Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Great Lost TV Shows, Vol. 5.5: The Two Sams

Sammy Davis Jr and the very talented Mr Samuel Beckett

Sammy Davis on the filming of the “Nothing to Be Done” episode -- written by Samuel Beckett -- of The Jolly Six Bums. (From an interview in Browbeat magazine, June, 1988.)

“Phil Leotardo asked me to come back and guest-star in another episode of the series, and when I saw the script I flipped. It was that good, man. By Samuel Beckett, one of the real heavyweights of the theatre and a very cool cat. Phil flew him over from Paris for the location shoot in Philly, and Sam was on set every day, working closely with the director, John Frankenheimer, and with me and the other folks in the cast. It was Sam who had the idea for me and Ted Bikel to do a duet of the Hebrew folk song, ‘Erets Zavat Chalav’, and I don’t mind tellin’ ya, me and Ted smoked on that number.

“I played a carny barker for a sideshow called ‘The Great Dark Secret Mystery of Life’. The catch is that once the paying rubes come back out of my tent they can’t remember what it was they saw inside, and they’re so curious they keep coming back again and again and again. Very heavy shit. Now, the jolly six bums, they’re running their own scam right across the way from my tent, with Bikel, Burl Ives and Zero Mostel doin’ a song-and-dance routine, while Roddy McDowell, Evelyn Ankers and Thomas Mitchell work the crowd boosting wallets and picking purses. Me, I get in a beef with the six bums ‘cause they’re robbin’ the local yokels so blind that they can’t afford to buy tickets to my sideshow!

"One day Frank came around the set -- he was doing an appearance at the Latin Casino in downtown Philly, and it turns out Sam Beckett was a major fan. Frank invited a bunch of us to his show that night, and afterwards we all sat around shootin’ the bull and singin’ songs. Me and the rest of the cast all fell out around three AM ‘cause we had a seven o’clock call that morning, But Sam stuck around with Frank, just drinkin’ Four Roses and smokin’ Pall Malls and rappin’ away like two long-lost brothers. Next morning Sam comes on the set lookin’ like the sad-ass grey ghost of warmed-over death, even for him. ‘What happened to you, motherfucker?’ I asked him. ‘Sinatra happened to me,' he replied. And I mean deadpan, man. This dude could've given Buster Keaton deadpan lessons.

"But it’s like the man said: ‘Nothing to be done.’ Nothing to be done, so, you know, just do it, man. Just do it. That was Sam Beckett's philosophy of showbiz and that was his philosophy of life."

(Turn to the right hand side of this page for an up-to-date listing of links to other Great Lost TV Shows.)


Pierce Inverarity said...

I bet it was on this night that the fantastically effete Sinatra forced Beckett to finally reveal the location of Murphys 7th and final scarf...

The influence was undeniable. Por ejemplo, from 'Eh Joe'....

"The best's to come, you said, that lastime....Come on, Joe, no one can say it like you, say it again now and listen to yourself....The best's to come....You were right for once...In the end."

Or when Krapp was so rudely interrupted by a coughing fit....

"Now the day is over,
Night is drawing nigh-igh,

Krapp always did it " 'His' Way"...

Dan Leo said...

Pierce, I can almost hear Frank singing (with music by Jimmy Van Heusen) -- as if they were from a late-night recording of a number deemed too downbeat even for an album like "Only the Lonely" -- those immortal last lines from "Krapp's Last Tape":

"Perhaps my best years are gone.
When there was a chance of happiness.
But I wouldn't want them back.
Not with the fire in me now.
No, I wouldn't want them back."