Have you heard of Eddie Cantor? From the perspective of the history of the entertainment industry, Cantor was one of the finest performers that ever existed. An all-round performer, Cantor was an exceedingly good comedian, dancer, singer, actor and songwriter.
While the precise date of Cantor’s birth is not known, Sunday, 31 Jan. 1892 is largely recognized as the date on which the entertainer was born. Born in New York City, New York, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants Mechel and Meta Itzkowitz, Edward Israel Cantor proved from an early age how exceptional he was.
Instantly recognizable to audiences of Broadway, radio, movie and early television productions, Cantor’s charm and charisma played a factor in the way in which the public took to the entertainer as if they personally knew him. With his warm kindhearted spirit, it was almost as if audience members considered Cantor as a family member.
Like Frank Sinatra decades later, Cantor would eventually acquire the nickname “Banjo Eyes.” Rather than a happenstance of genetics, as was the case with Sinatra and his nickname “Old Blue Eyes,” Cantor’s nickname is attributed to the entertainer’s eye-rolling song-and-dance routines. Consequently, with the nickname being synonymously linked with Cantor, it should not come as any huge surprise to learn of his appearance in the 1941 Broadway musical “Banjo Eyes.”
Based on the play “Three Men on a Horse” penned by John Cecil Holm and George Abbott, with music composed by Vernon Duke, the lyrics for the musical were provided by John La Touche and Harold Adamson.
Released in 1935, “Merrily Was Roll Along” was one of Cantor’s hit songs. People familiar with the Warner Brothers created Merrie Melodies animated series “Billboard Frolics” should recognize “Merrily Was Roll Along” as being the production’s theme.
The importance of Cantor’s contribution to the entertainment industry, illustrated in the early 1990s by the rock n’ roll band Guns N’ Roses, cannot be understated. Sharing the title of the 1934 George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart written play “Merrily Was Roll Along,” Cantor’s song was used as the introduction piece to all of Guns N’ Roses 1993 “Not in This lifetime… Tour” concerts.
After suffering a second heart attack at the age of 72, Cantor died in Beverly Hills, California on Saturday, 10 Oct. 1964.
In addition to Cantor, other entertainment professionals born on this day include:
For a more comprehensive list of entertainment professionals born on 31 January, click the provided link.