Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Gerardo Luigi "Jerry" Colonna (September 17, 1904 – November 22, 1986) was an American musician, actor, comedian, singer, songwriter and trombonist best remembered as the zaniest of Bob Hope's sidekicks in Hope's popular radio shows and films of the 1940s and 1950s.
With his pop-eyed facial expressions and walrus-sized handlebar moustache, Colonna was known for singing loudly "in a comic caterwaul," according to Raised on Radio author Gerald Nachman, and for his catchphrase, "Who's Yehudi?," uttered after many an old joke, although it usually had nothing to do with the joke. The line was believed to be named for violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin, and the search for Yehudi became a running gag on the Hope show.
Colonna played a range of nitwitted characters, the best-remembered of which was a moronic professor. Nachman wrote:
Colonna brought a whacked-out touch to Hope's show. In a typical exchange, Hope asks, "Professor, did you plant the bomb in the embassy like I told you?," to which Colonna replied, in that whooping five-alarm voice, "Embassy? Great Scott, I thought you said NBC!"
Colonna started his career as a trombonist in orchestras and dance bands in and around his native Boston; he can be heard with Joe Herlihy's orchestra on discs recorded for Edison Records in the late 1920s. During the 1930s, Colonna played with the CBS house orchestra, the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, and developed a reputation for prankishness. During his tenure at CBS he occasionally worked under bandleader Raymond Scott, and made several recordings with Scott's famous Quintette which involved Colonna mouthing nonsense syllables over Scott's band. His off-stage antics were so calamitous that CBS nearly fired him on more than one occasion. Fred Allen, then on CBS, gave Colonna periodic guest slots, and a decade later he joined the John Scott Trotter band on Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall.
In an opera parody, Colonna hollered an aria "in a deadpan screech that became his trademark on Bob Hope's show, Nachman noted. Colonna was one of three memorable 1940s Kraft Music Hall discoveries. The others were pianist-comedian Victor Borge and Trotter's drummer, music "depreciationist" Spike Jones.
Colonna had the ability to stretch a syllable to extreme lengths. In addition to songs (such as "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall, or nothing at aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall..."), he worked this bit into Road to Rio along with another of his catchphrases. The action periodically cuts to a cavalry riding to the rescue of Bing and Bob. At one point he exhorts his riders, "Chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarge!" At the end of the film, when all is resolved and he is still "charging," he pulls up and tells the audience, "Well, what do you know... we never quite made it. Exciting, though... wasn't it?!"
According to radio historian Arthur Frank Wertheim, in Radio Comedy, Colonna was responsible for many of the catchphrases on Hope's show, notably, "Give me a drag on that before you throw it away," a crack the cast came to use to lance any bragging. Colonna's usual salutation to Hope was, "Greetings, Gate!" and listeners soon began saying it.
Colonna was part of several of Hope's early USO tours during the 1940s. Jack Benny's singing sidekick Dennis Day, a talented impressionist as well as a singer, did an effective imitation of Colonna's manic style and expressions.
Colonna joined ASCAP in 1956; his songwriting credits include "At Dusk," "I Came to Say Goodbye," "Sleighbells in the Sky," and "Take Your Time." In the 1950s he released two LPs, Music? for Screaming!!! (Decca DL 5540) and He Sings and Swings (Mercury-Wing MGW 12153).
Colonna featured in three of the popular Hope-Crosby Road films: Road to Singapore (1940) as Achilles Bombassa, Road to Rio (1947) as a Cavalry captain and The Road to Hong Kong (1962) in a cameo role. He can also be seen in the Fred Allen vehicle, It's in the Bag! (1945), as psychiatrist Dr. Greenglass, and he made a brief appearance with Hope in the "Wife, Husband and Wolf" sketch in Star Spangled Rhythm. In 1956 he performed the featured song "My Lucky Charm" in the film Meet Me in Las Vegas, starring Dan Dailey and Cyd Charisse.
He provided the voice of the March Hare in the Walt Disney animated film version of Alice in Wonderland (1951) (another radio legend, Ed Wynn, voiced the Mad Hatter) and also lent his zany narration style to several Disney shorts, including Casey at the Bat (1946) and The Brave Engineer (1950).
