Unpeeling “Top Banana” And Finding Answers About The 3D Movie That Slipped Away


This article is only possible due to the extensive research by film historian Robert Furmanek. Thank you Bob for all the research and restorations by you and the 3-D Film Archive.

It’s long been known that “Top Banana” (1954) was a lost 3D film. At the World 3-D Film Expo II, it was announced that of the nine 1950 era 3D films not shown at the World 3-D Film Expos, only two of them; “Top Banana” and “Southwest Passage” (1954) had no 3-D elements remaining. (Actually about half of “Southwest Passage” exists in 3D.) I was truly surprised when Jeff Joseph stated “Top Banana” only remained in one 16mm print. Even though the film has run endlessly on television for decades and the movie had been released on VHS in 1996 by MGM/UA, these have all been of an edited version. You can find dozens of VHS copies, both new and used, in a quick search of the Internet. Fortunately the VHS release proved the R. M. Hayes ’3-D Movies’ book wrong when it stated existing prints are available only in black-and-white. According to Jeff Joseph “Yes the film played on TV for years, but in [black and white]. The 16mm negative that MGM/UA has is the B/W TV negative. MGM/UA has no color elements of the film and no 35mm elements of any kind…of course, one can hope that other elements will surface on the film.”

Bob Furmanek has posted some “Top Banana” history on the 3-D Film Archive website under ‘Lost 3-D,’ see 3dfilmarchive.com/lost-3-d. He had begun posting this history on Rec.arts.movies.tech as early as August 26, 2003 and other movie discussions since. “The film was photographed in Eastman color, and processed by the Color Corporation of America laboratory (formerly SuperCinecolor/Cinecolor) in Burbank. The lab went out of business the following year. Apparently, all of the original elements were junked at that time. (The negatives were probably labeled under the production company name, Roadshow Productions.) Sadly, the only material in the United Artists archive today is an edited 35mm release print of one side. That is the version which had been released on home video and it’s missing about 15 minutes of footage. There are no negatives, color separations, inter-positives, or dupe negatives, nothing. (The “lost” footage does survive in an uncut 16mm Kodachrome print struck in 1954. It was offered to the studio when they were planning the home video release, but they weren’t interested. So much for archival consideration.)”

This is the 16mm print that Jeff Joseph called the only remaining copy. It would be very nice for a special feature on a DVD release (MGM are you listening?) The VHS version of the movie is very choppy. Scenes change abruptly, with characters changing clothes and locations with no explanation. There are a few places were items get thrown at the camera, but any other ‘3D moments’ have been cut out. ‘Flash’ Hogan the Singing Dog gets screen credit, but is only seen at the end of the film after all the performers have made their bow and the curtain re-opens. ‘Flash’ and other acts that were part of the TV show within the show are missing from the VHS version. The film was 100 minutes when it was released in 1954, but the VHS version only runs about 84 minutes. Also missing from the original theatrical release are the songs sung by Rose Marie. Prior to her 2017 passing, Rose Marie told the story that only on one occasion was she not treated with respect. When she was wrapping filming on “Top Banana” she explained. “The producer of the film came up to me after I’d run through the song called ‘I Fought Every Step of the Way,’ which had boxing references and said that he could show me a few positions. He wasn’t referring to boxing. I laughed it off, but he said he was serious and the picture could be mine. Well, in front of everyone onstage, I said, ‘You son of a bitch, you couldn’t get it up if a flag went by.’ Needless to say, that didn’t go over well with him and all my musical numbers were cut from the film. I had no idea his reaction to my refusal would be so bad. I realized then that the rumors of the casting couch weren’t jokes and why some actresses were getting breaks and why others, sometimes way more talented, weren’t”

You may recall a 3D anaglyph version of the trailer on the World 3-D Expo DVD. The trailer is mostly flat, but the trailer was checked against the surviving 16mm print and enough snippets were discovered that it was possible to reconstruct the trailer in 3D for the Expo trailer DVD. According to Jeff Joseph “The trailer on the DVD has about 20-30 seconds of 3D footage; only parts of the trailer were from the other “eye” of the film.” The 3D reconstruction was done expertly by the late Dan Symmes.

