Associated Press, syndicated
23 July 1953

‘Top Banana’ Is To Be Filmed By Original Cast

Independents Gamble That Movie-Goers Will Be Attracted

By BOB THOMAS

HOLLYWOOD (AP)—Would you like to see a Broadway show on the movie screen?

I don’t mean a film version of a stage hit. I mean a musical filmed almost exactly as it was presented on Broadway at $7.20 top. A group of independent movie makers are gambling that movie goers will buy such an attraction. Wide-screen and 3D will be added to make the show seem more lifelike.

The subject of this unique experiment is “Top Banana,” the raucous hit based on the thinly disguised adventures of Milton Berle in TV. The musical ended its road show run in Los Angeles three weeks ago. Now the entire production has been moved onto a movie stage, where it will be filmed as it played to theater audiences.

The movie will have the same sets, the same costumes and the same cast, headed by Phil Silvers. Sole change: Rose Marie has been brought back to her original comedienne role, replacing Kaye Ballard of the road company.

The only other changes are in some of the dialogue and action. The profanity and a few shady lines have been tossed out to meet film censorship requirements. Also the strip-tease number has been toned down.

‘TOP BANANA’ STARS  Rose Marie and Phil Silvers as they appeared on Broadway and as they will appear in the movie.

Much the Same

I arrived on the set as the entire cast was running through the first act in a dress rehearsal for the cameras and lights. The players enacted their roles against the usual backdrops of the show. They sang the songs to pre-recorded playbacks or went through them without accompaniment if the records were not available. The show moved breezily along in a manner unlike other movies, which are done in bits and pieces.

The entire film will be shot in a speedy four days!

Cast Out of Show

Veteran director Al Green, who filmed the Jolson and Cantor biographies, is directing “Top Banana”. He said it’s not as easy as it looks. When I mentioned that the actors ought to be well rehearsed in their parts by now, he replied: “Not exactly. All of the cast have been out of the show for three weeks, and Rose Marie has been out of it for a year. Besides, they can’t do the show exactly as it was done on the stage. The movies require less projection, less playing to the rear of the house.”

Although the show will be filmed in its entirety, it presents technical problems, he added. Lighting will not be easy, particularly in 3D, which requires hotter lights. He said the camera will not remain stationary, but will roam around and even go in for closeups.

What about the strip-tease?

“We have to modify it a little,” he admitted. “You can’t do a ‘bump’ toward the audience. But you can do it sideways, which is almost as good.”

To Show Audience

Film audiences will be given the feeling of the theater, Green said. Opening shots will show the audience coming into the theater and the orchestra playing. Otherwise, the entire show will take place between the arches of the stage.

“I think this will start a whole new trend of filming stage plays,” remarked the director. He is shooting his first picture in wide-screen and 3D, but he’s used to pioneering.

“I went through the early talkie days,” he said. “I was the first to use a moving mike. They used to think that an actor had to keep his mouth shut while moving from one stationary mike to another. I put a mike on a fishpole so the actor would talk anywhere on the set.”