Command Performance (1937)
52nd Street (1937) as Specialty Vocalist
Rosalie (1937) as Joseph
College Swing (1938) as Prof. Yascha Koloski (uncredited)
Port of Seven Seas (1938) as Arab Rug Dealer (uncredited)
Little Miss Broadway (1938) as Member of Band
Valley of the Giants (1938) as Saloon Singer
Garden on the Moon (1938) as Musician
Swingtime in the Movies (1938) as The Texas Tornado
Sweepstakes Winner (1939) as Nick, the Chef
Naughty but Nice (1939) as Allie Gray
Road to Singapore (1940) as Achilles Bombanassa
Comin' Round the Mountain (1940) as Argyle Phifft
Melody and Moonlight (1940) as Abner Kellogg
You're the One (1941) as Dr. Colonna
Sis Hopkins (1941) as Professor
Ice-Capades (1941) as Colonna
Hollywood Steps Out (1941)
The Ducktators (1942)
Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) as Colonna - Bob Hope Skit
True to the Army (1942) as Pvt. 'Pinky' Fothergill
Priorities on Parade (1942) as Jeep Jackson
Ice-Capades Revue (1942) as Theophilus J. Twitchell
The Hep Cat (1942)
The Wise Quacking Duck (1943)
What's Cookin' Doc? (1944)
Atlantic City (1944) as The Professor
It's in the Bag! (1945) as Dr. Greengrass - Psychiatrist
Daffy Doodles (1946)
Make Mine Music (1946) as Narrator (segment "Casey at the Bat") (voice)
A Pest in the House (1947)
Road to Rio (1947) as Colonna
Kentucky Jubilee (1951) as Jerry Harris
The Brave Engineer (1950)
Alice in Wonderland (1951) as March Hare (voice)
Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) as Jerry Colonna - MC at Silver Springs
Pinocchio (1957) as Ringmaster
Andy Hardy Comes Home (1958) as Doc
The Road to Hong Kong (1962) as Man Looking for a Match (uncredited)
Remember... Dreams Come True
Swinging on a Star
One Hour in Wonderland
The Brave Engineer
Colonna left the Hope show as a regular in 1950, but he continued appearing with Hope on holiday television specials and live shows. He hosted his own television comedy series, The Jerry Colonna Show, which lasted a single season.
He was host of the "Revenge with Music" episode on The Colgate Comedy Hour in 1954. His TV work also included serving as the second and last ringmaster/host/performer on Super Circus (1955–56), The Gale Storm Show (1959), a version of Babes in Toyland on Shirley Temple's Storybook in 1960 and a guest role as Dr. Mann in "Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth," a 1966 episode of The Monkees. Jerry Colonna also appeared in a 1965 episode of McHale's Navy. In the episode "Hello McHale?-Colonna" McHale's men meet the famous WWII troubadour who promises to do a show for them at their Taratupa base. However, when the men learn that shows are limited to bases that have a 50-bed hospital, they take steps to correct the shortage. This disrupts Captain Binghamton's base hospital inspection by the Admiral who is looking for overcrowded hospitals and malingering patients, thereby putting Binghamton in the hot seat again.
Colonna also appeared in one of the oldest surviving kinescope recordings of a live television broadcast, from 1947.
Colonna married Florence Purcell, whom he reportedly met on a blind date in 1930; the couple adopted a son, Robert, in 1941. The marriage lasted 56 years. After his guest shot on The Monkees, Colonna suffered a stroke. Its paralytic effect forced his retirement from show business (save for a couple of brief cameo appearances in late '60s/early '70s Bob Hope specials), and a 1979 heart attack forced him to spend the last seven years of his life in the Motion Picture and Television Hospital. Florence stayed by his side to the end, when he died of kidney failure in 1986. She died eight years later at the same hospital.
Jerry Colonna is buried at San Fernando Mission Cemetery.
Colonna's great-great niece is American stand-up comedian Sarah Colonna. It is not known if he was related to the Italian Colonna family of nobles.
Popular culture references
Colonna was a popular radio and film figure at the same time that Warner Bros. cartoons hit their stride. Accordingly, his facial expressions and catchphrases were often caricatured in the cartoons. Along with "Greetings, Gates!" variations and references to "Yehudi," there was his oft-used observation, "Ah, yes! [appropriate adjective], isn't it?!"
The Warner cartoons The Wacky Worm and Greetings Bait both star a worm who is a Colonna caricature, complete with moustache and exaggerated voice (supplied by Mel Blanc). The latter cartoon also features an animated human Colonna as a fisherman.
In What's Cookin' Doc?, Bugs Bunny is saying "Hi" to various (unseen) Hollywood figures as they walk by his table at the Oscar banquet, and Bugs mimics them. At one point he bugs his eyes, opens his mouth wide to display squared-off, gapped teeth, and says, "Ah! Greetings, Jerry!"
In the 1946 Warner Bros. cartoon Daffy Doodles, a jury of Jerry Colonnas delivers the verdict "Ahhhhhhh yes! Not guilty!" at Daffy's trial. Jerry Colonna was one of the party going celebrities in the Warner cartoon Hollywood Steps Out.
In 1999, Jeff MacKay portrayed Colonna in the JAG episode "Ghosts of Christmas Past."
Colonna was mentioned in Jack Kerouac's 1950s novel On the Road.
