Stars of Vaudeville # 22: Cliff Edwards a.k.a Ukulele Ike
Originally posted in 2009.
Best known today as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in the 1940 Disney film Pinnochio, Edwards (June 14, 1895 – July 17, 1971) probably gained his widest popularity on radio. He was also big in vaudeville, films, and had a successful recording career. As the name implies, he accompanied himself on the uke. He entered vaudeville in the late teens. In 1920, he paired briefly with singer/dancer Pierre Keegan in an act called “Jazz As Is”. He cut his first record in 1922. His pleasant, smooth voice with its folksy edge made quite a hit, and by 1924, he was playing the Palace. Broadway shows included Mimic World of 1921, Lady Be Good (1924), and numerous others.
His film career was launched with The Hollywood Revue of 1929 wherein first made popular the song “Singin’ in the Rain”. More than 80 films followed. In clips, one who expects to find a Burl Ives-looking character based on his voice, will be surprised to see a good-looking young man with a Rudy Vallee like appeal.
In 1932, he launched his first radio show. In 1949, he launched two different TV shows on CBS: The Cliff Edwards Show and The 54th Street Revue. He died in 1971.
Here he is singing “Hang on to Me” in this 1935 technicolor short:
To find out about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc