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Top Banana

Top Banana(1954)

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Although this film was released in color, the print viewed was in black-and-white. The theatrically released film ran 100 minutes, the length of the print viewed, but the commercially available videotape runs eighty-three minutes and dispenses with the entire sequence depicting the rehearsal for the introduction of "Miss Blendo."
       The stage version of Top Banana ran for eleven months on Broadway. The "Jerry Biffle" character was loosely based on Milton Berle, who attended the opening night and reportedly enjoyed the show. A New York Times article of October 26, 1952 reported that the show was currently on tour and that co-producers Paula Stone and Mike Sloane were contemplating filming it as an independent production. According to a Daily Variety news item of June 22, 1953, as the show was ending its road show tour in Los Angeles, Stone and Sloane made an agreement to film the show exactly as presented on stage. Sloane was quoted as saying that film patrons would see the show as if from "a fourth row center seat." However, several songs and routines in the stage show were eliminated for the film. The film was not shot on the stage of the Los Angeles Biltmore Theater, where the tour ended, but on a specially constructed, proscenium stage at Motion Picture Center Studios, where more electrical power was available. The film was shot in 3-D, but was released flat due to the decline of interest in 3-D.        In a Hollywood Citizen-News article of July 25, 1953, writer Joe Hyams reported on a visit to the set of the $600,000 film, which was expected to be filmed in six days. He noted that the filming technique was limited to having two cameras shoot very long takes in master shots and medium close-ups. As the cast had performed the show for several months, only minimal rehearsal time was required. Hyams reported that the performers were then covered by the Screen Actor's Guild and received the SAG minimum of $250 a week, instead of the Actor's Equity rate of $125, and that Phil Silvers had a profit participation deal in the picture with co-producers Ben Peskay and Albert Zugsmith.
       The following people participated in the original New York production and May have contributed to the released film, but they are not credited onscreen: Hy Kraft-book, Jack Donohue-direction, Joe Mielziner-scenery and lighting, Hugh Martin-vocal arrangements and direction. "Flash" Hogan, the Singing Dog, listed in the film's cast, appears to have been cut from the released film and can be glimpsed only in the "curtain call," which the company takes at the film's conclusion.