Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Who’s Who: Jimmy Durante

Professor Childermass informs Johnny, by channeling the comedic diction of this popular comedian, that “you been laborin’ under a misprehamprehension” about his grandmother being near death and - in turn - his need for undertaking the dangerous expedition of the Glomus estate [The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt; 160].

Misprehamprehensions would be the sort of thing actor, singer, and comedian Jimmy "Bill" Durante (1893-1980) would say with his comedic mangling of the English language. His phrases – “Dat's my boy dat said dat!", "Dat's moral turpentine!", "It's a catastastroke!", and “Everybody wants ta get inta da act" – delivered in his distinctive gravelly voice become one of his trademarks during his career from the 1920 through the 1970s. He hosted radio and television programs during the 1940s and 1950s where he would often ridicule his other trademark: his nose. Durante referred to his nose as his schnozzola or schnoz and even went as far singing “It's My Nose's Birthday” (“it was the first time in history that a nose out-weighed the child”).

Durante signed-off his radio and television programs with the phrase, "Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are” – later revealed to be a tribute to his late wife. Modern audiences may remember him from the 1969 animated holiday special, Frosty the Snowman, and his final film appearance, the star-studded madcap 1963 comedy It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World - in which his character literally kicked the bucket.

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