James Francis Durante, 10 February 1893, New York City, New York, USA, d. 29 January 1980, Santa Monica, California, USA. A unique entertainer: a comedian, actor and singer whose straight-legged strut, outsize nose (which brought him the nickname Schnozzola) and a penchant for mangling the English language (Da hours I worked were eight to unconscious) made him a much-loved character throughout the world. The son of immigrant French-Italian parents, Durante taught himself to play ragtime on a piano his father bought him when he was 12. While in his teens he played in New York clubs and gangster hangouts, and later had his own six-piece jazz band in New Orleans.
In the early 20s Durante ran his own speakeasy, the Club Durant, with his partners, dancer and businessman Lou Clayton and song-and-dance-man Eddie Jackson. When the trio began to receive offers that they couldnt refuse from certain shady...