Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ha-cha-cha-chaaaaaaa!

I was at an estate sale this morning rifling through a bunch of old photos and came across this autographed photo of Jimmy Durante.




To Harry - a pleasure Best Jimmy Durante

Most of my generation only know Jimmy Durante for his narration of the Rankin-Bass special "Frosty the Snowman" and the many impersonations done in various MGM and Warner Bros. cartoons.

Durante was the son of Italian immigrants in New York City.  He dropped out of school at 13 to become a ragtime pianist.  He later joined a jazz band where he developed his comic style, cracking one-liners in between the music.  He became a vaudeville and radio star and soon began appearing in movies.  He had his first recording hit in 1934 with "Inka-dinka-doo" which became his theme song. In the 1950's, he transitioned from radio to television with special appearances and his own self-titled variety show.

His first wife, Jean Olson, passed away in 1943, but Durante kept her memory alive with his trademark signoff, "Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are."  Mrs. Calabash was his pet name for his wife, taken from the name of a town with which his wife had become enamored while passing through on a cross-country drive.

In addition to the aforementioned "Frosty the Snowman" in 1969, one of his final performances was in a commercial for the 1973 Volkswagen Beetle.


He passed away in 1980.

I thought it was pretty amazing and possibly even rare to find an autographed photo of him, but a quick check of eBay showed, to paraphrase "Da Ol' Schnozzola", they got a million of 'em.

Good night, Mr. Durante, wherever you are.

4 comments:

FrankO said...

i had no memory of him making a super beetle commercial. i remember older members of my family loving him, but i never got it. i always wondered where his sign-off phrase came from. that's so sweet!

Tom said...

I think his singing voice, much like his nose, was his schtick. From all accounts, he was a really nice guy and the public and people in the business loved him. The sheer number of autographs you can find is evidence he was very receptive to his fans.

Bob Johns said...

What an awesome find!!! Would you believe I watched the Great Rupert just a few years ago?

Tom said...

Thanks, Bob. To be honest, I've never seen any Durante movies, I'll have to keep an eye on TCM.

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