Jimmy Durante


Comedian, Vaudevillian
Jimmy Durante

About

Also Known As
James Frances Durante
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
February 10, 1893
Died
January 29, 1980
Cause of Death
Pneumonia

Biography

A big-nosed, ingratiating performer of stage, screen and radio, Jimmy Durante possessed a unique gravelly voice, a raucous manner and a persona which later in life radiated a love of the old showbiz traditions of vaudeville and slapstick. He began his career playing honky-tonk piano in New York saloons, working his way into a vaudeville act with partners Lou Clayton and Eddie Jackson. Th...

Photos & Videos

Billy Rose's Jumbo - Group Publicity Stills
The Man Who Came to Dinner - Lobby Card
It Happened in Brooklyn - Movie Posters

Family & Companions

Jeanne Olson
Wife
Singer. Married from 1921 until her death in 1943; inspiration for his catch-line "Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, where ever you are".
Marjorie Little
Wife
Hat check girl, switchboard operator. Married from 1960 until his death.

Bibliography

"Inka-Dinka-Doo"

Biography

A big-nosed, ingratiating performer of stage, screen and radio, Jimmy Durante possessed a unique gravelly voice, a raucous manner and a persona which later in life radiated a love of the old showbiz traditions of vaudeville and slapstick. He began his career playing honky-tonk piano in New York saloons, working his way into a vaudeville act with partners Lou Clayton and Eddie Jackson. The three opened the Club Durant in 1919, a speakeasy which rocketed them to fame. The trio spent the 1920s entertaining from their club as well as on the vaudeville circuit, including a long run at the Palace Theater. They also appeared in Ziegfeld's "Show Girl" (1929) and Cole Porter's "The New Yorkers" (1930). Durante--with his brash, lovable mien and cries of "hotcha-cha!"--branched out alone in such Broadway shows as "Strike Me Pink" (1933), Billy Rose's "Jumbo" (1935) with a score by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and book by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht, and another Cole Porter musical, "Red, Hot and Blue." He also made numerous radio appearances in the 30s and 40s.

Durante's film career started rockily with "Roadhouse Nights" (1930). He was successfully teamed with Marion Davies in "Blondie of the Follies" (1932), but then MGM unwisely paired him with Buster Keaton in four films which did nothing for either performer. Durante appeared in a total of 21 films in the 30s, but the only ones of note were "The Phantom President" (1932), with George M. Cohan, the all-star "Hollywood Party" (1934), in which he served as host, and "Palooka" (1934), which introduced his theme song, "Inka-Dinka-Doo." He made another 15 films, mostly as an avuncular character actor and sidekick. Among his best were the Frank Sinatra musical "It Happened in Brooklyn" (1947), the Esther Williams splasher "On an Island with You" (1948), "Billy Rose's Jumbo" (1962) and his swan song, literally "kicking the bucket" in the all-star "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963).

The small screen gave Durante a second lease on life as his film career floundered. He guested on numerous shows through the early 50s, finally earning his own popular series from 1954-57 (first on NBC, then CBS). He continued popping up on variety specials through the early 70s, and narrated the frequently re-run Christmas special "Frosty the Snowman" (CBS, 1969). A kind and much-loved man on-stage and off, Durante's rasped exclamations "Everybody wants ta get into th' act!," "Stop da music!" and "Surrounded by assassins!" have entered the American consciousness.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

