Nearly everyone knows him as the voice of the narrator of the classic Christmas cartoon Frosty the Snowman. Jimmy Durante was the voice and at the time he was near the end of a career that lasted for nearly 70 years.
James Francis Durante was born on February 10, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York. Durante had one unique feature. That being a huge nose. During his career he made jokes about it calling it a “Schnozzola”.
Durante began his show business career as a Ragtime piano player. When appearing in Coney Island around 1911 he was billed as “Ragtime Jimmy”. He would adopt the new New Orleans Jazz style and worked as a performer and promoter of Jazz into the 1920s.
In the late 1920s he would turn to the Vaudeville Theater as part of the comic team Clayton, Jackson and Durante. He and the team became quite popular in New York. So popular that he was asked to do the play Jumbo. This role was the one that pushed him into stardom.
From here he would expand into movies, radio and when the new medium was expanding, Television. He became one of the most popular performers of his generation. He would die on January 29, 1980
Jimmy Durante is associated with two phrases. Those are: “Inka Dinka Doo” and “Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.” “Inka Dinka Doo” was the 1934 novelty he recorded and it became his theme song.
“Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.” was the line that he closed his radio and later his television program. For a while he kept the reason for it a secret until he finally told that it referred to his first wife, Jeanne Olsen, whom he married on June 19, 1921 and who died on Valentine’s Day in 1943. Calabash was a small town near Chicago that they had stayed in while on a tour. A town which she fell in love.