Phil Baker (comedian)
|Died||November 30, 1963 (aged 67)|
(m. 1932; div. 1941)
Baker went to school in Boston, and his first stage appearance was in a Boston amateur show. Baker began in vaudeville playing the piano for violinist Ed Janis, and he was 19 when he teamed with Ben Bernie for the vaudeville act, "Bernie and Baker." This originally was a serious musical act with Baker on accordion and Bernie on violin but eventually ended up with comic elements. After breaking with Bernie shortly after World War I, Baker partnered with Sid Silvers up until 1928.
Baker went on to pursue a successful solo career. His solo act included him singing, playing the accordion, telling jokes and being heckled by a planted audience member called Jojo. With this act, Baker played the Palace Theatre in 1930 and 1931.
In 1923, Baker appeared in an early DeForest Phonofilm short A Musical Monologue in which he played the accordion and sang. Bernie also appeared in a DeForest Phonofilm Ben Bernie and All the Lads featuring Bernie's band and pianist Oscar Levant. During World War I Baker served in the US Navy.
On radio, he starred in his own series The Armour Jester on NBC. In the 1940s he appeared on Duffy's Tavern on February 22, 1944, and was the host of the quiz show Take It or Leave It, which later changed its title to The $64 Question.
Phil Baker appeared briefly on television. In 1951 he hosted the panel quiz show Who's Whose.. The show, and Baker's performance, were both universally panned, so much so that the show was canceled after one episode and Baker had his contract bought out.
Baker had four children with actress Peggy Cartwright - Margot, Stuart, Michael and Susan. Michael is the well-known composer Michael Conway Baker. Baker later married Irmgard Erik, a Danish model, with whom he had two children, Philip and Lisa. Irmgard Erik Baker died in December 1997. Baker's likeness was drawn in caricature by Alex Gard for the walls of Sardi's, the New York City Theater District restaurant. That picture is now part of the collection of the New York Public Library.
Baker appeared in a number of Broadway musicals:
- Music Box Revue
- Billy Rose's Crazy Quilt
- Artists and Models
- Greenwich Village Follies
- A Night in Spain
- Calling All Stars
Baker composed many songs, including:
- "Park Avenue Strut"
- "Look At Those Eyes"
- "Just Suppose"
- "Strange Interlude"
- "Humming a Love Song"
- "Rainy Day Pal"
- "Pretty Little Baby"
- "Did You Mean It?"
- "My Heaven on Earth"
- "Invitation to a Broken Heart"
- "Phil Baker, Comedian, Is Dead. He Asked the $64 Question. Early Quizmaster on Radio. Accordionist Performed in Vaudeville and Musicals A Star at the Palace". New York Times. December 2, 1963. Retrieved 2014-12-06.
Phil Baker, comedian and accordionist, died yesterday in his home in Copenhagen, Denmark, after a long illness. His age was 67. With his Danish wife, Irmgard Erik, a former dancer in this country, he settled in Copenhagen three years ago. ...
- Laurie, Joe, Jr. Vaudeville: From the Honky-tonks to the Palace. New York: Henry Holt, 1953. p. 86.
- Slide, Anthony. The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville. Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1994. p. 21.
- "Comment" (PDF). Billboard. January 10, 1942. p. 8. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
- "Who's Was". Weekly Variety. 1951-07-04. p. 32. Retrieved 2018-07-10.
- The New York Public Library Inventory of Sardi's Caricatures
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