Today is the birthday of Harry Einstein, a.k.a Harry Parke, a.k.a Parkyakarkus (1904-1958). Einstein got his start on Eddie Cantor’s radio show, playing a comical Greek. He appeared in a dozen films between 1936 and 1945, starting with Cantor’s Strike Me Pink. By the late 40s, ill health caused him to slow down, and good financial investments he had made enabled him to do so. Occasionally he would emerge from retirement to perform at Friar’s Club roasts. It was while performing at one of these (a roast of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) that he died of a heart attack in 1958. He literally collapsed onto Milton Berle.
Perhaps his greatest legacy to American comedy, however, is his sons, comedians Bob Einstein (“Super Dave Osborne”) and Albert Einstein, the latter of whom very wisely changed his name to Albert Brooks.
And now, here’s the dad, in the 1942 comedy A Yank in Libya:
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, for more on comedy film please refer t Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube,