Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on January 30, 2004
(né Isidore Itzkowitz, 1892-1964)
Affectionately known as “Banjo Eyes”, Cantor was an extremely popular singer and comedian on radio in the 1930s and 1940s. Cantor had a number of sidekicks, including Bert Gordon, whose “Mad Russian” character is parodied in Hare Ribbin’ (Clampett, 1944). The show also featured violinist David Rubinoff. Cantor was responsible for discovering a number of stars, including Dinah Shore and Deanna Durbin.
Cantor is caricatured in numerous Warner Brothers cartoons, first in I Like Mountain Music (Harman/Ising, 1933) with Rubinoff. He puts in an appearance by popular demand in Shuffle Off to Buffalo (Harman/Ising, 1933) doing a number from the movie Palmy Days, shows up in Billboard Frolics (Freleng, 1935) performing the song “Merrily We Roll Along” (which he co-wrote with Rubinoff), as well as in Farm Frolics (Clampett, 1941), in which a horse, asked by the narrator to do a canter, promptly imitates Cantor. Cantor, singing “Ain’t We Got Fun?”, is one of the four down-on-their luck stars snubbed by Elmer Fudd in What’s Up, Doc? (McKimson, 1950).
The Cantor gag that got the most mileage, however, was his wish for a son -- he never did get one, but he did manage to have five daughters. Slap Happy Pappy (Clampett, 1940) has an “Eddie Cackler” chicken who wants a boy, but cannot get one, as opposed to Bing Crosby, who had nothing but sons. Other references can be found in Baby Bottleneck (Clampett, 1946) and in Circus Today (Avery, 1940) with a harried stork being pestered by Cantor for a boy. In Porky’s Naughty Nephew (Clampett, 1938) a swimming Cantor gleefully adopts a buoy. (Get it?).