Sunday, May 21, 2023


By the late 1940s, entertainer Eddie Cantor was beginning to wind down on his movie career. Cantor produced and starred in a movie, Show Business, with comedienne Joan Davis and future California U. S. senator George Murphy in 1944 for RKO Pictures. Another movie followed in 1948 called If You Knew Susie, but the film was a flop. Eddie concentrated on his still successful radio show and remained busy raising money for his favorite charities. Cantor made the occasional movie but by 1950, his film career was all but over. Yet there was the new medium of television and Cantor topped that as well. Eddie Cantor was one of the original hosts of the Colgate Comedy Hour, alternating hosting duties with some of the biggest names in show business at the time. Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis (that would be Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis for some of our younger readers), and Donald O’Connor all headlined the variety show on alternating weeks.

Cantor’s appearances were highly rated and popular. Known for decades for his energy while performing, Eddie Cantor actually suffered a heart attack during one of the live performances. Ever the consummate professional, Cantor gave little indication he was ill, much less having a heart attack. From that point on, Eddie Cantor’s energy diminished significantly and he was not the same entertainer.

Warner Brothers issued a movie based on Cantor’s life, The Eddie Cantor Story. Not surprisingly, it was a highly fictionalized version of the famed comedian’s life, featuring an unknown performer as Cantor. The film was a disaster, although Cantor recorded all the songs for the movie and his voice remained amazingly good. Even with his famed energy ebbing, Cantor pushed himself on behalf of raising money for charity. Once Cantor was promoting the sale of Israeli bonds and urged his friend Jack Benny to purchase some. Benny handed Cantor a blank check and said, “Eddie, here is a blank check. Fill it out in the amount you think I should buy and I will sign it.”

Eddie Cantor hurriedly wrote in an amount well into the five figures and true to his word, Jack Benny signed it.

With his energy flagging after repeated heart attacks, Eddie Cantor’s career began to wind down. Cantor sold the magnificent house on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills, moving to a smaller home with his wife. Cantor’s daughters were grown and off living their own lives, save for his eldest, Marjorie. Marjorie Cantor had devoted herself to her father and his career. When Eddie Cantor failed to worry, Marjorie worried for him. Marjorie was involved in every facet of her father’s professional life. With both of her parents suffering from heart trouble, Marjorie worried even more.

Noticing a growth on her leg, Marjorie discovered it was cancer. Despite numerous treatments, the cancer was remorseless and relentless, ravaging Marjorie’s body. Ida Cantor, accompanying her daughter to the hospital once, was aghast when she saw her daughter undressing and saw just how emaciated Marjorie had become. Marjorie finally lost her battle with cancer, dying in 1959. She was only forty-four years old.

Both Eddie and Ida Cantor were utterly devastated by Marjorie’s death and neither was ever well again. Eddie’s heart condition was so bad that he was virtually confined to his home. Ida wasn’t doing much better and finally her own heart failed in the summer of 1962. Cantor was thoroughly depressed by having lost his oldest child and wife within a short span of three years. The comedian sold the Palm Springs home that Ida had bought for him as a surprise for very little.

Housebound, Eddie Cantor lived out his remaining years in Beverly Hills, surrounded by his daughters and grandchildren. On October 10, 1964, Eddie Cantor’s ailing heart finally gave out.

Hardly perfect, old fashioned, and “corny” to some, despite his flaws, Eddie Cantor was a legendary entertainer...

No comments:

Post a Comment