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Don Ameche

Don Ameche

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Also Known As: Dominic Felix Ameche Died: December 6, 1993
Born: May 31, 1908 Cause of Death: prostate cancer
Birth Place: Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA Profession: actor, circus ringmaster, singer, radio host

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

With his good looks and trademark pencil thin moustache, Don Ameche specialized in musicals and comedies during the 1930s and 1940s, often cast as likeable, upper-class sophisticates. He earned his first notoriety on radio, which led to a contract with 20th Century Fox and such popular features as "In Old Chicago" (1937) and "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1938). He achieved his pinnacle of fame with the titular part in the biography "The Story of Alexander Graham Bell" (1939), though "Midnight" (1939) and "Heaven Can Wait" (1943) were arguably his finest showcases as a comedic leading man. Ameche's film opportunities dried up in the late 1940s, but he still managed to keep busy with a variety of television and stage assignments, and briefly reignited his career in the following decade via some Broadway successes. However, it was not until his turn as an evil billionaire in the hit comedy "Trading Places" (1983) that the now elderly actor found himself truly in demand once again. Recognition from his peers finally came via his role in Ron Howard's fantasy hit "Cocoon" (1985) for which he received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Over a career spanning more than six decades, Ameche managed to...

With his good looks and trademark pencil thin moustache, Don Ameche specialized in musicals and comedies during the 1930s and 1940s, often cast as likeable, upper-class sophisticates. He earned his first notoriety on radio, which led to a contract with 20th Century Fox and such popular features as "In Old Chicago" (1937) and "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1938). He achieved his pinnacle of fame with the titular part in the biography "The Story of Alexander Graham Bell" (1939), though "Midnight" (1939) and "Heaven Can Wait" (1943) were arguably his finest showcases as a comedic leading man. Ameche's film opportunities dried up in the late 1940s, but he still managed to keep busy with a variety of television and stage assignments, and briefly reignited his career in the following decade via some Broadway successes. However, it was not until his turn as an evil billionaire in the hit comedy "Trading Places" (1983) that the now elderly actor found himself truly in demand once again. Recognition from his peers finally came via his role in Ron Howard's fantasy hit "Cocoon" (1985) for which he received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Over a career spanning more than six decades, Ameche managed to make his mark in three different mediums and weathered significant career lulls with veracity and hard work, offering three of his most indelible performances well into his golden years.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Corrina, Corrina (1994) Grandpa Harry
2.
 Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993) Voice Of Shadow--The Golden Retriever
3.
 Folks! (1992) Harry Aldrich
4.
 Sunstroke (1992) Jake
5.
 Oscar (1991) Father Clemente
6.
 Oddball Hall (1991)
7.
 Coming to America (1988) Mortimer Duke
8.
 Cocoon: the Return (1988) Art Selwyn
9.
 Things Change (1988) Gino
10.
 Pals (1987) Art Riddle
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Was cast in a college production while at the University of Wisconsin; began acting in stock theater in Madison
:
Moved to New York to begin professional career
1929:
Made Broadway debut in a small role as a butler in "Jerry for Short"
1929:
Toured briefly with singer and entertainer Texas Guinan as part of her vaudeville act
1930:
Began performing on the radio at age 22; acted in "The First Nighter" and "Grand Hotel", among other shows
1933:
Made first film appearance in a promotional short entitled "Beauty at the World's Fair"
:
Was regularly on "The Chase & Sanborn Hour" in the mid-1930s; worked opposite W C Fields and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, among others
:
Played a leading role on the radio series, "The Bickersons", opposite Frances Langford
1935:
Made screen test at MGM; test was considered unsuccessful and Ameche was not signed by the studio
1936:
Signed by 20th Century-Fox at $1500 a week after studio head Daryl F Zanuck saw Ameche's screen test for MGM (date approximate)
1936:
Made film acting debut in a dual role (the two sons of Jean Hersholt) in "The Sins of Man"
1937:
Made first of six films opposite Alice Faye, "You Can't Have Everything"
1939:
Played signature role in "The Story of Alexander Graham Bell"
1944:
Made last films under 20th Century-Fox contract, "A Wing and a Prayer" and "Greenwich Village"; began freelancing
:
Moved with his family to New York; worked on his singing and speaking voice with trainers so that he would not need a microphone
:
Hosted (via the role of the "hotel manager") the ABC variety show, "Holiday Hotel", set in that fictional hotel's "Pelican Room"
:
Co-hosted (with Frances Langford) the DuMont network's variety show, "Startime"
1950:
Hosted the short-lived ABC game show, "Take a Chance"
1951:
Hosted (via the role of the "stage manager") the ABC variety series revamp of "Holiday Hotel" entitled "Don's Musical Playhouse"
:
Co-hosted (with Frances Langford) the ABC variety show, "The Frances Langford-Don Ameche Show"
:
Was a regular on the NBC 15-minute variety show, "Coke Time with Eddie Fisher"
:
Was a regular on the NBC variety show, "The Jack Carson Show"
1955:
Returned to Broadway; played first leading role onstage in the musical "Silk Stockings"
:
Starred in TV adaptations of such stage shows as the musical "High Button Shoes" (1956) and the comedy "Junior Miss" (1957)
1958:
Hosted the syndicated drama anthology program, "The Don Ameche Theater"
:
Stage appearances in the 1950s and 60s include roles in the shows "Holiday for Lovers", "Goldilocks" and "Henry, Sweet Henry"
1961:
Returned to feature films to act in "A Fever in the Blood"
:
Ringmastered the popular NBC circus variety show, "International Showtime"
1968:
Made first TV movie, "Shadow Over Elveron" (NBC)
1975:
Reunited with Alice Faye for a national tour of the musical, "Good News"
1983:
Feature film career revived with role in "Trading Places"
1989:
Made last Broadway appearance replacing Spalding Gray as the Stage Manager in a revival of "Our Town"; production also featured Helen Hunt and Jason Gedrick
1992:
Last TV-movie, "Sunstroke"
1992:
Last feature film appearance in a work released during his lifetime, "Folks!"
1992:
Was diagnosed with prostate cancer which had already spread considerably 13 months before he died
1993:
Supplied the voice of Shadow, the Golden Retriever, for "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey"
1993:
Finished shooting a major supporting role opposite Whoopi Goldberg and Ray Liotta in "Corrina, Corrina" just weeks before he died; played Liotta's father; filmed released posthumously
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Columbia College: Dubuque , Iowa -
University of Wisconsin at Madison: Madison , Wisconsin -
Georgetown University: Washington , Washington D.C. -
Marquette University: Milwaukee , Wisconsin -
Columbia Academy: Dubuque , Iowa -

Notes

He was given the National Italian American Foundation Award at Atlantic City's Trump Castle, NJ (1991)

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Honore Prendergast. Were high school sweethearts; married in 1932 until her death in 1978.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Felix Ameche. Saloon manager. Grew up outside Rome; Anglicized original surname "Amici" to "Ameche" when he came to the United States.
mother:
Barbara Ameche. Of Irish-German extraction.
brother:
James Ameche. Radio actor and announcer.
brother:
Burt Ameche.
sister:
Mary Jane Ameche.
sister:
Anne Ameche.
son:
Don Ameche Jr.
son:
Larry Ameche.
son:
Ronald Ameche.
daughter:
Bonnie Ameche.
daughter:
Connie Ameche.
son:
Thomas Ameche.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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