Paul Reed, the man behind Captain Block.

Highland Falls, New York City, June 16 1909. Born to Russian immigrant parents, the consumate American character actor, Paul Reed, (born Sidney Kahn) makes his first appearance on the World stage.

At the age of just four, the family Kahn decided to move to the lower east side of the Big Apple.  With no known money winner in the household, and with a total of seven kids to feed, the family went there own ways. Some went to the local orphanages, until they were old enough to obtain work for themselves. When they could stand on their two feet they would then rejoin the family.

Sidney wasn't the oldest of the siblings of the family, but he was the first to go out and make a living as a hustler.​​​

At nine years of age, his search for a way to survive, took him to the doors of the land of vaudeville. During intermissions, he began selling chewing gum on the street corners outside theatres, inside theatres and by the stage door. Not just small amounts of gum, but bought by the pack. Then sold on by the stick. 

One night young Sid got the shock of his life when a performer grabbed him, under his arm, and took him onto the stage to meet the audience! This was his first exposure to an audience and he yearned for more.

People who had heard young Kahn sing knew he had a lovely voice and they told the youngster to make the most of his dulcet tones.

At seventeen, the good-looking, red-haired Sidney, decided to try his luck with singing lessons.  He would work two jobs so that he could go to Carnegie Hall for the vocal tune ups. His coach at Carnegie, also had a day job at G. Schirmer Music. This company was nearly always on the lookout for people to sing, so Schirmer gave young Sidney some sheet music, he learned the tunes, and performed them well.

  1. Young Paul.
    Young Paul.
WOR Radio, Mutual Radio of New York City had an employee who heard Sidney perform. The employee contacted the big noises at his company who promptly arranged a guest performance by Kahn.​

He was a smash! Indeed, he proved to be such a hit  that he wound up with his own radio show. This featured young Sidney, belting out tunes to new arrangements, with his very own live orchestra!

This was it, the real deal. It wasn't a rare thing for him to get a score five minutes before it was to be aired live. In this time, he'd have to try it out for key, transpose it and then treat the listeners to his rendition.

Around this time it was suggested to Sidney, by his agent, that he could do even better with a name change. As having the surname Kahn implied that he was Jewish - and so he became Paul Roberts - still not happy with that name he finally settled on the more easily remembered, Paul Reed.

Paul now began appearing on Broadway.  For his debut, 30 September 1940, he appeared at the 44th Street Theatre in a rolling musical operetta of some of Gilbert and Sullivan's finest works; including as Don Alhambra Del Bolero in The Gondoliers, playing the Foreman in Trial By Jury and as part of the chorus troupe in Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. These glorious tribute shows ran until to October 19 1940.

More Broadway appearances followed. In August 1942 Paul played Besac in the romantic musical The New Moon at Carnegie Hall. This revue finished in September of the same year ater 24 performances.

More work wasn't to far away...the very next month he was wanted by the Broadway theatre, to play the role of Jackson, in the Paris-based operetta La Vie Parisienne. This original production ran for 17 energetic shows.

All the time Paul continued with his non-stop radio work.

In 1945 a production based around New York came on to the Broadway stage....this new two act musical was called Up in Central Park.

Here, Paul Reed was cast in a singing/acting role as Vincent Peters. The tunes Boss Tweed and Rip Van Winkle featured Paul. This show was first played out at the New Century Theatre and then the Broadway Theatre until 13 April 1946 running for 504 performances.  So popular was this production, that a 16 show revival occured in May 1947, at the City Center, with Paul again playing Vincent. Also appearing in this production, as Lotta Stevens, was an up and coming dancer named June Maclaren. The lovely lady who would later become Mrs Paul Reed.

During 1948, Paul appeared for 46 productions as Mr Jackson, at the National Theatre, in the Lerner and Mark's written, Lincoln University based musical comedy show, Hold It!