Top Banana on Broadway

By 1950, Phil Silvers was already considered a comic genius by many. Silvers was a successful burlesque, vaudeville, night club, Broadway, movie and television comedian and actor. Not to mention singer, dancer and even song writer. He had written the words for the 1945 top-ten Frank Sinatra song ‘Nancy (With the Laughing Face)’ after Sinatra’s firstborn child. Silvers would later name one of his five daughters Nancy. Silvers had a Broadway success in the 1947-1949 “High Button Shoes,” followed by a cross-country nightclub appearance, after which he signed on for a Broadway cornball comedy “Jest for Laughs.” The verbose tale of a great comedian who meets his wife in a department store (paralleling the story of Jack Benny, who met his wife Mary Livingstone at the May Company,) the idea began to worry Silvers. He was not sure why he had signed onto a show that he had no hope for and began asking everyone else involved “Why are we doing this show?” There had been many shows about comedians and the fact that he met his wife at a department store didn’t seem to make it any more exciting for 1950.

The sub-plot suggested by Silvers, eased his concerns; the show would be the first musical to satirize the madness of week-to-week live television. The tyrant of the tube in 1950 was Uncle Miltie, the entire country tuned in at 8:00 PM on Tuesday nights to watch Mr. Television: Milton Berle’s own version of ‘Berle-esque’. Before the Broadway show opened, Silvers played a round of golf with his good friend Berle to explain the show before an unfeeling friend revealed to Berle that he was being satirized. After his long explanation of the story and how the lead ‘Jerry Biffle’ would do anything for a laugh, Berle replied “I know guys just like that,” still not realizing he was the inspiration for the character. Berle even invested in the show. In 1955 CBS television would put ‘The Phil Silvers Show’ opposite ‘The Milton Berle Show;’ it was a long battle, but Silvers finally was the first show in over seven years to knock Berle off its number one perch. ‘The Phil Silvers Show’ began life as ‘You’ll Never Get Rich,’ but was re-titled after only a few weeks, in reruns it was known as ‘Sgt. Bilko.’ Silvers said that changing the name to ‘The Phil Silvers Show’ instantly helped his ratings. Later the Hanna- Barbera animated series ‘Top Cat’ would be a take off on Silvers’ ‘Bilko’ character, with the title a salute to Silvers’ ‘Top Banana’ persona.

The Broadway show went through re-writes and a name change to “Top Banana”. A Top Banana is the starring act in a Vaudeville performance; the phrase had been coined many years earlier by Hebrew Comedian and Vaudeville Performer Harry Steppe. The music and lyrics were written by Johnny Mercer and the book was by Hy Kraft, there are some clever songs but none seemed to ever take off. “Top Banana” started tryouts and rehearsals in Boston for four weeks, while still looking for backers for the show. One backer brought his dog to the rehearsal and the dog would howl melodiously while Silvers sang. The dog was hired, Mercer wrote “A Dog is a Man’s Best Friend” and the backer was hired as a stagehand to stand nearby and make certain the dog didn’t miss his cues. The dog’s love for the egocentric Jerry Biffle helped create audience empathy.

Silvers wanted the best cast available. They got burlesque veterans Joey Faye, Herbie Faye (no relation), Jack Albertson and Eddie Hanley. Joey Faye, an old crony from burlesque had also been Silvers sidekick in “High Button Shoes.” Herbie Faye was an expert comedian of burlesque and vaudeville, who had taught Silvers the fundamentals of stage comedy two decades earlier when they appeared together in a burlesque act (they would also work together on Silvers’ ‘Bilko’ TV series.) Jack Albertson started with Silvers as a soft-shoe dancer in the Catskills and went into Burlesque with Silvers until he left to try to break into serious acting. When Silvers had been signed by L.B. Mayer for a Hollywood contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, he moved into Albertson’s spare room, until he could find a place of his own. In 1969 Albertson received the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “The Subject is Roses” (1968). Some thought taking all the best burlesque comics could crucify him. Silvers was certain “No, they can’t, they just make me look better. No matter how good they are and I want them to be good, people will go out saying, ‘wasn’t that guy great in the Phil Silvers show?’”

