Be awful nice to 'em going up, because you're gonna meet 'em all comin' down
~Jimmy Durante
According to the book, "Hollywood Trivia," (Greenwich House, 1984), by David P. Strauss, Jimmy Durante's famous "Mrs. Calabash" sign-off referred to his first wife, Jeanne Olson. Calabash was the name of a Chicago suburb they both liked.
Jimmy Durante
James Francis Durante
10 February 1893, New York City, New York
29 January 1980, Santa Monica, California
James Francis "Jimmy" Durante (February 10, 1893 – January 29, 1980) was an American singer, pianist, comedian and actor. His distinctive clipped gravelly speech, comic language butchery, jazz-influenced songs, and large nose helped make him one of America's most familiar and popular personalities of the 1920s through the 1970s. His jokes about his nose included referring to it as a "Schnozzola", and the word became his nickname.

Durante was born in Brooklyn, New York, the third of four children born to Italian-Americans Bartolomeo Durante (1849–1942) and Rosa (Lentino) Durante (1858–1921). He served as an altar boy at New York City's Saint Malachy's Roman Catholic Church also known as the Actor's Chapel. Durante dropped out of school in the eighth grade to become a full-time ragtime pianist. He first played with his cousin, whose name was also "Jimmy Durante." It was a family act, but he was too professional for his cousin. He continued working the city's piano bar circuit and earned the nickname "Ragtime Jimmy," before he joined one of the first recognizable jazz bands in New York, the Original New Orleans Jazz Band. Durante was the only member not from New Orleans. His routine of breaking into a song to deliver a joke, with band or orchestra chord punctuation after each line, became a Durante trademark. In 1920, the group was renamed Jimmy Durante's Jazz Band.

Durante became a vaudeville star and radio personality by the mid-1920s, with a trio called Clayton, Jackson and Durant. Lou Clayton and Eddie Jackson, Durante's closest friends, often reunited professionally. Jackson and Durante appeared in the Cole Porter musical The New Yorkers, which opened on Broadway on December 8, 1930.

By 1934, he had a major record hit with his own novelty composition, Inka Dinka Doo which was co-written by Ben Ryan. It became his theme song for the rest of his life. A year later, Durante starred on Broadway in the Billy Rose stage musical Jumbo, in which a police officer stopped him while leading a live elephant and asked him, "What are you doing with that elephant?" Durante's reply, "What elephant?", was a regular show-stopper. Durante also appeared on Broadway in Show Girl (1929), Strike Me Pink (1934), and Red, Hot and Blue (1936).

He began appearing in motion pictures in a comedy series pairing him with silent film legend Buster Keaton and continuing with The Wet Parade (1932), Broadway to Hollywood (1933), The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942, playing "Banjo", a character based on Harpo Marx), Ziegfeld Follies (1946), Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962, based on the 1935 musical), and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).

On September 10, 1933 Durante appeared on Eddie Cantor's The Chase and Sanborn Hour, continuing until November 12 of that year. When Cantor departed, Durante took over the NBC show as its star from April 22 to September 30, 1934, moving on to The Jumbo Fire Chief Program (1935–36).

He teamed with Garry Moore for The Durante-Moore Show in 1943. Durante's comic chemistry with the young, brushcut Moore brought Durante an even larger audience. "Dat's my boy dat said dat!" became an instant catchphrase. The duo became one of the nation's favorites for the rest of the decade, including a well-reviewed Armed Forces Radio Network command performance with Frank Sinatra that remains a favorite of radio collectors today. Moore left in mid-1947, and the program returned October 1, 1947 as The Jimmy Durante Show. Durante worked in radio for three years after Moore's 1947 departure, including a reunion of Clayton, Jackson and Durante on his April 21, 1948 broadcast.

Durante made his television debut on November 1, 1950, though he kept a presence in radio as one of the frequent guests on Tallulah Bankhead's two-year, NBC comedy-variety show, The Big Show. Durante was one of the cast on the show's premiere November 5, 1950. The rest of the cast included humorist Fred Allen, singers Mindy Carson and Frankie Laine, stage musical performer Ethel Merman, actors Jose Ferrer and Paul Lukas, and comic-singer Danny Thomas (about to become a major television star in his own right). A highlight of the show was Durante and Thomas, whose own nose rivaled Durante's, in a routine in which Durante accused Thomas of stealing his nose. "Stay outta dis, No-Nose!" Durante barked at Bankhead to a big laugh.

