Show Business: A King of Vaudeville

Jimmy Durante: 1893-1980

His voice was a loud rasp. His piano playing was strictly fortissimo. His gags were not jokes, but a litany of catch phrases. Yet Jimmy Durante was a born entertainer whose manic clowning stayed in fashion for more than half a century. When "the great Schnozzola" died last week, America lost one of its last links to the golden age of vaudeville.

Like so many comics of his time, James Francis Durante grew up on New York City's teeming Lower East Side and left school early. From his Neapolitan mother, he...

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