Rose Marie was working at the Roxy at the time, and Silvers called her to ask here to be in the show. Rose Marie refused saying “I live in California. I have a four-year-old daughter. I don’t want to do a Broadway show.” He wouldn’t take no for an answer, telling her “You should do a Broadway show.” Rose Marie told him, “The last Broadway show I did didn’t do so hot.” But she finally said yes, her husband flew out every other week, plus she had it in her contract that she could go home for Christmas for four weeks. Most people know Rose Marie from television’s ‘The Dick Van Dick Show,’ but she had begun performing at age three as ‘Baby Rose Marie.’ She had sung for three Presidents at the White House (Hoover, Coolidge and Roosevelt.) and had also been featured in Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” for “Singing and knowing 500 songs from memory.” She dropped the ‘Baby’ in her name when she was fifteen.
The show played its pre-Broadway run for four weeks in Philadelphia at the Shubert Theatre. Opening on Yom Kippur, the theater would have been three-quarters empty, if the company manager hadn’t papered the theater with soldiers and sailors. On this night the Silvers and Rose Marie duet “A Word a Day” stopped the show, but for some reason never did again.

“Top Banana” opened on Broadway on Monday, November 1, 1951 at the Winter Garden Theatre (known from 2002 – 2006 as the Cadillac Winter Garden Theatre.) The Winter Garden seats 1530 and has been host to many big Broadway shows since 1911; (‘Cats’ had its record-breaking run of 7,485 performances there) you can see a list of other shows on the Internet Broadway Database: ibdb.com/venue.asp?ID=1391. “Top Banana” played 350 performances, with a layoff from August 3rd through August 31, 1952; (many shows closed down during the hot summer months, due to no or poor air conditioning) ending on October 4, 1952. During the August 1952 break, Silvers took a vacation to London.

Milton Berle was at the Broadway opening laughing it up. Berle had planned a surprise, as the cast took the last bow, Silvers holding Ted (Sport) Morgan on a lease. Berle came dashing on stage yelling “I’ll sue! I’ll sue!” Unfortunately the dog didn’t understand the humor and only saw a strange man running towards him, Sport leaped for Berle’s throat. The whole bit got a good laugh, but Berle never did it again. The audiences and critics loved the show. While some sources state that the Broadway version lost money, others report that the production was way into the black by the time it took its August 1952 layoff. The fact that the show went on tour might indicate that it had done at least okay in profits.

After the Broadway run, the show toured for almost a year playing in major cities across the country. Touring brought the new challenge of recruiting replacement dancers, singers and musicians. Rose Marie was offered $50 more a week to do the tour, which she turned down. She was hard to replace, but Kaye Ballard finally took over her role. Silvers wrote in his autobiography “A road tour requires an extra talent – survival.”

In Toledo, the new conductor fell into the thirty foot deep orchestra pit of the 1920 movie house prior to his debut, he broke his leg and the violinist took over. The show toured with five key musicians, filling in the rest with local talent. Other cities of the US tour included a good run in Chicago and Salt Lake City. In Salt Lake though, they had to replace the line ‘This must be the place,’ since the audience assumed the show was ridiculing their religion. In Denver, the management had oxygen tanks ready due to the high altitude. From Omaha, the show traveled to San Francisco and played at the Geary Theater for a four week sell-out run.

Jack Benny had just closed a revue in San Francisco and called Silvers telling him he had seen the show twice in New York and wanted to take George Burns and Gracie Allen when it came to Los Angeles. A few days later Benny called again to see if Silvers could get him six more seats for his writers. Before the show arrived in Los Angeles, Benny had reserved most of the second row. Silvers tore up the check that Benny gave him for the tickets and never told him.

The show finished its successful run at the Biltmore Theater in downtown Los Angeles, playing there for eight weeks. Rose Marie got the most publicity simply for showing up for the opening. During that engagement, energetic promoter Joe Justman who operated a film production center negotiated with producers Albert Zugsmith and Ben Peskay to film “Top Banana” exactly as it had been presented on stage in sold out performances across the country. The original sets and props were used to create the stage exactly as it looked at the Winter Garden in New York City. Justman had very little money, but he did have the Motion Picture Center Studio, where filming could take place. Silvers would work for a token salary, in return for 25 percent of the profits; the rest of the company would receive four weeks salary.

“Top Banana” as a 3D motion picture must have seemed like an interesting experimental project, a stage play shot in color and 3D in an attempt to recreate the experience of seeing a Broadway show from the front row for the moviegoer. The production company must also have figured filming the Broadway play was probably a very inexpensive way to produce a film. The producers envisioned this format as a new way to inexpensively film stage shows, and present them in theaters across the country. Film-goers would be able to see a Broadway show for movie theater prices. While movie prices were little more than pocket change, ‘Top Banana’ Broadway tickets had been $6.60 weekdays and $7.20 weekends, Wednesday and Saturday matinee tickets had been bargain priced at only $3.60.

According to Silvers in his autobiography ‘This Laugh Is On Me – The Phil Silvers Story’ (by Phil Silvers with Robert Saffron) “I worked out a camera concept to bring the movie audience into the stage show. During the overture, the camera, moving like a play-goer, picks up two tickets at the box office, strolls down the aisle, crosses into the center of the third row, looks over the program. Then the curtain rises. Well, the curtain couldn’t rise because Justman’s studio ceiling was too low.” The film does contain a curtain that closes at the end of show, the reason the elaborate opening was abandoned in favor of a static shot of the theater marquee was a budgetary one. The music might not have happened for the film either. The conductor brought in by producer Al Zugsmith was a flute player who specialized in background music for westerns. This conductor could not read the music. Luckily the show’s original music conductor Harold (Hal) Hastings was in town to lead a show at the Civic Center and he visited the studio to say hello. The union gave him a special dispensation to take over or the film might never have been finished.

The motion picture has incorrectly been reported as having been photographed at the Winter Garden on Broadway, Los Angeles’ Biltmore Theater and at least one source mentions filming to have taken place at ZIV Studios, located at 7950 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, California. Less than two miles away at Joe Justman’s Motion Picture Center Studios is where the filming actually took place. This was mentioned in the Hayes ‘3-D Movies’ book and established by a Phil Silvers interview discovered by Bob Furmanek. The interview was in the July 29, 1953 Hollywood Reporter done on the set of the five day shoot. Unfortunately twenty years later in his autobiography, Silvers wrote “There was so little money that the entire picture was shot in a day and a half.”

That Hollywood Reporter article also enlightens us on some other facts about the filming. The Hollywood Reporter writer Joe Hyams states that after four days of shooting the producers were receiving both condolences and congratulations. Stating the announced budget of $300,000 had been doubled due to unexpected expenses, yet filming had proceeded at record speed and they were hoping for an October release date. He noted that the original sets and costumes had been freshened up and even painted a little brighter for the color cameras. It is also discovered that they used two Natural Vision cameras, which required three men to operate, plus three color consultants plus a battery of nine electricians operating forty-eight 5,000 watt or greater electric lamps. This was noted as one reason for the increased budget. Noted also that on the first day of shooting there were 400 people on the set, including the cast, crew and special technicians. Since most of the cast had been performing the show for two years, only one rehearsal was used prior to each scene for the technicians had an idea of the action.