From 1950-51, Durante was one of four alternating hosts on NBC's comedy-variety series, "4 Star Revue." He alternated Wednesdays with Danny Thomas (now a headliner), Jack Carson, and Ed Wynn.

Beginning in the early 1950s, Durante teamed with sidekick Sonny King, a collaboration that would continue until Durante's death. Jimmy could be seen regularly in Las Vegas after Sunday Mass outside of the Guardian Angel Cathedral standing next to the priest and greeting the people as they left Mass.

On August 4, 1955, The Jimmy Durante Show on NBC was the venue of the final performance by the famous Brazilian singer Carmen Miranda. Miranda fell to her knees while dancing with Durante, who instinctively told the band to "stop da music!". He helped Miranda up to her feet as she laughed "I'm all out of breath!". "Dat's OK, honey, I'll take yer lines" Durante replied. Miranda laughed again and quickly pulled herself together and finished the show. However, the next morning, August 5, Miranda died at home from heart failure.

Durante also appeared on NBC's Club Oasis, another comedy/variety show broadcast in the 1957-1958 season, alternating first with The Polly Bergen Show.

Durante's radio show was bracketed with two trademarks: "Inka Dinka Doo" as his opening theme, and the invariable signoff that became another familiar national catchphrase: "Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are." For years Durante preferred to keep the mystery alive, but eventually relented.

One theory was that the phrase referred to the owner of a restaurant in Calabash, North Carolina, where Jimmy and his troupe stopped once to eat. He was so taken by the food, the service, and the chitchat that Jimmy told the owner that he would make her famous. Not knowing her name he instead referred to her as "Mrs. Calabash".

Another theory was that it was his personal salute to his late first wife, Jeanne. "Calabash" may have been a typical Durante mangle of Calabasas, the Southern California locale where the couple made their home for the last years of her life.

At a National Press Club meeting in 1966 (broadcast on NBC's Monitor program), Durante revealed that it was indeed a tribute to the first Mrs. Durante. One time while driving across the country, they stopped in a small town called Calabash, which Mrs. Durante loved. He recalled the town as being near Chicago. "Mrs. Calabash" became his private pet name for her, so years later he came to sign off his radio program with "Good night, Mrs. Calabash." He added "...wherever you are" after the first year.

Durante's first wife was the former Jean (Jeanne) Olson, whom he married on June 19, 1921. She was born in Ohio on August 31, 1896. She died on Valentine's Day in 1943, after a lingering heart ailment of about two years. She was 46 years old when she died, although different newspaper accounts of her death suggest she was 45 or perhaps 52. Her death was not immediately expected, as Jimmy was touring in New York at the time and returned to Los Angeles right away to complete funeral arrangements.

Durante married his second wife, Margaret "Margie" Little, at St. Malachy's Catholic Church in New York City on December 14, 1960. As a teenager, with her gorgeous red hair and undeniable charm, Margie had been crowned Queen of the New Jersey State Fair. She attended New York University before being hired by the legendary Copacabana, in New York City. They met 16 years before their marriage when he was performing there and where she worked as a hatcheck girl. She was 41, he 67, when they married. The couple adopted a baby, Cecilia Alicia (nicknamed CeCe and now known as CeCe Durante-Bloum) on Christmas Day, 1961. CeCe became a champion horsewoman and then a horse trainer and horseback-riding instructor near San Diego, married a computer designer (Stephen), and has two sons and a daughter (Connor, Ryan and Maddie).

On August 15,1958, for his charitable acts, Durante was awarded a huge 3ft. high brass loving cup by the Al Bahr Shriners Temple. The inscription was: "JIMMY DURANTE THE WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS COMEDIAN A loving cup to you Jimmy, Its' larger than your nose, but smaller than your heart Happiness always, Al Bahr Temple August 15, 1958".

