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Biography

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Overview (2)

Date of Birth 21 June 1919San Francisco, California, USA
Date of Death 15 June 2005Las Vegas, Nevada, USA  (natural causes)

Mini Bio (1)

Comedian Phil Ford was the epitome of the never-say-die entertainer who, over the course of a seven-decade-long career, played every place there was to play--from the most obscure dives to the top Vegas showrooms. The wily, energetic vaudeville performer was born on June 21, 1919, in San Francisco and started out young (age 12) playing "big band" clarinet. A college student at the University of California at Berkeley, Phil joined the Army during World War II and, at one point, served as the military band leader while also seeing action. Following his discharge he returned to show business and hit the boards as a song-and-dance man and musician.

In 1952, while playing a gig in Alaska, Phil met the teenage singer/comedienne Mimi Hines, who was performing at a different Anchorage nightclub. Phil hired the much younger Mimi after his own female partner at the time broke her ankle. The sparks flew both on and off stage, and she stayed on as his new partner. In 1954 she became his second wife. The teaming of Ford and Hines was an inspired one. They built up their reputation alongside other formidable husband-and-wife acts of the era, including Burns and Allen, and Stiller and Meara. They were afforded their biggest break in 1958 when they appeared on Jack Paar's "Tonight Show." An instant hit, they started turning up regularly as guests for Johnny Carson, Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin, Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin. Phil wrote all of the material for the twosome, including the "little mouse" bit performed by the toothy, elastic-faced Mimi and the Asian-flavored "rotsa ruck" routine for himself. Phil saw to it that the pair stayed away from racy material so that their fun, innocuous routines could easily transfer from club to TV and back. All this success culminated with their Broadway debuts in the hit musical "Funny Girl" in 1965. Mimi stepped in for the departing Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice. What was Hines without Ford at the time, so Phil was offered the supporting role of Eddie, Fanny's show biz buddy, for added marquee value. Mimi was a resounding hit and the couple stayed with the show for 18 months. In the same year they made their one-and-only film vehicle starring in Saturday Night in Apple Valley (1965). The flimsy comedy concerned the shady goings-on of a big city land developer and shyster (Ford) who has nefarious Vegas-like designs on the peaceful little town--that is, until the townfolk (including Hines as both the mayor's daughter and a love interest) turn the tables on him. The film came and went very quickly despite featuring bucolic comedian Cliff Arquette, who offered up his "Charley Weaver" alter ego as one of the secondary citizens.

The opening act for many big stars, including Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Anka and Tony Bennett, Ford and Hines' comedy routines did not jell with the rebel-like seriousness of the Vietnam era and their careers took a steep decline, as did their marriage. Despite their divorce in 1972, they remained good friends and reunited many times over the years on the comedy stage (Waldorf Astoria, Copacabana) and in musical shows such as "No, No, Nanette," "Sugar Babies," "Hello, Dolly" and "I Do! I Do!" On his own, Phil appeared in supper clubs and in Vegas book shows. At the Union Plaza Hotel in 1983, he did a hilarious turn as the lecherous millionaire in the musical "Sugar" (based on the classic film "Some Like It Hot") co-starring actor/friend Buddy Powell and Gary Howe Scott as the two drag musicians on the lam. Ford essayed the role played earlier by Joe E. Brown while enjoying the classic lines and burlesque situations his character was afforded. Phil and Mimi would reunite for charitable causes from time to time. One of their last appearances, in fact, was in 2002 at a Vegas benefit for homeless veterans. Phil died peacefully in his sleep at age 85 in his beloved town of Las Vegas, where he remained a resident for over four and a half decades. Married four times in all (his last wife predeceased him), he was survived by a daughter, a sister and several step-grandchildren.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Mimi Hines (1954 - 1972) (divorced)

Trivia (3)

Veteran nightclub and TV entertainer of the '50s and '60s who was part of the popular husband-and-wife comedy team of Ford and Hines with former wife 'Mimi Hines' (II).
Loved to play crossword puzzles at home and backstage, and was an avid clarinetist till the day he died.
On June 17, 1960, Phil and Mimi were passengers in a car driven by Pearl Bailey when it crashed into a tree amid thick smoke from a burning Vegas building. Phil was able to lead Mimi and Pearl to safety when the flames threatened their car.

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