EDDIE CANTOR (January 31, 1892 – October 10, 1964), born Edward Israel Itzkowitz, was an American "illustrated song " performer, comedian, dancer, singer, actor, and songwriter. Familiar to Broadway, radio, movie, and early television audiences, this "Apostle of Pep" was regarded almost as a family member by millions because his top-rated radio shows revealed intimate stories and amusing anecdotes about his wife Ida and five daughters. Some of his hits include "Makin\' Whoopee ", "Ida", " Yes! We Have No Bananas ", "If You Knew Susie ", "Ma! He's Makin' Eyes at Me", "Baby", "Margie", and "How Ya Gonna Keep \'em Down on the Farm (After They\'ve Seen Paree)? " He also wrote a few songs, including "Merrily We Roll Along ", the _ Merrie Melodies _ Warner Bros. cartoon theme.
His eye-rolling song-and-dance routines eventually led to his nickname, " Banjo Eyes". In 1933, artist Frederick J. Garner caricatured Cantor with large round eyes resembling the drum-like pot of a banjo . Cantor's eyes became his trademark , often exaggerated in illustrations, and leading to his appearance on Broadway in the musical _ Banjo Eyes _ (1941).
His charity and humanitarian work was extensive, and he is credited with coining the phrase, and helping to develop the March of Dimes . He was awarded an honorary Academy Award in 1956 for distinguished service to the film industry.
* 1 Biography
* 2 Stage
* 2.1 Saloon songs to vaudeville * 2.2 Broadway
* 3 Radio and recordings
* 3.1 Radio * 3.2 Recordings
* 4 Film and television
* 5 Filmography
* 5.1 Television * 5.2 Animation
* 6 Books and merchandising
* 6.1 Bibliography
* 7 Tributes * 8 Further information * 9 See also * 10 References * 11 External links
Cantor was born in New York City, the son of Russian -Jewish immigrants, Meta and Mechel Itzkowitz. The precise date of his birth is unknown. His mother died in childbirth one year after his birth, and his father died of pneumonia when Eddie was two, leaving him to be raised by his grandmother, Esther Kantrowitz. As a child, he attended Surprise Lake Camp . A misunderstanding when his grandmother signed him into school gave him her last name of Kantrowitz (shortened by the clerk to "Kanter"). Esther died on January 29, 1917, two days before Cantor signed a long-term contract with Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. , to appear in his _Follies _. The Cantors in 1952
Cantor had adopted the first name "Eddie" when he met his future wife Ida Tobias in 1913, because she felt that "Izzy" was not the right name for an actor. Cantor and Ida were married in 1914. They had five daughters, Marjorie, Natalie, Edna, Marilyn, and Janet, who provided comic fodder for Cantor's longtime running gag, especially on radio, about his five unmarriageable daughters. Several radio historians, including Gerald Nachman (_Raised on Radio_), have said that this gag did not always sit well with the girls. Natalie's second husband was the actor Robert Clary and Janet married the actor Roberto Gari .
Cantor was the second president of the
Screen Actors Guild , serving
from 1933 to 1935. He invented the title "
The March of Dimes " for the
donation campaigns of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis
, which was organized to combat polio . It was a play on _The March of
Time _ newsreels popular at the time. He began the first campaign on
his radio show in January 1938, asking listeners to mail a dime to
Franklin D. Roosevelt . At that time, Roosevelt was the most
notable American victim of polio . Other entertainers joined in the
appeal via their own shows, and the
Following the death of their daughter Marjorie at the age of 44, both Eddie and Ida's health declined rapidly. Ida died on August 9, 1962 at age 70 of "cardiac insufficiency", and Eddie died on October 10, 1964, in Beverly Hills, California , after suffering his second heart attack at age 72. He is interred in Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California .
SALOON SONGS TO VAUDEVILLE
By his early teens, Cantor began winning talent contests at local theaters and started appearing on stage. One of his earliest paying jobs was doubling as a waiter and performer, singing for tips at Carey Walsh's Coney Island saloon, where a young Jimmy Durante accompanied him on piano. He made his first public appearance in Vaudeville in 1907 at New York's Clinton Music Hall. In 1912, he was the only performer over the age of 20 to appear in Gus Edwards 's _Kid Kabaret_, where he created his first blackface character, "Jefferson". He later toured with Al Lee as the team "Cantor and Lee". Critical praise from that show got the attention of Broadway's top producer, Florenz Ziegfeld, who gave Cantor a spot in the Ziegfeld rooftop post-show, _Midnight Frolic_ (1917).