In the 1943 Warner Bros. Daffy Duck cartoon The Wise Quacking Duck, he imitates Colonna as a fortune teller.
In the 1944 Warner Bros. cartoon Slightly Daffy, a Native American warrior, mimicking Colonna, threatens cavalry soldier Porky Pig with "Greetings Gate, let's scalpitate."
In the 1944 Warner Bros. cartoon Plane Daffy, after his second electrifying kiss with Hatta Mari, Daffy imitates Colonna: "Ahhhhhhh yes! Something new has been added!"
In the 1950 Warner Bros. cartoon Rabbit Every Monday, Bugs Bunny utters Colonna's trademark phrase "I don't ask questions; I just have fun!"
1. "The Paley Center for Media". Paleycenter.org. 1947-01-22.
2. Blair, Iain (July 24, 2012). "Colonna: Latenight scribe shares ‘Life’ lessons". Variety.
Gerald Nachman, Raised on Radio (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998).
Arthur Frank Wertheim, Radio Comedy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979).
Friday, November 17, 2017
Samuel Joachim (October 4, 1904 – November 17, 1985), known professionally as Jimmy Ritz, was an American actor and comedian. He was also the second Ritz Brother.
Ritz was born Samuel Joachim to parents Max (December 1871 – January 4, 1939) and Pauline Joachim (May 1874 – November 26, 1935) on October 4, 1904. His father was a haberdasher from Austria-Hungary and his mother was Russian. Ritz had three brothers, George, Al, and Harry, and a sister, Gertrude Soll.
The Ritz Brothers began as a dancing act in 1925, and by 1929 they had become vaudeville headliners. When vaudeville faded, they took their act, which combined complicated dance routines, sound-alike singing voices and a distinctively zany, juvenile humor (their theme song was titled Collegiate), to film, full theatrical presentations, and eventually television.
They were appearing on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood when movie producer Darryl F. Zanuck spotted them. Their first film, Sing, Baby, Sing, in 1936, was followed by On the Avenue, You Can't Have Everything, Life Begins in College, Hi'ya, Chum, One in a Million, The Gorilla, The Three Musketeers, The Goldwyn Follies, Straight, Place and Show, Pack Up Your Troubles, Argentine Nights, Behind the Eight Ball, Blazing Stewardesses and Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood, the last two with Harry only. Al died in 1965.
Ritz died on November 17, 1985 in Los Angeles, California due to heart disease at the age of 81. He was survived by his sister Gertrude, his brother Harry and his daughter Alison Wolff who died after an unsuccessful heart-lung transplant on April 21, 1999. He is buried with his brothers in the Beth Olam Mausoleum at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
1934 Hotel Anchovy
1936 Sing, Baby, Sing
1937 Cinema Circus
1937 One in a Million
1937 On the Avenue
1937 You Can't Have Everything
1937 Life Begins in College
1938 The Goldwyn Follies
1938 Kentucky Moonshine
1938 Straight Place and Show
1939 The Three Musketeers
1939 The Gorilla
1940 Argentine Nights
1942 Behind the Eight Ball
1943 Hi'ya, Chum
1943 Never a Dull Moment
1956 Brooklyn Goes to Las Vegas
1975 Blazing Stewardesses
1976 Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood
1. "IMDb Entry". Internet Movie Database.
2. "Jimmy Ritz (1904-1985) Find A Grave Memorial". Find a Grave.
3. Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence and McNeilly, Donald (2007), Vaudeville, Old and New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America, New York: Routledge, p. 935, ISBN 0-415-93853-8.
4. "Jimmy Ritz, Comic, Dies at 81". The New York Times. November 21, 1985.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Penny Singleton (September 15, 1908 – November 12, 2003) was an American film actress. Born Marianna Dorothy Agnes Letitia McNulty in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (commonly known as Dorothy McNulty), she was the daughter of an Irish-American newspaperman Benny McNulty — from whom she received the nickname "Penny" because she was "as bright as a penny."
During her 60-year career, Singleton appeared as the comic-strip heroine Blondie Bumstead in a series of 28 motion pictures from 1938 until 1950 and the popular Blondie radio program from 1939 until 1950.
Singleton also provided the voice of Jane Jetson in the animated series The Jetsons.
For her contributions to both radio and the motion-picture industry, in 1960, Singleton was honored with two stars as she was inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star for radio is located at 6811 Hollywood Boulevard, and her film star is just a few footsteps away, at 6547 Hollywood Boulevard.
Singleton began her show-business career when she was a child, singing at a silent movie theater, and toured in vaudeville as part of an act called "The Kiddie Kabaret." She sang and danced with Milton Berle, whom she had known since childhood, and actor Gene Raymond, and appeared on Broadway in Jack Benny's The Great Temptations. She also toured in nightclubs and roadshows of plays and musicals.
