Tom Glazer and Sidney Glazier (they spelled their last names differently) were two of the three sons born in Philadelphia to Jewish immigrants from Minsk. Their father died in 1918 in the flu pandemic. When their mother remarried her new husband insisted she get rid of the boys, and they were sent to a terrible orthodox orphanage, where among other things, Sidney was sexually abused. He ran away once, but had nowhere to go, so he went back.
Sidney left when he was 15 and became a theater usher and prostitutes' tout. He eventually worked his way into theater management, before enlisting in the Army in 1941. After the war he became a very successful Israel Bond salesman and then executive director or the Eleanor Roosevelt Cancer Foundation. After Roosevelt died he raised the money for a film documentary about her which was technically innovative and influential, and won an Oscar. It was to Glazier that Mel Brooks turned after a number unsuccessful approaches to other producers, to back his idea for The Producers. He had been rejected, because the subject matter was thought to be too risky (a failed New York theater producer and his neurotic accountant try to swindle a lot of rich old ladies into over-investing in a sure-fire Broadway musical flop about Hitler and Eva Braun; the intention is that the show folds after one night and the producers pocket the surplus investments; it backfires and is a smash hit, landing the men in jail). Glazier liked the idea, and The Producers, 1968, starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, became an instant and permanent cult comedy classic and won Brooks an Oscar; the Broadway show based on the movie opened in 2001 and won 12 Tonys.
Tom became a composer (the film score for A Face in the Crowd), instrumentalist and folk singer, who is best known for the 1963 hit novelty song On Top of Spaghetti and for the Kingston Trio's A Worried Man. His pre-orphanage life with his mother introduced him to folk music. He began performing professionally in 1929, but didn't concentrate on folk music until the early 1940s, and started the award-winning radio show Tom Glazer's Ballad Box in 1945. As a composer he also wrote for Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Bob Dylan, the Weavers, and Peter, Paul and Mary.
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