed a deal with NBC Television for a television production of Damn Yankees to be aired in April of that year. It was with great relish that Phil Silvers signed on to the production to play the role of Mr. Applegate.
Apart from a few guest appearances Phil had been largely absent from US TV screens since his failed series The New Phil Silvers Show in 1963. He hoped that this role along with his recently filmed pilot show Bel-Air Patrol (aka Eddie) might bring him back to a regular television audience.
"There'll be a one-shot play on April 8, when I play the Devil in NBC's production of Damn Yankees!." said Phil in an interview at the time. "But more to the point I've done a pilot series film for which Freddie Fields, my agent and I have high hopes, Keep your fingers crossed and one of these months you may be seeing it!".
By this time a long-standing resident of Los Angeles, Phil flew back to his old stomping ground in New York to record the show. The show was filmed on video tape, which by this time had become almost the industry standard due the economic factor involved.
He found that much had changed in his beloved New York. "The city had lost some of it's pizazz, although I guess that even if the city has changed, so have I." said Phil.
Damn Yankees, sponsored by General Electric, aired on the NBC Network on April 8th, 1967. Joining Phil in the cast were Jim Backus, Lee Remick, Linda Lavin and Jerry Lanning. The show received a second airing that same year when it was broadcast on the NBC-TV network on September 7th (7.30pm - 9.30pm). Sponsorship was again provided by General Electric.
With it's garish colours, harsh lighting, strange sets consisting of cardboard cut-out representations of everything from sofas to trees and baseball-themed filmed inserts it certainly rates as acquired viewing. To date the show has not been released onto DVD but there are poor quality copies of the show readily available on many of the popular internet selling sites.
(Pictures - Top to Bottom)
Poster for the original Broadway production, book cover from the original novel,
Phil Silvers and Lee Remick,
Jerry Lewis as Mr. Applegate
Phil's opening scene as Mr. Applegate in the 1967 NBC-TV production of Damn Yankees. Also in the scene is Ray Middleton as Joe Boyd
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