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Phil Baker Passed Away

Today in Masonic History Phil Baker passed away in 1963.

Phil Baker was an American comedian, musician and entertainer.

Baker was born on August 26th, 1896 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His family moved to Boston, Massachusetts where he went to school. It was also in Boston that he had his first state appearance in an amateur show.

Baker began in vaudeville playing the piano with violinist Ed Janis. By the time he was 19, around 1915, Baker teamed up with Ben Bernie for the vaudeville act of Bernie and Baker. Originally the act was a serious musical duo, with Baker playing the accordion. Before long though, comedic elements made it into the act.

When America entered World War I in 1917, Baker enlisted in the United States Navy. Some time after returning from World War I, Baker parted company with Bernie. In 1923, Baker appeared in a Phonofilm production. Phonofilm was a type of optical soundtrack invented by Lee De Forest. The film was called A Musical Monologue, had Baker playing an accordion and singing. Around this time, Baker teamed up with Sid Silvers. The two worked together until 1928.

After splitting with Silvers, Baker launched a successful solo career. In 1930 and 1931 he played the Palace Theatre on Broadway in New York City, New York. There he did a one man variety act, where he played music, sang, told jokes and was heckled by a planted audience member called Jojo.

In 1943, Baker appeared with Carmen Miranda and Alice Faye in The Gang's All Here. The movie had one of the highest budgets of the time for Twentieth Century Fox Technicolor. Choreographed by Busby Berkley, it featured a variety of songs and dance numbers. One of the songs involved a sexually suggestive song with Miranda and the chorus girls dancing around with bananas. The film was not permitted in Miranda's home country of Portugal on it's initial release. In the United States, censors made the chorus girls keep the bananas at their waists instead of their thighs before the the film could be released. The film has since been deemed as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and is being preserved in the National Film Registry.

Baker went on to star on several radio programs including The Armour Jester and Duffy's Tavern. He also became a game show host on radio and on television. On radio he was the host of Take It or Leave It which changed it's name to The $64 Question. On television he hosted the quiz show Who's Whose which was canceled after only one episode.

Baker was inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8th, 1960. That same year he moved to Copenhagen, Denmark where is wife was from.

Baker passed away in Copenhagen on November 30th, 1963.

Baker was a member of Keystone Lodge No. 235 in New York City, New York.