1949 saw him at the Mark Hellinger Theatre for 121 performances as part of the singing ensemble in the musical comedy All For Love.

1950 proved to be a momentous year for Paul. Firstly he appeared 52 times as Rafferty at the Winter Garden Theatre in the musical called Great to Be Alive!

Then he was cast as Lieutenant Brannigan in the hugely successful, multi-award winning original musical, Guys and Dolls.

Opening November 24 1950 this Frank Loesser production proved so popular that it ran for over 3 years to November 28 1953 (1200 shows).

  1. Far right: Paul as Lieutenant Brannigan talks to Benny Southstreet (Johnny Silver) and Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Stubby Kaye).
    Far right: Paul as Lieutenant Brannigan talks to Benny Southstreet (Johnny Silver) and Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Stubby Kaye).
At the New Century Theatre, in September of 1953, he even managed to squeeze in 6 performances, as a tailor, in Carnival in Flanders. Here his vocal talents were utilzed greatly when he featured on the songs Ring the Bell and You're Dead!

By 1954, there was no let up to his phenomenal work rate. From April to November, Paul acted and sung the role of Mr Curtis, in a production based around 1900s Coney Island. That musical comedy show was called By the Beautiful Sea.

Legendary funnyman Sid Caesar was the next in line for the services of one Paul Reed. Between the years 1955 and 1957, all kinds of roles were created for Paul on Sid's NBC produced live hour-long sketch comedy show Caesar's Hour.  These were as an actor (playing Sid's father, lawyer, brother etc.) and as a narrator for the show.  Skits followed with Carl Reiner and Howie Morris too.

1955 also saw Paul appear in the anti-corruption movie, The Phenix City Story, playing a policeman no less. A sign of things to come?

Next up in late 1957, at the Majestic Theatre, was a role in the new musical The Music Man. Set in River City, Iowa in 1912, this hugely promising production featured Paul as the salesman Charlie Cowell (he was also understudy for the parts of Mayor Shinn and Marcellus Washburn). Music and lyrics were provided by Meredith Willson - who was a nine-year-old flute player in the band of the legend that was John Philip Sousa - and so had great inside insight for the project. With a wonderfully inventive technique and comedic quality he came up with an unbelievable score which made this musical the biggest hit since My Fair Lady!  Making this production even more popular than other shows like West Side Story and Gypsy. The Music Man ran for 1375 awad winning performances until April 1961. It was indeed a one-of-kind musical spectacular!

During 1958 Paul made two appearances on the hugely popular The Phil Silvers Show. Playing Studio Executive, Sidney Kruger in Bilko's Vampire and as Mr Skinner in The Bilkos and the Crosbys.

1959: Paul made an appearance in season two of the Alcoa Theatre television series. The show he featured in was The Slightly Fallen Angel.

1960 saw him make a guest appearance on the variety show Tiptoe Through TV.

Circa early 1961: The Bilko show creator, Nat Hiken was preparing a new comedy sitcom called The Snow Whites about a fictional police station in New York City. He wanted Paul in the pilot show as the station captain. The recording was completed and then sent off to the NBC bigwigs to consider whether to go ahead with a fully blown series. A month had passed since the taping.

Then in October Paul got another part on Broadway - this time at the 46th Street Theatre.  Here he was wanted to play the role of Bert Bratt in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

This production followed a foxy young window washer who rose from rags to riches via the firm World Wide Wickets. The saga had fine songs from Frank Loesser, and was ably directed by Abe Burrows who also contributed to the story.

"One thing in this business, you never turn anything down. Take the first thing that comes along" explained Paul at the time.


This musical comedy was another feather in the cap for Paul Reed at the last count, by March 1965, the production had amassed a total of 1417 performances. Now that is truly how to succeed!

During the year 1961, whilst appearing in HTSIBWRT, Paul found out that The Snow Whites pilot show had indeed been commissioned to be a fully fledged television comedy. But the title had been changed to Car 54 Where Are You?

