Phil Spitalny

Died - Mar 1, 1982   |  

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The single feature film appearance by bandleader Phil Spitalny doesn't begin to reflect his popularity and that of his orchestra for more than a decade. Spitalny enjoyed considerable success during the 1930s and 1940s, fronting an act known variously as Phil Spitalny & His All-Girl Orchestra or Phil Spitalny & His Hour of Charm Orchestra. The Russian-born Spitalny was raised in Chicago and developed a serious interest in music, which led to his forming his own band in the early '20s. After a few modestly successful records, he emerged with the gimmick that made him a star, leading an orchestra made up entirely of women; oddly enough, Phil Spitalny & His All-Girl Orchestra was a huge attraction on radio, where the gender of his players could hardly have been less obvious. They became stars on the Hour of Charm radio show by playing jazzed-up versions of classical pieces as well as the pop standards of the day, interspersed with occasional light classical material; the star of the group was a virtuoso billed as "Evelyn and Her Magic Violin," who subsequently became Mrs. Spitalny. They were signed to Universal Pictures in the early '40s and worked mainly in short subjects. They made a major appearance in the 1945 Abbott and Costello feature Here Come the Coeds, doing three numbers and playing an essential supporting role in the picture -- with, of course, a bravura performance by Evelyn and Her Magic Violin. Spitalny himself spoke in highly accented English and, in this film as in his radio and personal appearances, he was seen but not heard. He retired in the 1960s and, with his wife, moved to Miami, FL, where they became part of that city's educational and musical life.