Today is the birthday of Ray (or Nat) Nazarro (1902-1986). And today I fear I have more questions for you than answers on this subject. But they are interesting questions, so I share them. Essentially it looks to me like IBDM and IMDB are conflating many different Nazarros into one guy.
Marion Spitzer’s book The Palace mentions one Nat Nazarro as the leader of a big band which played that storied theatre. Most of the other vaudeville references I’ve come across mention him as a dancer and an agent — a sort of nasty agent who exploited his acts (often children and/or African Americans) and would also insert himself into their acts. He represented both Chuck and Chuckles as well as Buck and Bubbles. His IBDB page includes several editions of The Passing Show and similar revues like Topics of 1923 (for which he got great reviews). And his last Broadway credit is in 1928, which makes sense, given the phase we’ll talk about in the next paragraph. And yet, credits in the same entry begin in 1874, 28 years before he was born, and most of the early credits look like dramas, as opposed to musicals. This page is under the name “Nat Nazzaro, Jr”. May I gently suggest that half the credits belong to Nat Nazzaro Jr….and half to Nat Nazzaro, Sr?
Then we come to his film career and his IMDB entry. This page has two film shorts credited to Nat Nazarro in 1929 and 1930, and they both sound very much like our guy, for they both star Buck and Bubbles. Then there are two other films in the early 30s which sound like they could be the same guy — they’re both silly comedies, although they are now credited to “Raymond Nazzaro”. Then there is a gap of ten years, and then “Ray Nazarro” is almost exclusively directing B movie westerns and some television, roughly from 1945 to 1960. Also, his bio, both on IMDB and Wikipedia say he began his career by assistant directing during the silent era. Whereas the Nat Nazarro we’ve been discussing would have way too busy with his two other careers (as agent and dancer) to do grunt work as an A.D. at the same time. Again, I think more than one guy are being conflated, maybe brothers?
Have I gone off half-cocked, presenting a mere enigma as a blog entry? Sure, but it’s one of these guy’s birthday’s today!
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, 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 don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, released by Bear Manor Media.