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Manhattan, New York
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Manhattan, New York

Jimmy Durante, a well-known American entertainer, pianist, comedian, actor, and singer, was born James Francis ‘Jimmy’ Durante. He became America’s most recognized and adored stage, television, silver screen, and radio artist due to his immaculate comic timing, implicit use of funny language, and jazzy beautiful tunes. Durante’s professional skill for playing ragtime piano was recognized at a young age, and he joined the ‘Original New Orleans Jazz Band,’ one of New York’s most prominent jazz bands. Durante then proceeded to Broadway, where he collaborated with various artists to perform on stage, in films, and on the radio. “Dat’s my kid dat said dat!” “Dat’s moral turpentine!” “It’s a catastastroke!” and other catchphrases made him highly famous with the audience.

Childhood and Adolescence

Jimmy Durante was born to Rosa Lentino and Bartolomeo Durate in New York’s Lower East Side. His father was a barber, and his family had come to America from Salerno, Italy.

Durante skipped the eighth grade in order to pursue ragtime piano. He began playing with a cousin at first. They used to exclusively perform for their families, but Durante understood the breadth of his abilities.
He began playing in the city’s piano bars and earned the moniker ‘Ragtime Jimmy.’ Durante was soon employed as a professional pianist by the Original New Orleans Jazz Band, one of New York’s earliest popular jazz bands.

Durante was a member of the Original New Orleans Jazz Band for a long time during his career.

The career of Jimmy Durante

Durante was a long-time member of the Original New Orleans Jazz Band, and his distinctive performance of breaking into a song to tell a joke punctuated with orchestra chord punctuation made him renowned in the 1920s.
Durante was a well-known artist by the mid-1920s, and he dabbled in vaudeville and radio. He collaborated with two other performers, Clayton and Jackson, on a number of occasions for various entertainment endeavors.

Clayton, Jackson, and Durante starred in the 1930 film ‘Roadhouse Nights,’ which was based on Dashiell Hammett’s novel “Red Harvest.” He also collaborated with Jackson on the Cole Porter musical ‘The New Yorkers’ in the same year.

His unique composition ‘Inka Dinka Doo,’ which had words penned by Ben Ryan and music performed by Durante, became a big smash record in 1934. ‘Inka Dinka Doo’ became his theme tune for the rest of his life.

Duranted made his Broadway debut in 1935 in the musical ‘Jumbo.’ The most famous scene in the episode was when a cop saw him living with an elephant and when questioned, he said, “What elephant?”

Durante’s next move was to make an appearance in a movie. He was paired with silent film veteran Buster Keaton for this, and the two worked together on films such as ‘What! No Beer?’, ‘Speak Easily,’ and ‘The Passionate Plumber’ from 1932 to 1933.

In 1933, Durante had his first notable appearance on the radio, in Eddie Cantor’s ‘The Chase and Sanborn Hour.’ Later, he collaborated on ‘The Durante-Moore Show’ with Garry Moore.

With their catchy tunes and guest appearances by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Durante and Moore became national radio favorites. In 1947, Moore departed the show, and Durante launched his own show, ‘The Jimmy Durante Show.’

It was time for him to make his television debut, and he did it in 1950 with ‘The Big Show.’ He was also one of the hosts of ‘4-Star Revue’ the following year.

‘Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962),’ a musical film based on Durante’s Broadway musical ‘Jumbo,’ and ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963),’ an epic comedy film, were among Durante’s motion pictures of 1962-63.

In 1963, Durante released the pop album ‘September Song.’ Durante was reintroduced to a new generation almost three decades after he was originally acknowledged in the world of ragtime piano with the release of the CD, which became a best-seller.

Major Projects of Jimmy Durante

Durante began his career in the entertainment industry with the ‘Original New Orleans Jazz Band,’ which led to his acting on Broadway and in other plays. His comedic timing landed him roles in films such as ‘Roadhouse Nights’ and ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.’

Not only that, but his talent landed him roles on ‘4-Star Revue,’ ‘The Durante-Moore Show,’ and eventually ‘The Jimmy Durante Show.’ He was a singer as well, and his album ‘September Song’ was a smash at the time.

Personal History and Legacy

Durante married his first wife, Jeanne, in 1921, but she died in 1943 from a two-year-long heart condition.

When he was 67 years old and Margie was 47, he married Margaret ‘Margie’ Little, a former Beauty Queen of the New Jersey State Fair. Cecilia Alicia, the couple’s daughter, was adopted.

Durante abandoned the entertainment industry after having a stroke that rendered him wheelchair-bound. In 1980, he died in California from acute pneumonia.

Estimated Net Worth

Jimmy is one of the wealthiest comedians and one of the most popular. Jimmy Francis Durante has a net worth of $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


‘Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are,’ was his catchphrase at the end of his radio show, and it was dedicated to his first wife, who died of a heart condition.

He contributed the foreword to the funny book ‘Cockeyed Americana.’