Wednesday, 16 September 2015

He Got a Million of 'Em

Jimmy Durante’s career was reborn on March 25, 1943. That’s when he teamed for the first time with Garry Moore on radio. The two were an overnight sensation. Durante’s film career, floundering because of lousy comedy roles and the illness then death of his wife, was reborn.

Here’s a syndicated column from later in the year. All columns quoting Durante quoted him in Durante dialect. It’s the only possible way Durante could be quoted; it wouldn’t be Durante otherwise. The photo I’ve added to this story is from when Durante put his nose in cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. It happened on Hallowe’en in 1945.

Hollywood Greets Durante
Hollywood, Aug. 17—“What’s dis Sinatra got dat I ain’t got?” demanded Jimmy Durante from his perch on high. ‘Nuttin’, says I.”
If as much, says we, after contemplation of such a scene as Hollywood, seldom produces. What Durante had was three of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s beauties, all better than six feet, tall, all showering him with kisses and all holding him aloft, the better to see the famous schnozzle.
The Misses Dorothy Ford. Bunny Waters and Helen O'Hara were provided by the studio to welcome an incoming notable. Durante had read about the hoopla surrounding the arrival of crooner Frankie Sinatra; what he said he wanted was a bigger and better reception. He got it. Come to think of it, he deserved it.
Metro is going to star Jimmy first, in “Two Sisters and a Sailor.” Then he joins Fred Astaire in “Ziegfeld Follies.”
“Wit me hair piece,” said Jimmy. “De’re makin’ me anudder to cover up me bald spot; to make me a glammer man.”
Durante, who’s been moidering the king’s English for two decades, said his radio program—first he ever had—is an interesting job. He meets so many interesting people.
“Take de writers,” he said. “Crazy men. Dey give you ulsters, just listenin’ to ‘em.”
The team of Clayton, Jackson and Durante first began business in a speakeasy over a New York garage in 1923.
“A foist class jernt,” said Jimmy. “No winders, no nuttin’ but a cover charge. It was one of dem places dat catered to de Wall St. trade. Open from midnight until 10 o’clock de next a.m. So de brokers, dey’d come by for breakfast. Five dollars for a plate of eggs, $10 for what dey called champagne. A fine business, but hard on de tonsils.”
Durante gradually emerged as the star of the trio; Clayton became his manager and Jackson his handy man.
One more anecdote concerning the schnozzle:
“I was down at dis Walter Reed Horsepital (says Jimmy) going aroun’, playin’ de accordeen for de boys. One of de lads was just out from unner de ether an’ he looks at me and says do I make me nose of putty? No, says I. Let me feel it, says he. So he feels de ol’ schnozzola an’ he goes back to sleep wit a big smile on de kisser. Makes me feel very sendimendal, like.”

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