In the Hollywood Reporter article we also learn about the shooting. The average length of each ‘take’ was nine minutes, while for most movies the average ‘take’ is two minutes. After three days they had shot 106 minutes of film which compared to a previous high of 36 minutes during normal shooting. Scenes were filmed in continuity as they would appear on stage, with one camera focusing on closeups and the other on long shots. The length of the film was shortened to two hours and a few deletions were made because of censorship requirements. The Broadway cast was now under the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) instead of Actor’s Equity so they would receive the SAG minimum of $250 a week instead of $125. Phil Silvers is quoted as saying the lack of audience originally drove him crazy “No laughs, No audience, No realism, luckily I remember when the audience should laugh and I time myself.” Rose Marie who hadn’t gone on the road, so had taken a year off said she found herself overplaying too much, “You have to underplay for the film because you don’t have to worry about the guy in the balcony. The film audience is the man in the front row center.” Other actors said they thought the movie would be a snap, but the bit about getting to work at seven in the morning and staying until seven at night was wearing them down.

“Top Banana” was released flat on February 22, 1954, as early as late October 1953 the press was reporting that 3D was being dropped and the approximate $30,000 cost to film it in 3D would be chalked up as a loss. Also the press was reporting that 3D was being dropped from producer Albert Zugsmith’s upcoming American Pictures feature, “Great Green Og.” Also from Bob Furmanek, “It was photographed with Natural Vision cameras, the same rigs that filmed “Bwana Devil,” “House of Wax,” “Fort Ti,” “Charge at Feather River,” “Devil’s Canyon,” “The Moonlighter,” “Southwest Passage” and “Gog.” Plus the Natural Vision camera was used later on “September Storm.” The film was in post-production in September 1953 just as “The Robe” and CinemaScope hit theaters, and 3D was starting to decline at the box office. While shopping the property around for a distributor (the film was independently financed) the producers announced they would release “Top Banana” flat only, citing the public’s lukewarm response to the current 3D releases. In early December, they signed a distribution deal with United Artists. Later that month, the success of some new 3D releases (“Kiss Me Kate,” “Hondo,” “Cease Fire” and “Miss Sadie Thompson”) prompted UA to announce in the trades that a 3D version would be available for exhibitors. Unfortunately, that is the last reference to a stereoscopic version of this film. When it sneak previewed, shown to the trades and released in February 1954, it was only shown flat. Despite UA’s claim, there is no concrete documentation that the camera negatives were ever edited for a 3D release.”

This was true until Bob Furmanek made another interesting discovery, a “…replacement leader at the end of a 35mm release print of “Shark River,” another United Artists release from November 1953. Taken from the right eye of reel 5, definite proof that “Top Banana” was at least edited for 3D. This doesn’t prove that both eyes were ever printed in 35mm, but it does prove that editing in 3D was completed.”

“Top Banana” is veteran film director Alfred E. Green’s final theatrical feature. Green had been a very prolific director. Green entered films in 1912 as an actor prior to becoming an assistant to Colin Campbell; Green began directing two reelers and turned to features in 1917. Green’s output had been mostly routine, but with some gems. Mary Pickford chose him to direct several of her pictures in the 1920’s. Green directed Bette Davis in her Oscar-winning performance in “Dangerous” (1935) and was responsible for the commercial and critical success of “The Jolson Story” (1946). He followed this with a string of B-pictures. Green had suffered for many years from arthritis, “Top Banana” producer Albert Zugsmith said that Green was so crippled by the disease during the filming that he was seldom able to move from the director’s chair. Green did a little television series direction before his retirement (he died in 1960). IMDB also lists Zugsmith as an uncredited director for “Top Banana.”

The feature has way too many long shots and the movie is very static. Basically, cameras were stationed in front of the stage sets and the players did their stuff. One scene where Silvers is sitting in front of the fake television camera on the set of his television show and the camera keeps moving and hitting his head is annoying and it should have been re-shot. The film can get away with this since it is supposed to be an attempt to give that ‘you’re at a live Broadway show’ feeling. According to Silvers’ autobiography “Al Greene (he was sometimes credited with the extra ‘e’) just pointed the camera and let it roll. He didn’t dare stop. In the final cut, you can see a stagehand walking behind a drop. The sound quivered and faded, and yet it managed to pick up every off camera shoe squeak.”

