Today is the birthday of Armand Kaliz (Armand Kalisz, 1887-1941). Kaliz was born in Paris; of Polish Jewish parentage.
By 1907 Kaliz was in New York appearing in both vaudeville and the Broadway musical The Hoyden. One finds constant references to Kaliz appearing in vaudeville at least through 1919. He appears to have worked most consistently in dramatic and comedy sketches with a a partner named Amelia Stone, sometimes managed by Alf T. Wilton. At least one of these sketches was written by Edgar Allan Woolf. He also appears to have had a fine singing voice and appeared in musical sketches in vaudeville, and one later Broadway musical The Kiss Burglar (1918), although an arch review of that show by Dorothy Parker might explain why he didn’t do more Broadway work (she made fun of his accent (Found that in the indispensable Dorothy Parker: Complete Broadway 1918-1923 — thank you, Kevin Fitzpatrick!). He appeared on more on Broadway, in the hit revue Spice of 1922, which he also produced (it ran for four months, which isn’t too shabby).
By that point, Kaliz had also been a film actor for several years. It was for the cinema that he removed the troublesome, unnecessary “s” from his last name. He began his film career in 1917, still very much the silent era, and there he found his accent to be no encumbrance to his success. Films included The Siren (1917), Let’s Get a Divorce (1918) and The Stolen Bride (1927). He also had good roles in the earliest years of talkies including Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), The Aviator (1929), The Unholy Three (1930), Little Caesar (1931), and the Frank Fay comedy God’s Gift to Women (1931). But his accent does seem to have caused him trouble in sound pictures and he quickly slid down the pecking order to walk-ons. By Flying Down to Rio (1933), his character is “One of Three Greeks”. Almost of his role from the end of the ’30s to his death in 1941 were uncredited.
To learn more about early film history don’t miss my 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. For more on vaudeville history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.