Jimmy's love for children continued through the Fraternal Order of Eagles children, who among many causes raise money for handicapped and abused. At Jimmy's first appearance at the Eagles International Convention in 1961, judge Bob Hansen inquired about his fee for performing. Jimmy replied, "do not even mention money judge or I'll have to mention a figure that'll make ya sorry ya brought it up" "What can we do then?" asked Hansen. "Help da kids," was Durante's reply. Jimmy performed for many years at Eagles conventions free of charge, not even accepting travel money. The Fraternal Order of Eagles in his honor changed the name of their Children's Fund to the Jimmy Durante Children's Fund, and in his memory have raised over 20 million dollars to help children . A reporter once remarked of Durante after an interview: "You could warm your hands on this one." One of the projects built using money from the Durante Fund was a heated therapy swimming pool at the Hughen School in Port Arthur, Texas. Completed in 1968, Durante named the pool the "Inka Dinka Doo Pool".

Durante was a member of the Democratic Party. In 1933, he appeared as himself in an advertisement supporting FDR's New Deal programs and wrote a musical score to it entitled Give a Guy a Job.

Durante continued his film appearances through It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) (in which, early in the film, his "Smiler" Grogan character tells a concerned crowd of $350,000 "buried under a big W" and then dies, literally "kicking the bucket") and television appearances through the early 1970s. He narrated the Rankin-Bass animated Christmas special Frosty the Snowman (1969), re-run for many years since. The television work also included a series of commercial spots for Kellogg's Corn Flakes cereals in the mid 1960s, which introduced Durante's gravelly growl and narrow-eyed, large-nosed countenance to millions of children. "Dis is Jimmy Durante, in puy-son!" was his introduction to some of the Kellogg's spots. One of his last appearances was in a memorable television commercial for the 1973 Volkswagen Beetle, where he proclaimed that the new, roomier Beetle had "plenty of breathin' room....for da old schnozzola!"

In 1963, Durante recorded an album of pop standards, September Song. The album became a best-seller and provided Durante's re-introduction, to yet another generation, almost three decades later. From the Jimmy Durante's Way of Life album, came the gravelly interpretations of "As Time Goes By" accompanied the opening credits of the romantic comedy hit, Sleepless in Seattle, while his version of "Make Someone Happy" launched the film's closing credits.The former number appeared on the film's best-selling soundtrack.

He wrote a foreword for a humorous book titled Cockeyed Americana, compiled by Dick Hyman. In the first paragraph of the "Foreword!," as Durante called it, he met Hyman and discussed the book and the contribution Hyman wanted Durante to make to it. Durante wrote, "Before I can say gaziggadeegasackeegazobbath, we're at his luxurious office." After reading the material Hyman had compiled for the book, Durante commented on it, "COLOSSAL, GIGANTIC, MAGNANIMOUS, and last but not first, AURORA BOREALIS.  Four little words that make a sentence--and a sentence that will eventually get me six months."

Aside from "Dat's my boy dat said dat!" , "Dat's moral turpentine!" and "It's a catastastroke!" (for "catastrophe,") Durante sent such catch phrases as "Everybody wants ta get inta the act!", "Umbriago!" and "Ha-cha-cha-chaaaaaaa!" into the vernacular.

Durante suffered a stroke in 1972, and used a wheelchair during the last years of his life. He died of pneumonia in Santa Monica, California, on January 29, 1980 and was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City.

Jimmy Durante is known to most modern audiences as the character who narrated and sang the 1969 animated special Frosty the Snowman. There are numerous Durante depictions and allusions in animation. Pumbaa does a brief Durante impression while singing Hakuna Matata in The Lion King. A character in M-G-M cartoons, a bulldog named Spike, whose puppy son was always getting caught by accident in the middle of Tom and Jerry's activities, referenced Durante with a raspy voice and an affectionate "Dat's my boy!" In another Tom and Jerry episode, a starfish lands on Tom's head, giving him a big nose. He then proceeds with Durante's famous "Ha-cha-cha-cha" call. A Durante-like voice was also given to the father beagle, Doggie Daddy, in Hanna-Barbera's Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy cartoons, Doggie Daddy invariably addressing the junior beagle with a Durante-like "Augie, my son, my son," and with frequent citations of, "That's my boy who said that!" In the 1933 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes short, Bosko's Picture Show, there is a scene where he is chased by Adolf Hitler with a meat cleaver.

