Phil Regan: The Singing Irish Cop

The Luck o’ the Irish may not be a literal thing, but on the other hand Phil Regan (1906-1996) was pretty damned lucky. An Irish cop from Brooklyn, he was hired to work security at a show biz party where he snatched an opportunity to play piano and show off his singing skills. A radio producer in attendance heard him and was impressed and in short order Regan was hired to sing with the Guy Lombardo Orchestra on Burns and Allen’s radio show. He was billed as “The Romantic Singer of Romantic Songs” and nicknamed “The Irish Cop.”

Fortunately Regan’s face was as good as his voice, so he was next recruited for motion pictures. A minstrel turn in Moonlight and Pretzels (1933) was his inauspicious film debut. A little over two dozen more movies (mostly musicals) followed, including Dames (1934), Sweet Adeline (1934), Go Into Your Dance (1935), Laughing Irish Eyes (1936), She Married a Cop (1939), Sweet Rosie O’Grady (1943), and the Kalmar and Ruby bio-pic Three Little Words (1950), his last, in which he played himself.

After he stopped getting cast in movies, Regan kept his career going another few years by singing on television variety programs like The Milton Berle Show, The Ken Murray Show, the All Star Revue, The Colgate Comedy Hour, and The George Jessel Show. He retired from performing in the mid 1950s and became a public relations agent.

By the 1970s Regan had diversified into real estate speculation. Thus it was that he made the headlines for the first time in years in a manner ironic for someone who had been a former law enforcement officer. In 1973 he was caught bribing a public official in relation to a real estate deal, and served a year in prison. I told ya the Luck o’ the Irish wasn’t a thing!

To learn more about more about traditional show biz, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous