Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 5, 2004
Affectionately known as “Schnozzola”, Durante had a long career in Vaudeville, then on Broadway, in radio, and on film. Durante delighted in twisting words into silly malapropisms, and signing in a raspy, gravelly voice. His trademark line was “Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are!”. “Umbriago” was another well-known catchphrase of his.
Durante is caricatured on the cover of “So Big” in Book Revue (Clampett, 1945) with the nonpareil nose that trips the villainous wolf. He is shown as one of the roosters auditioning for a job in The Swooner Crooner (Tashlin, 1944) singing “Lullabye of Broadway”. He also appears as “Schnauzer Durante” in Hollywood Canine Canteen (McKimson, 1946).
He appears twice in Hollywood Daffy (Freleng, 1946): once poking out of a dressing room built to accommodate his nose. He ruefully points to a bear trap on his foot, which he indicates he has acquired in an unsuccessful attempt to get into Ann Sheridan’s dressing room next door, remarking to the audience that “those are the conditions that prevail.” He is also impersonated by Daffy in an attempt to get past the studio cop at the gate.
In Little Red Rodent Hood (Freleng, 1952), Sylvester gives a Durante-ish “Everybody wants to get into the act” in a gag reprised from Little Red Riding Rabbit (Freleng, 1944), with the ersatz Grandmas under the pillow.
Characters based on Durante can be seen in The Gruesome Twosome (Clampett, 1945) as the big-nosed cat, and as a drunken stork in Baby Bottleneck (Clampett, 1946). In the latter cartoon, the stork gives out with an “Umbriago,” which is also used in Goldilocks and the Jivin’ Bears (Freleng, 1944). The boxing coach cat in Hoppy Daze (McKimson, 1961) is a Durante take-off, too, since Hoppy closes the cartoon with a Durante “hot-cha-cha-cha!”.