Many 1940s Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons had characters based on Durante. Two examples are A Gruesome Twosome, which features a cat based on Durante and Baby Bottleneck, which in unedited versions opens with a Durante-like stork. Book Revue shows the well-known (at that time) 1924 Edna Ferber novel So Big featuring a Durante caricature on the cover. The "so big" refers to his nose, and as a runaway criminal turns the corner by the book, Durante turns sideways using his nose to trip the criminal, allowing his capture. In the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoon named Hollywood Daffy, Durante is directly depicted as himself, pronouncing his catch-phrase "Those are the conditions that prevail!". One of Durante's common catch phrases, "I got a million of 'em!", was used as Bugs' final line in Stage Door Cartoon.

A Durante-like voice was also used for Marvel Comics superhero The Thing in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon Fred and Barney Meet the Thing. In a 1993 episode of The Simpsons titled "Lady Bouvier's Lover", after Grampa cries out, "Good night, Mrs. Bouvier, wherever you are," the Blue-haired lawyer announces himself in charge of Jimmy Durante's estate and therefore puts a halt to Abraham Simpson's "unauthorized imitation" of Durante. The voice and appearance of Crispy, the mascot for Crispy Critters cereal, was also based on Durante.
Interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, USA. Specific Interment Location: F, T96, 6.

Daughter Cecilia is a horseback-riding instructor, is married to a computer designer, lives near San Diego, and has two sons

For years he signed off his radio and TV shows with "Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are", but he would never divulge who she was. Some speculated it was a "code name" for a current or former lover, some doubted she ever existed. It was not until after his death in 1980 that it was revealed she was, indeed, a real person.

According to the book, "Hollywood Trivia," (Greenwich House, 1984), by David P. Strauss, Jimmy Durante's famous "Mrs. Calabash" sign-off referred to his first wife, Jeanne Olson. Calabash was the name of a Chicago suburb they both liked.

Comic Sonny King, who worked with Durante during his career, stated in an interview that the mysterious "Mrs. Calabash" was indeed Jimmy's late wife Jeanne Olson, but "Calabash" was a reference to Calabasas, California, where she was hospitalized in her later years. She had difficulty in pronouncing the city name, often calling it "Calabash", and it became an inside joke for the Durantes.

Dropped out of school in the eighth grade and a couple of years later played ragtime piano for a living, taking jobs whereever he could, including bars, cabarets and whorehouses. He became known for a time as "Ragtime Jimmy."

Also made a living as a bandleader and talent booker.

Famous for a number of other beloved catch-phrases besides the "Mrs. Calabash" routine, including: "It's a castastrostroke!", "I'm mortified!" "Surrounded by assassins!", "Everybody wants ta get inta da act!, and "Hotch-cha-cha-cha-cha!".

Sang the famous 'Frosty The Snowman' song.

Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith. Pg. 146-148. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387

A legal challenge to his adoption of daughter CeCe late in life, on the grounds that he was too old to care for such a young child, was dismissed by a judge, who said, "I've heard this man sing 'Young at Heart.'"

His voice was the inspiration for that of the dog in the Tom and Jerry cartoons.

Has a street named after him on the east side of Las Vegas, Nevada.

He was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 1600 Vine Street and for Radio at 1648 Vine Street in Hollywood, California.

In "Blondie Of The Follies" (1932) where he had a staring role, Marion Davies (Blondie) addresses Billy Dove's character as "Lurlene Callabash" . Jimmy often ended his TV, Radio and Night Club appearances with "Goodnight Mrs. Callabash wherever you are".

On August 15,1958, for his charitable acts, Durante was awarded a huge 3ft. high brass loving cup by the Al Bahr Shriners Temple. The inscription was: "JIMMY DURANTE THE WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS COMEDIAN A loving cup to you Jimmy, Its' larger than your nose, but smaller than your heart Happiness always, Al Bahr Temple August 15, 1958".
[referring to his funny looks as a child] I'd go home [from school] and cry. I made up my mind never to hurt anybody else, no matter what. I never made jokes about anybody's big ears, crossed eyes, or their stuttering.

[ad-libbing with Bob Hope] When it comes to noses, you're a retailer. I'm a wholesaler!

I hate music, especially when it's played.

Be awful nice to 'em going up, because you're gonna meet 'em all comin' down.

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