A year later, Cantor made his Broadway debut in the _Ziegfeld Follies
of 1917 _. He continued in the _Follies_ until 1927, a period
considered the best years of the long-running revue. For several
years, Cantor co-starred in an act with pioneer comedian Bert Williams
, both appearing in blackface; Cantor played Williams's fresh-talking
son. Other co-stars with Cantor during his time in the _Follies_
Will Rogers ,
Marilyn Miller ,
Ziegfeld Follies of 1917_ – revue – performer
Ziegfeld Follies of 1918_ – revue – performer, co-composer
and co-lyricist for "Broadway's Not a Bad Place After All" with Harry
Ziegfeld Follies of 1919_ – revue – performer, lyricist for
"(Oh! She's the) Last Rose of Summer"
Ziegfeld Follies of 1920_ – revue – composer for "Green
River", composer and lyricist for "Every Blossom I See Reminds Me of
You" and "I Found a Baby on My Door Step"
* _The Midnight Rounders of 1920_ – revue – performer
* _Broadway Brevities of 1920_ – revue – performer
Make It Snappy _ (1922) – revue – performer, co-bookwriter
Ziegfeld Follies of 1923_ – revue – sketch writer
Kid Boots _ (1923) – musical comedy – actor in the role of
"Kid Boots" (the Caddie Master)
Ziegfeld Follies of 1927_ – revue – performer, co-bookwriter
* _Whoopee!_ (1928) – musical comedy – actor in the role of
RADIO AND RECORDINGS
Cantor appeared on radio as early as February 3, 1922, as indicated
by this news item from
Cantor's appearance with
Rudy Vallee on Vallee's _The Fleischmann\'s
Yeast Hour _ on February 5, 1931 led to a four-week tryout with
Indicative of his effect on the mass audience, he agreed in November 1934 to introduce a new song by the songwriters J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie that other well-known artists had rejected as being "silly" and "childish". The song, "Santa Claus Is Comin\' to Town ", immediately had orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music the next day. It sold 400,000 copies by Christmas of that year.
His heavy political involvement began early in his career, including his participation in the strike to form Actors Equity in 1919, provoking the anger of father figure and producer, Florenz Ziegfeld. At the 1939 New York World\'s Fair , Cantor publicly denounced antisemitic radio personality Father Charles Coughlin and was dropped by his sponsor, Camel cigarettes . A year and a half later, his friend Jack Benny was able to get him back on the air.
Cantor began making phonograph records in 1917, recording both comedy songs and routines and popular songs of the day, first for Victor , then for Aeoleon-Vocalion , Pathé , and Emerson . From 1921 through 1925, he had an exclusive contract with Columbia Records , returning to Victor for the remainder of the decade.
Cantor was one of the era's most successful entertainers, but the 1929 stock market crash took away his multimillionaire status and left him deeply in debt. However, Cantor's relentless attention to his own earnings to avoid the poverty he knew growing up caused him to use his writing talent, quickly building a new bank account with his highly popular, bestselling books of humor and cartoons about his experience, _Caught Short! A Saga of Wailing Wall Street_ in 1929 "A.C." (After Crash), and _Yoo-Hoo, Prosperity!_
Cantor was also a composer, with his most famous song seldom attributed to him. In 1935, along with Charles Tobias and Murray Mencher, Cantor wrote "Merrily We Roll Along", which he recorded in the 1950s. It was adapted as the themesong for the _Merrie Melodies_ series of animated cartoons , distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures between 1937 and 1964. Cantor himself was frequently caricatured in Warner cartoons of the period, (see Film and television: Animation).
FILM AND TELEVISION
_ in Roman Scandals _ (1933)
Cantor also bounced back between movies and radio. He had previously
appeared in a number of short films, performing his _Follies_ songs
and comedy routines, and two silent features (_
* _A Few Moments With Eddie Cantor, Star of "Kid Boots" _ (1923)
Phonofilm sound-on-film short film)
Kid Boots _ (1926)
_ Cantor as host of The Colgate Comedy Hour_, 1952.