Silvers made nothing on the picture, at the last minute the production needed ‘finish money,’ which came from B-picture expert Harry Popkin. Popkin claimed most of the profit for his contribution, plus he took his entire family, including his brother-in-law on a promotion tour of Europe and Israel and charged it all to the picture. While Silvers was promoting the film at an exhibitor’s convention in Philadelphia he asked “if Mr. Popkin and his family do not have a good time on their tour – can they sue me?”

Of the 14 songs in the score, only seven survived in the film and VHS version. Mercer is credited with additional music score for the film. The two production numbers that made the cut lose a lot on today’s small television screens. The full Broadway score was originally released on LP in 1952 by Capitol Records. It is still available on CD from DRG Records (and elsewhere on the Internet). Among the songs on the CD, you’ll hear two interesting songs (mentioned earlier) that were not used in the film: “I Fought Every Inch of the Way,” a clever, slightly sardonic song about love songs by Rose Marie and “Word a Day,” a jauntily literate song about improving a person’s vocabulary sung by Rose Marie and Silvers. These two songs probably had been filmed, but suffered from Rose Marie’s shunning the producer’s advances.

“Top Banana” also had a revival and it has a 3D connection! Nightclub comedian Slick Slavin had performed in the 1953 3D short “Stardust in Your Eyes” before giving up stand-up comedy and becoming a writer and later producer. Slick was also known as Trustin Howard, he was born Howard Trustin Slavin. He was the head writer on the Joey Bishop show. Howard covers much of his involvement with the revival of “Top Banana” in his book ‘My Life with Regis and Joey (And Practically Everyone Else.)’

Howard sent along this additional information prior to his passing “I met Johnny and all the Mercers and ended up co-owning a record company with Johnny Mercer Jr. Somehow I learned they had a script called “Top Banana” which Johnny Mercer owned, it had lied dormant in a drawer for over 50 years. After its’ initial run on Broadway with Phil Silvers, no one was able to do anything with it. I said ‘Let me try.’ I made some changes and eventually turned it over to top agents and producers, and came up empty. I decided to put the script under my arm and try Las Vegas. Also, I wrote in new scenes for every one of Mercer’s hits replacing those that didn’t make it.

“Through a twist of fate, I ran into an old friend who was the Entertainment Director of the Tropicana and later the Union Plaza. He saw the possibilities and we were off and running for a great run. This eventually led a year later to HBO saying, ‘If you can bring it up to date – we may do it.’ I wrote a completely new script just using the title and 26 of Johnny’s hit songs. And we did a 2 hour movie special.”

Prior to the HBO deal Howard’s updated version played around the country. I found very little information about the HBO movie. The HBO film did include a heavy dramatic scene that was a counterbalance to all the comedy and singing. Jack Carter (in the title role) reportedly handled the comedy and pathos expertly.

As far as the original 1954 film, we are very fortunate to have this record of one of Phil Silver’s greatest triumphs. “Top Banana” on Broadway won many awards. Silvers himself won both the Tony award (1952 best actor in a musical) and the Donaldson Award for his Broadway performance. Unfortunately it appears that the film will never been seen as it was originally shot and intended – in 3D.

Notes from the Original Broadway Cast Album

This synopsis thoroughly explains the Broadway version, much of it can still be found in the current version of the film:

Top Banana is the accolade bestowed on the leading comedian in burlesque shows. And the show Top Banana resolves around Jerry Biffle (Phil Silvers), recently of burlesque but now television’s Number One Star, sponsored by Blendo Soap.

