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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Good Night, Mrs. Calabash: 1952

Good Night, Mrs. Calabash: 1952

1952. Jimmy Durante rehearsing for the "Colgate Comedy Hour" or "All-Star Revue." Photos by Maurice Terrell and Earl Theisen for a Look magazine article about the TV producer Sam Fuller, "He Keeps Them Happy." View full size.

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As a tiny child, I thought his "Ahtchhaaaaachhhaaaachaaa" move was a bit scary. Now I wonder why. Kid brains are weird.

Ham it up

The exaggerated facial mugging was the norm for a dancing girl on that show. On the old kinescopes you can see the dancers projecting a huge amount of personality, and to a very charming effect. Those gals were more than just decorations, they were personalities. Add to that mix that it took a very extreme expression to come through at all on those old TV sets. And as we see here the body language was no less exaggerated. In early TV you had to play to the last row as much as in Vaudeville.

Jimmy the Jazzer

Jimmy Durante was a member of an early jazz group called The Original New Orleans Jazz Band in 1918-1919. He was the only non-New Orleanian in the group.

The Trio

From the vaudeville days: it was Clayton, Jackson, and Durante. They had various combinations over the years. You can catch them on You Tube.

What a guy!

My grandfather, born in 1898, recalled seeing Jimmy and a partner entertaining in a beer garden in Coney Island. This must have been in the summer of 1919, just after my grandfather returned from Europe and WWI. They were both troupers.

Up Front

I often wonder how it's decided who gets to be in the front line of dancers and who gets relegated to the back. In this case it would be an easy choice--the young woman on the left almost outshines Mr. Durante, which is no small feat.


His turn in "The Man Who Came to Dinner" has always been a favorite. Great talent! Also had a nice role in "It Happened in Brooklyn", but more of a straight role, no major buffoonery, just a nice normal fellow. And, of course, "It's a MMMM World" was/is a classic.

Inka Dinka Doo

We had our first television in 1950, I believe, a 12 inch Admiral. I was way too young then to fully appreciate some of the remarkable entertainers in those early days of the medium---which was really just an extension of vaudeville. Durante was one of them of course, and other names like Milton Berle, Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca and Burns and Allen come to mind. Keep in mind this stuff was all live, which ruled out second and third takes. Yet week after week these extraordinary people pulled it off to the delight of millions. Sid Caesar once mentioned in an interview that frequently the writers (Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, among others) for Your Show of Shows would be writing material for the last half of the program at the start of it. Regarding Berle, my understanding is that every program was recorded on 16 mm film, and it was all kept in a storage room at NBC. Then some upwardly mobile executive type decided the space would be better used for one of his pet projects, and he ordered all the Berle film burned. As for the Schnoz, I’ll always remember him signing off singing, “I’ll See You in My Dreams” on a darkened stage, with him in the center of a spotlight beam. And when he had finished the last note, it was, “Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.” The spotlight then went dark, and we were ushered into a Pard dog food commercial, or some other such thing.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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