Saturday, January 31, 2015

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Eddie Cantor!

AKA Edward Israel Iskowitz.

Born January 31, 1892. Died October 10, 1964.

He was a popular singer, actor and comedian who was one of the first major comedy stars of the 1930s. His musicals like Palmy Days and The Kid from Spain gave budding choreographer Busby Berkeley a chance to practice and perfect his craft before he achieved fame with such films as 42nd Street and Footlight Parade.

Though much of Cantor's humor is admittedly dated, he still managed to express the mentality of the early 1930s in a way that has yet to be equalled by more serious celebrities. Even his lamentable forays into blackface lacked the usual sting of such efforts, perhaps because Cantor never bothered to even attempt a stereotypical black accent when doing such work and thus basically sounded the same way that he did when he sang without cork makeup.

His work is still hard to find on DVD -- even harder to find than such dubious works as Amos 'n' Andy -- but that might change some day. If nothing else, it would be interesting to compare his type of humor to more modern examples of comedy, even if some of it is a tad politically incorrect.

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