The opening number, “The Man of the Year This Week,” satirizes Biffle’s origins, techniques and success. It is sung by the Blendo Chorus and danced by the Blendo Soap Dancers. A short scene in Jerry Biffle’s dressing room reveals Biffle’s entourage – his gag writer, his stage manager, his barber, his personal waiter from Pastrami Paradise, and the young singer on the show. Biffle phones a girl friend, a model at a local department store. In order to make an impression on her, he orders his singer to sing to her over the phone. The bewildered vocalist wants to know what to sing: all Biffle can tell him is that she’s beautiful, the gag writer improvises the lines, and the singer sings “You’re So Beautiful That.”

A heated argument about the construction of gags between Biffle, his writer, the waiter and the barber ensures, the younger singer interrupts – he wants to know what “Top Banana” means. Biffle and his entourage explain – vocally and visually, in the hilarious title number, “Top Banana.”

The next scene is the MacCracken Department Store (“Elevator Song”) where Jerry Biffle is autographing his book, ‘Bifflesticks, A Collection of Boffs and Bombs.’ Before Biffle gets there the singer arrives in the Gown Shop; he meets Sally Peters, Biffle’s model friend. They are instantly attracted and express themselves in the song, “Only If You’re In Love.” Biffle and his stooges arrive, the dancer Tommy among them. Tommy sings and dances the rhythm number, “My Home Is In My Shoes.” Biffle, in rapid-fire routine, autographs his book, but his great conceit is rudely deflated by the sudden appearance of his agent and Mr. Parker (Princeton ’30), Vice-president of Blendo Company. Mr. Parker insists that the Jerry Biffle show be revamped to include a “Miss Blendo as a romantic note since, in his words, “Soap and romance go together.” The girl, Sally Peters, is chosen as Miss Blendo, which disrupts the plan she’s made with Cliff, the young singer. Betty Dillon, Sally’s roommate, tries to console her in the raucous ballad, “I Fought Every Step of the Way.”

Back in the TV Studio, Jerry Biffle is in a frenzy of excitement and activity. He and his convoy pause long enough to cheer up Sally; this they do in the number, led by Jerry Biffle, “You’re O.K. For T.V.” Now Jerry decides that Blendo Soap must have a singing commercial – “You Gotta Have A Slogan You Can Sell (Slogan Song).” As the photographers and newspapermen enter to meet Miss Blendo, Biffle, a man of sudden and endless inspiration, uses the three words, “Meet Miss Blendo” as the singing slogan which brings the first act to its rousing finale.
The second act opens with an elaborate presentation of the sensuous ballad, “Sans Souci,” led by Betty Dillon, sung and danced by the entire company. It is three weeks later and Biffle is confident that the anticipated romance with Miss Blendo will result in a renewal of his contract. However, there is always the human element – Biffle has fallen in love with Sally, but the day’s full schedule of rehearsal prevents his talking to her. There is a dog act that needs rehearsal; it is the number “A Dog Is A Man’s Best Friend,” with the dog, Ted (Sport) Morgan, singing the lead, and Biffle and the Three Grenadiers supplying the harmony. Sally and Cliff are reunited to the words and music of “That’s For Sure.” The young singer tries to tell Biffle about his love but Biffle doesn’t give him a chance to talk; Biffle is seized with a great idea – an elopement in the heart of New York City, which Biffle is sure will break on the front pages of every newspaper. Betty enters to wish him luck; Biffle tries to make an impression by using big words, which leads to the ‘fracture’ (or Mercerized’) English number, “A Word a Day.”

The uproarious elopement scene follows and the inevitable denouncement – Biffle is replaced on the program by the newlyweds in a Mr. And Mrs. Blendo Show. Biffle, in a moment of sad retrospection, thinks back to his days as a Top Banana in burlesque, which are colorfully staged in a “Top Banana Ballet.”

Biffle’s career is saved by a change of heart on the part of his sponsor. Biffle is once more “The Top Banana of Television” (Finale) – in which tribute is joined by the entire company.

Copyright © 2013 Stereo Club of Southern California