Singleton appeared as a nightclub singer in After the Thin Man, and was credited at this time as Dorothy McNulty. She was cast opposite Arthur Lake (as Dagwood) in the feature film Blondie in 1938, based on the comic strip by Chic Young. They repeated their roles on a radio comedy beginning in 1939 and in guest appearances on other radio shows. As Dagwood and Blondie Bumstead, they proved so popular that a succession of 27 sequels was made from 1938 until 1950, with the radio show ending the same year. Singleton's husband Robert Sparks produced 12 of these sequels. Singleton dyed her brunette hair blonde for the rest of her life.
Singleton won top billing in Go West, Young Lady over her male co-star, Glenn Ford — putting her in the elite company of only two other female stars (Dorothy Page and Jane Frazee) who held the headliner roles as top-billed singing cowgirls.
She starred as Adelaide in Guys and Dolls at the summer Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1954. She became familiar to television audiences as the voice of Jane Jetson in the animated series The Jetsons, which originally aired from 1962 until 1963, reprising the role for a syndicated revival from 1985 through 1988 and for assorted specials, records, and Jetsons: The Movie (1990).
She was active in union affairs as a member of the American Guild of Variety Artists. In 1967, she led a month-long strike by the Radio City Rockettes for better working conditions, which they won. She subsequently became the first woman to head an AFL-CIO union when she was elected President of AGVA in 1969.
Singleton died in Sherman Oaks, California, following a stroke, and was interred in San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. She is buried with her sister June. Her name does not appear on the headstone.
She was married to Dr. Laurence Scogga Singleton, a dentist, from 1937 until their divorce in 1939. She was married to Robert Sparks from 1941 until his death on July 22, 1963.
Singleton had a daughter with each of her husbands.
She died in November 2003 at the age of 95 of respiratory failure.
Good News (1930)
Love in the Rough (1930)
After the Thin Man (1936)
Vogues of 1938 (1937)
Sea Racketeers (1937)
Outside of Paradise (1938)
Men Are Such Fools (1938)
Racket Busters (1938)
Mr. Chump (1938)
Boy Meets Girl (1938)
Secrets of an Actress (1938)
Garden of the Moon (1938)
The Mad Miss Manton (1938)
Hard to Get (1938)
Blondie Meets the Boss (1939)
Blondie Takes a Vacation (1939)
Blondie Brings Up Baby (1939)
Blondie on a Budget (1940)
Blondie Has Servant Trouble (1940)
Blondie Plays Cupid (1940)
Blondie Goes Latin (1941)
Blondie in Society (1941)
Go West, Young Lady (1941)
Blondie Goes to College (1942)
Blondie's Blessed Event (1942)
Blondie for Victory (1942)
It's a Great Life (1943)
Footlight Glamour (1943)
Leave It to Blondie (1945)
Life with Blondie (1945)
Young Widow (1946)
Blondie's Lucky Day (1946)
Blondie Knows Best (1946)
Blondie's Big Moment (1947)
Blondie's Holiday (1947)
Blondie in the Dough (1947)
Blondie's Anniversary (1947)
Blondie's Reward (1948)
Blondie's Secret (1948)
Blondie's Big Deal (1949)
Blondie Hits the Jackpot (1949)
Blondie's Hero (1950)
Beware of Blondie (1950)
The Best Man (scenes deleted, 1964)
The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones - TV Movie - Jane Jetson (1987)
Daws Butler: Voice Magician - TV movie - herself (1987)
Rockin' with Judy Jetson - TV movie - Jane Jetson (1988)
A Yabba-Dabba-Doo Celebration!: 50 Years of Hanna-Barbera - TV movie documentary - Jane Jetson (1989)
The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera - theme-park short - Jane Jetson (1990)
Jetsons: The Movie (voice, 1990)
Belle of the Night (1930)
Campus Cinderella (1938)
Screen Snapshots Series 19, No. 1 (1939)
The Jetsons - Jane Jetson, additional voices (1962)
The Jetsons - Jane Jetson, additional voices (1985-1987)
Murder, She Wrote - "The Perfect Foil" - Aunt Mildred (1986)
"The Twilight Zone"- "Sounds and Silences"- Mrs. Flemington (1964)
Sky High (1925)
Sweetheart Time (1926)
The Great Temptations (1926)
Good News (1928) (replacement for Zelma O'Neal)
Hey Nonny Nonny! (1932)
Call Me Madam (1959)
No, No, Nanette (1972) (replacement for Ruby Keeler)
No, No, Nanette (1974)
Little Me (1983)
2. Vallance, Tom (November 15, 2003). "Penny Singleton". The Independent.
3. Singing In The Saddle, Douglas B. Green © 2002/Vanderbilt Univ. Press and Country Music Foundation Press. Pg. 210.