Paul Reed was down to play Captain Block, a police station chief in charge of the craziest set of law enforcers since the Keystone Cops!

The problem was mixing his Car 54 recordings with his Broadway work, as they say the show must go on!  Car 54 was shot on East Tremont
Avenue in the Bronx six days a week. The stage work was eight shows a week and a matinee on the Sunday. Paul would perform before a camera during the daytime and in front of the theatre audience at night and, unbelievably, if a chance arose for him to do a radio or televsion commercial he'd do that too. All the time whilst commuting from New Jersey.  Indeed, during season one a lot of scenes were shot around Paul. Nat Hiken even agreed that he could take Wednesdays off.

Car 54 Where Are You? followed the adventures of NYPD officers Gunther Toody (Joe E. Ross) and Francis Muldoon (Fred Gwynne) in the fictional 53rd precinct in The Bronx, assigned to Patrol Car 54.

Between 1961 and 1963, 60 hugely entertaining Car 54 comedy shows were produced.

Paul Reed, even though he had already had an enormously successful career on Broadway would be fondly remembered by many with his performances in this CLASSIC comedy.

During 1963 Paul took on yet another Broadway role at the Shubert Theatre --  this time his part was as R.H. Macy in this Thanksgiving-Christmas-set musical show Here's Love. Also in this Stuart Ostrow production, was fellow Car 54 star Fred Gwynne playing Marvin Shellhammer.

Paul turned up on lots of television shows, including; Route 66, I Dream Of Jeannie, Chrysler Theatre, The Munsters, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched etc.

Between 1964 and 1965 he appeared in a recurring role as Damon on The Cara Williams Show.

  1. Husband and Wife (June MacLaren).
    Husband and Wife (June MacLaren).
  2. Between 1964 and 1965 he appeared in a recurring role as Damon on The Cara Williams Show.
    Between 1964 and 1965 he appeared in a recurring role as Damon on The Cara Williams Show.
1967: Two movies are released both featuring the talents of Mr Reed.​

These were:

A western called The Ride to Hangman's Tree where he played Corbett.

and

A hugely popular Dick Van Dyke comedy called Fitzwilly Strikes Back where he played a character called Prettikin.

1968 saw Paul appear as Pa Webb in Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady?

  1. As Pa Webb in Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady?.
    As Pa Webb in Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady?.
  2. Pa Webb gives out advice.
    Pa Webb gives out advice.
In April 1968 he was at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, appearing as Ben-hesed, in the musical fable I'm Solomon. Interestingly the music for this biblical production was supplied by Ernest Gold, the man behind the rip-roaring soundtrack to the wonderful star-packed movie It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

That same year, he was again involved in a huge Broadway (Shubert Theatre) hit musical that was based on the plot of the Billy Wilder motion picture, The Apartment.  In this new original musical, comedy, Promises, Promises Paul would be taking on the role of Mr. Dobitch (Mortgages and Loans Dept). His exquisite tones were heard to great effect on the ditty Where Can You Take a Girl?

With a book written by Neil Simon, with music provided by the renowned duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David and produced by the top man David Merrick. What could possibly going wrong with this production?  The answer, nothing!!  The show won award after glorious award - at the 1969 Tony Award® presentations the production featured heavily. Winning Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical.

In all, this Madison Square Garden-set musical was seen 1281 times. Eventually closing on January 1, 1972.

After moving back to New Jersey, Paul Reed carried on working regularly throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s mainly in commercials. One noted ad was 'One silly millimetre longer' for Chesterfield 101s. Where he even took a puff, yet he was in fact a non-smoker.  His distinctive voice was also used, with a $30,000 plus payday for the part, on Alpo Dog Food commercials......'Doesn't your dog deserve Alpo?' His tones would ask.

Paul Reed passed away in 2007 aged 97. His motto: "Just get the goddamn job." followed him throughout his fantastic life.