On May 25, 1944, pioneer television station WPTZ (now
KYW-TV ) in
Philadelphia presented a special, all-star telecast which was also
seen in New York over WNBT (now W
In the early 1950s, he was one of the alternating hosts of the
television show _
The Colgate Comedy Hour _, in which he would
introduce variety acts and play comic characters such as "Maxie the
Taxi". However, the show landed Cantor in an unlikely controversy when
Sammy Davis, Jr. , appeared as a guest performer. Cantor
embraced Davis and mopped Davis's brow with his handkerchief after his
performance. When worried sponsors led
Cantor appears in caricature form in numerous _ Looney Tunes _ cartoons produced for Warner Bros., although he was often voiced by an imitator. Beginning with "I Like Mountain Music" (1933), other animated Cantor cameos include "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" (Harman-Ising , 1933) and " Billboard Frolics " ( Friz Freleng , 1935). Eddie Cantor is one of the four "down on their luck" stars (along with Bing Crosby , Al Jolson, and Jack Benny) snubbed by Elmer Fudd in "What’s Up, Doc? " ( Bob McKimson , 1950). In " Farm Frolics " ( Bob Clampett , 1941), a horse, asked by the narrator to "do a canter", promptly launches into a singing, dancing, eye-rolling impression. The Cantor gag that got the most mileage, however, was his oft-repeated wish for a son after five famous daughters. " Slap-Happy Pappy " (Clampett, 1940) features an “Eddie Cackler” rooster that wants a boy, to little avail. Other references can be found in " Baby Bottleneck " (Clampett, 1946) and "Circus Today" ( Tex Avery , 1940). In _Merrie Melodies_, " The Coo-Coo Nut Grove " Cantor's many daughters are referenced by a group of singing quintuplet girls. In "Porky’s Naughty Nephew" (Clampett, 1938) a swimming Cantor gleefully adopts a "buoy". An animated Cantor also appears prominently in Walt Disney 's " Mother Goose Goes Hollywood " ( Wilfred Jackson , 1938) as Little Jack Horner , who sings " Sing a Song of Sixpence ".
BOOKS AND MERCHANDISING
_ Cantor and three of his daughters strike a pose in 1926 to promote his first film, Kid Boots_, and children's shoes.
Cantor's popularity led to merchandising of such products as _Eddie
Cantor's Tell It to the Judge_ game from
Parker Brothers . In 1933, a
set of 12
In addition to _Caught Short!_, Cantor wrote or co-wrote at least
seven other books, including booklets released by the then-fledgling
firm of Simon Harper & Bros.
* _Caught Short!: A Saga of Wailing Wall Street_ by Eddie Cantor
(1929) Simon & Schuster
* _Between the Acts_ by
On October 29, 1995, as part of a nationwide celebration of the 75th anniversary of radio, he was posthumously inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame at Chicago's Museum of Broadcasting Communication.
In 1953, Warner Bros., in an attempt to duplicate the box-office success of _ The Jolson Story _, filmed a big-budget Technicolor feature film, _ The Eddie Cantor Story _. The film found an audience, but might have done better with someone else in the leading role. Actor Keefe Brasselle played Cantor as a caricature with high-pressure dialogue and bulging eyes wide open; the fact that Brasselle was considerably taller than Cantor did not lend realism, either. Eddie and Ida Cantor were seen in a brief prologue and epilogue set in a projection room, where they are watching Brasselle in action; at the end of the film, Eddie tells Ida, "I never looked better in my life"... and gives the audience a knowing, incredulous look. George Burns , in his memoir _All My Best Friends_, claimed that Warner Bros. created a miracle producing the movie in that "it made Eddie Cantor's life boring".
Probably the best summary of Cantor's career is on one of the
Colgate Comedy Hour _ shows. Re-issued on DVD as _
* Goldman, Herbert G. (1997). _
* Biography portal
* ^ New York Times, accessed May 5, 2015
* ^ Eddie Cantor, with Jane Kesner Ardmore, Take My Life, Mr.
Cantor's second autobiography, 1957
* ^ Kenrick, John.Who\'s Who in Musicals: Ca-Cl Musicals101.com,
accessed September 5, 2011
* ^ Obituary _Variety _, October 14, 1964.
* ^ "The