Harold Joachim (May 22, 1907 – March 29, 1986), known professionally as Harry Ritz was an American actor and comedian. He was also the youngest of the Ritz Brothers.
Ritz was born Harold Joachim on May 22, 1907 in Newark, New Jersey. He was born the fourth of five children to parents Max, (December 1871–January 4, 1939) and Pauline Joachim, (May 1874–November 26, 1935). His father was born in Austria-Hungary and owned a haberdashery and his mother was born in Russia.
Ritz was the brother to fellow comedians, (and future comedy partners), Al and Jimmy Ritz. He also had another brother named George who would become the future manager to the Ritz Brothers and had a sister named Gertrude Soll.
Shortly after he graduated from high school in 1925, he and brothers Al and Jimmy decided to team up and form a song-and-comedy act called the Ritz Brothers. Harry and Jimmy chose the name "Ritz" following brother Al who entered vaudeville with that name after seeing it on the side of a laundry truck. A typical act the brothers would have Harry standing in the middle singing The Man in the Middle Is the Funny One, a song written for them. The other two brothers would then take to berating Harry for occupying that favored spot and, as they screamed their displeasure, Harry would wander about bellowing "Don't holler--please don't holler."
By 1930 they were playing the Palace where the headliner was Frank Fay and his bride, Barbara Stanwyck. They worked in Shubert shows for a time and in 1932 caught the attention of Earl Carroll who featured them in his Vanities that year. They were appearing at the old Clover Club on Hollywood's Sunset Strip when Darryl F. Zanuck reportedly caught the act and signed them to a contract. (Al had appeared earlier in a silent film, The Avenging Trail in 1918.)
The Ritz Brothers started their film career with 20th Century Fox in 1936, starring with Alice Faye in Sing, Baby, Sing. Later they were in One in a Million with Sonja Henie, The Three Musketeers with Don Ameche, Kentucky Moonshine and The Goldwyn Follies.
The brothers left Fox in 1940 and went with rival studio Universal. The brothers quit after filming the movie "Never a Dull Moment" in 1943 to concentrate on club dates.
The Ritzes, among the first of the big-money acts in Las Vegas, made a few television specials in the early 1950s.
They carried their zaniness on the road until 1965 when Al died in New Orleans where they were performing.
Harry and Jim stayed together briefly. But the club business had peaked and Harry and Jim made two final film appearances. Harry by himself made one film before retiring from show business in 1978.
Ritz was married four times, had six children and one granddaughter.
Death and legacy
In his last years, Ritz battled with cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. But Ritz died of pneumonia on March 29, 1986. He left behind a widow, his children, granddaughter and his sister. Ritz is buried in the Beth Olam Mausoleum at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Ritz, along with his brothers, influenced comedians such as Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, and Danny Kaye. Brooks cast Ritz in a cameo in his 1976 movie Silent Movie, which marked Harry's final screen appearance. In an interview with Esquire magazine, Mel Brooks had this to say regarding Ritz;
“As far as I'm concerned, Harry Ritz was the funniest man ever. His craziness and his freedom were unmatched. There was no intellectualizing with him. You just hoped there were no pointy objects in the room when he was working 'cause you were down on the floor, spitting, out of control, laughing your brains out. Harry Ritz always put me away. Always.”
In that same interview, Jerry Lewis had this to say about Ritz;
“Harry was the teacher. He had the extraordinary ability to deny himself dignity onstage. Harry taught us that the only thing that mattered was getting a laugh ‑whether you did it with a camel or with two rabbis humping a road map. Harry spawned us all. We all begged, borrowed and stole from him, every one of us. Without him, we wouldn't be here.”
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
1939 Pack Up Your Troubles
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
1976 Silent Movie
1979 Beanes of Boston
1. "IMDb Entry". Internet Movie Database.
2. "Harry Ritz (1907-1986) Find A Grave Memorial". Find a Grave.
3. Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence and McNeilly, Donald (2007), Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America, New York: Routledge, p. 935, ISBN 0-415-93853-8.
4. Folkart, Burt (March 31, 1986). "Harry Ritz, 78, Member of Zany Vaudeville Brothers, Dies". Los Angeles Times.
5. "HARRY RITZ, 78, LAST BROTHER OF SLAPSTICK COMEDY TEAM". United Press International. The New York Times. April 1, 1986.
6. "ESQUIRE -MEL BROOKS SAYS THIS IS THE FUNNIEST MAN IN THE WORLD". Esquire.