Cliff Nazarro: Close to a Classic Comedian

New Haven born Cliff Nazarro (1904-1961) started out in vaudeville, burlesque, and with stock companies. In live performance he was often a master of ceremonies, but he became especially known for his double-talk routine, and that’s what carried him aloft into movies, radio, and cartoon voice-overs.

His first film was an independently made musical feature called Modern Minstrels (1930), the only ripple of which survives apparently is the poster, which spelled his name wrong:

Occasionally Nazarro was given the opportunity to do his Eddie Cantor impression, as in the animated shorts Billboard Frolics (1935) and Farm Frolics (1941). Of dozens of cartoons he voiced his best known character is Egghead (the character that evolved into Elmer Fudd), which he played in Leon Schlesinger shorts, usually directed by Tex Avery.

Starting in the mid 30s, he was often a western sidekick in B movies, in films like Romance Rides the Range (1936) and The Singing Buckaroo (1937). But he was also cast in major productions in bit parts, frequently doing his double-talk business. These movies included Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937) with Mickey and Judy and Sophie Tucker; Outside of Paradise (1938) with Phil Regan, Penny Singleton and Bert Gordon; St. Louis Blues (1939); Scatterbrain (1940) with Judy Canova; You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) with Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth and Robert Benchley; Blondie Goes to College (1942); Trocadero (1944), and Blue Skies (1946). His one lead, properly speaking, was the role of comic strip character Barney Google in the doleful low budget outing Hillbilly Blitzkrieg (1942). In radio and on records Nazarro often sang (non comically) with big bands, such as Roane’s Pennsylvanians. 

Frustrated by his inability to make a breakthrough in movies, Nazarro returned primarily to nightclub performance after 1946.

To find out more about the history of vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy film, read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube,