BBC Television began broadcasting The Phil Silvers Show in 1957. Within a few short months the show found a special place in the hearts of the British public. They fell in love with Sgt.Bilko and his motley crew and over the years the show rightly achieved cult status.
In the early 1980's Auntie Beeb began a comprehensive program of re-runs of The Phil Silvers Show. Late-night screenings on BBC TV brought the series to the attention of yet another devoted audience.
1985 saw the 30th anniversary of the show. Popular, live daytime show Pebble Mill At One decided to celebrate the shows anniversary by putting together a segment to be broadcast on October 2, 1985 . The program's producers decided to make the celebration something special by making it their goal to talk to none other than the star of the show....Phil Silvers himself.
It was rumoured by this time that Phil Silvers was in poor health and that talking to him about Sgt.Bilko was an impossibility. Undeterred, the producers contacted Phil via his daughter Tracey to find that the snipings of the gutter press were untrue. For the past few years the press had peddled stories about Phil's mental health and well-being, something which upset both Phil and his family. The stories were both unfounded and more importantly untrue.
On October 1st, 1985 Magnus Magnusson, host of the hugely popular quiz Mastermind and himself a long-time Phil Silvers devotee, interviewed Phil via a Trans-Atlantic telephone call. He found Phil to be both open and responsive. Phil spoke candidly and at length about his career. He spoke of his fondness for all things British - he'd been a devout Anglophile for much of his life - and he spoke with great affection of his time on The Phil Silvers Show. He was articulate, funny and spoke with great affection about his career and the people he had worked with.
The 30th anniversary tribute to The Phil Silvers Show - which featured an interview with David Thomas, author of The Fort Baxter Story and with an invited audience of Phil Silvers fans - was broadcast live on October 2nd, 1985. Along with clips from The Phil Silvers Show a brief edited segment of the interview conducted on the previous evening was also included.
A master tape of the full interview along with a copy of The Bilko Growl, Phil's last-known work, were donated to Phil's fan club after the broadcast of the program. It is possible (although not substantiated) that this is the last interview that Phil gave.
Phil Silvers passed away exactly one month to the day of the recording of the interview. Right up to the end he showed impeccable timing and was the emodiment of the old addage 'always leave them wanting more'.
The original broadcast of the program is presented here, followed by the complete conversation.
PHIL SILVERS ON PEBBLE MILL AT ONE (1985)
Phil Silvers - The Last Interview (1985)
Above: Phil's last interview in it's entireity (October 1, 1985)
(Thanks for this feature go to the incomparable Phil Silvers, daughter Tracey Silvers and also to Viv Ellis, Magnus Magnusson & Steve Weddle from the Pebble Mill At One team)
Selection of images
of Phil Silvers