Thursday, February 28, 2013

Phil Harris and Alice Faye

The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, a comedy radio program, ran on NBC from 1948 to 1954, evolving from an earlier music and comedy variety program, The Fitch Bandwagon. Singer-bandleader Phil Harris and his wife, actress-singer Alice Faye, became the earlier show's breakout stars, and the show was retooled into a full situation comedy, with Harris and Faye playing fictionalized versions of themselves as a working show business couple raising two daughters in a slightly madcap home.

Harris had been a mainstay and musical director for The Jack Benny Program; Faye had been a frequent guest on programs such as Rudy Vallée's. Their marriage provoked a 1941 episode of the Benny show.

The growing popularity of the Harris-Faye family sketches turned the program into their own comic vehicle by 1947. When announcer Bill Foreman hailed, "Good health to all... from Rexall!" on October 3, 1948, The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show launched its independent life under Rexall's sponsorship with a debut storyline about the fictitious day the couple signed their sponsorship deal. The show was a quick success and its position in that powerhouse NBC Sunday lineup didn't hurt. Playing themselves as radio and music star parents of two precocious young daughters (played by actresses Jeanine Roos and Ann Whitfield, instead of the Harrises' own young daughters), Harris refined his character from the booze-and-broads, hipster jive talker he had been on the Benny show ("Hiya, Jackson!" was his usual hail to Benny) into a slightly vain (particularly about his wavy hair and the dimpled smile that always hinted mischief) and dunderheaded husband who usually needed rescuing by Faye as his occasionally tart but always loving wife. References to his hair and vanity became a running gag.

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