Jerry Colonna

Jerry Colonna
John E. Reed

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Jerry Colonna
Radio: West side of the 1600 block of Vine Street
Actor | Comedian | Composer | Musician | Singer | Songwriter | Voice Actor
Born Sept. 17, 1904 in Boston, Mass.
Died Nov. 21, 1986 of kidney failure in Woodland Hills, CA

Jerry Colonna's six-inch walrus mustache and pop-eyed facial expressions were the trademarks of his decades-long comedy career.

The veteran film and radio comedian was Bob Hope's close sidekick for 30 years. Hope was at Colonna's bedside when he died.

Colonna appeared in Hope's first show for servicemen in 1941 and accompanied the comedian on his annual overseas Christmas treks to entertain U.S. troops throughout World War II. A favorite of the homesick troops, Colonna was honored with the Air Force Scroll of Appreciation, the Air Force's highest civilian award.

"They all loved him, as did the public," Hope said.

Born in Boston on Sept. 17, 1904, of Italian immigrant parents, Colonna began his show business career as a trombone player. At the age of 14, he had his own orchestra, playing at socials, weddings and political rallies.

He later worked with the big bands of the day, including Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and Ozzie Nelson, playing the trombone, singing and doing comedy bits.

By the late 1930s, he was appearing on the popular Fred Allen and Bing Crosby radio shows. Those appearances led to a radio contract in 1938 on "The Bob Hope Show."

He made his motion picture debut in 1937 in "52nd Street," a film that revealed his comedic touch — swiveling eyes, elastic face and a tenor voice that could hold a single note in a rebel yell for a full 72 seconds.

Asked once how he learned to be funny, Colonna smiled, unleashed his pop eyes and replied: "Someone told me I was funny."

All the while, his oversized mustache worked feverishly as though an invisible manipulator stood behind his face pulling strings.

Colonna's other films include "College Swing," "Little Miss Broadway," "Naughty But Nice," "Road to Singapore," "The Road to Hong Kong, "Meet Me in Las Vegas" and "Andy Hardy Comes Home." He also gave the animated March Hare its voice in 1951's "Alice in Wonderland."

Edward J. Boyer in the Los Angeles Times and other sources.

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