That's Entertainment! III (1994)
Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Himself
It's Showtime (1976)
Himself
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Smiler Grogan
Jumbo (1962)
Pop Wonder
Pepe (1961)
Beau James (1957)
Himself
The Heart of Show Business (1957)
The Milkman (1950)
Breezy Albright
The Great Rupert (1950)
Mr. [Louie] Amendola
On an Island with You (1948)
Buckley
This Time for Keeps (1947)
Ferdi Farro
It Happened in Brooklyn (1947)
Nick Lombardi
Two Sisters from Boston (1946)
"Spike"
Music for Millions (1945)
[Andy] Andrews
Two Girls and a Sailor (1944)
Billy Kipp[/"Junior" Kipp]
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
Banjo
You're in the Army Now (1941)
[Homer] "Jeeper" Smith
Melody Ranch (1940)
Cornelius J. Courtney
Start Cheering (1938)
Willie Gumbatz
Little Miss Broadway (1938)
Jimmy Clayton
Sally, Irene and Mary (1938)
Jefferson Twitchell
Carnival (1935)
Fingers [McCoy]
George White's Scandals (1934)
Happy McGillicuddy
Strictly Dynamite (1934)
Moxie [Slaight]
Palooka (1934)
Knobby Walsh
Student Tour (1934)
Hank Merman
Hollywood Party (1934)
Schnarzan/Himself
Broadway to Hollywood (1933)
Jimmy
What--No Beer? (1933)
Jimmy Potts
Meet the Baron (1933)
Joe McGoo
Hell Below (1933)
"Ptomaine." Ship's cook
The Wet Parade (1932)
Abe Shilling
Speak Easily (1932)
James
Le plombier amoureux (1932)
The Passionate Plumber (1932)
[Julius J.] McCracken
The Phantom President (1932)
Curly [Cooney]
Blondie of the Follies (1932)
Jimmy
New Adventures of Get Rich Quick Wallingford (1931)
Schnozzle
The Cuban Love Song (1931)
O. O. Jones
Roadhouse Nights (1930)
Daffy

Music (Feature Film)

Joker (2019)
Song Performer
Orphan (2009)
Song Performer
Greedy (1994)
Song Performer
Greedy (1994)
Song
Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
Song Performer
Only The Lonely (1991)
Song
City Slickers (1991)
Song Performer
The Great Rupert (1950)
Composer
The Milkman (1950)
Composer
On an Island with You (1948)
Composer
This Time for Keeps (1947)
Composer
Two Sisters from Boston (1946)
Composer
Music for Millions (1945)
Composer
Two Girls and a Sailor (1944)
Composer
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
Composer
You're in the Army Now (1941)
Composer
Strictly Dynamite (1934)
Composer
Student Tour (1934)
Composer
Palooka (1934)
Composer
New Adventures of Get Rich Quick Wallingford (1931)
Composer
Roadhouse Nights (1930)
Composer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Other
It's Showtime (1976)
Other

Cast (Special)

More of the Best of the Hollywood Palace (1993)
Monsanto Night Presents Burl Ives (1972)
A Salute to Television's 25th Anniversary (1972)
Howdy (1970)
Murder At NBC (1966)
The Wonderful World of Burlesque I (1965)
Guest
Jimmy Durante Meets the Lively Arts (1965)
Host
The Jimmy Durante Show (1964)
Jimmy Banister
Entertainment 1955 (1955)
Guest
Spotlight (1954)
Host

Cast (Short)

Little Big Shot (1947)
THE CHRISTMAS PARTY (1931)

Music (Short)

Hollywood Party (1937)
Music

Life Events

1909

Hired as ragtime pianist in Bowery nightclubs, NY

1919

Opened Club Durant with Eddie Jackson and Lou Clayton

1929

First Broadway performance in Ziegfeld's "Show Girl"

1930

Film acting debut in "Roadhouse Nights"

1954

Had own TV show (NBC and CBS)

1964

Final film, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"

1972

Confined to wheelchair after fall

Photo Collections

Billy Rose's Jumbo - Group Publicity Stills
Here are a few group photos taken to help publicize Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962), starring Doris Day, Jimmy Durante, Martha Raye, and Stephen Boyd. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
The Man Who Came to Dinner - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from Warner Bros' The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), starring Monty Woolley. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
It Happened in Brooklyn - Movie Posters
Here are a few original release movie posters from It Happened in Brooklyn (1947), starring Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, and Peter Lawford.
Two Sisters from Boston - Publicity Stills
Here are several Publicity Stills from Two Sisters from Boston (1946). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
This Time for Keeps (1947) - Movie Poster
Here is an original release movie poster for This Time for Keeps (1947), starring Esther Williams. This poster is an insert, which measures 14" x 36"

Videos

Movie Clip

Pepe (1960) - How Humiliatin'! Cantinflas (title character), seeking his beloved horse, has reached Las Vegas, where director George Sidney lays down another barrage of cameos, this time including Frank Sinatra, Cesar Romero, Jimmy Durante and just the start of Dean Martin's bit (Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. done earlier), in Pepe, 1960.
Little Miss Broadway (1938) - How Can I Thank You? Shirley Temple relates to her new adoptive sister (Phyllis Brooks), who helps run the show-biz hotel, where Jimmy Durante is rehearsing his band, and the owner next door (Edna Mae Oliver, with brother Donald Meek) has a problem with noise, song by Harold Spina and Walter Bullock, in Little Miss Broadway, 1938.
Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962) - Why Can't I? Speaking of love on the circus wagon between towns, performers Kitty (Doris Day) and Lulu (Martha Raye), the fianceè, for 14 years, of her father, who runs their troupe, join in a Rodgers & Hart number from the original Broadway show, in (Billy Rose’s) Jumbo, 1962.
Music For Millions (1944) - Toscanini, Iturbi And Me Horsing around in rehearsal, the mostly-female wartime orchestra, Margaret O’Brien watches big sister June Allyson on bass, Marsha Hunt on harp, then manager Jimmy Durante with a modified version (Iturbi instead of Stokowski) of one of his standards, the conductor himself arriving, in Music For Millions, 1944.
Music For Millions (1944) - The Audience Giggles Big sister and orchestra string-bass player Babs (June Allyson) with kid sister “Mike” (Margaret O’Brien), who interrupted the performance, finding her after arriving unexpectedly on the train, with Jose Iturbi the annoyed conductor and Jimmy Durante his harried manager, in MGM’s Music For Millions, 1944.
It Happened In Brooklyn (1947) - From The Heart Wise old high school janitor Nick (Jimmy Durante) exhorts Army vet Danny (Frank Sinatra) into a spirited performance of Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne's "The Song's Gotta Come from the Heart" in It Happened in Brooklyn, 1947.
Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962) - There Was A Circus Following the credits, Stephen Boyd’s voice dubbed (by James Joyce) with the opening Rodgers & Hart song, during which we see circus spectacle, meet Doris Day as Kitty, and an elephant called Sydney in the title role, in (Billy Rose’s) Jumbo, 1962.

Trailer

Man Who Came to Dinner, The - (Original Trailer) An acerbic critic moves in with a Midwestern family during the holidays in The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942).
Two Sisters from Boston - (Original Trailer) Two Sisters from Boston (1946) have their sensibilities bent when they find work in a Bowery saloon in this hit MGM musical.
Two Girls and a Sailor -- (Original Trailer) Singing sisters create a World War II canteen and become rivals for the same man in Two Girls and a Sailor (1944) starring June Allyson & Gloria DeHaven.
Meet the Baron - (Original Trailer) The Three Stooges make an early appearance in Meet the Baron (1933) based on the popular radio comedian Baron Munchausen.
Music for Millions - (Original Trailer) A pregnant musician awaits her husband's return from World War II in Music for Millions (1944) starring June Allyson, Margaret O'Brien and Jimmy Durante.
This Time for Keeps (1947) - (Original Trailer) A famous singer's son falls for a swimming star in This Time For Keeps (1947) starring Esther Williams and Jimmy Durante.
On an Island with You - (Original Trailer) A movie star (Esther Williams) falls for a handsome naval officer during location shooting in Hawaii in the Technicolor musical On an Island with You (1948).
You're In The Army Now - (Re-issue Trailer) Phil Silvers first joined the Army with buddy Jimmy Durante in the comedy You're In The Army Now (1941) co-starring Jane Wyman.
Broadway To Hollywood - (Original Trailer) Three generations of vaudevillians fight for stardom on stage and screen in Broadway to Hollywood (1933) starring Frank Morgan.
Billy Rose's Jumbo - (Original Trailer) The daughter of a circus owner fights to save her father from a takeover spearheaded by the man she loves in Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962) starring Doris Day, Jimmy Durante and Martha Raye.
It Happened in Brooklyn - (Original Trailer) A returning GI and his friends try to make it in the music business in It Happened in Brooklyn (1947), starring Frank Sinatra.
Hollywood Party - (Original Trailer) A movie star's gala celebration creates chaos. Starring Jimmy Durante, the Three Stooges, Laurel & Hardy, Mickey Mouse and many others.

Family

Bartolomeo Durante
Father
Barber. Italian immigrant.
Rosa Durante
Mother
Italian immigrant.
Cecelia Alicia Durante
Daughter
Adopted on December 25, 1961.

Companions

Jeanne Olson
Wife
Singer. Married from 1921 until her death in 1943; inspiration for his catch-line "Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, where ever you are".
Marjorie Little
Wife
Hat check girl, switchboard operator. Married from 1960 until his death.

Bibliography

"Inka-Dinka-Doo"